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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Days of Distraction

Life has been brimming with buckets of happiness and busyness, which has been a welcomed distraction from my April tests, scheduled three months after my last PRRT in Houston at Excel Diagnostics.

Upon returning from The ENETs conference in Spain, we started remodeling our kitchen and sprucing up our living-room. It was a time-consuming, but fun project. We are still searching for a few furnishings, art and appliances, but so far, it looks pretty good.

 

In the midst of remodeling, a talented filmmaker (and now, friend) flew to Nashville to shoot a short film on me for the Carcinoid Cancer Foundation’s 50th anniversary. I am one of several featured patients in a series called “Fit to Fight”. The film will highlight my yoga practice and the lessons I’ve learned along this crazy path. It’ll be out this month and, of course, I will share it here.

8f181893-3f5c-40a8-b76b-525932a99139IMG_0086Two days after the remodel wrapped, my dear friend Christine and I joined forces on a cute, cuddly project. Ever since our beloved German Shepherd, Bear, passed away in 2016, I have been pining for another dog. I’ve hesitated because dogs are a big commitment. Enter an organization called Retrieving Independence. They train service dogs in a local prison for people with disabilities. Originally I signed up for their furlough program, which would give me a dog twice a month to expose them to experiences they can’t receive in the prison. BUT then a big litter of puppies was born and the organization was searching for puppy raisers. Without much thought, my hand shot up. A few weeks later, I had a sweet puppy named Sadie in my arms. She’ll be split between my house and Christi’s, who happily joined us in this venture. Our main responsibilities are to potty train, socialize and just let her be a puppy for the next two months until she turns 16 weeks and heads off to Turney Correctional Facility. From there we’ll get her on furlough until she’s 18 months and is (hopefully) a service dog matched with someone who really needs her. Am I worried about getting attached? Sure, but I also feel good about having a role her changing someone’s life. In the meantime, I am soaking up the puppy snuggles. If you need more Sadie (and let’s face it, you do), click here for her photo stream.

So, you see – much goodness to distract us from my upcoming tests in Houston, but eventually the days came and there was no more avoiding it.

The bad news…  even after stuffing myself full of anemia fighting foods, my red blood cells and platelets barely budged compared to February’s check-in.

The good news… my white blood cells moved back into normal territory.

The annoying news… I did not get the most revealing scan, called a Gallium-68 because hours before my appointment, the machine broke. So, I still have to do that in Nashville.

The great news… the blood tumor marker is in normal territory and the MRI and CT scans showed that tumors continue to shrink. Woot woot! The team of doctors in Houston were so encouraged that they released me to my local oncologist for follow-up.

I can’t say the shrinkage news was surprising. I know my body well enough after years of this to know when something is up. And even with low blood counts, I’ve been feeling great and full of energy. In a premeditated stroke of confidence, Fabien and I planned to leave for nine days of fun in the Costa Rican sun. Having our healthy suspicions confirmed, it was incredible switching into vacation mode with the only weight on our shoulders being backpacks.

Read more about my journey with PRRT here.