Vacation Bonus!

We are on Sweeney South East Tour 2020. (SSET 2020) We headed south for a 14 day action packed work/vacation. Hubby gets to work and I get to vacay!

After driving 7 hours from Maryland to South Carolina we walked into our AirBNB in Myrtle Beach SC  around 7pm and I was hit with the overwhelming smell of plug-in air fresheners.  In my head I was saying oh crap, crap – this could be a problem.  I have an issue with perfumes, strong cleaners, smoke etc. It is a definite chemical sensitivity but it has improved over the last few years. Before I would have done an immediate about face once I smelled the air freshener- but I thought I would give the place a try.

It was a small place- very small. One tiny bedroom, tiny sitting area and bath.  It had three plug-ins (that seemed like too much for such a tiny place- what smells that bad they need to cover it up?) that I could find- I unplugged them all. I opened the windows. We went for a walk around the block. I kept thinking it will be ok- I can do two nights here. But when we got back inside and settled to watch TV , I was trying so hard to be a good sport but I was mouth breathing and I was tasting the smell…I could not get away from it.

I did not want to spend the extra money- airbnb was a no refund deal -but I was not going to be able to deal with the smell. I began to covertly look for a hotel –  on my phones Booking.com app- that might take us and our dog Rudy.  I found a few possibilities.and then I turned to Kevin and told him that this place was a fail and we needed to try to find another place.  He agreed – love him. He then walked to nearby hotels  to check if they would take us because the move would be so easy -no luck – some places are just too picky about the dogs size – discrimination.  Others just did not take dogs at all. But I was able to book a room online not too far away – just not as near the ocean. I just wanted to get there and get settled.

I packed up what little we had unpacked. Rudy – my dog- was probably confused.  What were these humans doing? But he’s a Golden Retriever so he’s always game for anything. We got back in the car and headed to the hotel. We were very tired at this point and probably trying not to snap at each other – so it probably didn’t help my snappy mood when we pulled into the hotels parking lot – Kevin got out of the car and went to check-in- and right then a police car pulls in to the lot with lights flashing and they approached some guy in a red winter coat with his hood on  -and then they frisked him and then began questioning him and another cop was talking to some other person in another part of l the lot.  I began to sing “bad boys bad boys, whatchya gonna do if they come for you” –  (and it turns out this wouldn’t be my last front row seat to police altercations –  we would witness a search and seizure at a GA rest stop days later- the excitement of this trip abounds!).

So as I said Kevin had gone in to check us in as I watched the drama with the cops unfold. I even unrolled my window to try to hear what was going on-  I know- I am so nosey! I really wanted to sing “Bad boys”  out the window but that wan’t in good form so I refrained.  Then Kevin came out and I thought he would hand me the key to the room we reserved ten minutes before (by this time I was not feeling super great about the hotel – but the choices were limited.) Instead Kevin said they are booked up. What? I booked it online…but the hotel blamed it on booking.com glitch and well we had no room, and their sister hotel  nearby had a poundage limit on dogs so no go. Geez. I just want to say that little dogs can do some damage too and they tend to be more barky, D – for dog discrimination!

Oh I was getting pretty freaking pissy. I decided to call the hotel chain 800 number bc I had called them when I was booking the trip – as we are booked to stay in one of these hotels in Florida – and I had been told they had no dog weight limits. So I was complaining. 

But I needn’t have worried….

The nice lady on the other end of the 800 number got us a room- it took her like way too long to arrange it and we did have to drive a bit more north of where we began – but she booked it. I was so happy that I agreed to be transferred to someone after the call so I could get $100 off my next stay….I agreed to be transferred but promptly hung when she did so…I was in NO mood for a sales pitch. But super thankful for the room.

So we finally get to THE ROOM. I am tired. Rudy is stoked bc he’s Rudy and always is stoked and Kevin is stoked because he knows my bitchy self can relax and go to bed —and we opened the door and in I walked and there was the bed -yay! and then as I walked further into the room this little bonus is sitting right in the middle of the room….

Need I say more……

 

Just do it…

I entered this year by walking a 5K with Rudy (Kevin ran)  and then Kevin and I  went plunging into the cold depths of the Atlantic for their New Years Day plunge. It was a 45 degree day in Delaware and the ocean the same temp..surely that would equal out the discomfort and I would feel no cold.  Not true, the water was shockingly cold – it took my breath involuntarily and it seized my stomach and I almost succumbed to a wave- but knew if it took me down I may not be able to use my legs to get up and back out. But I made it. It was intense as I had hoped. Exhilarating as I had hoped but it didn’t shake my funk as I had hoped.

I was in a funk. It was more than a funk truthfully.  The funk was full blown seasonal effective disorder (SAD) and it had begun in early November. Just about the time the cold hit.

A funk for me isn’t unusual and I have had SAD but it usually doesn’t hit me so early. I am fairly certain that the impending loss of my dog Ridley was looming and that and the cold, trying political climate we live in, and my mother coming off a six week illness that had her in the hospital 4 times and PT rehab for three weeks all played a part in this mood.

We lost Ridley about three weeks ago. I have been wanting write about it. But I just couldn’t – I wasn’t ready.  It hit me hard. It was time for that old dog but he didn’t know it. I miss him. I will write about it. Getting the words out usually helps me.

The words…why hasn’t there been more words on paper- the thing that could very well help me shed this mood? I have loads of excuses. I have been so busy! Really that is true. I have my part-time work running our little company which has been struggling and which needs extra massaging to keep it going. My last surgery and months of PT have allowed me to become active once again. I am taking full advantage of this blessing and have begun to get back to some old activities and enjoy learning new ones. I am not pain free and flare but I manage the discomfort with meds and trigger point injections.

Much of this deserves to be written about but I have fallen creatively flat. I can’t seem to make time for much of my creative endeavors. I find it hard to get my words out in the way I want to convey them and I find myself thinking I have no talent for it now – and that makes me sad.  I get overwhelmed.

These old negative feelings are creeping up trying to tell me that I am not good enough. I don’t fit in, I can’t write, I can’t take a good photo – and doesn’t every person in the world take photos now? Why are mine anything special? 

Then there is the self loathing too. That self deprecation is an old friend that really never goes away. This is tied to my body image and I can quell it sometimes but lately that voice sits in my ear. I can stare in the mirror and hate what I see. It saddens me. I am 56 now. Shouldn’t I have shed such negative feelings?  Again another thing perhaps getting out on paper whether anyone reads about it or not might help. But then there is that issue I noted above keeping me from putting words down.

But here I am today. I have gotten up early-ish and am setting words to page.  I am making myself write these feelings. There are so many times during a day that I think about writing. I might be doing something “exciting” or something mundane and I think about how I would frame the piece what photo I might use. So the spark is still in there. But it takes work now to get the words out.

Recently, I found out that a friend I met through my creative group some years ago is gravely ill and she is going to pass away soon. This has shaken me. She is young. Too young to die.

I was not a close friend but friend nonetheless and I know she could isolate herself from others. Even when she was present you didn’t always see her. I think she didn’t really want to ask for help from others. Many of us can be the same. It is hard to be vulnerable. Yet she shared herself in her writing…she allowed herself to be vulnerable because putting yourself out there- sending the words into the universe- makes one very vulnerable. 

She wrote (https://susanpopper.wordpress.com/author/slp711/) about many things and did it so well and took lovely photos yet always questioned her talent. I was truly touched by her writing about her childhood and her recent move to upstate New York.

When we were together she made me laugh and I loved her New York directness. She was also kind to me. So supportive during some tough times. I will miss knowing she is here in this world.

So I am sitting here today – writing – in honor of my friend Susan who would probably tell me just to get over it and just write – just do it.  She would tell me I am a good writer and she would make me laugh and I would have felt better for sharing my insecurities and my SAD mood may have lifted some. I wish I had shared this with her and my other creative group friends. So I share this now with anyone reading this. I share this with my creative group. I will write because I am able. Maybe not well but the spark is in there and I should get off my butt and just write- and we only have today. I have words I want to get out of me and into the world.

…..Kevin and I love you Susan….

Horse Dentals – it’s a thing…

Today as I stood  helping to steady each of 1000LB horse’s the vet floated both their teeth I thought “I have to write about this”.   That is the millionth time probably in my life that I have thought this thought. Can you imagine if I could just follow through on those thoughts how many blogs or books I would have written by now? Too bad most of the time I think this thought I later forget the topic I thought I wanted to write about – though I do sometimes write the idea down. Still doesn’t mean I actually write about it. But teeth floating made the grade!

I think I am lucky any time I can make time to sit down and write.  I have had many things lately that have had to come before my need to write -such as animal care and family issues. Like the fact my mother has been in one medical facility another for the last 6 weeks became a priority. But man did I have a lot of  “I need to write about this” moments in those 6 weeks!  But priority and sheer fatigue after spending days in hospital rooms and consulting with this nurse and that doc just kept me from feeling like extending my brain further to form the words that form the stories I want to write. I just couldn’t.

Today was a good day because mom is home now (yay!) and I had the vet coming early this AM and I was ready and excited to spend time with the equines and also to see how teeth floating works.  I put this procedure off for my horse Harley for years. He had been checked regularly and it was never a hard you need to get floating done now – it was more like he’s got a few areas that might need attention (a few years ago) to maybe we should do it next visit(said during last July vaccines). Yukon our guardian horse was on a more regular schedule that I must keep up on as part of my agreement with the rescue. So I scheduled for both of them to be done along with the fall vaccines.

The procedure to me was very interesting. Maybe because in my younger years I worked in a dental office! I am not sure but after feeling the before sharp edges in the horses mouth (they are sharp!) and feeling the much less sharp tooth after- and holding my horses tongue out of the way for part of the time (they have large tongues!) I was further interested and I knew I wanted to know more about floating.

So what is teeth floating? My mother jokingly asked today if they were going to take the teeth out and float them in a glass of liquid or on a cloud.  It is an odd word for sure – and after watching it be done today I wanted to learn more. What I did know was that horses develop sharp points on their teeth that need to be filed down. Upon looking it up online I found that the definition is that basic.

Here is a slideshow of some of the photos I took today:

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This slideshow requires JavaScript.

From Cowboyway.com “Floating a horse’s teeth means to file or rasp their teeth to make the chewing surfaces relatively flat or smooth.” A flat surface is required to allow the horse to properly and fully chew their food. If they can’t chew their food properly this can lead to poor digestion. Our vet Dr. Juress said that digestion in a horse really begins in the mouth. They need to be able to chew well to aid in the best digestion.

Horses chew in a circular like motion so that can get the food thourougly ground up. So with this motion, sharp edged teeth can rub the cheeks and create sores and ulcerations. This can make the horse try to chew more quickly and to drop feed – and not grind the food up correctly.   In the case of my horse Harley , I was told today that he did have some ulceration in his mouth.  I knew he needed floating done as lately he was fussing with the bit when I rode him – this and his occasional dropping feed from his mouth – let me know it was time for sure.

Of course we had to have a cold snowy day in which to have this procedure performed. I was not looking forward to just standing in the cold barn, but what I quickly learned was that it is a pretty physical procedure.  I warmed up pretty fast- shedding my jacket early on. Since my husband was going out of town I enlisted the help of my son who is a strong 19 year old. I was pretty sure that with my nerve damage issues my assistance alone would not be enough for the vet and I was right. It is quite a workout- and even more for the vet performing the floating!

The vet first lightly sedates the horses. This makes them just list a bit back and forth. My horse Harley listed more than Yukon.  My job was to steady him if he seemed to be listing too far one way. We try to back them into the stall corner where they can get more stability. My son helped by keeping the head on the stand that she uses to hold their head up. She inserts a speculum which keeps the mouth open and then takes the motorized file and begins the tasks of etching of the hooks and sharp edges. This doesn’t hurt the horse and sometimes no sedation is used. But with unpredictable animals that weigh 1000 Lbs I can see why the safer bet is to use it.

The vet or practitioner (floating can be done by a non-vet) will not make the surface smooth- that makes chewing harder actually – the surface still needs to be rough so they can properly grind feed and forage. This is definitely a procedure you want done by someone who has studied it and is skilled at it. Our vet became an expert in it because she loves doing it. Some vet practices don’t have this option and refer you out to equine dentists ( there are those) or some people use their farriers for floating.  Just make sure your practitioner comes with good references.

So what about horses in the wild?  What happens to their teeth?  I was curious and of course when you google that and also “teeth floating” their are tons of websites where one can find varying opinions on the topic. But I read that the horses in the wild will develop the areas with sharp edges and hooks – but the horses in the wild are in grassy and wooded areas 24/7. They use their jaws 24/7 to chew.  They are chewing not only grass – which likely will have silica in it which can help grind down teeth, they also eat woody plants that can further help their tooth surfaces stay relatively flat.  So in essence they are their own dentists.

Of course there are jaws of deceased wild horses that do show the hooks and sharp edges – I am sure each horse will be have their own specific biology and some will have worse teeth than others – same as in humans.  Sadly in the wild horse world bad teeth could lead to malnutrition and weakness and even death- but again that is in the wild where there is natural selection and survival of the fittest and all that. In general horses in the wild will chew more times a day – because of their access to 24/7 forage -than our companion horses. All we can is is try to navigate the right health procedures for our own horses – and even then the topic of teeth floating can become more complicated.

There are many opinions on whether a horses teeth need to be floated at all, or as often as recommended by the practitioners that perform the procedures, under sedation or wide awake, with manual files or motorized. I read an interesting article (here) that discusses whether in our modern world whether we interfere too much with a horses teeth. I think this is an opinion to consider. I think there is always a balance. In our horses situation maybe Yukon could have gone more time before he had it done. But in Harley’s case he had some ulcerations in his mouth which Dr. Juress could see once she was able to get a good look with a light inside Harley’s mouth – he really needed it done.  I think he will be more comfortable now for sure.

If we will do this yearly for Harley – I can’t say as yet. He went a good while without it. But he is older and has other health issues that can effect his weight. So I think making sure his teeth are in good working order is important. As for sedation…I am not against it..because I know that the amount given is very small- and for me safety for the human is key when working with horses. They are big animals. I know my horse Harley would not tolerate this procedure fully awake even with manual tools, no speculum and head down. Or he wouldn’t have today anyway because it took longer because he had more issues. Maybe if he had only a few areas that needed to be done he could have tolerated it without sedation. Not sure.

I do intend on reading more about the subject and looking at all the opinions. I think the best way each horse owner can approach the choices when it comes to equine teeth floating is to read as much as you can. Ask your vet, your farrier, other horse experts and then garner your own opinion.

There is so much to learn about equines and there care- I have been back into the horse world now for 15 plus years and I will never ever run out of things to learn. It is amazing and overwhelming. I am pretty sure that most horse owners want to do what we think is best for our companion horses to keep them comfortable and healthy. Today for us it was learning more about floating teeth. Next week it will be something else I am sure- and I will probably want to write about it- hopefully I will!

Borrowed Time

g6XuJI4HSVOSmkQfqdnHZAI have been wanting to write about my friend Ridley but I have been putting it off as I have been with ALL my writing ideas. If I keep putting off writing about Ridley it might be too late as Ridley is living on borrowed time. Ridley isn’t a human friend he is a canine one – and sometimes they are the best friends to have.

Ridley came to us at the ripe old age of 10 – he turned 11 just a couple months after his arrival. I love to adopt senior dogs. I have a heart for them.  Ridley never has acted like an old dog though. It is a breed thing I think. I should mention Ridley is an Old English Sheepdog (OES)- likely backyard bred. I say this because he is a big gangly guy – all legs that splay out in awkward positions when he lays down – and lets just say he is not bright- but he is affable and funny and loving.

Ridley is now almost 15 years old and he is failing.  His back legs are to a point where he is unable to get himself up – though once in a while something motivates him and he gets up on his own. He takes meds to help with any pain issues – and aside from his hips being sore when he goes to lay down he doesn’t seem to be in pain. He is having issues with pottying.  He wears a belly pad and that helps some. He just was diagnosed with whip worm and is being treated. Let me tell you that is not something you want your dog to get! Food goes right though them.  Last month it was a skin bacterial infection. His immune system is likely not what it once was.

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One of his last beach walks. We try to get him out to the bay each trip. Kevin carries him up and down the walkway steps.

We have thought a million times – this is Ridleys last trip to the beach, last walk to see the chickens, last this and last that- but we have been wrong.  Ridley is tenacious – and alert- still funny- and it is for these reasons he is still with us. He is involved in life. But it is getting to the point where we may have to make a hard choice to let him go even if he is still happy and engaged. If he can’t hold himself up at all that will be a problem. I can’t lift him really- I do it but it can flare up my pain.  But at least once up he can motor around ok. He can also motor on his butt and scoot along. People think it is sad- I think it speaks to his determination and his engagement in life. It tells me he is still in the game. He doesn’t want to give up. And that is what makes knowing when to let him go so hard.

Kevin and I are Rid’s prime caretakers and we can’t really go anywhere and leave him with someone else. Our son can take care of him for a night or two- but forget it if we wanted to travel for longer. Believe me, we don’t want to put him down for our own selfish reasons.  I am trying to let him squeeze as much time in this life as I can. But I also want to be a good steward to him.  But there is that self check where we have to make sure we are keeping him alive for him and not for us. Once the scales tip towards keeping him alive to avoid feeling the grief of his loss then I know its time. We aren’t quite there yet but its closing in. I never want to be selfish with his life.

Sadly this is likley our last sheep dog. We are trying to downsize our dog population (we have 5 and mom who lives with us has one) so we wont be “backfilling” when we lose one of the gang we have now.

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The Gang- Rudy, Pierce, Ridley, Reese, And Lemon

The significance of Ridley coming to our home will always be an important part of his story.  He was preceded here by an amazing OES named Dave. Dave was my heart dog..he was part of me and he took part of me with him when he left. Dave was sheepdog through and through…he was stubborn and he never listened but somehow he mostly did what you wanted him to do- but it was always his choice. Dave bit me and bit Kevin on a couple occasions when we went to retrieve some item he shouldn’t have that he was trying to ingest. Mostly it was napkins but once he got a plastic baggie- unbeknownst to us – that was a pricey vet visit and an uncomfortable few days as we waited for it to pass.

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Dave and Rudy years ago

Dave had those OES traits and many good ones. I became his job. I was his person and he was my friend. I loved that guy. Before he left he trained my Golden Rudy about how to take over being my companion.  Rudy has done a great job – he is always at my side-  and  welcomed Ridley  – maybe with some jealousy . Ridley also decided I was his person so is with us most of the time – and Rudy has shared me.  So most of the time in my office it is Me, Rudy, and Ridley. It will feel empty  -literally and figuratively – when he is gone.

So back to the significance of his being here. I told you about Dave- but there was another OES after Dave. We had an OES for 4 days. We got him from a NC rescue group who basically had no idea what they were doing and they allowed a dog that had bitten his foster carer to be adopted.  Long story short- Kevin was attacked by this dog when he went to put a leash on -and the dog went after him. There was no warning growl – nothing.  I had stepped away for just a minute and I heard Kevin yell and ran to see this dog biting and biting my husband. No growls – just an attack. Kevin got away and had significant wounds- he has a hand disfigurement still to this day. He was ill with infection for days- almost was hospitalized- probably he should have been. It was awful. And the idea of ever getting an OES again was shattered for both of us.

But I knew some good people in the OES world. Betsey, the woman I got Dave from who was not doing rescue anymore (which is why I got a dog from NC) was so upset for us. She and two other wonderful women who run rescues in New England and North Carolina (a different rescue than the one we got the biter dog from) encouraged us to take time to heal from this and regroup.

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I loved this and had to take a photo

In my heart I knew I wanted an OES-but I was scared too. They can bite- because they are stubborn – but I knew from having Dave who was a hard head that biting isn’t first on their agenda. I knew the attack I saw on my husband was not a breed thing it was because the dog wasn’t right in the head. So getting another one was an idea that I tabled for a while – I could not quite nix the idea entirely. So I kept in touch with my OES rescue friends.

Belinda Lamm of TOESR (Tarheels Old English Sheepdog Rescue) kept checking in on us. She was so upset by what happened and knew how awful the situation had been for us – the rescue where the biter dog came from was awful to us- and she did not want us to be disillusioned because of that experience.

One day she told me about a senior dog name Ridley that had been in the owners backyard and uncared for and someone had called animal control. The owner willfully gave up Ridley who by then was a matted mess – he couldn’t move his head.  Belinda’s group went and got him and put him in a foster home – once they had him cleaned up and vetted she wrote and asked if we might like to adopt him. I was skeptical – as you can imagine- and I asked a ton of questions. But in the end I trusted her – and Kevin trusted me. So we said yes we would take him.

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Car Ride!

Ridley restored our love of the breed. He is annoying and funny and so many things. He has no boundaries and likes to lick your hair if you bend down or sit on the floor. If you don’t close the door to the potty you will have a visitor. He nags and nags you for a bite when you eat, he drools puddles of slime, he thinks he is the leader of the pack and it has gotten him bitten a couple times too. He loves to ride in the car – he will just lay in zen mode anytime he is in the car- he is the perfect rider. He is not bright but he knows how to love. I think at some point Ridley had lived inside his home and he was cared for as his demeanor says “I like people- they are my friends”.

I will always be grateful to Ridley for reminding me not to judge a whole community just because of one bad apple.

I will miss this guy. I don’t when goodbye will be – but it will be sooner than later.  I try to enjoy the time. Having to care for a dog in their declining days builds a tight bond. I try not to sit and cry as I wait for the day to come. I would be wasting precious time with him – but I cry a little sometimes.  For now, we just love and care for him the best we can – we have frustrating moments for sure he is a lot of work now- but we love him- and we want to enjoy these last borrowed days.

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Car Ride

The day will come soon where Ridley will be laying in the van – going for a ride to get a special treat. Maybe a McDs burger or some other greasy human feast. In that food there will be a bit of tranquilizer, and after his meal we will drive around the country side chatting with him until he falls asleep. Then we will go to the vets and open the side door of the van where the vet will meet us. In that van – that is a calm place for him- is where we will say our goodbyes as the vet helps him to slip away.  Kevin and I will be holding him and loving him as his spirit takes flight to it’s next job.

Ok now I am crying. It gets too real sometimes.

Anyway – thanks for letting me tell you a bit about Ridley.  He is a good guy- and a good friend. There will be a big gap in our lives when he is gone.

Ok I think I am going to grab him a treat because he’s a good boy….

Hover over photos to see who is who!

Hair eating!

On the ground with Ridley!

Some improvements in post-cancer care – and with me too…

If you have read my past blog posts you know I have dealt with four surgeries since fall of 2016 to deal with the pain I ended up with after breast cancer treatments.  My last surgery in Feb of this year was a grafting surgery and it has involved a long recovery mixed with many months of PT.

So here I am almost 6 months out and I have been working hard in PT to get this arm moving. I have found an incredible PT team that is well versed in my issues and have been specially trained to deal with them. The program they follow is called ReVital and it is a Rehabilitation program for cancer patients.  It encompasses many forms of rehab- not only PT. Though some cancer centers already have rehabilitation in house some don’t and these participants are highly trained to deal with many issues during cancer treatments and well after.

There are so many facets to cancer- – fighting it being one – recovery being another – and  the during treatment and post cancer issues like pain, depression, fatigue, disability etc being another. For so long this latter facet has poorly addressed. But I am seeing and increase in available resources including rehab and also more written about post cancer pain- this implies that more cancer doctors and  pain management centers are becoming more aware of the issues- and the reality of the problem being acknowledged. In addition the cancer doctors themselves are also learning that their patients need to be fully served when they are facing cancer treatments and they are beginning to understand the potential residual effects that these cancer treatments can impose on patients- sometimes symptoms showing up years after treatments end. So now we see more of these docs being proactive in having the ability to refer a patient for help when they begin to complain about their issues.

This is a big deal for many of us who have had to go to plead their cases to doctors who couldn’t understand why we hurt so badly after our treatments. We weren’t supposed to complain. We were supposed to be happy to be alive. And we are- but we need to be heard and believed when we say we hurt after our cancer treatments are over.

I made a mistake after my treatments ended I should have gone right to PT- I did go when I had an odd and very uncomfortable nerve pain show up basically over night.about three months later. Would my pain issue have not occurred if I had don PT before that nerve pain reared it’s ugly head? I don’t know. But I thought when I had ongoing issues that my docs would have had my back. But after PT the issues persisted  on and on and my cancer surgeon scratched her head and kind of pushed me off into the unknown to try to find someone to help me figure it out. I went to numerous – like a lot- of doctors over the following couple years and I got nowhere.

My world came crashing in midway through 2016 when my pain hit an all-time high and I was bedridden. Many doctor doors closed on me then, too many. I felt more alone then I had ever been. I was at an all-time mental low. Then finally when I yet again went to plead with my cancer surgeon for some help and she treated me literally like I had a mental issue and not a pain issue that was the last time I saw her- and I went home despondent.  I was in a very bad place. And it took prayer and tenacity to keep going and finally I found doctors who wanted to help me. Who weren’t afraid to try.

Nobody should have to go through that!  Before cancer I didn’t have the pain – after I did.  Radiation damage is now recognized and talked about in the cancer community and the fact that it can pop up soon after treatment or years later is being discussed more in-depth.  Chemo causes its own long term effects.  We are warned of some of this before treatments begin. Like deer in headlights we are frozen and see the treatments as the only way to get safely off that awful road.

In my hindsight world I would have not gotten radiation after my lumpectomy. I was early stage. Did I really need it? Maybe I would have gotten recurrence in that breast- maybe not. But the pain I have suffered since my diagnosis – 6 years ago now- has been very very hard. And there have been times I had so many dark thoughts. Looking at it in the rearview  -I think I would avoid radiation and take my higher risk of recurrence (because it exists anyway) to avoid the pain. But that is what I have learned and sadly not what I did.

It may be that we who suffer severe pain from our treatments might never find a life that is actually pain free. But what we do need is the support of our doctors when we find ourselves in this very difficult spot. We need medical professionals who can help try to get us to the best version of feeling better that is possible.

I thank God that in the 6 years since I was diagnosed that we are seeing these improvements in this area. I think the surface is only just being scratched and there is so much potential in this area of patient care that I hope we see more and more improvements in the years to come.

As for me – I have made some good progress since this last surgery.  I have been in PT since mid-April and I still have pain but my arm range of motion (ROM) is vastly improved. We have hit a point in trying to improve my ROM where I am getting more pain flares.  I won’t go into all the medical reasons why but they PTs seem to think this is ok. For me it is easy to get nervous and discouraged. It is so easy for me to want to NOT move my arm – or do my exercises – but I force myself.  One thing I seem to do on a regular basis is to overdo things and get pain flares. Many times I don’t even know what I did to flare – that is frustrating.

But I move forward in fits and starts.  We joined a health club with a pool because I have a rekindled love of the water. I was able to get into the ocean and past the breaks in the surf. I did get pummeled by a wave once – that brought back memories. I have kayaked using the paddle sort of- I suck at it – I am very glad to have peddles at this juncture. I have been in the gym doing light workouts and I have ridden my horse. But I have also had a number of pain flares that side-lined me too. There is no straight path and I really still have no idea where I might wind up and I don’t think my forty PT visits my insurance allots is going to cover what I need. So I hope they will extend me.  That can be a battle too.  I have learned not to expect smooth sailing. But I am ever so pleased when something does go smoothly.

Before cancer I was in great shape.  I was strong. I looked fit. And now… well my version of strong has changed- but I have goals – but they have no end dates- I just keep extending them.  I am trying not to be so vain too. I am hard on myself for gaining weight, for aging…I need to give myself a break. I am trying. Trying should be my middle name. I am always trying- even when I don’t think I can move my feet out of the concrete- somehow I just keep trying. …I don’t know where I will end up but at least I keep trying- and that is not a bad thing.

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This is in early July. I have even more ROM on the right side now. This was an exercise that did flare me up. When I began PT I was at about half this range.

That Cat

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My barn cat Ziggy died yesterday. A hit and run.

I was outside yesterday morning with my very old sheepdog- letting him pee out front because he can’t get down the back deck stairs anymore- when I saw a young teen get out an SUV that had pulled into my neighbors driveway across the street – she went up and knocked on the neighbors door.  I know the neighbors don’t have teens so the SUV and the teen seemed out of place.

Her knock was not answered and she turned back toward the car.  I think she had seen me when I first stepped outside a minute before but I had stepped back behind the tree in my yard not wanting to be seen bc I was snooping. Yes I admit I was. But I wasn’t hidden well. The teen began walking back to the car.  I had called my dog to come in and I as I turned to go in I glanced over to the SUV and I saw that she was not stopping at the SUV. She was passing it and heading my way. I pretended not to see her. I am not a morning person – and I am not big on conversing before I have some food and my tea. 

 It was 7:30am -I thought she must be selling something. But it was way too early to be selling things- so that theory made no sense. Then it dawned on me as I heard the low ring of our doorbell that she wouldn’t be selling anything – something else was up -so I went to the door.

Maybe they were lost I thought. Some homes on this stretch of road are hidden down long driveways with their mailboxes on the opposite side of the road. So I opened the door and I was definitely not expecting to hear what I heard this young lady say. 

“We-my mom and I-wondered if you knew who owned the cat we saw over there. It was killed by a car.”

“Oh f*ck”. Were my first words. Then my apology for such words. Then I say to this young person – Oh well well you’ve heard them before. I was rambling.

Then my questions – is it black? Yes. Did it have white. I think so. She said – but we aren’t the ones who hit him. No. No I know.  Then I am saying I can’t handle picking the cat up I’ll get my son. (Kevin was out of town). She said –my mom says it has a collar. Oh my cat doesn’t have one. (Later I realize that she misheard her mom most likely).

At that moment I’m still not sure what I’m feeling. I’m not upset – it might not be our cat right? I’m just there bumbling my words -but I know I can’t handle getting too close. I walk over to my driveway and look past the car and I see a black leg with a white paw laying still on the other side of the road. Oh shit. I’ll get my son I say.

Get a trash bag I tell him. Get the dead cat across the road. I think it’s Ziggy. I don’t even know what he said- but my almost 19 year old son went outside and got that cat in a bag- our much loved barn cat. Though at that moment I didn’t want to believe it was him. Then I wonder if he thanked the girl for stopping. Then I think how this could have unfolded had we not answered the door. Would I have found him hours later when I went to get the mail or when I took my mom to the doctor that day? 

The things that go through the mind.

Even after my son had done this terrible chore. I’m asking him was it Ziggy? Can we be sure? He didn’t know for sure. He went back to look. Maybe he couldn’t bring himself to look again he didn’t say. When he came back in he still wasn’t sure. I was upset and irritated. How can you not know know your own cat I asked him? But shock is shock. And his was not wanting to know it. And there is his mom in shock wanting so hard to believe it was someone else’s cat. I even texted my neighbor that lives up behind us. Checking- Is Jafar at home? But he doesn’t wander far. He’s bigger than Ziggy. She confirms quickly -Jafar is at home..

It was Ziggy, Ziggers, Zigman, Zig….he is gone…as I write this I still can’t believe it.

I talk to my husband on the phone just before he has to go to a meeting. He told me to have my son take Ziggy to the vet – drop off his broken body. They will take care of him.  I was in shock. I didn’t know what I was feeling. Anything?

But then the like a sheet being slowly pulled off my body reality waves over me. And the tears came. So many tears.

F*ck, f*ck, f*ck. Why?

Just moments before the biggest worry I had was picking up poop on the bedroom from my old dog. But things can change in an instant.

The other day Kevin and I were going to a town nearby to shop and just as the road widens to 4 lanes a groundhog jumped out onto the road. Kevin had little room to do much bc of the traffic and sadly we hit it.  I bent over in my seat and held my ears yelling – no, no, no, no….- on and on. Kevin was rattled- and I am sure my reaction didn’t help. I cried – but calmed enough to shop for the few things we went out for. We were so upset about the groundhog we took a different route home. Since that day last weekend I had been really shook up about that incident. I had been trying to figure it out- look at it. See what it meant. 

But then Ziggy got killed on the road. 

As that sheet of shock wore off the tears burst forth for this sweet cat. For that groundhog too. For the son who struggles in rehab in Florida. For my guilt. Guilt over taking a cat from a nice lady who couldn’t keep him and making him barn cat. But he was born to be a barn cat – he took to it in days. I feel so much responsibility to my animals- and you can’t really control a barn cat. They are enigmas. But still I feel I failed in my responsibility.

I cried and cried. This was why the hitting of the groundhog hung on to me in such a way. I was needing to grieve things I had been holding in. 

There have been so many tears. Guilt and sadness about that and other things. Tears that have needed to come out – not all about this cat – this sweet cat. Tears I have hidden behind a wall that I build in order to be able to walk into each day with my armor on. Those tears clawing to come out and it took the loss of one sweet cat to break the dam.

The cloak of grief over a sweet cat and so much more. That cat that made us smile and laugh. That cat that hunted like no other.. who left us many gifts of dead prey in the barn. Rubbed up on our legs, followed us all over as we did our chores or I rode my horse. That cat who played with his buddy Jet in the barnyard. (Jet has been missing since last week- but I am hopeful he returns.) That cat that went too close to the road. That cat who died and now I grieve for so many things – and maybe in his leaving – in my finally breaking open- because we can only hold things in for so long or they become toxic to us- maybe that cat gave me a final gift. 

Thank you Ziggy- for being our cat…your job with us was complete and on you go to whatever is next. We will not forget you….

 

Guilt

Author Note—Each day I have meant to break this unplanned writing hiatus but it just hasn’t happened. I have plenty of topics to write about – I just don’t make time for it- or when I do the words seem to fall flat. Usually when that happens I know maybe it because I am not being as honest in my writing as I should be. Sometimes there is a balance being able to be honest and keeping a boundary in my writing so as not to bring hurt to others I care about. Sometimes I just can’t find that balance and I don’t post what I write – but it still exists perhaps as a journal entry – or something I can go back to later. Either way the words inside me have been purged and sometimes- if I am writing in distress -that helps and there is no need to send it out to the “webisphere”.  But I want to make writing my habit again. I really do. So I just need to DO It!

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Soon after my son – I am going to call him SonA- went out of state to rehab I found myself sitting in front of his PA at the primary care office we all go to. I was there with another family member about their medical issue – and there I sat quietly in the small exam room- but there was that elephant in the room. PA knew about SonA and that he was in rehab. We had briefed him on the phone about it. So I wasn’t sure if I should bring it up to brief him on the latest info or stay quiet. 

 I didn’t want to bring SonA up because it was my other family members time but between the hellos , how are you’s and getting to the medical issue at hand – it came up. It began with just an update. SonA was going to be moved to a transitional program because there was an issue with insurance. A big issue that had required involving PA -but that is another story entirely – but it had been rectified by the time I saw PA. SonA was to look for employment, go to group meetings daily and see a therapist weekly. 

We chatted a bit about addiction and mental health issues. And all at once PA looks at me and tells me not to feel guilty. I looked at him trying to form a sentence – was I going to cry? He continued to say that so many parents blame themselves for the choices their kids make and that I shouldn’t because this was not my fault. I thanked him and told him I didn’t feel guilty because I know the choices SonA made were his own. Just as any bad choice I have made over my lifetime is not anyone else’s fault. Even though I blamed some of them on others in the past.

But I wasn’t really being truthful – there is guilt – it is multifaceted. So often I think to myself – did anything I did as parent push SonA into addiction? Did we have a bad phone call while he was at college and he went off angry and with a Fxck You attitude and guzzled a bunch of booze and that was the domino that turned into alcoholism? Did I not try hard enough over the years to get him to talk to therapists we took him too- where he would chat about his brilliant ideas (and he is amazingly smart) but he would never open up about his troubles? I begged him to give them a chance – he really never could. Or as he was growing up did I add onto the trauma he already had from being and adopted child? 

I wasn’t a great mom. I was in over my head. I got angry, I yelled, and I spanked my kids. I believed in spankings. I don’t anymore. My dad believed in spankings, we got the belt, or we were threatened with the belt. As a mom, when the kids were young, I had many convos over spankings vs no spankings, time outs vs time ins etc etc. All I can say is in hindsight I have changed my tune on many things. But I know I thought when I was raising my kids I was doing my best – and I was. But now I spend time hating myself for being so rigid, so stressed- just not the mom I thought I would be.

 I have guilt that I am trying to work on. I have apologized to my kids. Told them I hope I was fun sometimes. Was I fun? I think I was. I remember shopping in Walmart so many times for art projects that we could do on a hot summer day, or after school. We painted, and glued. Once or twice we all made gingerbread houses. I played with my kids, I love toys and I loved to play. I remember all of us dancing in the family room to classic rock. So I was fun too. But I still have guilt. 

I guess when you have kids that go through hard times because of their choices any parent may feel some of the way I do. I truly know I did not make my son into an alcoholic, I know that my son has had some mental health issues for a long time. But what I do know is that we spend our lives trying to undo the damage that our childhoods inflict on us. I hate to think I contributed to my son’s issues.

I think even the kid who grew up with the best parents like my husband did will not come out of childhood unscathed. He himself is an alcoholic with 34 plus years of sobriety under his belt.

We never come out of childhood without battle wounds. As we are developing our brains as young kids – becoming a more fully formed individual -we are effected by so much around us.  Then we spend much of our lives making choices based on our early experiences and we inflict that damage onto others and but hopefully we give them our good stuff too- it is why there are cycles of the same behaviors in families. If we are lucky and we begin to see the issues then we can begin to do the work to better understand ourselves –  and we can learn how the experiences in our lives have driven how we behave…and then we can work to have better reactions and to make better choices. Some people never get to this self discovery part. So I guess I should be happy I have. 

But that still doesn’t take away my guilt. I just have it. I want to forgive myself for not being an awesome mom. I am working on it because I do know I did do some good things. But there are so many things I would like to redo. Maybe thats why some people dive into grandparenting with a vengeance so they get a redo. Some things are so much more clear in hindsight. We can do so much better when we have gained some wisdom. 

SonA called me early on in his rehab and I again apologized to him. He said it wasn’t my fault. He said that I had been a good mom and he had been a shitty son.  That hurt too. You never want your kids to feel so badly about themselves. 

I told SonA he wasn’t a shitty son. Had he been challenging? Yes. But I told him he was a kid and I was the adult and I have to own my part- there were times I could have done better – responded better.  He has a beautiful mind – a beautiful soul. He just has some things to work on if he will trust the program he is in and the therapist he is seeing. I don’t want him to live with guilt. 

Are we just destined to it? To live with guilt? Maybe when we feel guilty it is an opening to begin to dig deep into that feeling – own the mistakes, learn from them and heal. That is what I am trying to do. Own my mistakes – look at them and then work with them – if I need to apologize for something I do.  I try not to soak in the guilt because I get stuck there and that isn’t healthy.  I am a bit stuck now. I probably need therapy and will look in the fall for someone – I have so much going on this summer. Maybe I will pull myself out before then. Writing this helps…even if the mom police want to shame me. 

But the good thing is I am still a parent and I  get to be an improved parent to my kids. I get to make the adjustments and changes I needed to make. My parenting goes on though it has a changed role now that they are young adults.

But guilt can run deep. I have learned that others might forgive you, God forgives you, but sometimes the hardest thing to do is to forgive ourselves.