Trials and Triumphs

I totally destroyed my child’s thumb yesterday.

Her nails grow fast. Like freaky fast. We try to bathe her every other night, and I usually have to clip her nails after each bath. As she becomes more familiar with her arms and how to deal with them, she scratches her face less (she used to shred her face every time she cried, would not wear the mitten things, could not get her to stop) but scratches me more. I can’t find her nail clippers. It has been about a week since I trimmed her nails. My chest looks like I got in a fight with a feral cat. So I just broke down and decided to trim her nails with a regular trimmer, who needs a special baby thing anyway?

Ummmm, we do. The first nail I tried, I almost chopped off the top pad of her thumb. But I didn’t realize it at first. It had hurt her so badly and she had gotten so upset that she had that cry where she wasn’t breathing. So I didn’t hear a cry, I couldn’t see any blood, it looked like I maybe just got the top layer and everything would be fine. Shelby could see that she was crying/not breathing and was yelling at me to blow in her face. When I did, the crying kicked in very loudly, the blood started flowing, and my mommy panic alarm started going off.

I was able to stop the bleeding pretty quickly by sucking on her thumb and then pressing it up again the roof of my mouth with my tongue. (I know gross right? But I do this for myself all the time. It’s totally fine.) I can definitely tell the difference between an annoyed gassy cry and a legit pain cry. My baby is LOUD. Her tears were dripping onto my shoulder. It was traumatic. 10 minutes later however, you would have never guessed anything was wrong. She was giggling while Shelby “ate her neck” and smiling in her seat.

Things seem to be settling at home as well as can be expected. Jason died early morning Monday the 8th. Shelby called me home as soon as he had called 911, and when I realized we wouldn’t be accompanying our guest to the hospital where I could leave him in the hands of a knowledgeable physician, I informed my boss I would not be coming back in to the office. We had a sprinkling of Jason’s close friends come over and spend most of the day Monday. Beth and Natalie stayed the night. Beth stayed until I got home Tuesday. They spent the time grieving, reminiscing, gathering his belongings, washing his dirty clothes. And then Beth loaded all of it into his car and drove away. There are no physical reminders of his stay plaguing Shelby. He is coping.

He is still sad. Of course he is. We read an announcement about a new Harry Potter book coming out. Shelby loves Harry Potter. We read them to each other way back when we were dating. But I didn’t realize he was introduced (or at least encouraged to geek out) by Jason. When I genuinely asked how he felt about this continuation of a story he loved, he said he felt excited, but mostly sad that Jason would never get to read it. He is gloomy, but can still find opportunities to smile and laugh. I am so glad for Hannah. She keeps him from being too enveloped in sadness. How could she not with her ludicrous smile? She needs him in a way he can’t ignore and that keeps him going. He is working. He is getting out of the house.

Hannah n Jason
Onsie Jason made for Hannah

We continue to get updates about the townhouse as well. There have been lots of showings but no applications as yet. It would seem our biggest downfall is our craptastic kitchen. I shouldn’t say craptastic, I should say standard. There aren’t many townhomes for rent in the area, but those that are available apparently have recently updated kitchens with newer appliances and fancy counter tops. We simply can’t afford to replace anything in there right now. Not until we get the dang thing rented anyway. Then we can look at all types of enhancements to both our houses. In the meantime, we lowered the rate and offered a temporary cosmetic fix to see if it would help generate applications.

Things at work are picking up for both of us. I am getting lots of positive feedback and feel like I am in a good place regarding my workload and how my boss feels I am doing. Shelby has the theatre almost completely booked for the year. His negotiated contracts seem to be consistently working in his favor so that helps keep him motivated. This “part-time” position runs him pretty ragged, so it is nice that he gets emotionally rewarded for it. There is even talk of increasing his compensation soon which would be awesome.

So we are hanging in there, our little family unit. It is frightening/awe inspiring/astounding how quickly Hannah continues to grow and how much she learns. I’ll be able to work from home some soon, so Shelby and I can have a little better distribution of parental duties and give him some time to make appointments for himself during the day. All in all, despite the rough start to the month, 2016 is looking to be a pretty good year.

 

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Jackson

Friends for over 20 years. Housemates for much of their adult lives. How does one handle such a grievous loss? Losing a piece of history, a link? Losing a confidant? Losing the beauty and turmoil of a mind constantly in motion. The one he turned to in times of creative need.

The way he tells it, I owe my life as it is to this man. We wouldn’t have met if Jackson hadn’t encouraged a relocation, hadn’t offered a desperate Shelby the chance to start again. He supported creativity in my husband. We have his paintings on the walls. He had just promised us a painting for Hannah; a more personal gift than the books he gave her at our baby shower.

And then he died.

I don’t know how to do this. It’s different. When someone dies, I can be strong, I can take care of the logistics and give the space needed for grief to pass through those around me. But he died in our house. The house my husband has to live in. All day, every day. And Shelby found him. He feels everything. I can’t even imagine.

I keep trying to make a comparison, to gain even an inkling of what he might be feeling. I think, what if I found my sister or brother? Because that’s what he was to Shelby, as close or closer than any of his brothers. What panic would I feel? What demons would gnaw at me for having gone to bed before them? What added pain would haunt my loss at having to see their lifeless body somewhere other than a funeral home; somewhere so familiar? He found him dead on our own bathroom floor. Nothing comes to me. I can’t match it, I can’t imagine it, I can’t feel it.

I feel separated. I feel like the man I am sworn to stand beside is falling and I can’t catch him. I’m walking a tightrope of respect and courtesy but watching him disappear farther below me. I don’t know when to push, when to give room. I didn’t have the same connection so I don’t know how far is normal. I don’t know if I’m doing this right.

I don’t fear for Hannah. He can put on a face for her. We bathed her last night and he smiled and played with her. But he’s alone today, no friends to lean on, and he can’t fake it when she cries. He knows I’m just a text or call away. At least I think he knows. He knows. I wish I was closer. I wish he didn’t have to be alone. I wish I knew what was hurting him most. I wish I could help him.

RIP Jackson Hall…Jason…Mule. You are sorely missed.

 

Ashes to Ashes

When I took Bella to the vet that Sunday, totally oblivious to the complete destruction ahead of us, a family sat in the waiting area with somber looks and tightly held tissues. A tech came from the back with a small cardboard box folded to the shape of a casket. “I’m so sorry for your loss. We did everything we could.” That moment haunted me through Bella’s rapid illness, and when it came to be her time, I withered at the image of what we would be getting in return.

Angel Wing Begonias have become a staple of our lives. Shelby received a clipping 10,000 years ago that has propagated and spawned many a housewarming gift, opening night memento, Christmas/Birthday present…you name it and we’ve probably given someone a cutting for it. They flower beautifully when they are ready. Depending on the amount of sunlight, our flowers range from a pink so light it’s almost white to a deep red. Bella used to love the flowers. For the first few weeks she was with us, she would pluck them from the branch and chomp away. They didn’t seem to be doing her any harm, but we weren’t so keen on the idea of her nibbling our plants. She soon learned that we would let her have the flowers, but she had to wait until they had fallen to the ground. The last thing she ate was a flower from the original plant, mother to all the others in our collection.

We elected to have Bella cremated and have her cremains returned to us. We wouldn’t bury her, the logistics of moving and finding a place that would be meaningful and available to us later and picturing her deteriorating over time was just never an option. It just seemed wrong to have her cremated with a group of animals, she was always so independent. Shelby and I had similar expectations for what we would receive when we got the phone call that her ashes were ready to be returned; a plastic bag tucked into a tiny cardboard box. Instead, we received a beautiful and simple wooden box with a bronze nameplate we can choose to engrave. They included a sprig of Rosemary and another paw print with her name and the year. On the back is engraved “Rosemary for remembrance” which is more fitting for our family than the crematory could have ever guessed.

We have cuttings from two begonias rooting in a jar by the window where Bella used to sit; Gertrude (the mother of them all) and Kudra (the first begonia Shelby ever gave me). They were clipped with the expectation of being planted with ashes and fur so that Bella would always be alive in our home, no matter where we were physically located.

All of our begonias are named. All of our begonias are female.

It just feels right. It feels like she is home where she belongs. I am aware that she is not, that I have a pretty box sitting on the table that may or may not contain our Bella and only our Bella. But for the first night, I didn’t have nightmares. For the first morning, I made it out the door to work without tears. She is finally and peacefully at rest surrounded by begonia flowers and those that love her.

begonias

Eight Twenty-One Two Thousand Fifteen

I can try to prepare myself for the expected. I can bite back the sting of tears when the alarm goes off and I don’t feel the pressure of little paws on the bed, even when the alarm is listed as “Feed The Cat”. I can take a deep breath before approaching the table with the collection of cat toys, food, and grooming items. I can choose to dwell on the fact that the weight of her body is missing from my lap, or I can remember all the cute things she did and the special moments we shared when she was there.

But the things I didn’t expect are what wash over me today. Opening the laundry room door to find a clean floor, no litter box, no litter mat, no scoop. Driving with the windows open and watching fur float out into the world. Finding a flea comb in the medicine cabinet. Looking through pictures and finding a video I forgot I took of her rubbing her face on my phone during phase 2 of Operation Feed Me. Moving my hair and catching a finger on the scratch she left on my collarbone.

I have cried a lot today. From big belly sobs to silent tears that I can’t stop. But there have been pinpricks of relief as well. Watching a show on YouTube and laughing without feeling guilty. Feeling my baby move in my belly and watching Shelby’s face when he felt her too. Words of support and encouragement from family and friends across the country.

Yesterday was the worst day. The obvious sickness and feeling so helpless, the news, the decision, the follow through, the emptiness and despair that sat on my body like an elephant. 8/21/2015 was my worst day. Each day will get a little better. A little easier. There will be minutes that leave us breathless and destroyed, but we made it through the worst day.

Something Different – Or Not

I don’t want to talk about Bella today. It hurts. So today I am going to distract myself by talking about something else.

Anything else.

Any ideas?

Our human baby is doing well. We have moved on from the random isolated kicks to the creepy alien belly. I can feel her slide an arm or a leg or something across and diagonally. It doesn’t hurt yet. It kinda tickles. Bella let me put her on my belly last night so the kids could play together again. At the first kick, a purring Bella’s eyes grew wide and she jumped off my gut to settle on the floor beside me.

She permeates everything. She is infused into every story, every day of our lives. And soon she won’t be. This is grief.

We visited the birthing center at the hospital this week. We sat in a classroom and whipped through a bunch of information before going to look at the actual wing of the hospital. Did you know you can have a professional photographer come in to take pictures the day after birth? Like with a complete kit so they don’t even look like they were taken at the hospital? It’s a pretty neat idea for the birth announcements (if that’s a thing we do), but not too keen on the idea of pictures of myself just hours after delivery.

The delivery rooms are very nice. They’re big. We almost didn’t get to see one because they were full. That tickled me too, the idea of hours of hard labor just to have a walking tour of 40+ people wander into your room to see what it’s like. They told us that mother and baby typically stay in the delivery rooms for about 3 hours after birth before being moved to the private recovery rooms.The recovery rooms are much smaller, so I am glad that we got to see a delivery room or I would be worried. All babies room with the mother. They include a shower, a bed, and a semi comfortable chair that folds out into a twin bed. All recovery rooms come with DVD players. I am sure this will be important one day. I am sure I will muster the energy to be excited for and happy about that day.

I am broken. I can’t breathe. I can’t think without crying. I’ve thrown up two mornings this week and I don’t know how because I can barely eat. I feel guilty. Like I could have done more to prevent this from happening. Like I’m being selfish in hoping for the best and keeping her in suffering. Like I am so destroyed by the thought of losing my princess that I am not taking good care of myself. And I have to take good care of myself. Because I have a human child growing inside me. And I feel guilty that I can’t think about that human child because I’m too sad about my feline child. The midwives said my baby will recognize Bella because of the bond they’ve already created, and I’ve already torn that away.

And I am sad that I am making my husband do this today. He is more broken than I and I am making him taker her to the vet today. He will have to hear the results directly from the doctor. And if they are as we suspect, he will have to tell them we’ll be back this evening to put Bella to rest. How could I make him do that? They gave us two weeks. But if we do what we think we have to do, we got 5 1/2 days. This is not fair.

And I think about the debris. How many years we’ll still be finding cat hair on our clothes. How many trips we’ll take before we remember where we’ve left litter boxes for her. What we do with the opened boxes of unopened cans of cat food. Her treats. The bag of catnip. The somewhere packed seeds of unplanted cat grass. Her toys. I’m sure some of these will find a home with my brother and Little Foot, but deciding what to hold on to and when to let go is too much.

the sweetest

She hasn’t physically left yet and I just want her back. I want her to sit on the bathroom counter and stare at me through the crack in the doorway. I want her to sit on my chest and lick my nose. I want her to sit peacefully on her pink chair, and then spaz out and rush up the stairs with her back arched and her tail fluffed. I want her to pounce on the piece of leaf that flutters past. I want her to scratch her pad and squeak and beg to be let outside. I want her to sit on my sewing and bite at my thread. But I am asking for too much, and I know that. And I know that she doesn’t think about tomorrow. And all she knows is that she doesn’t feel good. And she can tell we’re sad, and she makes an effort when she has the energy, but she doesn’t feel good. And the most she can muster is a purr and a scratch at the carpet.

Home Again Home Again

We brought Bella home last night.

The doctor wanted to keep her at the hospital. She offered up the latest information on her condition and said we should come visit and make our decision then. But we already knew we’d be taking her home. We have given her body everything it needs to feel better, coming home will give her mind and spirit the rest she needs to let her body do it’s thing. When we got to the visiting room, Bella immediately crawled for my lap and began purring. She stretched her face toward Shelby begging to have her chin stroked. That was all the confirmation we needed that we were doing the right thing for her.

She’s taking a pill a day to help manage her symptoms. She was given a chemotherapy treatment (essentially another pill) yesterday morning. And the rest is just monitoring, loving, making comfortable and happy, and enjoying the rest of the time we have with our baby.

We have no expectations that she’ll have a miracle breakthrough recovery. We have put no pressure on her to remain alive for our sake. We are simply trying to take advantage of having her back home with us. We are taking it a day at a time and have accepted that one of those days will be horrible and heartbreaking. But we already have a plan for handling that day. And a plan for how we’re going to try handling the next days. And the important thing is that we came to this decision together and feel supported that we have made the right decisions all along the way.

For now, she is alive and at home and purring and eating and loving.

Hystiocytic Sarcoma

Not Lymphoma.

Histiocytic sarcomas are malignant (cancerous) soft tissue sarcoma tumors that arise from histiocytic cells (e.g. macrophages and dendritic cells) which are a part of the immune system.

Prognosis:
The prognosis for pets diagnosed with localized histiocytic sarcomas of the skin or subcutis (layer under the skin) is not known. The prognosis for dogs with localized histiocytic sarcoma on internal organs such as the spleen is poor with a median survival time of 1 month and 0%-20% of diagnosed dogs surviving 1 year.

Very few cats get this type of cancer. No one knows anything. Except it’s not lymphoma.

We gave her steroids. We went to visit last night but could not bring her home. We’re expecting a call to tell us how much another pill would be. And then we play the waiting game some more.

She still knows us. She purred the entire time she sat on our laps, but that’s pretty much all she did. She was pretty yellow, and pretty tired after all the procedures they went through yesterday.

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10 years ago I was living in a tiny house with my older sister and her new kitten Bella. 10 years ago I met my husband. He brought me home from a date and we were standing just inside the doorway saying good night. Bella jumped up on the back of a chair and then onto Shelby’s shoulder. She nuzzled him and then jumped off.

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I took a shower and wrapped my hair in the bath towel. I piled the towel high on my head and began the laborious process of cleaning ears and moisturizing face when I was joined in the bathroom by Bella. She jumped up on the toilet and then onto the counter. She made her way up onto my shoulder before eventually reaching her ultimate goal and settling like a lioness on top of the towel on my head.

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3 years ago, Bella was living in New Orleans with a growing family. They were about to be homeless for the summer as building of their new home wasn’t complete. The places they were staying would only accommodate one pet. Bella and the dog weren’t getting along. They had been trying to re-home her for a while. We kept declining because of the plants but on a visit earlier in the year, Shelby and Bella had a “discussion” and we agreed to take her in until they were able to move into their new home. A month into it, it became evident that Shelby and the cat would be inseparable. About a month after that, we agreed to take her for good if they were still looking for a good home for her.

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I was sitting on the couch one day, I can’t remember if I was crafting or playing on the iPad. Bella jumped up on the ottoman, gave a little squeak, took a few tentative steps toward my outstretched feet before leaping into my lap and settling there. She licked my wrist and then buried her head in my hand and fell asleep.

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Her love of boxes. Her specialty set-up in the downstairs hall closet. Her food bowl by the couch. Her litter box with brand new litter catching mat. Her favorite hiding place under the bed. Her thundershirt. Her treats. Her micro-fleece toys, the only ones she’ll play with. Her need to drink water directly from the tap. The way she would sit on the back of a chair and drape her tail and an arm around your shoulders. Her squeaks.