Friday, March 18, 2011

R.I.P. Gracie

February 2007

Our cat died yesterday. 

We adopted Gracie in February 2007, about five months after our kitty Miss Priss died of cancer. We adopted her from a no-kill shelter that estimated she was about 8 years old, which is considered a "senior" cat.

Gracie was dumb as a door post, always underfoot and very talkative. At night, it was sometimes hard to tell whether it was Gracie yowling or Ellie crying. 

But Gracie was a sweet kitty with a purr you could hear across the room. Ellie was only 2 years old when we adopted Gracie, but she put up with a toddler chasing her around and wanting to pet her. 

Gracie had health problems from the start. She had apparently been dumped before being brought into the shelter; she had been declawed, but never spayed. She'd apparently caught a herpes infection while on the streets, and it left her mostly blind due to scarring on her eyes before we found our way to an animal ophthalmologist who got the virus under control. Gracie had allergies that required expensive, special food. In four years, we spent more on Gracie than what we spent on Priss over 15 years. 

There was nothing Gracie liked more than being around her people. Even a little bit of attention would get her purr engine going, and it was the Harley Davidson of purr engines. In her first year with us, Gracie figured out about what time Scott (& Ellie, once I was sick and Ellie was in daycare) were due home. She'd park herself in front of the door that led to the garage about 30 minutes before they were due home, and yowl at it. (Which was cute, but got old to listen to.)

We used to call Gracie our puppy dog cat because she'd follow us, which could be a danger in the kitchen as she dogged our feet between stations. When we headed upstairs for bathtime and bedtime, which is when she got her evening meal, she would stay half a step ahead of us, which was sometimes challenging when you're trying to herd a preschooler upstairs.

On Thursday night, Scott was supervising Ellie's bath and getting Gracie's food out for her when he picked her up to move her out of the way of the cabinet door. Something didn't feel right, so he looked closer and discovered her abdomen was swollen. It looked like she'd somehow swallowed a grapefruit. It was pretty clear that it was something that couldn't wait until morning.

I made calls while Scott helped Ellie finish her bath and get into her jammies. If we'd noticed the problem 15 minutes earlier, I could could have at least talked to a veterinarian we knew. But I called 10 minutes after they closed. Their voicemail referred me to Dove Lewis, an emergency hospital for animals, where they told me that if the swelling was visible, she couldn't wait until morning. 

We didn't want to upset Ellie so we did storytime and then I took her to bed while Scott took Gracie to Dove Lewis, where the vet said her abdomen was just full of fluids. We don't know exactly what caused it, but the possibilities ranged from congestive heart failure to liver issues to cancer and the vet said none of them were treatable. 

They offered to try to make her comfortable so she could come home and Ellie and I could have a chance to say goodbye, but that sounded more cruel. Scott held her as she died, and said she was definitely ready to go. 

She was a good kitty, and we'll miss her.

Gracie got a "lion's cut" in 2009 due to many mats. Hard to believe this is all there was under all that fur!!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

PFAM: Those Guilty Pleasures

My birthday was last week, and my husband surprised me with a thoughtful gift that was absolutely perfect: gorgeous, high-thread-count lavender sheets. 

He'd considered buying me quilting supplies, but due to fatigue and joint pain, it's been a long time since I've been able to quilt. "So I thought about what do you do, and the answer I came up with was sleep, so I bought you something you could enjoy when you're resting up," he told me. (It also helped that our favorite set of sheets had gotten a tear in the fitted sheet, so I'd turned it into strips for rag-curling Ellie's hair.)

And it's true, good sheets and good pillows are definitely one of my guilty pleasures. A related one: about a year ago, I got a ton of jammie pants when they went on clearance. And I spend a lot of time in jammies (so much, I think I've mentioned before, that Ellie likes to call me The Mommy Pajammy), something that still feels decadent to me four years into this chronic illness even if it's as much a necessity as indulgence.

I was delighted to find out I'm not the only one who finds the occasional guilty pleasure in spite of my chronic illness. Thank you to everyone who participated in this edition of the Patients For A Moment blog carnival, and especially to our wrangler, Leslie of Getting Closer To Myself.

Wendy of Picnic With Ants, wrote of her self-indulgences in Guilty Pleasures While Having a Chronic Illness, many of which I share (especially time on my computer -- what would I be capable of if stopped spending time on Facebook?). While you're there, be sure to take a look at some of her other posts and the great art she creates for her blogs!

Kathy of FibroDAZE used photos to illustrate her example of A Guilty (Yet Necessary) Pleasure that made me smile. How come my cat isn't that cute? 

Oooh -- Maureen Kaech of Mo Is Blogging...I Think is giving me ideas ... fleece sheets? Who knew?! Check out her other indulgences, which include some wonderful ideas for saving your energy for more important things than the mundane. Oh, and Pop-Tarts are a great guilty pleasure too! Mmmm! (I think Strawberry ones are the only ones Ellie has had. They're good, but if I'm going to splurge, I want the S'more flavored ones!)

Headstrong of Headstrong With Lupus was diagnosed with lupus (SLE), common variable immunodeficiency (CVID) and anti-phospholipid syndrome (APS) in a matter of months, but has learned to appreciate the smaller moments as well as life on a (slightly) slower pace than she previously lived. She writes about it in PFAM and Other Guilty Pleasures. I think that her firsthand experience with chronic illness will make her an awesome doctor when she finishes her studies, and based on what I read in her blog, I have no doubt at all she'll succeed at her goals!

Amber in Tennessee describes herself as a silver-lining kind of girl, and it shows in her post Blessings in Disguise at Fibro of Oz, where she writes about even finding things to appreciate about what she calls her lazy days in bed.

Maureen, this time from sunshine and chaos, has a long, fabulous list of her choices in Guilty Pleasures of a Chronically Ill Girl. I think we should all adopt the sentiment she wrote for ourselves: "I  believe guilty pleasures are just as necessary to our health and mental well-being as any of the exercise, medicine and lifestyle changes we have made."

Thank you so much to my fabulous contributors! I appreciate that so many of you chose to participate this week, and your creativity is an inspiration to me!

Brittney, who blogs at The Road I'm On, will be hosting the next PFAM edition on March 23. Her topic is one I'm sure we can all write lots of posts about: Easy For Them To Say, Hard For You To Do. Get the details here of how to contribute. And if you're a blogger, please consider hosting your own edition; you can find the schedule here and let Leslie know when you'd like to sign up!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Guilt: That Final Frontier (Part 1: Parenting)

I've been thinking a lot about guilt lately.

Not that guilt is anything new for me. I was raised on it, like most kids, learning both to feel it and inflict it. I apparently have a particular talent for the former, although I've had my moments with the latter as well.

I worried from the moment I got pregnant, if not before, about the things Ellie might inherit from me: my allergies, the severe asthma I had in childhood, poor teeth, body image issues, etc. And that was when I was essentially healthy!

Recently, we took Ellie to see a pediatric neurosurgeon, something that was put in motion during testing to try to rule out physical problems as the cause of her recurrent UTIs. We had been told that while her MRI looked mostly fine, the was sone abnormality around the lumbar spine that we should consult the Neuro about it.

Although I knew, and even informed the doctors of our family history of it, I was sad and surprised to hear the doctor say Ellie has spina bifida occulta as well as what might be a tethered spinal cord.

Those are my genes. And perhaps it would have been much worse if I hadn't started taking folic acid a full year before I got pregnant. But there's nothing like finding out you passed on some bad genes to your kid. And wondering what else she got in the crap shoot that is our DNA.

Guilt: It does a body good -- not!

The good news is the surgeon says it's borderline whether Ellie needs surgery. So we get to wait and see whether things get worse when she has her next growth spurt, and hope that if they do, we didn't wait too long and she suffered permanent nerve damage in the meanwhile. Which will make us both feel guilty if it happens. But we also don't want to put her through unnecessary surgery either, even if it is the most minor (and most common) surgery a pediatric neurosurgeon does. As a friend who's a pediatric anesthesiologist said recently, "A surgery is only minor when it's on someone else's kid."


If you haven't already, please consider participating in the upcoming edition of Patients For A Moment that I'll be hosting here on March 9 with a topic of guilty pleasures. See the details here, and get me your contribution by midnight on Sunday, March 6. Thanks!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Happy Birthday To Me ...

Creative Commons Birthday Cake and Candles
Photo by D. Sharon Pruitt
I turned 44 today. 

Seems like I should have something to say about that, but I don't really. It's been a long time since a birthday was a big deal.
Of course, I'm always happy to have an excuse to eat cake. :-)

Meanwhile, I have the possibility of a birthday present for you:
I've mentioned WEGO Health before as one of the various communities I participate in on the Internet, and they are conducting a study on people's use of new technologies for health. It takes about 10 minutes to do the survey, and you will be entered into a drawing to win an iPad, an iPod Touch or one of 200 iTunes gift cards.

The survey will be open through the weekend at

If I don't win anything in the drawing, I hope some of you do!!