Ugh. Was my last post really all the way back in August?! Sorry, everyone. We’re still alive, I promise!
Life has been a roller coaster since my last post, and things are just now starting to reach a sense of equilibrium. I do sometimes post small updates to Twitter when I’m short on time, but it does take me awhile to write these longer posts, and it’s hard to commit to that when everything’s in the air and I’m still learning how to juggle.
Late September was supposed to end our self-imposed travel ban that we set down a year ago, barring the kinds of family medical situations that I’ve been trying to aid during my trips to Tucson. The goal was to visit John’s family this time, and the family cabin in Balsam that we both adore. Though we were nervous about being so far away from our “safety net” of doctors, professionals, familiar “safe” eateries, and easy access to gym resources, we were also excited to see how far we’ve come, and learn to manage our needs in new places.
Unfortunately, Hurricane Florence had other opinions, and we had to cancel our trip. Due to it being so late in the year, that put the last nail in the coffin for seeing the cabin in 2018. We are hopeful that next year will be an option too, though it’s possible that the cabin will go on the market before we’re able to make that happen, which would be a crying shame for us both! John has so many fond memories of spending childhood summers there, and I’ve been fortunate enough to join him for some of them as an adult. I’m looking forward to being healthy and strong enough to make hiking a real joy, rather than a mixed bag of joy and abject humiliation at not being able to handle the terrain, even at a snail’s pace! Uphill is still the worst…
In light of our cancelled vacation, I had an idea. We couldn’t go to Balsam anymore, but there were lots of other places that weren’t located in the path of a hurricane! We haven’t been to Yachats in a few years because of how busy we’ve been. There’s no shortage of coastline to walk out there, on top of the many hiking trails, monuments, and parks to visit. We had all the time off from work and our gym appointments scheduled already. We checked out hotels, got excited, and started making plans.
That same night, Mr. Stubbs let us know that he wasn’t feeling well at all. He and his brother both qualify as senior citizens in the cat world these days, but it hadn’t shown up in their behavior until recently. Stubbs had started having trouble reaching the height of a full jump, struggling to haul himself up after making it halfway to his destination (usually onto a lap or desk, resulting in scattered objects, spilled drinks, and torn human flesh, of course.) His caretaker had noted that he was drinking an unusual amount of water and eating a ton of food while we were in Tucson for my mom’s birthday in August. He was expressing that water quite extensively in subsequent litter box visits. We were concerned, but until that night, he hadn’t shown anything worrying enough to warrant an emergency trip to the vet… and I still hadn’t put two and two together about his symptoms.
That night, he started laying down after walking more than about ten feet at a time. He wouldn’t get up if you called him, fed him, or offered him treats. Jumping was out of the question. He had to be carried down the hall from the living room to use the litter box. It was as if he didn’t have the energy to move anymore.
And that’s when it hit me. I know what that behavior feels like from a human perspective. Drinking gallons of liquid without slaking your thirst, eating third and fourth helpings of food but still losing weight, unable to manage any sort of basic motion, let alone physical activity… it was the same as the day I’d come home from school as a first-grader, desperately sick, and had my parents rush me first to the doctor, and then to the hospital, with a blood sugar level that should have killed me. By the grace of God, they’d caught it in time.
I don’t recall my exact blood sugar at the time of my diagnosis, but I think it was somewhere in the 700s – and likely had been there for some time. Normal range for both humans and cats? 80-120.
Mr. Stubbs was in the 500s. That comfortably makes the diabetic club roster. And getting two scared humans on board with taking blood sugars from a cat (there’s a tiny little vein up the outer side of a cat’s ears that almost requires a magnifying glass to see, especially on a black cat,) giving insulin injections to a cat (between the shoulder blades – they do not notice such a tiny needle prick if you do it right,) changing up our entire schedule to feed him and Trigger at set times of day, switching them both to different wet food types that fit their different dietary needs, AND watching for signs of a dangerous low blood sugar in a cat that can’t open his mouth and tell you when he doesn’t feel good… doesn’t happen on vacation. We spent all the time we should have spent relaxing and kicking back in nature… in the house, herding cats.
I’m pleased to report, however, that the blood, sweat, and tears all four of us have put in over the past month and change has paid off. Like humans, cat type 2 diabetes cannot be “cured,” but it often goes into remission if you’re one of the lucky ones that a) makes all the changes your doctor tells you to, and b) your pancreas is still generally functioning well enough to handle your body’s needs in light of those changes. His blood sugars have evened out so well on his new diet that we’re no longer required to test his blood sugar or give him injections unless his symptoms return. Apparently cats are most likely to do this within a month of diagnosis.
Knock on wood – it would appear that the little black kitty with the stubby tail that chose us back in Arizona fifteen years ago is a tough nut to crack – just like his human mama. 🙂 He’s been slowly improving day by day, and yesterday was the first day he was willing to leap all the way up onto our tall bed without difficulty. He’s been standing and sitting like a normal cat instead of weakly flopping over to lay down all day today. I’m very proud of him, and very, very grateful that we were able to figure out the problem in time. Had we gone off on our merry vacation, we might well have come home to a heartbreaking discovery.
During those few weeks, though? We were crushed. Not only was one of our little guys very sick and needing a lot of difficult care from us, but we’d been forced to lose not one, but TWO vacations, at a time when we both desperately needed one. Any future travel involving both of us, even for only a day, would have required specialized, expensive pet care. We’d already been working on adjusting our personal schedules to more reasonable human hours than our night-owl selves would have preferred, but suddenly living the 8 AM to midnight life when you’re accustomed to having things a little different ain’t easy.
On top of that, reliably getting a blood sugar on Stubbs twice a day was… a process. It was never the pain or the blood that he minded, at the end of the day – it was the “mom and dad are messing with my ears and I don’t want them to” that caused all the trouble. Having to hogtie him in a blanket and hold him down to poke his ear, often repeatedly due to the difficulty of the job, was weighing heavy on both of us. I’ve been giving shots since I was pretty little, but doing it to someone else, and someone else that you can’t reason with or get feedback from, is a psychological twist that I wasn’t quite expecting, and I’ll admit I nearly cried the first time I had to do it. I have so much more respect now for what my mom went through, as the parent of a sick little kid.
John has handled all this so very well too, but he was no more keen than I was to inflict pain on a cute, furry kitty who just wants to be loved and feel better. We both found it far easier than we expected to adjust… but “adjusting” isn’t “living.” It’s not being happy or comfortable or relaxing. It’s doing what must be done for the sake of someone you love. And while that’s all noble and right and good? It’s hard. I can’t stress that enough. If we hadn’t already had the time off from work and our exercise, I don’t think we’d have made it.
It’s the first glimpse of the life we’ll have, if and when I’m able to conceive. Despite how proud I am of how well we both handled things, I think we’ll leave the Bruce baby wagon in someone else’s capable hands until 2019. 😉 I want to know that we’re truly where we want to be from a health standpoint, confident and secure in maintaining our own needs while being flexible enough to address others’, and able to manage our mental states and emotions in a healthy way. It’s the latter we still need to work on, and that’s OK. Everyone takes time to work these things out, especially when they’ve recently transformed their lives the way we have. We’re only human, as is the rest of the world. Any kids we do have will be happier and healthier for that choice.
In the midst of Stubbs trying out diabetes… chaos reared its head again. While my mom’s planned carpal tunnel surgery went well, the recovery process has been incredibly difficult for her. She requires the use of both hands to manage the walker that helps her get around the house, and there are places in the house that require her walker because her wheelchair doesn’t fit through the doors. This necessitates her lifting herself from one to the other several times a day. We were all concerned about how she’d manage when the recovery process clearly states that you aren’t supposed to use your hand for ANYTHING due to the risk of tearing your stitches, but she insisted she didn’t need me, even on my usual schedule, and she’d be fine on her own with Chris.
It wasn’t more than a couple of days before we got the call that she’d fallen and injured her already-at-risk knees, both of which already need replacing. After a short stay in the hospital (everything other than her pride and her knees is OK,) they referred her to a different rehab facility than the one she was in last time. As with last time, the experience was traumatic for her, and she again elected to return home. Chris is now doing his utmost to care for her needs, as he has been doing every day throughout all of her medical issues and scares. She’s beyond lucky to have someone that loves her as much as he does. I couldn’t ask for a better dad/stepdad.
I know she’s frustrated with all the embarrassment and setbacks to her overall plan for recovery enough to travel, and that frustration is making it hard for her to do what she needs to do. It’s also making it difficult for the people that love her to actually help her achieve her dreams. All of this rest and recovery goes against every fiber in her body – but it remains the fastest ticket to what she wants.
If there’s one thing this overgrown kid knows, after the last two years of her wild, incredible, wonderful, and… still sometimes painful life, it’s that anger, judgement, impatience, and refusing to trust, rely on, and listen to the people that love and support you aren’t useful partners on the road to real, lasting change. I would give almost anything to share that knowledge with her in a way that speaks to her soul. But I can’t. Nobody understands until they’ve seen it for themselves. I didn’t, at first. But now that I’m here, all I can do is watch and hope that she will find her own way to the lessons she needs to learn here. The enemy she’s facing isn’t her doctor, Chris, me, or anyone else that loves her. It’s the very fabric of the way her mind fights things it doesn’t want to accept.
Prayers and good wishes, if you have them to spare, would be deeply welcomed.
And lest you think that’s the end? For some reason, I guess I was a little stressed out for those few weeks. And when you stress out a diabetic immune system, no good comes of it. I’ve been on my butt for another couple of weeks with a stubborn cold, interrupted on occasion by headaches, stomach issues, migraines, and horrible leg cramps from trying to push myself too hard during self-workouts on the days I felt up to them. (Yep. Patience and trust are still lessons I’m learning, too. That’s why I can say it.)
I missed Monday due to more of the same, but the rest of this week has been my fullest return to the “grind” since everything started to fall apart. As tired and sore as I am, I’m also so very happy to be back doing things that are good for me. Our fan club and team at the Pro Club continue to make all of this bearable, and I cannot possibly thank them enough for everything they do every day to help us.
I briefly brought up taking a month off of formal exercise with my personal trainer, just to ask her whether that would be possible, because I felt utterly overwhelmed and couldn’t fathom how I was going to add back everything at the gym to my list. Instead of just saying no, or letting me off the hook, she took the time to write me a long reply about how important it was for me to focus on my own needs – one of which is still exercise.
Exercise DOES make me feel stronger, both mentally and physically. It makes me more able to handle the things that happen to me when they happen. I have a whole building full of people to cheer me on! I’m happy to be there, and I’m happiest when I’m there, too. There’s no substitute for the confidence and drive that I’ve learned to achieve when I do the things I know I need to do. Other people know this. They see it perhaps better than I do, because they’ve watched me go from the terrified fat kid glaring at a treadmill, convinced it would fall over and kill her on day one, to what I see when I look in the mirror – a brave, stubborn, proud warrior that knows what it means to be transformed through fire. And they know I’ll lose that if I put the focus on everyone else but me. They see people do it every day, and they’re there to help the people that choose to do differently.
If I didn’t believe her, I’d still be on my butt. Instead, I’ve done more split squats and deadlifts than I’ve ever done before. I climbed stairs for ten minutes today. I spent ten minutes on the sideways elliptical – a machine that left me on the floor after thirty seconds on day one of this journey. I have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to my stamina after being out for so long… but I’ll get there. Because I WANT to. Because I CHOOSE to.
No matter what else happens.
And I’m going to be tested, too. John will be flying across Asia over the next couple of weeks (starting Wednesday,) stopping for a few days each in Seoul, Taipei, and Tokyo (travel time will eat up a fair amount of time as well.) It’s a work trip that will see him and several of his colleagues visiting with partners that use the systems his team creates here in Kirkland. It’s his first time outside the country, not counting Canada.
At first, I had plans to join him – it would have been the trip of a lifetime for me, particularly the Tokyo part! Both of us have loved Japanese culture since we were teens, and some of said culture introduced us to each other in the first place! I’ve always said I wanted to go someday when I’m small enough to maybe fit in the largest size they make (check) and can speak the language (partial check… I’m about 85% on reading two of the three different alphabets used in Japan, but my vocabulary/reading comprehension isn’t very good yet.) Having the chance to see some of the places and people we’ve come to love from overseas made me happier than I’ve been in a long time, even if I was nervous about my ability to handle the travel.
Unfortunately, it became quickly apparent that the only folks bringing family were Googlers who already had family in the areas in question, and work being what it is, there wouldn’t be a lot of free time for sightseeing. I was honored that they’d even consider tolerating a tag-along wife, but I know when I’m biting off more than I can or should chew. A couple days each in foreign hotel rooms, only two of which where I speak any of the language at all, along with massive flights that cause even experienced travelers jet lag… no. It’s not worth it. Things would be different if I were more capable of going out on my own during the days, but if I have severe social anxiety here in Kirkland, Washington… being in a country where I can’t function normally by myself isn’t a good idea.
So I’m going to let John blaze the trail for us here, and do what he needs to do – and he’s under orders to take notes! This might become an every-six-months trip for his team, and most of them are seasoned international travelers. It’s best for us both that he learn this from the pros. Once he does, maybe we can make a personal visit happen! And future trips might be different once we know more about how things will shake out this time.
Lest there be any concern, as there was from my mother: Seoul, Taipei, and Tokyo are all urban, well-developed parts of their respective countries. Water, food, and disease are not major concerns. Remember, Google is sending people there because many of the huge companies that they work with are based there, and they’re older and more established than some of our own, including Google itself! While earthquakes, tsunamis, and typhoons are always a possibility, these places are also the best in the world at detecting and handling emergencies because of that fact. Not counting jerks that write toxic manifestos, most Googlers are pretty smart folks, and I trust them and John to know what is safe, and what is not.
It’s normal and natural to be scared, and I know John is – but I also know he’s thrilled for this chance, and I know there’s nobody more capable of doing his best to be a polite, respectful traveler willing to engage with the new people around him. If something should happen, he will be in the hands of fellow Googlers and countries known for their hospitality and kindness toward strangers, and I can ask for nothing more than that. Someday, perhaps our country will remember that it used to be, too.
For me, that means I’ll be spending approximately two weeks here, holding down the fort and continuing to do what I do every day. It’ll be a lot of driving, which is more comfortable now than it used to be, but still won’t be easy. It’ll be a lot of forced socialization in the form of handling things like groceries, medications, etc. by myself instead of having him with me. I still sometimes have trouble being by myself outside of the house – even in places like the gym where I know people and I’m comfortable, I suddenly feel as if I’m right in the spotlight when I’m alone. I’ve talked with my therapist about it, and she’s rooting for me – and she wrote down my two goals of “shopping by myself” and “ordering delivery food for myself” to keep me honest.
They might not be a big deal for people without social anxiety, and if you’re laughing right now, I’m not surprised. It’s not something I talk about often because I know it’s strange to others. The simple fact of the matter is that I’ve never had to be fully responsible for myself often in my life, and one doesn’t learn that skill without having to practice it. I know it’s important, or it wouldn’t bother me so much that I don’t have it yet. So… one day at a time here, too. I’ll be caring for cats, doing my workouts, shopping and eating like a normal human, and probably playing some video games to pass the time. I’ll also be figuring out how to talk to my husband, who will be experiencing “tomorrow” while I am experiencing “today” here. We thought a three-hour time difference was a challenge when we were dating… now we’ll get to try sixteen hours apart!
And this… is where I sign off. Getting y’all up to date has taken far longer than I planned when I sat down to write this! I hope it’s a helpful explanation of why I haven’t typed a word since August. Health progress continues, albeit slowly because of all the delays, breaks, and illnesses, and the spaces between the crazy in our lives continue to be filled with love, patience, relaxation, and video games. One of these days, we’re still hoping to find time for that EXPER3 thing we mentioned back in summer! But for now, it’s a matter of keeping as much constancy and normalcy as we can during the next couple of weeks.
John returns just in time for our 12-year wedding anniversary. I already can’t wait to see him. It’ll be the longest time we’ve been apart since we married, and by FAR the longest distance.
When he comes back, I hope that both of us have stories to tell about how we’ve grown in the other’s absence.