Into Africa

What do I do when I have time on my hands? What do you do when you have time on your hands?

Over the past three weeks, I have been waiting for a little cat to make an appearance. What should I do with my time while wishing and hoping?

The last ten days of my trip to Africa this summer I spent on a Photo Safari. Each day we would go into the bush and take photos of everything great and small. At the end of the day, it was not unusual to return with over one thousand frames shot with my trusty Canon DSLR.

Prior to Safari, I spent six weeks in Zimbabwe and South Africa traveling independently with my friend, Phyllis. Oh no more pictures. I was not taking quite that many photos per day on this part of the trip. Still, there were photos and more photos.

Do you have any idea how long it takes to delete and edit and figure out exactly what is worth keeping and what needs to be tossed? Spending time at my rig has offered me the golden opportunity to dive into all of these pictures and create some order to the madness.

For those of you who do not “do” Facebook, I decided to add my slideshow to a post on my blog. I must warn you, it is long-about twenty-eight minutes worth. I like how it turned out. It is not too professional but not one of those campy home movies.

Enjoy the show.

And no Elsie has not shown up.

 

Learning to be Alone

It has been over two weeks since Miss Elsie the Cat took a walk. I try to remain hopeful. It is hard to do.

Since before Jim died over seven years ago, Elsie was a part of our life. She arrived as a wee kitty that could fit into the palm of one hand. She snuck her way into our hearts. She liked me and adored Jim. After Jim died, Elsie waited for five months before she decided that I was up to be part of the primary team.

Elsie was a remaining connection to Jim and my life together. The first week after she disappeared, I felt like I dove deep into grief again, similar to after Jim initially died. Grief for the loss of Miss Elsie. Grief for the loss of Jim. Grief for the loss of our life together. This kind of grief is not a good place to stay. I have been using my resources, friends and more to get me back out of that spot. It is OK to visit. It is not OK to stay long.

I am learning how to be alone. When Jim died, Elsie the cat was still with me and I could rely on her for good purry company. I love her companionship. I love how she would talk to me and look at me with those adoring eyes. Now that she is on an adventure, wherever that may-be, I need to learn to be alone. After having some type of companionship for close to thirty years, it is not an easy lesson to learn. I thought it would be easy, yet I find it difficult. I have been talking to her and Jim in absentia a lot lately.

How do I learn to be comfortable being alone? That is a loaded question and the answers are not clear as they seem to change by the minute, hour and day. It is hard to figure out the alone part when I dive into moments of sadness. I come back out and things look a little brighter and then, poof, there is another one that pops up. Sigh.

I am not looking forward to Thanksgiving or Christmas. They are holidays of celebration, joy, and fun. Being single and alone is not always fun. I decided this past week to stretch myself and ask for help. Well, actually it is asking to be included. Today I decided to ask my San Diego friends to think about including me in their holiday fun. I sent out an email to a few close friends asking them to consider including me, if not for the event, maybe for a walk or a few hours of their time. Now I want to extend that to the broader San Diego Community. I promise not to be maudlin or sad. If anything I think I will be joyous, just to be around others and enjoying the companionship and fun.

I know I could volunteer, yet this year it feels like I want to be included with those I love or those who love me or both. All you local San Diegans, if I did not email you and you want to respond to my plea of inclusion, it would be welcomed with open arms and an open heart.

I am grateful for my friends and family today. I am grateful for all those people out there in the cyberworld who are helping me look for a lost kitty. I am thankful for my time with Miss Elsie the Cat.

I remain optimistically hopeful.

 

 

An Elsie Update

Elsie is still missing. Where oh where did this sweet kitty go?

I have been busy. I continue to walk the park and surrounding areas once a day. Food goes out every day. The litter box is outside, dirty clothes are outside, flyers are up in the neighborhoods and still nothing to report.

I miss her like crazy. Other cats go walk-about and then come home. Not Miss Elsie. She has a web presence and now her own email page as well. Did you know?: there is a Pet Amber Alert, a Pet FBI page out there?  She is on both. She is on all the local pages as well. The San Diego Union-Tribune add is in the local paper. And the list goes on.

I try very hard to mix hope with realism, yet when the heart is involved it is, at times hard, to do.

Elsie was Jim’s cat. She attached herself to him when she was a tiny kitty that we could fit in the palm of our hand. When Jim would go out in the yard, she would go out and when he came in so did she. She liked me and adored him. After Jim died she kept an eye out for him for almost five months. Then one day, she switched allegiances and became my kitty. I guess she finally realized he was not returning to the fold.

When I first started to travel in my RV part-time, Elsie remained at home, with cat sitters and friends. Initially, traveling in my small RV was my healing. I visited friends and family who were waiting for me, to love me and enjoy each other company. Three years after I bought the Roadtrek, I sold the house went full time, and Elsie and I took off for adventures near and far.

Elsie has developed quite a following. I know many of you are waiting for word on this mightly little cat. I am too. Currently, the status is unknown. I frequent the shelters and it takes a bit of my day to review all the sites that she is currently on. Each day that goes by makes me a little less hopeful. I have developed a relationship with a few women from the Nextdoor website. They have been so helpful and kind. And still, I wait.

This morning someone on one of the East County Pets Facebook page said they saw a dead cat near here. I went to see if I could see who it was but it was gone. I finally broke down, had a good cry (thank you, Nancy, for enfolding me) and still I wait.

I talk to her as if she is here. I tell her when I leave the park and when I return. I know energetically that she can understand this or at least I believe she can. There are so many people rooting for her return to me. The support has been overwhelming and appreciated. It makes me feel just a little less alone knowing that everyone is pushing for her return.

For those of you who have been asking, thank you. For those of you who have been searching the web sites and more, thank you. For those of you who continue to love and support Elsie and me, thank you.

I promise when there are any updates I will post them and lastly, Elsie Come Back to Me.

 

Elsie Has Gone On Walkabout-Elsie is Missing

On Monday, November third around ten at night, Miss Elsie slipped out of the door of the RV and went on walk-about. That might have been OK but she has not returned.

She has always been a curious kitty with a strong sense of adventure. I believe that she decided the opportunity was there and it was time to create even more adventure in her life.  The opportunity was a slip of an open door I was unaware of.

We are staying at Santee Lakes Reserve and Campground in Santee, California, east of San Diego. It is coyote country out here and I understand she needs to be a wily kitty to avoid them. I think she has it in her to do that. This campground is huge (300) sites. I have walked the park end to end numerous times.

I have a new routine. I set the alarm for five in the morning and walk the park until it is light and many people with their dogs are around. Then I return back to my site and check the numerous sites and pages that I have put her lost poster on, check the San Diego Humane Society, check my emails and facebook. I wait during the full daylight hours at my rig just in case she comes back. Around dusk I walk the campground again, come back eat dinner and rest. Then at eleven p.m., I walk the campground again. I walk with food, her bells from her collar and more.

Just this morning I was told about a possible sighting in one of the lower loops. I now make sure to include that on my own Elsie walk-about, three times a day.

We have traveled so much and seen so much. She has impacted so many people’s lives. I hope she continues to be that ambassador for many years to come.

I am slowly adjusting to life without my buddy. It is hard to do. I feel so guilty about having that door open. I am trying hard not to personalize this. It wasn’t that she was unhappy, she is just a curious cat and grabbed the opportunity when it presented itself. Ever since I started this lifestyle I have acknowledged fully that something like this could happen. She is a cat and has those wild instincts. That seems all good on paper, but my heart is involved here and I miss her.

The good news is that RV’ers are a good sort of people and most are on the lookout for her. I am thankful for that. My friends are doing the best they know how to support and love me. I am so thankful for that. I don’t want to leave the rig closed, so friends have offered to come and spend a little time at my home on wheels when I need to go to an appointment.

Meanwhile, I am letting my emotions be what they are. I try not to berate myself too much. These things happen. Right now between my walks, I try to get enough rest, because I imagine this body is still recovering from surgery. I am remembering to breathe. I have to grieve, I have to let my heart do its thing and then I too will pick up and move on, in whichever direction I need to.

Currently, I would like to ask all of you to pray, send energy, and whatever else to get Miss Elsie back to me, if at all possible. She deserves it and so do I.

Impatiently Recovering

Walking the Beach-Helps in Healing

It has been a week since I had the other half of my thyroid removed. I am recovering well. I tend to overdo it a bit, then I have to rest up for a day and try again. Sitting still or lounging around has never been me. I like to hike. I like to bike. I like to walk on the beaches. I like to be busy.

Today I went over to my storage unit, yes I do have one of those, and by the time I got there, I did not feel so well. I sat inside my storage unit and pondered why I felt so awful. Oh right, I had major surgery a week ago. Oh right, I have not been drinking enough liquids. Catching a ride with Lyft, I found my way back to the RV park I am staying in and have been lounging the afternoon away and drinking lots of fluids.

The really, really, really good news is that I am cancer-free. The biopsy came in at the end of the week with no trace of cancer. Yes!!! I immediately felt a bit lighter on all levels of my being. The decisions are not done as I have to decide whether I will do the radioactive iodine treatment. I will see both doctors over the next few weeks and will listen to their advice, yet this is a decision I will need to make for myself.

One of the phrases that has been a part of my life since I was diagnosed with breast cancer is “Get all the input you can, make your decisions and then don’t look back”. With that in mind, I am researching radioactive iodine.

Elsie and I moved back into our home on wheels on Tuesday. I am hidden at the back of the campground at Santee Lakes. Although the water is a distance away, I am enjoying the low visitor impact in the back. Each night I hear the coyotes, so you know that Miss Elsie is in before dark.

I am feeling very grateful for my friends, Cynthia, and Ward (who took care of me) and Nancy (who took care of El). Because of their caring and support, I believe that everything went much smoother. My recovery would be flawless if I had remained at my friend’s home. I may not have found myself pushing too far too quickly. That is a lesson that I continue to need to learn.

My friends have been calling and reaching out. I am glad to be remembered. It reminds me, that even at my lowest moments, I am loved and supported by many. I am remaining grateful and thankful for such good friends.

I am so thankful for a No Cancer Moment.

 

Surgery Complete-Recovery Mode in Full Swing

The New Kaiser Hospital

Surgery is done. I am in recovery mode at the moment and feeling very thankful and grateful to my friends who are helping me and Miss Elsie the Cat.

Here are a few things I have learned. Because I had a similar surgery done last April, no two surgeries are alike. Removing half a thyroid is different than removing the other half. When one has half a thyroid left there are certain things that one doesn’t have to be as concerned about.

A few logistics are needed here. I won’t detail it too much as I prefer none of you to get funny or pass out.  There are these little glands, four of them that sit on or next to the thyroid, known as the parathyroids. They control calcium in our bodies. Most of us know that calcium is important to our bone growth. Did you know that calcium is important to muscles as well? Those little parathyroids sometimes like to go into shock when they are manipulated or handled. It can cause a dip, sometimes a big dip in the calcium and our heart may not work so well if that happens.

Why is this important? I ended up spending the night in the hospital post-surgery so that my calcium level could be monitored, just in case. Everything went well and I was discharged the following morning. I was surprised to find out I would be staying. Cynthia, my major support person was surprised as well.

An example of the rooms in the new hospital.

In view of the larger picture, this was just a small blip. If I had to stay in a hospital for the night I could not have been in a better place. The Kaiser hospital in San Diego is brand new. On the floor where I stayed, every room was private. Cool. When they wheeled me in I discovered a beautiful view of Mission Trails Regional Park and Miramar- the Marine base. There was the hugest TV I have ever seen hanging on the wall in front of the bed. I could watch TV, I could watch movies, I could surf the internet, I could watch videos about my health. I could even order my meals, all on that screen.

Remember that I live in about a 200 square foot space so this room and all the amenities were amazing. Drawn behind the TV screen was a picture of the Santa Rosa Mountains in the Anza Borrego State Park. I love the desert, so it was nice to see a view I know well and love.

Beyond all the amenities was the staff. The nurses, aides, and student nurses were amazing and kind and generous with their time. They let me sleep through the night. Yes!!!! Everyone cared for me well and lovingly. I was in good hands with people who appeared to love their job and cared about me.

Now I am back at Cynthia’s and Ward’s, recovering, being fed and loved. Today I am achy and sore, tomorrow I am sure I will be better. It is hard to be patient and allow myself the downtime to recover. Usually, the body wins out and off I go to take a nap.

Miss Elsie, meanwhile is hanging out with Nancy a long and good time friend, who Elise has always liked. I am sure she is getting loved and cared for. I hope Nancy is enjoying her company as well. Elsie can be Miss Personality when she chooses.

So, there is an update. I am still alive and working on thriving again. I will know the biopsy results in about ten working days. My main job currently is to rest and recover and enjoy the attention.

Thank you, all of you for your support and caring and loving thoughts as I worried my way into and out of surgery. Today I am thankful for every single one of you, known and unknown who encourage me and support me through my life.

Yes, I am still breathing.

 

Breathe

This time of the year is always a bit difficult for me. I arrive back in San Diego to get all my medical and dental completed for the upcoming year.

Dr appointments loom or have already been finished. My annual mammogram is complete. Although it has been almost ten years since my diagnosis of breast cancer, this time of the year I notice I become slightly anxious as I await the results of the mammography. I have about ten days to go before the results are in.

This year, 2019, is a bit more difficult. I have surgery on Friday to remove the other half of my thyroid. I have cancer. I have papillary thyroid cancer. My left thyroid will be removed to prepare me for the radioactive iodine treatment that will seek out any thyroid tissue that is left anywhere in my body.

Today I had my pre-op appointment with my surgeon. Dr. Ressa has followed me through breast cancer treatment and now the thyroid. These visits are never easy for me. I have a lot of questions. Being a nurse makes it harder because I read a lot. Being a one-time cancer survivor increases the number of questions and concerns as well. Having had almost six months to anticipate this coming Friday has allowed me to evaluate and add more questions in my mind.

Here is what has not helped me while waiting to have this surgery.

  • I have heard the good stories and the bad. It does not help me to hear that this is a “good” kind of cancer to have. There is no “good” cancer!
  • It is good to hear positive outcome stories, it truly is, however, I would encourage those who say this not to devalue my situation. At present I am anxious and a bit worried.
  • Surgery is surgery and not to be taken lightly. I am not taking it lightly and I would like others to not brush it off either.
  • Don’t question if I caused this cancer. Don’t tell me that if I had done something different I wouldn’t have cancer. It seems that only people who have not been challenged with this diagnosis say these things.

The bottom line? I have cancer. That statement alone is overwhelming and a bit lonely. How is it lonely? I have found since Jim died, I have no one to talk to daily about things that make me happy or things that concern or frighten or discourage me. I miss having that daily person to check in with and support me no matter what. Even when I might have done something stupid or said something out of character, Jim was there to give me a hug or counsel me through indecision and worry and often lead me in the right direction to correct wrongs.

It is hard for me to do this for myself. I can, it is just harder. In my current lifestyle, I find I have to push myself to interact with others. Often the campgrounds are full of air-conditioned RVs. When these hot Santa Ana days are upon us, very few people come outside or interact with their neighbors. I don’t blame them. It is “hot” in San Diego county these days.

Joining cancer support groups sounds like a good idea. I have joined a few thyroid support groups on Facebook. They are filled with nice, mostly women. Here is the deal with these sites. The women who post are having issues pre or post-surgery. I now avoid them as surgery looms nearer, they scare the heck out of me. I find I am overwhelmed on these sites. I feel sorry and sad for these people who are going through difficulties and I worry about me and my outcome. I have taken a hiatus from these groups until I am post-op.

When things like this arise, I miss my family. I have two sisters and two nieces that live over two thousand miles away. Their lives are busy. When things like this come into my life, even if I recognize it is complicated, I would love to have them show up on my doorstep and take over for a week or two. As a rational adult, I recognize this is not possible, yet the little girl in me still wishes that one of them would show up anyway.

This is where friends have stepped forward to help me out over the next few weeks.

 

Miss Elsie the Cat

  • My friend, Nancy, is taking Miss Elsie the Cat into her home and life. She loves kitties and Elsie has always really liked her. It is a good fit.
  • Cynthia and Ward are taking me into their home for the weekend post-surgery. When I think of this offer it brings tears of gratitude and caring to my eyes and heart. I am so thankful for their caring and support. With their support and encouragement, I will be on the road to recovery and dancing quickly. (They are members of the Scottish Dance community in San Diego).
  • Phyllis is my go-to friend. She will help in any way that I will let her. After traveling for two months in Africa we still remain good friends. That is an accomplishment in itself.
  • All my friends near and far will be loving and supporting me. I feel so fortunate to be loved by so many.

Now I need to take a deep breath, push worries aside, walk into Friday with positive thoughts for the best of outcomes. I need a mantra for this. So far the only one I have come up with is “breath”. The other mantra I have had for years is “You are a good and caring person and worthy of being loved”. I often say this to myself as I look in the mirror morning and night. Now I say Breath.

Asking for thoughts and prayers is a statement that has been degraded over time. There have been too many situations over recent years that have made me hesitate to ask people for this. Instead, I will ask you to send a breath my way on Friday filled with whatever you want to fill it with. It will help me walk into a current unknown future. I have no doubt that I will feel the love and support.

Moving forward, one step at a time.