And so it begins…

Or rather, it has begun. My Life Overhaul, that is. I really did mean to make a post prior to things getting hectic but I never found the time. So now I am here to explain my absence, both past and future.

The summer of 2012 has been So Much. Pain and trauma and fear and frustration but mostly joy and fun and laughter and friends. I think for the first time since moving here, I truly and thoroughly took advantage of Chicago’s summer. Days spent at the beach, road trips to Nashville and the north woods of Wisconsin, music festivals and dance parties, along with the painful last few days of my career in veterinary medicine, left me with little time or energy to blog.

And last week my new life, the one I’ve been anticipating for months and months, finally began. I am officially a graduate student. It is terrifying. I’m pretty rusty at this school thing and it’s been difficult trying to ease back in. Because there really is no easing when it comes to grad school, especially in an MSW program. You jump in and get runnin’. Classes started last week and my field placement (aka internship) starts this week. My free time is already being consumed with reading (and reading and reading) and coordinating with fellow students on group presentations. To say I’m overwhelmed right now would be an understatement of epic proportions and I know the feeling will only be compounded. Or maybe not. Maybe I’ll get better at shouldering the workload with less stress. At least that’s the hope, right?

My latest tattoo, done by the amazing Robin King at Metamorph Studios in Chicago’s Wicker Park. Couldn’t have finished it at a more appropriate time.

All this is to say that I likely will (continue to) not be around these parts much. I’ve got a rebirth to attend to. Time for this phoenix to get up out of these ashes and get to flyin’.

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Saying Goodbye

Nine years ago, while still working as an LVT in general practice in Richmond, VA, I was solidly a dog person. I swore I would never have a cat. Not a cat person, nope, not me. And then along came Milo. He was young, maybe 6 months, a battered and broken orange tabby transferred to my clinic from the local emergency hospital. He had been found on the roadside by animal control officers. He had a fractured hip, fractured pelvis, horrible open wounds on his back legs and a raging fever. He wasn’t stable enough for surgery yet. Three times daily, we got him out of his cage, nestled in a little cat bed, and flushed his wounds with Betadine. He purred the entire time. PURRED! I was amazed. Two surgeries later he was still just as happy and seemingly grateful as could be. And I was smitten. He came home with me under the auspices of “fostering.” Not even I actually believed that fib.

He immediately became fast friends with my dog, Leroy. He learned to be a cat via a dog, so he was not like most cats. He was always friendly and ever agreeable and loved to play with the dog, “hiding” on the couch as Leroy ran past and then springing forward to swat Leroy on the butt (claws always in, of course).

About a year after coming to live with us, it became apparent that the injuries Milo had sustained were going to have lasting ill-effects on his health. His fractured pelvis had healed in such a way that left him with a pelvic canal less than an inch wide. To put it bluntly, it was hard for the poor little guy to poo. We managed his problem with medication pretty well for over a year but things began to worsen. His poor colon was no longer functioning properly and surgery was required. So we went for it, knowing that it might not solve the problem. In fact a board certified surgeon told me he didn’t think it would. But miraculously, it did.

And Milo did great…for about 6 months. It was around June of 2007 when I noticed that he was really obsessed with water, like to the point of being obnoxious about it. Being a vet tech, I became concerned, so I checked his bloodwork and was floored when his kidney values came back sky high. I now had a 4-year old cat in chronic renal failure (CRF), something that typically only happens to geriatric felines. As always, Milo remained happy and compliant for treatments, which included subcutaneous fluid administration (giving him fluids under the skin) and pills. He appeared to be a completely healthy cat, not at all sickly looking. He was even a little on the chubby side.

He kept up his relatively healthy status for several years before it became apparent that additional treatment was needed. We shelled out big bucks to see a kidney specialist in the suburbs of Chicago and even more money on specially compounded medications. He rallied once again.

But a few months ago, CRF finally caught up to him. He started looking like a “kidney cat”…skinny with disheveled fur and a complete disinterest in cleaning himself. He began to get pickier and pickier about what foods he would eat until he was refusing just about everything. He was quickly losing muscle mass and was urinating in random places around the apartment. In a last ditch effort a few days ago, I gave him an appetite stimulant. Not only did the damn thing not work, it made him horribly agitated. He wandered around the apartment howling and confused. It wasn’t worth giving another dose. He was weak from barely eating and looked miserable. I couldn’t let my little friend endure this suffering any longer.

Last night, I met his amazingly kind vet at the clinic just before closing. My roommate was there, as was a dear friend who knew Milo well, along with my wonderfully supportive girlfriend who had listened and held me as I cried and talked through the decision all weekend. My ex-husband even came to say goodbye. Milo and I were surrounded by love as he went quietly and peacefully to sleep.

I wish that I could have taken him home to Richmond so his friends there could have seen him one last time and his vet (and my friend) who saved his life could have helped him leave this world. They were all there in spirit, though, sending me love across the internet, lifting me up. I am sad. I will be sad for a while. Milo was such an amazing, resilient cat and I feel like I was robbed. Nine years wasn’t nearly long enough. But I’m lucky that I had him at all. It was Milo who created this Crazy Cat Lady. And I won’t ever forget him.

photo by Eileen Baldeshwiler

Recharging

Wow, it’s been a minute since I last posted, huh? Life has been lobbing a few more boulders at me than I could handle as of late and I’ve been struggling just to keep my head above water. But things are looking up. I’m currently lounging in a super swanky hotel room in Nashville, TN recharging my battery. It’s just a mini-vacation and I’m only tagging along while my girlfriend* is here for a work thing. But this escape has been so necessary.

Things got very serious and heavy and scary for a bit; I nearly lost someone I care about and was, for the first time in my life, put in the position of saving someone’s life. It was a terrifying and humbling experience and I don’t wish it on anyone. The after-effects still linger. My heart still races at the sound of sirens. But the tears and anxiety are subsiding. My friend survived but nothing will be the same again.

So I’m here, hundreds of miles from home, giving my body the rest it’s been craving for weeks, reflecting on what I just went through and building my reserves back up once again. I’m not doing touristy stuff and I don’t really even feel like exploring. I just need quiet right now and distance. This is my post-trauma self-care. Quiet escape to try to find my calm center once again.

*Yep, you read that right. Girlfriend. I has one. And she has been phenomenal in helping me through the aforementioned traumatic experience. I’m a lucky lady.