Sadie’s Playbook

riThis piece was featured in Retrieving Independence’s July Volunteer spotlight. In my short time as a volunteer for this organization, it and Sadie have already done so much for me. If you’re interested in learning more about them, volunteering (ie, raising a puppy or having a dog for a weekend) or contributing financially to their cause, check out their website

Earlier this year, my husband and I decided to remodel our kitchen.  As a friendly contractor measured our cabinets, he casually asked if we had any pets.  I explained the sad story, that all animal lovers inevitably experience. We had lost our beloved 15-year-old German Shepherd, Bear, in 2016 and had not been able to wrap our heads around another (at least) decade long commitment. The contractor then began telling me about an organization his daughter volunteers with called, Retrieving Independence. Immediately my interest was ignited.

Within the week I visited the Retrieving Independence website, followed them on social media and submitted my application to become a Furlough Volunteer. After exchanging a few emails, I was asked if I might be interested in raising one of the nine puppies from Bella’s litter. Before I had a chance to think, my heart screamed, “YES” and a few weeks later, my husband and I drove away from the Farm at Natchez Trace with a sweet little pup in my arms named Sadie.

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Sweet Sadie

Over the next two months of puppy raising Sadie, she taught me much more than I taught her.  Sadie tackles each day, outing, encounter and task with so much joy and enthusiasm. She wants to be friends with everyone. I admire her ability to both follow her intuition and sometimes be fearless when facing uncertainty. Sadie enjoys food and eats without worrying about getting fat.  She sleeps when she’s tired – typically rising and resting with the sun. Sadie is comfortable with stillness and doesn’t always feel the need to go-go-go. She lives in the present, forgives easily and loves fully. We could all take a few lessons from Sadie’s playbook.

Putting her on the bus to start her training at Turney Correctional Facility on June 12th was bittersweet. Naturally, I was sad to see her go, but knew she was ready to begin the next chapter. In honor of her departure, I decided to hold a Facebook fundraiser and with the generous contributions of friends and family, we raised nearly $700 for Retrieving Independence.

sadieBetween our furlough weekends, I miss her, but take much solace knowing that she is in the process of spreading her playbook teachings to her trainers and future recipient.

 

 

 

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Can My Cat Detect Cancer?

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As featured on curetoday.com

I know this might make me sound crazier than a crazy cat lady, but, I think my cat might be able to detect cancer.

Before someone orders a straight jacket to be sent to my house, let me explain….

In 2012 my cat started licking and eating the hair off her belly. Thinking she might have an allergy or an invisible strain of fleas, I took her to the vet. After several swipes of my Visa and many tests, the doctor ruled out any physical problem and told me he believed my cat had a mental disorder called Psychogenic Alopecia. Basically, the feline equivalent of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Instead of washing her hands a million times a day, she overgrooms. They sent me home with a version of kitty Xanax, which failed miserably. (Those of you who have ever tried to give a cat a pill understand.)

2012 is also when I began experiencing symptoms of Neuroendocrine Cancer. These initial symptoms of this rare, silent cancer included facial flushing, occasional heart palpitations, bloating and trouble digesting food.

After a couple years of my cat obsessively licking her belly and my symptoms increasing, eventually I became symptomatic enough to prompt my doctor to perform a myriad of tests. Neuroendocrine Cancer is often misdiagnosed for five to seven years, but I was “lucky” enough to be diagnosed with a Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Tumor a month after my first doctor’s visit. Weeks following the diagnosis, I had a distal pancreatectomy and splenectomy and was sent home to recover without any additional treatment. My cat stopped licking her belly for a couple of months and then started again. Soon after some spots were found in my liver. And the cycle has repeated itself a few times. When all is well in my body, her overgrooming ceases and when something’s astray, the licking commences.

Could it be a coincidence? Sure, but if scientists are beginning to research dogs’ abilities to detect cancer, perhaps they should explore the secret power of cats as well. And should scientists accept my invitation, I know a certain tabby feline who would happily raise her soft, over-groomed paw in exchange for a couple servings of Fancy Feast.

Neuroendocrine Cancer (sometimes referred to as NET or Carcinoid Cancer) has the largest growing incident increase rate of all cancers. To learn more about this cancer and it’s symptoms, visit www.carcinoid.org.

Read my other articles with Cure.

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My own personal PET Scan

The Bad Month(s)

October and November 2016 need to be voted off the island.  

October 6th marked one year since my liver resection and the day I sent walking papers to some terrible side effects of cancer. Therefore, October 6th should’ve been a day of celebration, but instead, I found myself doubled over in the ER where a CT scan revealed a small bowel obstruction. Apparently, the body doesn’t like open spaces and the absence of a liver in the upper right quadrant of my abdomen caused my small intestine to tangle up in that open space. Is it a little messed up that we were excited it wasn’t cancer related even though I would still need surgery to correct the obstruction? Yes, it is.

A week in the hospital, without any food and an uncomfortable tube up my nose, doctors finally got me on the schedule for surgery. Maybe it was the hunger or the morphine, but the days before and after surgery are blurry. A long 16 days later, I was discharged from the hospital. Home never felt so good.

Days later, my 12-year-old German Shepherd, Bear, could not walk. As if we didn’t have enough cancer in our life, Bear was diagnosed with lymphoma a couple months earlier. We took him to the emergency vet for them to tell us there was nothing more they could do. Not ready to make a quick decision, we took him home with pain meds to see if he would improve. He didn’t and the next day, he was put to sleep. It was heartbreaking.

And then there was the election. It’s no secret, I strongly supported Hillary Clinton. I know we’re all sick of election talk, but let me speak from the perspective of someone who deals with chronic illness.  I am concerned about two programs.  First, the Affordable Care Act (ACA/Obamacare).  I am so fortunate to have excellent health insurance through my husband’s employer. But, the repealing of ACA could mean the reinstatement of policy lifetime maximums, which wouldn’t be an issue for me at the moment, but most definitely would during my lifetime, when you add up the $18,000 injection I receive each month. And while I don’t expect my husband to lose or change jobs anytime soon, the thought of being denying coverage based on pre-existing condition, well, that would be a terrifying scenario. And second, I’m concerned about the Cancer Moonshot initiative. If you’re not familiar, Joe Biden is leading the charge on the use of government funds to make leaps and bounds in cancer research, treatment and cures. Will that funding go away to build some stupid wall or give tax breaks to billionaires? Ok, stepping off the soap box. 

BUT, as usual, I stay positive. I decided a long time ago that I am unbreakable and these hiccups and hurdles are certainly not enough to change that.  The last couple months are yet another reminder of life’s impermanence and that we should be immeasurably grateful for when things are going our way. 

As for writing, I’m back at it and have some upcoming pieces I’m really excited about and will be sharing soon.

As always, thank you for your support, prayers, good vibes and for reading.


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Bear (2004 – 2016)