Nashville or Bust

The trip that started a longer journey

Day +46: What We’ve Learned from Maya

This by far is one of my favorite quotes by Dr. Maya Angelou. I have it on my wall at work and try to read it everyday:

“I’ve learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow. I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights. I’ve learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you’ll miss them when they’re gone from your life. I’ve learned that making a living is not the same as making a life. I’ve learned that sometimes life gives you a second chance. I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw some things back. I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision. I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one. I’ve learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back. I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn. I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

In late August 2010, we learned of a small Siamese-blend kitty who had been severely injured by what people believed was a car — either thrown from or hit by one. She was discovered on a porch a few neighborhoods over. The woman who was finally able to wrangle her, rushed her to a vet for help. This sweet kitty, approximately 10 weeks old, underwent surgery to save her leg. Her Samaritan paid for the surgery but was unable to keep her.

So we adopted her.

Maya, 2010.

Maya, 2010.

And that first night that we had her home, the five of us hurt our brains trying to come up with a name for this curious, little scared-out-of-her-wits beast who was to become a member of our motley crew.

It finally came to me and we agreed that it was so right… Maya. After Dr. Angelou, of course. We truly believed that even with such a crappy start at life, wanting to give and receive love would help turn things around for this pitiful kitten. That was our hunch.

Flash forward a few weeks and we learned that despite attempts, Maya would need to have her hind leg amputated. As she recovered from her second surgery — still very scared and uncertain of all of us — we learned of Dave’s first diagnosis of Lymphoma. The bad news always seemed to come on Thursdays.

From September 2010 forward those two — Dave and Maya — took care of each other while the kids were at school and I was at work. They bonded up on the big bed, slept and snuggled. They got stronger and by spring of the following year, they were each on the other side of their maladies. Life was better. Maya, while still skittish and unconventional in her own ways, turned out to be an incredibly affectionate cat who could hold her own against our other two crazy (and four-legged!) house pumas: Hannah and Otis. There were times she even attempted to take the alpha position away from Hannah. It didn’t work but the folly made us all laugh. She never let her handicapped position get in the way of living and being curious and joyful.

Birdwatching with Maya.

Birdwatching.

Sunny patch cat bomb.

Sunny patch cat bomb.

 

 

When Dave was diagnosed with Lymphoma again this summer, Maya was there for him. Intuitively, she snuggled and kept watch while he was home alone. And, as the fates would have it, Dave was there for Maya when she once again was in a bad way.

On Tuesday morning around 2 a.m., Dave found Maya at the base of our stairs having what he could only describe as a seizure. Something was really wrong. We had noticed that Maya had been a bit off — in a little feline funk — and we wrote it off as the weather, her being weird with Dave being home, or just yeah, she wasn’t feeling that well. But we didn’t take the signs as super serious. Or maybe — and more truthfully — I didn’t have the energy to go completely there with my thinking.

Maya had a few more seizures as I transported her to the 24-hour animal ER and was active with one as she was in triage. I really was thinking she wouldn’t make it and felt very alone in the pre-dawn. But the excellent team at the ER was able to stabilize her. I went home with some hope but also uncertainty. I wasn’t sure what sort of decisions awaited us.

She remained in veterinary care for four days. During that time they ran scads of tests. She had an I.V. There were daily consults via phone with her lead doctor while hypotheses were ruled in and out. Finally, on Friday night, we brought Maya home with a tentative diagnosis of epilepsy and a 2x day prescription. For all we know, she could have had seizures prior. She had been keeping to herself while the rest of us were focused on other things.

I’ve been watching Maya a lot this weekend. She’s different — but aware of where she is and who is with her. Her vision seems to be off a bit as does her hearing. She’s using her sense of smell a lot more to identify people and things. But she still snuggles and acts like this bad phase isn’t really a bad phase. Ah, she has such a strong will to survive — and to love. It truly is humbling and infectious.

Maya came into our lives for a reason, at a time when, in retrospect, we didn’t need to be dealing with a cat with issues. Or did we? It’s obvious she continues to be in our lives for many more. She may be small and compromised but her presence is big. She is truly a strange little beast… but we are better people because of her. ~Jacqui

 

 

 

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October 25, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Day +34: Moving On

Finish line selfie. Blood Cancer Center, Jewish/Mercy Hospital, October 13, 2015.

Finish line selfie.
Blood Cancer Center, Jewish/Mercy Hospital, October 13, 2015.

We broke the news in an obscure way on Facebook and in text messages to family. A black picture of nothingness entitled “Dave’s new self portrait.”

The news was received with a few vague replies and comments in return. And then, it dawned on people what we were trying to say.

Black is the new YES! Black is the new GOOD! Black is the new NORMAL!

The PET scan results came in today and they were as dark and black as Mammoth Cave. Nothing lit up on the scan because there was no cancer in Dave’s body to light up the images. No whammies. Not even one.

Definitely a different picture than what was recorded on May 29 when numerous spots glowed and flickered. It’s a pretty wild delta in a space of only 137 days.

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Thanks, Jim for the clutch find. Had to use this meme!

So what exactly does this mean?

Well, first and foremost, Dave is officially back in remission. The rounds of RICE followed by the scorching week of BEAM followed by the stem cell transplant officially kicked the recurrence of Lymphoma out of his system and restored his being. Since transplant and those tepid early + days, his counts have risen and continue to move into the accepted range. And while he still needs to protect himself and take precautions, he doesn’t need to be a complete hermit. He can get out and about a bit more. He can loosen up on the diet restrictions a bit. He can get back to doing the things he likes to do and living the way he likes to live.

There will be days when his energy is low and there will be monitoring, certainly. Heck, there has been some form of monitoring since 2010. But I don’t think we are going to have the super-steeped moments of anxiety (or, as our friend Kevin likes to say, ‘scanxiety’) that have led up to test dates in the past. Life is too sweet and too fleeting to waste living under the self-imposed burden of ‘what if.’ Been there. Done that. Wept those tears. Cathartic as those jags were, breathing without pressure is much preferred.

The kids are both dazed and ecstatic with the news. Each of them internalized this round of recurrence and rebuilding in unique ways. Each of them sat within their own space of uncertainty that neither of us can ever imagine. Each of them were troopers and tender hearts, propping us up when needed and taking on more than we ever fathomed they’d have to at this age. For them, this night is truly special.

I can’t speak for Dave but I am simply experiencing a wave of calm and peace. It feels good and I will take it and have it for as long as it is mine. The reality is – as we’ve been reminded a few times now – in this life, we can only control what we do, think and say. So I will be grateful for this moment and accepting that what comes next is simply what comes next. Love with abandon.~ Jacqui

October 13, 2015 Posted by | Dave, Everyday | 5 Comments

Day + 27: Silver

WT Powers

Today is our 25th wedding anniversary.

When I sit down and think about all the things I can think about… all the memories… well, it gets a little overwhelming.

But when I focus on where we were and what we were doing 25 years ago, there is one particular moment of the ceremony that I remember with such vivid clarity.

It was this very moment. We were told to turn, face each other and join hands. We were in the chapel of the convent on my high school campus and we were standing there, exposed, in front of our families, friends, a priest and a monsignor, a bevy of nuns in the choir loft and really the world. It got very quiet and I realized with my heart thump, thump, thumping, that there was one thing I really, really wanted to do…

I wanted to push his glasses up.

Dave and I were holding hands tightly and as we squeezed, his glasses began to slip. What the heck was I supposed to do? I didn’t want to let go because I was convinced that if I did, the super Wonder Twin powers we were conjuring up at that very moment wouldn’t take and we’d be in trouble someday. (Seriously.)

But those glasses. Those glasses. They were slipping.

The priest had us repeating after him and I remember that. I remember Pachelbel’s Cannon in D being played by the string quartet behind us. All lovely, really, but those glasses! My word… they were going to fall off his face. And he looked a little uncomfortable.

All I really wanted to do was gently push them back up into place. But I couldn’t let go.

Twenty-five years later… the older me looks back at the younger me and wonders, with all I know now, would I take that chance and let go for a second to give a little comfort, show a little tenderness? Is it because I didn’t let go that I’ve learned how to be kinder and more compassionate, to both give and accept love? To know that sometimes you really do just need to hold on?

Like many other mysteries, the world will never know…

October 6, 2015 Posted by | Dave, Everyday | 3 Comments