In my last post I wrote about trusting your gut instincts. My 14-year old cat, Gracie hadn’t been quite right after having a dental cleaning. She was barely eating and becoming less and less active. I kept taking her to see my vets, telling them something was still wrong. We all tried to sort out what was going on, but as often happens with cats, they’re great at hiding health issues until they’re in such bad shape that their life is in jeopardy.
Gracie's x-rays. Another good reason to do a baseline x-ray of your cat during a routine exam when they're seniors. (top) You can see how the center of Gracie's abdomen, where her liver is located, looks cloudy. That's the fluid buildup in her abdomen and her liver is enlarged. (Bottom) organs look more defined.
I knew we could get the ultrasound done at one of many emergency veterinary hospitals in the area, but Dr. Larry said he really wanted me to take Gracie to the one he considers top notch and that meant a trip to Pieper Memorial, which is over an hour drive away. Though other hospitals were closer, Dr. Larry trusted Dr. Sean’s expertise and he knew I'd do whatever was asked to get to the bottom of Gracie’s issues.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Waiting for Dr. Larry.
The thought of the trip gave me painful flashbacks to the last time I went to Pieper. It was in 2012 and I had Fred with me; a 10-month old kitten who had lost use of his back legs. Dr. Sean was to look for signs of FIP (Feline Infectious Peritonitis) because that was our fear. I remember pacing anxiously outside the hospital in their garden. It was early April and still cold, but I couldn’t stay inside and sit quietly waiting for the results. I prayed and prayed that Dr. Sean would tell me Fred was going to be okay. Ironically, he did tell me there were no signs of FIP, but sadly Fred did have it and died a few weeks later. I didn’t want to have the same experience now—a clean ultrasound and heartbreak later. I angrily wondered why even bother doing an ultrasound if the results are so questionable, but it was safer than doing exploratory surgery by far.
Sam had been working around-the-clock on a very challenging project and was exhausted. I was emotionally wiped out from worrying about Gracie and didn’t sleep the night before the test. I was going to take Gracie by myself so Sam could stay home and tend to the cats, but Sam somehow dragged himself out of bed, after very little sleep, and we both took Gracie to Pieper. I was so grateful he made the effort because frankly I didn’t want to be alone. I needed him to be with us.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. A very sick girl on the way to Pieper.
It was a sunny morning and the commuters were out in full force. I sat with the cat carrier on my lap with the top unzipped so I could pet Gracie. She was not happy to be back in the car yet again, but she was comforted by my gentle caress. I felt sick to my stomach with worry, but we had to know what was going on and if there was a chance we could do something about it.
We didn’t have to wait long before a cheerful vet tech took Gracie from us. I stopped her before she could turn away and asked if didn’t Dr. Sean want to talk to us first and she said no, that he had all her notes. I found that odd and wondered if they didn’t value my observations. I’m not a vet so what do I know. Maybe it’s not necessary. All he’s doing is looking into her abdomen. Whatever I say won’t change what he finds.
I sat against the side of an austere hallway lined with chairs with Sam by my side. Sam was drinking coffee, trying to wake up and I was trying to be calm while my heart was pounding in my chest. I saw a lot of dogs with their parents. I tried to distract myself by people-watching. Did they match their pets? Not really. Did one of them have a really big behind when the rest of her body was tiny? Yes. Did I wonder if the golden retriever with the white mask of fur on his face was going to be around much longer. Yes.
A few minutes later, the tech arrived and said the Dr. Sean was ready to talk to us. My stomach did a flip-flop as I stood. I reached out to Sam for support as we entered a nearby exam room.
We thanked Dr. Sean and left him to do the test. I felt like my heart was going to explode. I wanted to run away. How the HELL did I miss my cat having CANCER? How is this happening? Just the day before all I thought I needed to do was fine tune Gracie’s medications so that we could get her eating better and now I’m thinking my cat is possibly terminally ill.
I needed to go outside. I didn’t want people to see me react to the news. I raced out the door back to the garden. I paced. I cried. I prayed for a glimmer of hope. Sam tried to comfort me but I couldn’t stand still. I wanted Gracie to be okay. I wasn’t ready for this to happen. My mind was swirling with dark visions of what the future held-if there was to be any future-for my girl.
It didn’t take long for the test to be done. One of the techs came outside to find us to tell us we could check out and take Gracie home. It being a Thursday meant that the results would probably not be ready until Monday. MONDAY?! I wondered if Gracie would be alive by Monday—and sadly I wasn’t wrong to worry about that.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Gracie's little blankee area where she spends most of her day.
I’d set Gracie up inside a big dog crate with a cat bed and heated pad. She’d spent the last week on the bed, but now she wanted to lay on the cooler flat oriental rug near the crate. I imagined that her belly must have hurt based on how awkwardly she would lay down. I grabbed some soft blankets and made some bumpers for her to rest her head on and one where she could prop herself up. She’d sit up, stretching her abdomen, no doubt to give her enlarged liver and fluid build-up more space inside her. I wanted to keep her as comfortable as possible. I also had to figure out a way to get her to eat.
So began an all-too-familiar odyssey—trying to find the Holy Grail of cat nutrition to keep Gracie alive, at least for a few more days.
Part 2, to Hell and Back, next...and don't think you already know what's going to happen, because no one saw this coming.
It’s the night before; before I learn things that I don’t want to know. I can’t focus very well. I can’t think straight. I was going to write a post about how to get your cat to eat when they are sick because I have some different tips that you might not have sorted out on your own, but how can I write about that when one of my cats may be gravely ill?
©2003 Robin A.F. Olson. My first mama cat, Gracie.
My 14-year old cat Gracie is one of the sweetest, kindest, most gentle cats I’ve ever known. She doesn’t have a mean bone in her body. She was beaten by her former owner and threatened with death. A woman I used to do rescue with got her when she was pregnant and shortly after she had three kittens, Gracie became one of my very first foster cats.
Gracie was a great mom. Two of her kittens were adopted together and the remaining one, who was skittish from birth, I kept. Her name is Petunia. Gracie never seemed to find a home either and that was fine with me, so Gracie became my forever cat and we never looked back.
©2006 Robin A.F. Olson. The Mighty Huntress.
I love Gracie’s bright green eyes and her luxurious coat, well, it once was luxurious, today it’s dull and somewhat sparse. Something happened to Gracie shortly after a dental many years ago. Her skin erupted in horrible lesions and we could not cure it no matter how many specialists, tests, treatments, biopsies and remedies we tried. Steroids worked for a short time but when faced with giving them to her for life-knowing it would shorten her life-I opted not to give them to her. I did, however get her comfortable and once she stopped barbering her fur off and itching, I knew she would be okay with slightly irritated skin (she stopped scratching at herself and her fur grew back to some degree by keeping her on a very clean diet).
©2007 Robin A.F. Olson. In her most beautiful-before the dermatitis took her lovely fur.
My “spidey” sense kicked in a few weeks ago and I couldn't ignore it. Gracie had been eating VERY slowly-so slowly that the other cats would push her out of her food. I put a stop to that and tried to get her to eat more enthusiastically by sprinkling dehydrated chicken on her food or other treats she liked. It didn’t work. I knew something was wrong. I noticed she wasn’t biting at her food, just barely licking at it. I looked in her mouth and her teeth were covered in tartar. She just had a dental cleaning less than three years before and already her teeth were terrible. Surely that was the problem.
So two weeks ago Gracie had most of her remaining teeth removed, with the exception of her canine teeth and front teeth. The hope was that she’d get her appetite back now that her mouth didn’t hurt, but that didn’t happen.
Something was wrong. Gracie didn’t get better. Her appetite was still off. We blamed it on antibiotics and stopped giving them after getting the all clear from Dr Mary. We thought it was due to her age and mouth pain post-dental so we gave it more time, but I kept bringing her back to the Vet saying something is wrong.
©2008 Robin A.F. Olson. Gracie and her daughter, Petunia.
I hoped that the answer was the antibiotics had done a number on her gut and that feeling queasy would cause her to stop eating. I tried Pepcid, which is a common antacid remedy and it seemed to help her get some appetite back, but that did not last. I tried an appetite stimulant but it did nothing—though Gracie was difficult to “pill” and there is a chance it got stuck in her fur and we missed it.
©2012 Robin A.F. Olson. One of many baths we tried in hopes it would cure her bad skin. It never worked.
He felt “something” in her belly. He didn’t like it. He had Gracie taken in the back room to be x-rayed. I stayed behind and started to cry. There aren’t many things that can cause this sort of problem and as far as I know all of them are cancer.
The x-rays which I did not get to see, showed some sort of inflammation near/in the liver. They weren’t sure if it was a mass. The better way to know is through an ultrasound. They had x-rays from 9 months ago and those were different, clear of this inflammation. Something was changing and it was changing quickly. I know from having cats with cancer that 9 months can be the life expectancy of a cat with lymphomas..maybe it was already too late.
©2013 Robin A.F. Olson. InstaGracie.
What makes matters even worse is that my finances are in the toilet—worse than ever due to being sick for all of July and not working much at all and having to already spend a good deal of money for Gracie’s dental and Spencer’s big vet visit-and he has a dental that’s happening next week. I told Dr. Larry how broke I was when he told me what he wanted to do for Gracie next. It wasn’t his fault, but it really felt like being kicked when I’m already down, when I’ve already just had a pretty serious life crisis of my own and now I have to figure out a way to help my poor cat. I’m not complaining. Other people have it way worse than I do and I have to say that two of you guys, without me asking, have sent in some help to be used for Gracie and for that I am extremely grateful. I’ll get the tests done, whatever it takes. It’s just tough. You know how it is. I’m sure all of you have been there, too.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. My poor, sweet girl.
If you have a gut “feeling” about something, I hope you’ll pay heed and follow your gut. Trust it. Save a life with it. Make a better choice for YOUR LIFE with it...
Just don’t ignore it.
Piglet's first year is a story about “almosts.” In fact her story was almost over before it had a chance to begin. One year ago today, Piglet's very young mother, Winnie, began contractions. It was her first litter so there was a lot of concern about how she'd handle being a mother. Our intrepid foster mom, Moe, was there watching and ready to help, but the first kitten born showed no signs of life. Perhaps being less than a year old, herself and very likely inbred, what chance did Winnie's offspring have to survive?
©2014 Kitten Associates. (thanks to foster mom, Moe). Almost didn't make it. Our first glimpse of Piglet.
Sadly, the second kitten arrived was also stillborn. Winnie continued to pant, another kitten was going to be born. She was restless and upset. Were we to lose this one, too?
©2014 Kitten Associates. (thanks to foster mom, Moe). After all the heartbreak, Winnie finally begins to relax as she rests on rice filled socks that are nice and warm from being microwaved.
The last kitten arrived; a tiny, white creature only half the size she should be. Her siblings had been much bigger, yet she was the one who was who survived. In honor of her Mother, Winnie and siblings who were named Eeyore and Tigger; the sole survivor was named Piglet. (though at the time we though SHE was a HE.) Piglet was barely the size of a lip balm.
©2014 Kitten Associates. (thanks to foster mom, Moe). Grandma will never give up on little Piglet.
Piglet definitely had a furry Guardian Angel looking out for her. Her name was Laney. Laney was Winnie's mother and Laney was also pregnant. Being family we had them all in the same room. I'd never known if it was safe to have two mamas together and now we'd find out if it was a good idea or not.
©2014 Kitten Associates. (thanks to foster mom, Moe). A wonderful portrait of Winnie and Piglet.
But Laney stepped in. Laney was close to giving birth, herself, and it was Laney who began to care for Piglet; cleaning her and feeding her while Winnie mourned. Laney was so attached to Piglet that even as she began to give birth a week later, Laney HAD to be near Piglet to comfort her while she herself was in labor.
©2014 Kitten Associates. (thanks to foster mom, Moe). Now we see what an elegant your lady she's turning out to be.
After some time Winnie began to care for her kitten, too. Now Piglet had two mothers and was gaining weight, though still tiny compared to her new nephews and nieces who were a week younger than she was. It didn't stop Piglet. No matter what size she was, she was part of one very big family.
©2015 Robin A.F. Olson. With Jelly Belly, who is easily twice her size.
Piglet began to thrive and we could finally stop worrying about her, though we did put off spaying her until she was much bigger, just to be on the safe side. All that had to happen now was for Piglet and family to come north to my home, but the problem was I just couldn't seem to do enough adoptions to make room for them fast enough so they were stuck in limbo in Georgia—which also meant their kittenhood and most adoptable age was going to pass by and I couldn't do a thing about it.
©2015 Robin A.F. Olson. Growing up fast.
In March the family finally arrived. I figured Piglet would be adopted quickly, but I didn't want the others to be ignored so I put them up for adoption first. I'll go into more detail in my next post about her family, but let's just say there are a lot of them and they aren't flame point siamese mix cats who can get adopted quickly.
©2015 Robin A.F. Olson. Running the humidifier helped Piglet overcome her illness. Thankfully, she often sat right next to it to get the most benefit of the moist air.
Once again I worried that Piglet was going to die- this time if her upper respiratory tract infection turned into pneumonia. Thankfully, with a lot of TLC she began to regain her health.
©2015 Robin A.F. Olson. Not feeling well, Piglet goes to Grandma and Mama for comfort.
I finally decided to put Piglet up for adoption and, no surprise, I got a lot of applications for her. The problem was, most of them were from adopters who were too far out of state for me to do a home visit and I just couldn't let her go without knowing her home was right for her.
©2015 Robin A.F. Olson. Game for Cats is all that!
Then one Thursday I got an application that looked very promising. I began to follow up with the adopter and that became our next "almost." The almost time when Piglet found her forever home.
©2015 Robin A.F. Olson. Piglet and proud mama, Winnie.
©2015 Robin A.F. Olson. I love my mama, 4ever.
She never took responsibility for her actions, only tried to palm off every little problem on being my fault or the world's fault or Google Maps fault for not displaying the name of a road that has been a major artery from CT to NY for over 100 years (and it IS on the map). I never met someone who lied with such conviction. Piglet had a “home” for 10 days and when she returned she just wasn't the same.
©2015 Robin A.F. Olson. Perhaps Piglet isn't too fond of another cat (Fluff Daddy) wearing the same outfit that she does.
©2015 Robin A.F. Olson. Recovering from the turmoil of her failed adoption, Piglet finally relaxes.
Last month I thought Piglet and Winnie were going to be adopted, at last! I really liked the couple, but then I got sick. Between doctors visits, tests and flat out feeling lousy, I couldn't get my act together to get the adoption done. The other issue was that this couple wanted a pair who would be fine in the car since they took annual trips to Florida and I couldn't see Piglet handling that very well.
In the end, it worked out for the best. The couple adopted a pair of much younger cats who they can take for practice runs in the car. They were really nice guys and I know they'll be happier with their choice, but sadly that leaves me with Piglet still waiting to find her forever home.
©2015 Robin A.F. Olson. Happy First Birthday, sweet Piglet.
For a cat who almost didn't make it past her first day of life, to a cat who almost died from being sick and who almost found, but lost her forever home, I'm hoping the last almost is that it's almost time for her true family to find her.
If you'd like to read more about Piglet's life you can check out these stories:
Note: As of this writing the initial reports that Cecil’s brother, Jericho was also murdered, are untrue. Sadly what IS likely is a second lion was murdered from Zimbabwe’s biggest park a few days after Cecil was killed. Regardless of which lion died, the death of any creature, especially ones that are endangered, purely for sport, is unconscionable.
Over the past week I’ve barely been able to look at Facebook because it seems almost every status update carries a link to a story about Cecil the Lion, who was murdered by a Minnesotan Dentist named Walter Palmer. Like so many others, I was outraged to learn the King of the Jungle’s death was completely senseless beyond how morally reprehensible it was. With each image I saw of Cecil, laying bloodied and dead at the feet of a psychotically-smiling Palmer, I felt an all too familiar rage boiling inside me towards yet another person causing death to an innocent creature.
There’s no need to re-hash Cecil’s story here, and in truth, I had no intention of writing about it; but with breaking news, the almost incomprehensible news, that a second lion was killed by poachers a few days after Cecil drives me to say something about it now.
As someone who respects all life and who works to help others I can never understand what would drive someone to kill animals for sport. I realize some of us eat meat and those animals are killed so we can live, but to spend an outrageous amount of money to go to another country and purposely kill an animal who is part of a group of animals that are struggling to survive is beyond comprehension.
I have to wonder if these same people struggle to stay on the “right side” of a fragile line between showing their true nature and using hunting as a smoke screen for what they really want to do. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’d rather be serial killers, but maybe they’re sane enough to know that posing as hunters of animals is still acceptable in society. Who’s to say their repeated killing of big game animals isn’t just a cover up. In the least they're sadists. If they didn’t have the outlet of killing a rare beast would they have turned to killing humans? Perhaps that’s how the dentist can fit in with society by masking his true desires.
Have you noticed that killers like Palmer or Lindsey or the latest poor excuse for a human being, Sabrina Corgatelli , know exactly how many and of what type of animal they’ve killed? They love posing next to the dead animal proving they did it. They cut off parts of the animal and take it with them so they can look at it again and again to relive the few SECONDS it took them to slaughter an innocent animal. Palmer was quoted as bragging about killing Cecil and waving photos of his dead body as he tried to impress a waitress at a restaurant in Alexandria, MN. She was disgusted, saying Palmer was old enough to be her dad and his creepy way of flirting scared her badly. What kind of twisted mental disorder do these people suffer from?
I want to know why there’s an airport storage room in Denver with thousands of animal trophies confiscated from hunters trying to smuggle them into the country. Heads of tigers, bodies of lions, tusks of rhinos. And why is it OKAY that our country allows the importing of 440 lion carcasses a YEAR. How many other Cecils were destroyed, setting off a chain reaction of cub and lioness death? How many other animals considered “big game” are suffering the same fate when for FOUR YEARS there has been legislation on the books to ban the import of these items beyond the ivory ban that’s in place now.
I know what will happen next. Everyone who totes a gun around will wave it in the air and shout how it’s their right to have a gun and they can kill animals with it if they want to. Hunting is part of our culture and tradition—just for the “sport” of it, not to provide food for anyone. Just for bragging rights. They can go trophy hunting with a permit and kill animals with a bow and arrow. They can throw rocks at the animals. Who gives a shit about them. They just want their trophy and to feel like someone important, when in truth they are lower than pond scum.
Shame on all of you. Shame.
Shame on all of you. Shame.
Or do you stop being a big tough person if you can’t KILL another creature? Or is this about bloodlust? Maybe you need a therapist? Medication? Do you really know what being tough truly means? Do you have any idea how tough it is to care for a terminally ill kitten? How tough of a person you have to be to stay up for days straight trying to save the life of a tiny newborn kitten? With one heartbreak after another that very same person will go out and rescue MORE KITTENS. They will gladly suffer through more challenges involving just as much heartache so those animals have a chance to grow up and have a good life. THAT IS A TOUGH PERSON, not someone who hides behind a bow and arrow or a gun.
Mankind will be known for thousands of years of killing each other, animals, the planet. We’ll be known for our “1 percent” who greedily have it all and want more, when they know they could stop trophy hunting and paying outrageous sums for animal body parts and finally do something decent with all that money.
It is NEVER going to end until we ALL DIE from the effects of the greedy-entitled continuing to take and take and take---from aggression and inability to see the power of simple compassion and empathy. Then, at least Mother Nature will do what she does best. She will step in after we’ve trashed the place and the earth will go on without us and it will be far better off.
I hope we can find a way to criminalize big game hunting throughout the world and give those animals a real chance to regain their numbers. If the good people of Africa and beyond need tourism to rule over big game hunters, then let’s all go visit. Let’s show our support for doing the right thing and let’s NEVER FORGET this lesson when the next big story hits the airwaves.
...and all the precious animals that are being lost to us in record numbers. Your death matters.
I’ve written about Brawny loungers before, but this lounger is different. It’s far bigger, bolder, utilizes exotic hardwoods and is completely hand built. It even had a tiny metal plaque on it that glints in the sun. It’s HUGE. It’s heavy. It’s built to last for a very long time. It’s called the Big Sleeky Comfort Throne and our little Freya is lucky enough to have one to call her own.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Little Freya not long after rescue.
This story began innocently enough. Last autumn I reached out to Andrew for advice. Freya hadn’t had her surgery yet and although she loved using corrugated cardboard scratchers, she keep soiling them to the point where I was replacing them every DAY. Clearly that was not a good use of resources so I thought there had to be a better way. I knew Andrew must have scraps of laminated cardboard so I hoped I could take some of it off his hands and use those.
©2015 Robin A.F. Olson. Of course Fluff Daddy liked the box best.
Andrew chose to go above and beyond, telling me that although he was taking a short break from building cat loungers and didn’t have anything he could send me right away, that he would send me a little something later in the year. He did just that, shipping Freya a lounger that took our breath away. When a HUGE box arrived for Freya, I knew it was from Andrew. Inside the box was a breathtakingly GIGANTIC lounger, far bigger than Freya would ever need.
©2015 Robin A.F. Olson. Freya's impressed!
©2015 Robin A.F. Olson. Lots of room to grow into-that is IF Freya grows beyond kitten-sized.
©2015 Robin A.F. Olson. Blitzen is a big fan!
Freya also likes to watch TV since the Throne is in view of her favorite shows. In the four months (yes, a very tardy thank you) we’ve had it, the cardboard is still in great shape and the lounger is a nice compliment to our furnishings.
©2015 Robin A.F. Olson. Blitzen showing off his modeling chops.
We also have a few Sleeky Lounges, which are a very budget friendly version of the Throne. They wear well. It’s been nearly two years since we’ve gotten those loungers and they’re still going strong and are used every day. You can see more about them here.
As most of you know, Freya did have her surgery and is doing GREAT. I’m sure if she could talk she’d thank Andrew, too, for his generosity and for his compassion for cats-especially a little kitten who needed his help.
©2015 Robin A.F. Olson. Freya watching the Secret Life of Cats-of course.
Lisa was the Tech. She was a pretty blonde with a slight southern accent. I tried to chat with her but she was all business. The room was not much nicer than the waiting room and certainly not any more cheerful. There was a treadmill flanked by two computers with a hospital bed next to one of them. Lisa told me to remove everything on top and put on a smock with the front open. I balked, being shy, and said I wore a sports bra thinking that the underwire from my other bras would have caused a problem. She apologized and said everything had to go or it could interfere with the test.
I did as I was told, trying to have an out-of-the-body experience. I am not a fat girl, half naked in front of a stranger. It was bad enough having to be naked at all. I wished I was home, scooping one hundred litter pans over doing this.
I knew seeing my boobs was nothing of interest to Lisa because she’d seen a million bare breasts before mine. She was very careful to keep me covered as much as she could as she wiped my chest with rubbing alcohol so the suction cups attached to the leads on the ECG would stay in place. She did her job quickly and effectively, then asked me to lay on my left side so she could take a baseline ECG and ultrasound of my heart. The harness was bulky so I had to move slowly. Once I got into position she warned me that the gel might be a bit cold. I didn’t care. I just wanted to live through what was coming next.
As Lisa began to roll the ultrasound device into my flesh, I looked up at the screen and saw it moving in black and white…my heart. My little heart beating away reminded me of a Kissing Gouramis fish, gulping what looked like air, but I knew was blood. Very quietly I said; “Hello, heart” as tears filled my eyes.
I had no way to take a photo of the moment I saw my heart, but this is what a typical stress echo looks like.
Lisa explained that the cardiologist would be in soon to do the test. He would be monitoring me the entire time and that I shouldn’t worry. Meanwhile, she handed me some paperwork stating the inherent risks of the tests, including death, and would I sign it please.
Lisa left the room for a few minutes. I sat on the end of the bed noticing a readout on the wall. It was showing the beats per minute of my heart: 110. I didn’t need to see that to know I was in a panicked state. I tried to focus on my Buddhist training; settle your mind, let go of your thoughts. My heart slowed down to 89, but only for a moment before it returned north of 100. Pure adrenaline and terror pulsed through my veins with every beat. Not much was going to change that.
I started to walk and my heart felt all right. The doctor quickly increased the angle of the treadmill and I started to falter. I told him I had pain but it was coming from my gut and my lungs more than my heart. The aspirin had done a number on me and so had being sedentary for six weeks. I couldn’t do it. I broke out into a cold sweat and warned I was going to vomit. He asked me if I could go another 30 seconds. I did, but in the end I couldn’t reach my target heart rate. As directed earlier, I got off the treadmill as fast as I could and laid back down on the bed on my left side. I was panting, desperately angry at myself for not reaching the target heart rate, but glad I was still alive.
I heard the curtain move and I looked up. Sam gave me a small smile and sat down, not saying a word. He reached out and squeezed my toe. I tried to smile back while Lisa kept making records of my heart, switching back and forth from one computer screen to another. It took about five more minutes until she was done. She gave me a towel to clean up with and said we were all set and I could go home.
I was done. I was okay. I could go home and watch the next episode of The Bachelorette where Kaitlyn would continue to suck face with guy after guy; the romance of the show long gone. I used to love these trashy programs, but now I didn't care any more.
As I got dressed I held my breath. I felt shaky and stunned. I was certain my next stop was going to be Yale-New Haven hospital, not home. I didn’t say anything to Sam until we were back inside his car. Once seated and belted, Sam fired up the engine. I felt cool air blowing on my face. I looked up to see more geriatric patients entering the building, but I was leaving. I was going home. As the shock of the past few days began to wane, I felt my body slowly rock back and forth as tears ran down my cheeks.
The next morning I got a call from my G.P.’s nurse. She said my heart looked fine so there was no need for our appointment on Thursday. I told her that I was still having chest pain so I was going to come in. After all this, I had no idea what was bothering me.
For the next few days I focused on my new eating “lifestyle.” I had to cut carbs very dramatically. I read that I should to try to keep it to about 50-55 grams per day. After a lifetime of eating a lot more than that. I had to work on portion control along with what I was eating. I never even gave myself a chance to say farewell to my favorite foods. I just stopped eating them.
I came up with a game plan. I’d work very hard to be careful for the next few months or however long it would take to lose enough weight to get out of the Diabetes-zone. I didn’t even know how much I had to lose. From what I’d read it would need to be a percentage of my weight and that would be a good bit of weight. Ideally I need to lose even more than that. The painful truth is I need to lose at least 30 pounds if not 50 pounds or more. I couldn’t look at it as one big number. I’d have to chip away at it. I’d do it reasonably and thoughtfully. I know I’d have bad and good days. I’d try to be as cutthroat as I could with carbs until I was out of danger, then slowly re-introduce SOME carbs back into my diet, as long as I was exercising (which I hate doing-yay!).
I'm a "Foodie." I love go on road trips and discover out-of-the-way diners, little mom and pop restaurants where the locals like to eat. I also know I use food for neurotic reasons like boredom or anxiety and God knows running a rescue means preventing stress-related eating is going to be a BIG factor...oh and I LOVE to cook. What am I going to do?
The best I could aim for is that I could do this for a few months, then maybe try to go a year, then maybe it would become my new routine and it would be harder to go back down that path full of sugar and carbohydrates since now I see what it will do to me...but can I do it?
Thursday arrived. It marked one week since I’d been diagnosed. This time I was anxious for the nurse to weigh me because I felt thinner. I thought maybe I’d lost a few pounds, but I prepared myself for only a pound or two. I lost SEVEN pounds! Not only that but my blood sugar was normal. This was a very good sign that maybe I wasn’t too late.
We talked about the weird lung pain, gut pain, neck pain, back pain on walking up stairs or some other activities. She said she had no differential diagnosis unless it still was angina and that was something I was not ready to hear. My heart might still be in trouble.
©2015 Robin A.F. Olson. My new BFF. Fortunately for me, I only have to test if I feel woozy to make sure I don't have hypoglycemia.
She told me that angina presents very oddly in women and that if not angina I might have some sort of problem with my stomach or esophagus. There’d be more tests to do, of course, but I was worried about doing too much and making things get worse. I told her that over the two months it wasn’t as bad as before and that maybe I should give it a week or two and see how I was feeling then. I did not want to take something to turn off the acid pumps in my stomach. I just wanted to give my body time to adjust. I prayed that maybe I’d luck out and it would go away because one treatment for angina is the same as diabetes—diet and exercise. That said, wondering if I have a ticking time bomb in my body is no comfort. I just want to be pain-free and well enough to begin exercising.
The problem is that I don't have a lot of faith in myself. As much as I love my heart (my new BFF) and treasure the health I have, I don't know if I can do this long term. I've already had dreams about eating carbs and repeated uncomfortable cravings. That said, I know what lies ahead for me if I don't do it.
(continued from Chapter 1)
I had a really really really terrible weekend. My diabetes diagnosis was on Thursday and by Friday I was terrified I had stable angina, too. I decided to be safe and began taking aspirin. It couldn’t hurt, right? I began to experience a mild reduction in symptoms. I wasn’t certain whether it was from the medication or the beginning of my new eating regime.
I was taking aspirin, two, every 4-6 hours, with a shaky hand. My gut hurt. I didn’t really want to eat. I had to force myself to eat something. All I thought about was the stress test on Monday and if I was going to live through it.
I told him we should end our engagement after seven YEARS and finally get married if I survived. He knew my duress was extreme, pushing me to say things like that, but in my heart I meant them.
©2007 Robin A.F. Olson. Our engagement portrait.
My Will was out-of-date so I sat down and wrote something, anything to ensure some changes might be made if I died. I tried to write up a list of Bequests, too, but I was a member of crazy-town by then and my mind just couldn’t make sense of much of anything.
I looked over to my cat Spencer and I thought of him without me and what would become of him and the others and what of the foster cats? I knew if I did die I’d be leaving one huge mess for Sam and that upset me even more.
As Monday dawned, my gut felt even worse. I had palpitations I was so anxious. At 11AM we had to be at the Vet to bring our 15-year old cat, Nora in for her first acupuncture treatment. I could have stayed home but part of me felt like maybe this was my chance to say goodbye to the staff. I didn’t want to think like that but what if I missed this chance? OR, would I seem like a nut worrying about what was going to happen and everything would be fine?In the end I decided to remain as stoic as possible and focus on our cat.
Thankfully, I was distracted by meeting our new Vet, Dr. Carmen. She was great with Nora and we were stunned to see Nora walk comfortably for the first time in years right after her treatment.
©2015 Robin A.F. Olson. Nora tolerated acupuncture very well and was purring through most of it.
Sadly, my anxiety returned as soon as we were on the way home. My appointment was at 2:45 PM so there was yet another two hours to wait until it was time to leave…the longest two hours of my life.
Sam drove me to my appointment, taking yet more time off from working. He’s been incredibly busy the last year and was getting very behind with his clients. I felt terrible about it, but I needed him more than ever and boy was I being nice to him to make up for it. I wonder if he thought he was with a different person? I'm usually not such a delicate flower to live with.
As he drove, I tried to make jokes. I told Sam I felt fine so we could go home. I noticed we were going to be quite early so I suggested he stop and get some coffee (because you do not want Sam’s coffee meter to go low-trust me on this). Sam pulled into a parking space at the mini-mall as I stayed behind, resting in the car, while he got his caffeine delivery device.
I looked around at the mall, watching the cars slowly pass by. It was a slate gray day and rather warm and humid. I wondered if this was it-this was the last thing I was going to see. I wondered if I did have to have some sort of scary procedure that I needed to just face it and go through with it so I could begin work recovering as soon as I could.
Sam drove us a few more blocks, then into the parking lot. There were a lot of cars parked at the Medical Building. It comforted me because I thought that if something happened surely there were plenty of doctors in the building who could help me. We entered the front doors passing some very senior citizens who had aides or family members assisting them. As I walked slowly past them, I felt very old, too.
The irony, perhaps, is that in my great fear, I wasn’t sure where we were supposed to go. I didn’t know the name of the office, only that they would do the stress test. We read the list of tenants, but none of the names sounded familiar. Fortunately I had made a notation on my calendar that said “Suite 107.”
It was just down the hall.
As we entered the room what struck me was how dingy and airless it was. There were no windows and the only light was those barbaric florescent tubes suspended in the ceiling that make you feel like your eyes are burning. We took our seats across from a small coffee maker/refrigerator that had a sign on it “For Stress Test Patients Only.”
Did they really want us having a cup of coffee before the procedure? We were the only people in the waiting room. There was no one at the desk. There was a note taped to the window by the desk that said to just wait and that someone would come out shortly.
I looked at the clock. It was 2:45 PM. I weakly held Sam’s hand as we sat there in silence. I wanted to say a million things to him, but there wasn’t time. I hoped that maybe he would say something important to me, but a few moments later the tech opened the door and called my name. I turned to him and gave him a quick kiss. I tried to look brave as I handed him my phone and purse. I wouldn’t be needing them any more.
The stress test did not go as expected. Find out what happened in my next post.
There are times in your life when you know you’re at a crossroad. Sometimes the path isn’t so clearly defined and you have to first take a few steps in one direction before you realize you’ve chosen the wrong one. If you're lucky, you can turn back and re-think your choice, maybe even do something about it.
You can take a hard, cold look at your life and visualize the choices you’ve made and what problems you may be creating for yourself to face one day. For example, I saw my parent’s health fail over things they could have controlled early on. I’ve had friends and family, who “knew better” but didn’t do anything about “it” and slowly drank themselves to death or smoked cigarettes for 30 years and wondered why they got salivary gland cancer and died.
I’m not going to live forever, but HOW I live the rest of my life is up to me. I can live it in a strong, vital way or I can make up an excuse not to deal with it. I can give in and give up and just get sicker and sicker, being on more and more medications until I die.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Goodbye carbs.
I’ve just been diagnosed with Diabetes (type 2).
My Doctor’s office called and said my blood tests were in and the Doctor wanted to see me. There was “nothing to worry about.”
I hoped I’d find out that the chest pains and weird stabbing pains into my arms, chest and neck were related to being Vitamin D deficient (and not the sign of a pending heart attack). I knew maybe my cholesterol would be up or I’d be borderline diabetic, but I’m not a freak about eating sugar and I don’t eat crazy amounts of food. I cut back on wheat and sugar over a year ago. I thought I was basically okay.
I was very wrong.
The Doctor, pardon the pun, didn’t “sugar coat” the news. She said that due to my history (my mother was diabetic late in life) and my weight (which is mostly in my belly) that it was likely this could happen. She said that because my A1C Heamaglobin test was 7.1, and just over the indication of being diabetic (which is 6.5 and the test is accurate to +/- .50), that with diet and exercise I could possibly go into remission. It might not be too late.
My heart sank. I asked what else was wrong and the only other thing was indeed I did have VERY low Vitamin D levels, which can easily be remedied with supplements and some outdoor time. Everything else was normal.
I was glad Sam was in the exam room because I probably would have begun to cry and his being there comforted me. He was putting on a brave face, revealing only subtle disappointment at the news, but I wondered what he thought about what our future might mean now. If I had to change my eating habits, then he might have to as well; but would he be willing?
I asked if any of the tests answered why I was having pains and she answered; “No.” I’m still to take an Echo Stress Test to see if my heart is in bad shape.
Of course with the plethora of information online I’ve already diagnosed my pain issues as stable angina. It would make sense, I have the symptoms, family history and risk factors. If my Doctor senses it, maybe she should have told me and we should have gotten the test done sooner or maybe she’s not really lying and isn’t certain that’s what is going on. I don’t know that I’ve been more terrified of my fate than I am right now. I’m middle-aged. Shit happens-just not to me!
So which path will I take? I knew it before the Doctor finished telling me I about how I had to make serious changes in my life if I wanted any chance to be healthy.
©2014 Robin A.F. Olson. Perhaps one day I can enjoy a mini-pastry again (if I plan for it and work out after eating it), but until at least next February-no more of this.
I’ve lost weight so many times before, but not studied nutrition as I will have to do now. I’ve never cared about my body. I think I’ve felt unlucky that I was never skinny like the popular girls. In all honesty I only weigh 5 lbs more than I did in early 2000’s, but I’m very overweight and all those years and the STRESS I deal with has taken a toll. I must make changes for the rest of my life IF I want to have a life that does not include: amputations, going blind, heart failure and more. I need to fight for my life and I need to stop hating my body and love and respect it with all I’ve got.
I’m going to imagine my future. I've lost a lot of weight. I can walk comfortably and I exercise. Sam is right there with me, doing the same. We gave ourselves the gift of a better old age and with any luck we’ll get there, but there’s a very long road ahead and the next answers may be even worse than I fear.
Note to my friends:
It’s not easy to face the fact that you don’t feel quite right. Maybe you’ve been putting off getting something checked. Trust me on this-do NOT WAIT. Yes, there are plenty of reasons not to see a Doctor. I didn’t even HAVE Health Insurance the past decade and if I didn’t have it now I may not have gone. It doesn’t hurt to call a few Doctors and explain your situation and ask for help if money is an issue. There are Federally Qualified Healthcare Clinics all over the country. They can provide services to low/no income families and because they get paid by the Government, it means they won’t cut costs on your care because they’re getting fairly compensated for their services (unlike many Doctor’s offices who don’t get reimbursed enough and will refuse to provide care for people on State Insurance). I found a few in my area and they even have cardiologists.
Be in charge of your future. Own it.
But meanwhile I wonder if I'm still fluttering on the edge of having a heart attack. My pain isn't going away and I'm in a panic. Are these the last few days of my life?
Find out next….
Kristen Lindsey did something most of us would consider a disgrace to humankind. “For fun” she went hunting with a bow and arrow shooting what she claims was a “feral” cat in the back of the head, killing it. If she hadn’t been so completely arrogant, maybe she would have thought twice about bragging about it; but what makes her actions despicable was that she not only bragged about it, she posted a photo (that I will NOT share here EVER) on Facebook of her holding her arrow while the cat’s body dangled from it.
What makes my blood boil is this woman is a small animal VETERINARIAN.
What makes me want to say things that would probably get me arrested is that she didn’t do a thing when she found out the cat was named Tiger and WAS a FAMILY PET who had gone missing. She claimed she was helping rid the world of another feral cat when she probably did nothing to find out if she was in the right to take its’ life. In my opinion, even though it’s disgusting to know that in Texas feral cats can be shot, this is no way to handle feral cats ESPECIALLY because it’s often very difficult to be certain it’s feral in the first place (unless it’s been TNR’d and has an ear tip).
There was a rally in Texas yesterday to protest what Lindsey did and some groups asked for more humane education. While humane education is important for CHILDREN, this was an ADULT who treated CATS in her practice. If she didn’t have the compassion and kind-heart to want to save the life of a “feral” cat, then what would humane education change for her? What sort of sick, twisted, narcissist has been handling animals while her clients had no idea of what a sadist she was.
As someone who runs a cat rescue and has had cats for most of my life, I have to work with vets constantly. If I discovered that one of my Vets did such a heinous act, I would fire them immediately. I hope I’d be able to tell they didn’t have a beating heart far before then, but if I missed something then they’d be fired.
Maybe she should work in a meat packing plant where she can shoot cows in the back of the head 8 hours a day, then post photos of herself showing off her “good work.” Clearly this person does not deserve her license and should seek another one way to make a living. I don’t want to live in a country that turns their head the other way when something horrible is done to a housecat who was a beloved family member. She should be charged with murder.
While her act may not have been seen as a breach of any laws in Texas, she clearly broke what is a common-sense ethical and moral code: her job is to save lives and humanely end lives of companion animals under strict protocols THAT DO NOT INCLUDE SHOOTING THEM WITH ARROWS ...and humane euthanasia is done only when no other options to preserve life remain.
Contact the AVMA and tell them (nicely) that you're disgusted and you want them to consider revoking Lindsey's license as well. You can read their statement about this situation. It's not an easy-read but they do mention appropriate handling of feral and free-roaming cats and it does not say that shooting them with an arrow is okay.
There are many Facebook pages popping up that support justice for Tiger but I can’t determine which one/s are legit. Doing a search for “Justice for Tiger“ will help you decide. Bottom line-we can make anything happen if enough people write to the TBVME and complain. We CAN DO THIS.
©2015 Remembering Tiger. Tiger
And to Tiger's family: I'm so very sorry for your loss. Clearly Tiger was an adorable orange and white tabby who loved life until his tragic end. May you find comfort in knowing the firestorm his death has created. I hope you will get the justice your family deserves and that Lindsey will lose her license. She should not be allowed to be near anyone's cat or dog and I hope one day that will happen.
Fly Free, Tiger.
[Update 2016. It's been a wild ride the past 12 months, one that shook me to the core and made me face some big health problems. I'm down about 55 pounds (and counting). I go for long walks, beyond any distance I ever could have achieved before. The mysterious pain was never fully diagnosed, but it's mostly gone. There's a lot more about my struggles on my most recent birthday post. For now, I feel better than I have in at least 20 years and I'm determined not to slip back down that slope into poor health. My wish for all of you is that if you need to face your health-related demons, do it. Life's too short to ignore it, then find yourself on a guerny in a hospital when you could have done something about preventing it.]
It was just another morning feeding routine I do twice a day with the foster cats. I carried their food and a few plates up the stairs to the second floor of my house. Their room is at the end of the hallway. As I reached the top stair I started to feel a pressure in my chest, then a stinging radiating pain from my lungs, into both sides of my neck, down into my shoulders. My head was already throbbing from a headache, but now it was worse. I felt palpitations. I knew if I didn't drop what I was carrying and sit down I was going to be in trouble.
I got to my bed and sat down on the edge of it, trying to calm my nerves. Slowly I felt the pain subside enough to feel like I could stand. I could hear the cats crying and banging on the door to their room. I was already late feeding them so I had to get up.
The cats always crowd around me as I enter the room, anxious to be the first to lick at their food. I shuffled my feet so I wouldn't step on any of them, then began to lower the trays to the floor. Something didn't feel right. The pressure and pain began to return. I sat down on the bed in the foster room, my chest was heaving. Something was very wrong with me.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Just another day...or the first sign of trouble.
For the past few weeks I’ve been suffering a lot with these mysterious searing aches and pains. Hey, I’m no spring chicken any more. It’s to be expected. The thing is, with the ease of looking up symptoms on the internet it’s lead me to believe that I need to see a Doctor or two and right away, please. Am I going to have a heart attack?
So I went to the Doctor. I did the easiest thing I could. I had Sam schlep me to Urgent Care hoping that they’d agree to my assessment of the situation: that due to my sedentary life, the stress of running a cat rescue, not having a vacation in years, needing a bigger bed so there’s actually room for two adults and a few giant cats to sleep on, was the root cause of my woes.
So I left the clinic with more questions than answers. I feared I was going to have a heart attack at any moment. The signs for women are subtle and range from pain in the back, neck, chest, jaw, down the arms, pressure on the chest and more. I had most of those symptoms. I have a very tragic family history of heart issues and strokes. I have to face the fact that perhaps all this sitting around and carrying extra weight on my bones has caught up with me.
It’s amusing perhaps, that my Mother spoke to me about death. She was very matter of fact about it and got a bit terse with me if I pushed back, not wanting to have the discussion. My stomach would flip flop when she brought it up. I couldn’t imagine my life without her in it. I hoped I’d have her around as long as I was around. She didn’t smoke or drink so she had that going for her. Maybe losing her could be put off for some other day.
She wanted me to know what to do if I ever needed to make a decision for her if she was incapacitated. She wanted me to know she’d written her Last Will & Testament and where I could find it and who her lawyer was. She told me where the bank statements and investments were. She’d even quiz me about those things from time to time. She prepared me for many things, but in the end she never prepared me for what to do if she lied to me about her health problems. She died of heart failure, unexpectedly and I was the one to find her dead on the floor. At least during the worst grief of my life, I knew where the papers were and I knew what she wanted done.
©2006 Robin AF Olson. Mother.
We all want to live forever, but we won’t. Though it’s emotionally draining we have to face it and we SHOULD prepare for our inevitable demise. That way it not only ensures that how we want to spend our final days will be respected (if there’s a chance for that to happen), it also respects those who are left behind; the people we love.
That’s why I realized if something bad happened to me, not being married would mean my brother, who I have no relationship with, would make the decisions about my care. Sam couldn’t even visit me in the hospital. The thought made me feel even sicker. I don’t know what’s going on with me and as much as I hope I will have many more years to go, it’s not a certainty.
So I started the paperwork for a Living Will and other Advance Directives. The forms were very easy to find online for my state and by the way, you don’t even need a Lawyer (though you will need a Notary) for these directives. It made me think about the “what ifs” I may face one day. I didn’t want to imagine myself in a situation where I was in a coma with no chance of recovery, but I had to. I had to think about what I would want. Would I want to live if life only meant breathing while attached to a machine and maybe some sort of low brain-stem level awareness of the world? How would it be if I couldn’t care for myself, even scratch a simple itch? I couldn’t even be with cats anymore or smile at a joke. I would be a burden to Sam both financially and emotionally. So let me fly free.
I knew I could designate Sam to be the person to make that choice for me, but I also needed to assign an “alternate” if Sam could not or would not make the choice. The answer wasn’t tough to come by but it did surprise and sadden me. Most people would turn to a family member, but I have none that would be appropriate. I realized that I only have a very few friends I’ve even known long enough to trust with this responsibility. When I made my choice I asked Sam if was okay with him because it was someone I used to have a relationship with. Thankfully Sam was fine with my choice and even agreed with it. I’d known this person for a big chunk of my life and was still friends with him. I trusted him, now literally with my life. I had to call and ask his permission to include him in this paperwork and I felt like asking this of someone required having one of the most intimate and soul-opening discussions of my life.
I was scared to ask him, not knowing how he might take the request, but his answer gutted me with his simply put reply; “Thank you for this gift. Of course I will do this for you.” I guess the comedian in me was on a lunch break because I couldn’t make a joke about how now he could unplug me after all the times I caused him grief.
Without saying the words, I knew that we still loved and cared about each other, but in a way that was not disrespectful to our mates. We both were willing to talk about that thing called Death and both stick our toes into the pool of ever-shifting “what ifs.” The beautiful thing I didn’t expect was the lingering feeling that this was the right thing to do and once done I could relax. I told myself that I have to keep facing situations that are difficult. I’ve done it for all my foster cats for over a decade and now I need to do it for myself.
I saw another Doctor today. She hates cats but I told her if she didn’t go on about why I’d still like her. She listened to my description of what I think is going on and what I’m experiencing. She asked many questions about my odd (to me) symptoms. I didn’t get a diagnosis, only next steps. She wants me to get my heart checked out more thoroughly so that means an echo/stress test. It’s more sensitive and better suited to test a woman’s heart, but the insurance company may deny the request. If that happens I’m not sure what I will do. (GOOD NEWS: I just found out I don't need approval and I can have the test done after the 4th of July holiday is over).
Tomorrow morning I’m having a lot of blood tests done to rule out things that scare the crap out of me. The blood tests will be looking for diabetes (no surprise, but darn it I’m sure I don’t have symptoms), high cholesterol, and just like so many of my foster cats, they’ll check my organ function, blood issues, and a surprise—Vitamin D deficiency. I guess if it’s really bad it can effect your heart and all sorts of other things, too and lots of people have it and don’t even know. Since I live almost like a Vampire, it might not surprise me to find out I’m low in that particular tank.
©2003 Robin AF Olson. As usual, everything is a joke, even with my mother in the hospital. Notice the line up of the magazine with my mom's chest.
Since she couldn’t weigh in on what was going on with me, I asked what I should do until all these tests are done. She replied I should not exert myself to the point of feeling pain and take it easy. On the drive home, I realized that Sam’s birthday is in a few days and we’re supposed to go to see his family in New York City. I can’t go. I can’t risk having to walk too strenuously and in the city that’s a lot of what makes up every visit. With not being able to do much I haven’t been able to even plan something for Sam but this really was the pits.
This may be the last post I’m going to write before I have some answers. I don’t feel too badly right now. I’m trying not to be scared. Facing your own mortality is no picnic, but if you want to have a chance to squeeze out as many good years as you can, you have to do it.
So please, get your Last Will & Testament written, get your health proxy set up, maybe organize your paperwork and let a few people, including your doctor and lawyer know what you’re up to. Have the discussion with your family. Don’t be shy. It’s tough to talk about this, but better to have it out in the open than hidden away because when your time comes no one will know what you wanted to have done and it could lead to all sorts of legal and family issues.
And after you have your affairs in order, you can forget about it and talk about something everyone likes to talk about (except my Doctor) — cats.
©2015 Robin AF Olson. Morning wakeup call with Freya.