“After all you put me through / You’d think I’d despise you / But in the end, I wanna thank you / ‘Cause you made me that much stronger / Cause if it wasn’t for all that you tried to do / I wouldn’t know just how capable I am to pull through / So I wanna say thank you / ‘Cause it makes me that much stronger / Makes me work a little bit harder / Makes me that much wiser / So thanks for making me a fighter…”
Lyrics from “Fighter” by Christina Aguilera
I pulled a Christina Aguilera CD out of my collection and popped it into the CD player in my car for some listening pleasure on the way to an appointment at Hoag. My strength and energy, which were slowly making a comeback since my final cancer treatment seven weeks prior were waning. I started feeling worse—not better. My nurse reminded me that healing isn’t linear, but to make sure nothing else was going on, she had a couple blood tests ordered. I drove along the coast singing empowering phrases along with Christina’s powerful voice, feeling momentarily rejuvenated, and thanking cancer for making me stronger in so many ways, despite all it put me through.
I wasn’t the only one in the household dealing with health issues. Samantha had a debilitating bout of feline idiopathic cystitis or FIC (inflamed bladder with no apparent cause) in early June. We’d been back and forth to the vet four times in one month. FIC is hard to treat because it has no identifiable cause, such as infection. Many cats that get FIC are neurologically hardwired a little differently in that they are extra sensitive to noise and tend to be in a constant state of “fight or flight”, triggering an over reactive stress response causing bladder inflammation. FIC is also more prevalent in males and overweight cats (the above link covers all risk factors). FIC can be outgrown, but it can also be a life-long condition to be managed. Keeping kitty’s environment as stress-free as possible, proper diet and lots of hydration are the best medicine.
Upon learning all of this, I had an “ah ha” moment revealing what triggered the initial episode in Samantha being with me (she’d had it with her prior human, but wasn’t treated properly and it turned into bladder stones). It was a few nights before she displayed symptoms when I had a meltdown at 2:00 a.m. from being so beat-up from the cumulative effect of cancer treatments. The relentless GI issues that kept me from sleep and intense hives that could not be cured with any sort of meds caused me to belt out a scream of shear frustration and defeat that night. I was so tired, and sick of being sick that I lost it—until in the middle of that manic moment, Samantha came to mind and stifled my outburst. I got out of bed and turned on a light, and found her in the living room sitting upright and ridged facing the bedroom. “Oh sweetie! I’m so sorry!” I said through sobs as I hugged her. She looked up at me and started anxiously blinking her eyes over and over as though she was trying to calm me, but I think she was also trying to calm herself. Here she was still adjusting to a new home, and to my energy that was going in a downward spiral as radiation progressed, and now she was faced with cat mom gone mad.
Guilt weighed heavy on my heart for weeks. I let it go when I realized that manic moment was normal given my situation, and more important, part of Samantha’s healing regimen included me. I had to muster up enough strength not just to get through the final leg of radiation but also for Samantha’s well being. I had to be strong for her. I had to be positive for her. It wasn’t just about me anymore.
My blood test results turned out to be fine. Feeling debilitated on occasion along the way is part of the healing path. In hindsight, I was doing too much. Now, besides getting more rest and not pushing myself, I’ve turned to doing more things that cultivate healing, which in turn, are helping Samantha. The energy in the cottage is more peaceful. I’m feeling better and more grounded. And Samantha—she’s become more playful again; more affectionate and is showing outward signs of de-stressing.
Sending loving vibes to you all!