Bernie

The past few days have been stressed with still another false medical alarm, although this time it was Tim’s… To deal with the stress I’ve been distracting myself by adding and adding to my quote site and family history site, and have not felt much like writing anything new here. Today after receiving good news about Tim I came home to find that a third cousin I’ve never met before had found the family history and wrote me a lovely comment. Our grandmothers were cousins, but because they were both an “only child” they felt they were more like sisters. What a wonderful surprise to have at the end of a difficult day!

3.27.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
Bernie ~ 3.27.10 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

Above is a new picture I took of Bernie a couple of weeks ago, on one of our walks. I decided to dig out my story about him from last year and post it now that it is spring again.

The following blog was originally posted on Gaia Community on 19 April 2009:

4.13.09 ~ Storrs, Connecticut
Bernie ~ 4.13.09 ~ Storrs, Connecticut

This cat is named Bernie, a delightfully domestic old fellow who is still in touch with his inner bobcat. He was born in New Mexico and is at least 17 years old. My sister and her husband adopted him from a shelter while they were living there. They also adopted an iguana named Lizzie and a spider named Olivia – all of them had the run of their hovel, which is what my sister affectionately called their very modest duplex. When it came time to move back to Connecticut Lizzie and Olivia were left behind to other good homes, but Bernie was brought to the land of trees and snow…

It was quite an adjustment for him. He is a very athletic outdoorsy sort of cat who used to love running just for the sheer joy of it. When my daughter’s cat was living there with him for a while he would try and get her to play tag, but she just looked at him like he had to be kidding… He enjoyed exploring the woods, but his main objection to Connecticut was the long snowy winters here. Whenever it snowed he would go from window to window yowling, hoping to somehow spot a landscape without snow. My brother-in-law took pity on him, and to this day shovels a few paths through the snow so Bernie can get his exercise without too much contact with the white stuff.

A few years ago he was taken to a veterinary ophthalmologist for a problem with his eyes. They think he may have Lyme Disease, but whatever it is it has gradually robbed him of his vision. They give him eye drops every day to slow down the progression, but he is now blind. He does very well, though. He still catches mice – we can’t figure out how. He gets around the house pretty well because most things stay where they are, but he bumps into people, my dad’s wheelchair and stray laundry baskets or shopping bags inadvertently left in his path. He seems to take it all in stride, though.

Since he had a run in with a fisher they aren’t letting Bernie outside by himself any longer. They’ve also had two coyotes near the house. He gets several walks a day with whoever is on hand to escort him. Last week Bernie and I took a walk and had a good time exploring the bushes, flowers and trees. And I got this picture of him coming toward me, only possible because he doesn’t run anymore. He walks very carefully, but doesn’t seem to feel sorry for himself. I admire his spirit of acceptance and adaptation, making the best of things.

full moon flood

Six inches of rain for us from this storm! Connecticut is having its worst flooding since 1982. We live at one end of a road that cuts between two salt ponds. Our son and daughter-in-law live a mile down at the other end of this road. (Shea took the first picture from her end. I took the rest of the pictures from our end, which is just around the bend in Shea’s picture.)

We both live up on relatively high ground so we’re safe and sound. The white high water mark pole in the second picture is to measure storm surges in case we ever get a hurricane again as bad as the one in 1938. We’ve been instructed that we would need to evacuate if a category 3 or higher hurricane were ever to make its way here. What an exciting day it has been!

My daughter-in-law Shea wrote on Facebook:

OK just got back from rescuing my sister from work… She had to walk through water above her knees in order to get to us.. Got home and found out that the National Guard has all three ways to get to my house blocked… One of them was nice enough to move the road block so I could drive through the bumper high water… GO JEEP!!!!!

rails-to-trails

3.20.10 ~ Janet and Barbara

Yesterday we had a taste of summer. Low 70s! Janet took Tim and me on an adventure through her neck of the woods. First we took a hike on the Old Airline Trail – can’t remember which section – that runs across eastern Connecticut. It’s one of those Rails-to-Trails projects. We crossed over a very tall viaduct and were treated to lovely views, although everything is still brown and gray from winter. The trail also cut through some hills so we saw a lot of water from the saturated earth dripping down the moss and rocks bordering much of the trail.

3.20.10

Next stop was the Hebron Maple Festival. By then it was lunch time and uncomfortably hot in the sun. It was a relief when we got to the chainsaw woodcarving demonstration that was tucked in the woods on a back road, and of course we bought some real maple syrup!

3.20.10

And finally we stopped at Tangletree Farm in Colchester where Roger had been joyfully riding his horse, Tsultan. Janet introduced us to all the horses in the barn, including a new foal. He was born on Saint Patrick’s day, so his name is, of course, Patrick. He was very busy nursing so I couldn’t get a better picture of him!

Also, I did a brave thing, brave for me. I fed Janet’s quarter horse, Cruiser, a couple of carrots and actually petted his nose! When I was in eighth grade a girl in my class fell off a horse, broke her neck, and died one weekend. It was such a shock to come back to school on the following Monday and hear this news! And back in those days they did not have grief counselors come to a school to help students cope with their losses. The whole episode left me profoundly afraid of horses. But I have a feeling that this may be about to change.

Needless to say, we were pretty tuckered out by the time we got home last night. Today we’ve been catching up with computer stuff and a stew is in the slow cooker, and dinner is smelling good!

false alarms

The following thoughts about mammograms are completely subjective, as I try to process my third false alarm from one of these images. If this keeps happening it will be ever more tempting to abandon the practice of getting one every year. Yes, mammograms are supposed to be responsible for saving countless lives, but I cannot help wondering how many other lives have been repeatedly thrown into a tailspin by one false alarm after another.

My mother’s breast cancer was found “early” on a mammogram in the autumn of 1987 and was thought to have been caught in time so that a lumpectomy would be all that was needed. Three and a half years later, after the lumpectomy, and then a mastectomy, and many rounds of chemotherapy and radiation therapy, she died in the spring of 1991, age 59. It was awful for all of us, including her elderly parents. This family history seems to make my doctors hyper-vigilant about any possible little thing seen on my mammograms.

In the autumn of 1995 I had my first suspicious mammogram at the age of 38. I froze with fear until an ultrasound was done and it was determined that it was “just a cyst.” I was told that I have fibrocystic breast disease. After doing some research and seeing a naturopath, I began taking evening primrose oil for help with the cysts and it seemed to work for a several years. Eventually I tapered off from taking it… and then… in the spring of 2008… another suspicious mammogram. But this time there was a cluster of calcifications that called for closer inspection with a stereotactic biopsy – outpatient surgery. This time the wait for test results was longer, and the surgeon left a little piece of titanium in my breast for future reference, to show where the tissue had been removed, just in case. We rearranged vacation plans and sat on pins and needles until the negative results came back, four days later. Phew!

Well, now less than two years later still another suspicious mammogram to panic over. This time I was told there was something there about 2 cm in diameter and I was scheduled for an ultrasound and then a surgical consult. This sounded pretty ominous and so our lives have been unsettled and on hold again.

Monday I went in for the ultrasound and a very kind technician pulled up my digital mammogram on the computer monitor to see what it was she would be examining. I could see the little speck of titanium and I asked her to point out to me the new trouble spot. She pointed to an oval-shaped object and as I focused on it I noticed there were two other ovals nearby in the image. So, I asked her what about that particular oval was a cause for concern. Something about a defined edge, but the other two ovals seemed to have edges that looked just as defined to my untrained eyes.

Well, it turned out to be “just a cyst, and not even a solid one.” That’s it??? All these rattled nerves and a week of sleepless nights for a benign cyst??? My reaction has been a dazed combination of relief and exasperation. There’s got to be a better way. On the way home I asked Tim to stop at a store where I picked up some more evening primrose oil. Maybe it will work again. Tim made all the phone calls to the kids and my sister so they could stop worrying and I took a long nap. Tuesday I started to get, not surprisingly, a post-stress migraine, so I took a Zomig and slept most of the day. Today the wind is howling and the rain is coming down heavy – perfect weather for another nap. Maybe it will take a week of afternoon naps to recover from a week of sleepless nights, but eventually I’ve got to get myself together again and carry on and somehow be willing to submit to still another mammogram next year… Just in case…

changing

Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?

~ Stevie Nicks
♫ (Landslide) ♫

I have put on thirty pounds since my husband survived a major heart attack and triple by-pass surgery two and a half years ago. A symptom… of what? Stress? Middle-age? Less than a month after the heart attack, my already frail and declining father fell and broke his pelvis, femur and a few ribs. He has since been confined to a wheelchair. Neither one of them wants to exercise… We won’t even go into the healthy eating question… A couple of weeks after that my son was hospitalized with an antibiotic-resistant infection, and in the course of treating that it was discovered that he has diabetes. No family history of diabetes. And eight months after the heart attack I had a highly suspicious (false positive) mammogram followed by the ordeal of a stereotactic biopsy and waiting days for the, in the end, negative result…

Last summer we went to a big family reunion at Shenandoah National Park where I made friends with my “stepsisters-in-law” as we spent four days hiking in the woods together. It felt so good to be active and immersed in the natural world! It began to dawn on me just how sedentary my life had become, the exact opposite of the changes in lifestyle I had started hoping for after the cardiac wake-up call.

spring 2009 ~ Shenandoah National Park, Virginia ~ bear we met while hiking

Last week I was food shopping and a special interest magazine on heart-healthy living caught my eye. Thinking it might have some helpful recipes I bought it, but inside also found an article on strength building exercises. As I read the instructions and studied the pictures I thought to myself that the exercises were too simple and easy to offer any challenge and have any benefit. Well…

This morning: “Stand with feet just wider than shoulders, toes turned out slightly. Slowly bend torso to the right, bringing right arm toward ground and left arm toward sky. Hold for 1 count and return to start. Do the given reps (5-10), then switch sides.” As I lifted my left arm toward the sky for the first rep it ached, oh so miserably, from that simple stretch! (I shoveled snow yesterday and it didn’t bother my arms – hmm…) I stopped at 5 reps and switched sides, right arm ached, too, but not quite as much. There were six more exercises and they stretched all kinds of long neglected muscles. Some of the exercises call for weights, too. Looks like I now have myself a workout to add to my walks!

I love to walk, especially in the woods. My friend Kathy, whose blog inspired me to begin this blog, wrote a lovely blog post, Why I won’t (usually) go cross-country skiing with you, which touches beautifully on the subject of meandering mystical nature walks vs. cross-country skiing (or for me, brisk hikes) in the woods. (I’d love to try snowshoeing one day.) I think both are needed for body-mind health.