Sunday, January 21, 2018

letting go

March 26, 2017

Thank you everyone who commented and/or sent a note about Willow. I plan to write a tribute to her when I'm ready. Right now the wound remains too fresh and intense. The grief feels overwhelmingly heavy.

March 25, 2017
There is much going on for us right now. We have been trying to move from Washington State to Vermont for nearly a year now and many obstacles and challenges have gotten in the way. We had a private buyer lined up to buy the house, but that fell through. Then Laura had a great job lined up, but that fell through. That left us both unemployed and thus unable to get another mortgage in Vermont. I pursued all sorts of options for rentals, but wasn't able to find anyone willing to rent to a couple with abundant cats.

I was terrified at the prospect of selling our house without another place to land, thus I resisted listing it until a viable option in Vermont presented itself. With no such options surfacing and savings accounts bleeding out, it became clear that the only way we are going to move is if we completely let go and trust. So, we did the terrifying thing - we listed the house. In fact, the house hit the market an hour or so before Willow died on Tuesday the 9th. That fact made an overwhelmingly tragic time all the more overwhelming.

photo courtesy of Laura

The housing market in our area is insane. Shortly after the house listing went live, the phone started to ring - a realtor wanted to come show it to their clients. Our realtor is a cat lover himself, so he understood and explained to the interested parties that we needed that night to grieve, showings would commence the following day. 24-hours after the listing went live, we had two amazing offers that were well over the listing price.

Blog followers know that I've done a ton of projects on the house over the years that make the house more cat friendly. My prayer had been that the new owners would appreciate all the custom cat modifications and their kitties would enjoy them too. And wouldn't you know it, both parties who made those first two offers are cat lovers too! That makes me super happy!

I love that Theo and Nahum both made it into the official listing photos!

Theo loves his front porch!

Nahum parked at top of stairs
We accepted an offer and the closing process is underway. If all goes as planned, we will be out by mid-February. Less than a month away. Yikes.

Many significant details remain unclear, such as where we will live once we leave here, how we will get there with all the cats, how our stuff will get there, etc. We are people of deep faith, so even though it's terrifying, I do believe God has a plan and will reveal the details when the timing is right. In my work at Onsite over the past year, I've been privileged to witness God work miracles in people's lives nearly everyday (including my own life), so I've been reminding myself of that truth when my fears start to get the best of me. Meanwhile, Laura has a second interview on Tuesday for what would be an awesome job, and I have second interview in early Feb. We will be making a house hunting trip to Vermont in early February and hopefully we can find the perfect place for us and all the cats.

It's been a huge challenge trying to grieve while also doing everything that is required to sell the house and I've been away at Onsite in Tennessee a bunch trying to earn a little income. Willow's unexpected death in the midst of all this other crazy has really thrown a heavy wet blanket over the intensely stressful season. With a very heavy heart, I'm doing everything I can to hold tight to my faith and courage while taking the next step into the unknown. Breathe...

Onsite, Cumberland Furnace, TN - Jan 16, 2018

Friday, January 12, 2018

thank you

Thank you everyone for your kind, loving words. It's really helped to not feel alone in the overwhelming grief. Meanwhile, my brain continues to struggle to believe she's really gone. Doesn't seem possible.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

farewell my sweet girl

It is with overwhelming sadness that I have to report that Willow has crossed the rainbow bridge.

She had rallied after her time in the hospital over New Years and we were feeling hopeful about treatment but then she very quickly worsened. It became clear Tuesday night that it was time to let her go.

I love you precious Willow, I always will. Your time to go came way too early, My heart hurts, but I know you are now free of pain, free of the discomfort. Sleep well, chase bugs and birds. Eat as many pine needles as you like. Be free my sweet girl. Love, your guy.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

extra innings

I thought I might never see this again.

So grateful to have extra time with my precious Willow. 

Willow's home!

Willow did great over the past 24-hours at the hospital, so good in fact, that she got to come home! It's lovely to have her back at home. She's been exploring and checking everything out. She's still not quite got her balance back yet, so we are having to be watch her to make sure she doesn't climb on stuff or try to jump high. The vet thinks the anti-seizure medication might be causing the balance issue, as her body gets used to the new medication.

We learned some hard news this morning when talking with the neurologist for the morning update. Willow has two tumors (one on her brain and one in the nasal cavity), and the neurologist thought they were both meningiomas, one spreading down into the nasal cavity. The radiologist's report came in on the MRI results, he speculated about the tumor in her nasal cavity being possibly a carcinoma tumor. Apparently the location of it makes it less likely that it's a carcinoma, but there is no way to know for sure without a biopsy and it's location makes that impossible without surgery. The possibility of it being cancer adds a different dimension to our consideration of treatment options. We are now leaning toward doing the stereotactic radiosurgery option, as it would be less invasive, may still give us about another year of quality life with her and would be less risky if it is indeed cancer. The vet says, if we did surgery and the nasal tumor is cancer, then we would need to do radiation as well. It's amazing there are so many good treatment options available.

We spent an hour or more talking with the neurologist this afternoon about treatment options. I've been very impressed with this specialty veterinary hospital (VSC of Seattle), they are super generous with their time, answering all of our questions and giving us tons of information. We've worked with them before and were impressed on those occasions too.

Some have asked about the cat insurance. Our cats are insured through Petplan. Each kitty started their policy shortly after joining our clan. I was very happy with them for most of the years I've had their insurance, however, this past year, I've not been very impressed. They don't cover yearly exams and vaccinations, which is fairly typical of any pet insurance, but they do cover illness, injuries, and basically any treatment that a vet recommends (including dental work and cleanings.) A year back, Petplan changed their coverage options, eliminating the 100% reimbursement option and the very low $50 deductible (which I'm still not happy about). With each policy you select the amount of coverage ($2,500 - unlimited), annual deductible ($250-$1000), and amount of reimbursement (70, 80, or 90%). The premium is based on the age of the cat and whatever coverage amounts you select. I just noticed I have a $150 deductible on my current policies but looking at the website, the smallest available now is $250. That really sucks - makes it much less usable for smaller conditions that are more common. They used to offer a full range of deductibles, with the smaller ones having a higher premium, but I was fine with that. A $250 minimum deductible is ridiculous.

They keep making the coverage less while the premiums keep going up, making me less happy with them. I've not shopped around to see if there are any better options out there, but I'll probably do that when the next policy needs to be renewed. This past year, I noticed a significant drop in their level of customer service and time taken to process claims, it made me wonder if they got bought up by a different company or something. Good things don't seem to last. Enough about insurance - ugh!

It's good to have the Willow home! 
Now we get to enjoy every extra-moment we get with her.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Tuesday Willow update

The emotional roller coaster continues, thanks for riding along with us.

Monday night was one of those nights where I slept (or attempted to) by the phone with intense dread. Surrendering the fear and focusing on intentional deep, nourishing breathing did help reduce the anxiety. I did wake a bunch of times in the night to check the phone to see if the vet called to report dire news. Such a call never came. In the morning, I was too terrified to call the vet to get the status report, thankfully, Laura had the courage needed to place that call.

The report was very positive. Willow had been up, walking a bit, eating and drinking - "a vast improvement over yesterday!" Prayers answered!!! Go Willow!! I am sooooooo grateful for this. I had so much dread going to the vet appointment, I feared if she didn't rally then we would be faced with the hard choice to ease her suffering.

We visited with Willow while waiting to meet with the neurologist. Willow was like Willow again! She's got spunk and life in her once more!

A huge improvement from the day before when she was so lifeless and out of it.

I love seeing how alert and perky she is once again.

And her personality is still intact! After seeing her so lifeless, I feared I would never get another moment of the true Willow. She's still very much Willow!

As we talked with the neurologist, Willow walked around the room. She had a difficult time walking in a straight line, stumbling quite a bit. The vet says that's because the pressure on her brain from the tumor and inflammation is causing the vestibular part of the brain to be wonky. The steroid is suppose to reduce the inflammation and thus reduce some of the nasty effects of the tumor pressing against her brain. Of course the tumor is continuing to slowly grow, so that will only work for a short time, hopefully long enough for us to do a more substantial treatment.
 My precious little girl.

We discussed treatment options for her tumor, which are palliative care, surgery, or radiation. We are still considering the possible benefits vs. risks, but are leaning toward the surgery. The vet said the radiation is nice in that it's focused and non-invasive and works to shrink back the tumor. Problem is, the tumor just grows right back. She indicated it would basically give her another 6-months beyond what the palliative option provided. Surgery is obviously more invasive and is seen as a "curative" for these types of tumors in cats. Apparently with cats, these tumors are fairly easy to remove, however, with Willow, her tumor is partly growing down into her nasal cavity, so they might not be able to get 100% of it. She noted, if they get 98% of it, the missed little bits will eventually grow back, but with it being slow growing, that could take years. So, in short, the surgery option has more risk associated with it but potentially could provide quite a bit more time. I was surprised to learn that the radiation and surgery are about the same cost.

And speaking of cost, this whole endeavor has made me so incredibly grateful to have cat insurance. All of our cats are insured, and thank God they are! There is no way we could afford all these diagnostics and treatments if it were not for the insurance. All this work on Willow will probably come to about $15,000, of which insurance will cover 90%. A few months back we talked about discontinuing the cat insurance to save some money because we are both unemployed right now, and money is tight. Thank God we didn't choose to do that. Wow. This would have been a completely different situation if it weren't for the financial freedom and ability to explore these options.

Amazing the difference 24-hours can make. I approached bed Monday night with fear and intense dread. Tonight, I approach bed with gratitude and some worry (worry that she's take another dip on the roller coaster.)

The vet suggested they keep her another night to make sure she continues to improve. As much as I want her back home, I want her to be safe and on the mend, so I'm glad to have her stay another night there to be sure she's really improving. The vet's evening report said she's still doing quite well - she's even showing off to the vet staff just how sweet and lovey she is! And apparently they are noticing improvement in her balance too. Much to be grateful for. Hopefully we can bring her home on Wednesday and schedule her treatment for sometime soon.

Thanks again for accompanying us on this emotional journey! It helps a ton to not be alone with all of this.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Monday Willow update

The plan was to bring Willow home today, but that didn't happen. She's still in the hospital.

Willow had done well last (Sunday) night, she was up and more alert. Then around 6am on Monday, she started having seizures again and was back to very unresponsive. As the day progressed, the vet said she got a little better.

I spent part of the day researching meningioma tumors in cats. The stuff I was reading was making me feel hopeful, that with surgery, she might have a good life ahead of her yet. Apparently, surgery works well to treat these types of tumors in cats, and because the tumor is attached to the meninges and not the brain itself, there's not a need to cut into the brain, thus reduced risk of brain damage. The standard treatment is a few weeks on oral steroids to reduce inflammation and then surgery. Anyway, I was feeling a bit more hopeful.

When we visited her at the hospital in the afternoon, she looked in really rough shape. It was really, really hard to see her that way. I was expecting her to look miserable, like she's been at home lately, but she looked much worse. The evening update from the vet indicated no positive change, although she continues to have more seizures. The vet said she remains in "critical condition". I'm very worried.

We meet with the neurologist Tuesday morning to talk about what's going on and possible options. I am really scared that we may need to make a gruelingly difficult decision in that conversation. Deep breath.

It's been a hard day. My mind and heart is locked on Willow, it's hard to think about anything else. I feel like I'm in a daze. I went into the grocery store this afternoon and was overwhelmed by it all. I stumbled around the aisles looking at stuff, hoping it would help me remember what all I was looking for. I'm grateful for a light work load right now, it's hard to be present right now.

Not everyone in the household is as stressed as I am. Oliver enjoyed having the sun warm his topside, while the heating pad got the bottom side!

Later, the boys were all hanging on with me on the love seat.

Oliver loves to be comfy when he naps inside. 

Oliver's been spending more time inside lately. He still must be supervised, which means he's limited to the couch, no roaming around inside for him. No question he loves being inside, I wish he would stop spraying, so he could be permanently inside. There is much I wish for right now.

I appreciate everyone's support and kind words. This has been excruciatingly hard. I'm tired of all this fear, I don't think it's helping me or Willow. As I go to bed tonight, I'm going to do some visualizing and breathing exercises, to get more grounded and to let go of the fear and trust God's process. I don't always like that process and often don't understand it, but I trust it's built on love, even when it doesn't feel like it.