Tuesday, October 15, 2019

My sweet Dot

Goodbye, sweet Dot

My sweet cat Dot died on Saturday. It wasn't a surprise - if you follow me on Instagram, you'll know that Dot was diagnosed with congestive heart failure almost 1 year ago. The real surprise and blessing, for us, was that she lived so long, longer than the best case scenario the vet had given us - a mere 10 months. I was halfway through chemotherapy when she was diagnosed, and terrified that she would die. She was my buddy, my constant companion, purring at my side, always, when I felt my worst, a silent, furry, wonderful friend who asked for nothing more than a bowl of food, water, and to be cozy and near me.

The internet is a funny thing - here on this blog, I wrote when Dot walked into my life, January 2014, 5 years ago. I talked about getting her fixed, and those special first moments when I got to know her and saw how unique and sweet her personality was, but I left the story there and never continued it. It's heart wrenching to read how I tried to shoo her away, because there were too many stray cats.

I didn't know then she would become my Dot, the little cat that saw me through every up and down I encountered in the past 5 years. Life and love are funny like that. It's so hard to appreciate the life that you're living. On a certain level, you may know that you are blessed, but it's hard to quantify these blessings until they are no longer with you.

So, I am actually glad that Dot was diagnosed with heart failure last year - not glad that she had heart failure, or had to die, but glad that we finally had a reason for her vomiting and hiding and shyness - maybe the whole time I had her, she had been ill and in pain. Having a diagnosis made life harder, but we at least knew her time with us wasn't permanent, and we were able to fully appreciate the time she had left with us, to really savor it and love her, no holds barred.

Dot's story

So, here is the rest of Dot's story!

In January 2014, a very sad, wet little cat appeared in our garage. She looked older and in poorer health than the other strays that had taken up residence in our garage that cold winter. I got her fixed, along with 7 other stray cats, and continued feeding and caring for them as best I could.

Dot when we first met

In November 2014, I found Dot with an abscess the size of a tennis ball on her little face. I didn't take a photo, because just looking at it made me ill! I rushed her to the ER, where her little face was shaved, the abscess drained, and the vet told me she'd need a clean place indoors to recover. I had no desire to have an indoor cat - my room was tiny and cramped, but I made a little space for her.

Dot in her bowtie

Throughout the winter, I tried to find a home for her, but no home was in need of a sweet cat. So Dot became my cat. I had never shared a room with an animal before - I tried to be stern at first, but I quickly lost the battle for my bed.

I don't know when exactly, but at some point I realized she was my closest friend.

Dot in her favorite spot

Always there next to me, a quiet, loving, patient presence. She was there for me when I was first diagnosed with breast cancer, seeing me cry when no one else did. I actually sensed something was wrong with me, when Dot instinctively began sleeping very close to me, pressed against the very spot where my cancer was.

We got through it together, then I met the man who would be my husband. Our first dates were often hangouts at home - we started dating when I was on radiation, and I was always so tired. Dot kept us laughing with her silliness - we bought her special scratch pads and catnip, and in December, a Christmas hat.

In 2017, Matt and I got married and moved into our first apartment together. Matt was not a cat person, and I worried about our life together with Dot. I remember being scared that she would scratch his records or equipment, or our new bed. But none of that happened - Dot was an epically good cat. She left our belongings alone, never scratched furniture or jumped on our couch, but the bed was undeniably her domain.


In 2018, I was diagnosed with breast cancer again, and again I had a feeling it was coming when Dot began sleeping closer and closer to me. Matt and Dot stood by me through all of my surgeries and chemotherapy.

Dot had a special, magical way of being near to me when no one else could, and seeing grief and worry I'd show no one else.


I never went to the bathroom alone thanks to Dot - which I found especially comforting when I was on chemo. Never, for one minute, was I away from her purring presence, when I felt my worst or most alone.


Dot warms my feet in the bathroom

In October 2018, as I mentioned, Dot was diagnosed with heart failure. The vet cautioned me that Dot could die at any time, including there, in the vet's office. I was discharged with 3 medications I had to give her twice daily. It was an epic struggle getting Dot to take her meds. Every time I thought I'd found the magic method, she'd get finicky, and start rejecting it. And there I was, at my lowest point in energy, struggling, and pulling myself out of bed to give her medicine.

Dot loved when I played the harmonica (although I wasn't any good at it). It was the only time she'd climb in my lap, and she'd sing along. :)

Dot loved the harmonica

Dot's health went up and down, and many days I was sure would be her last. This summer she got very thin, and I was constantly worried about her. Finally I tried Pill pockets, which she loved, and for a month or two she was at her best, taking her meds every day, looking the best I'd seen her yet.


We had just taken her to the vet, who was happy and surprised to see her. But that last week she began rejecting her meds in any form I tried to give them, and eating less and less. Last Saturday, she died suddenly in my arms, I tried to give her meds but it was too late, so Matt and I spent her last few minutes petting her and trying to console her.


When I look back, I see a wonderful trail of blessings, a beautiful path she walked down, with me. I'm not the person I was when she met me - I grew, and so did she, and so did Matt. I feel sad, but also blessed beyond measure. How lucky I was, to love and be loved by her. The greatest lesson I learned from Dot is that nothing in life is permanent - neither pain nor joy, so embrace fully every joy that is before you.

Dot in her happy place

We'll love and miss you always, my Dot.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

9 month update


Is it just me, or are the times in this country just getting heavier and heavier? The recent shootings in Texas, the situation at the border, all of it has me feeling pretty down. But I honestly have to ask "Is it just me?" fairly often, thanks to having started Tamoxifen three weeks ago.

I was more worried about starting Tamoxifen than about doing chemotherapy, if you can believe that! I had read so many horror stories online, and I personally know someone who's been on it who struggled with emotional mood swings and just feeling run down all the time. But I knew I had to give it a try - I had the option to take it the first time I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and I didn't, and the cancer came back. To me, that was good enough reason to try it.

I've had numerous side effects, some common, some not so common. Hot flashes, although they're not as bad as I experience on chemo. Achiness, but that was more within the first few days, and it has since subsided. Clouded vision, dry eyes, and eye pain, which is worrisome, as my vision was already affected by chemo. Extreme fatigue, which thankfully is helped by staying active and moderate exercise. I'm thirsty all the time, which is good since I drink more water now. I also struggle with dizziness and brain fog which comes and goes - I don't get it every day, and when I do get it, it passes after 1-3 hours. But while it's on it is so hard to concentrate and I make silly mistakes and can't think clearly. Sleep disturbances - I'll wake 3-4 times a night, wide awake, and have trouble falling asleep again - but again, this is helped by exercise.

And last, but not least, the mood swings. The best way to put it is that I feel extremely emotional, almost all the time. I was always teary eyed in sentimental scenes and sad commercials - now I have tears running down my face. Thoughts and memories at random also make me want to cry. I do my best to talk myself through it, so I'm not a mess in public. I've also experienced moments of depression, that thankfully pass, but when they pass I am amazed at how low I felt.

So, I now understand why Tamoxifen gets such a bad rap! I'm going to do my best to stick it out at least six months before I decide what to do next.

Also, I'm trying to see the positive side of being on a medication that makes me unusually emotional - I find myself remembering things from my childhood, and experiencing the emotions I felt at that time, all over again. It is fascinating, as these are sense memories I thought I had lost. And maybe being so emotional is helping me emotionally connect to others in my life? I hope so.

I hope everyone is doing well, and thanks to those who read these updates - I hope they are helpful to you in some way!

Monday, June 3, 2019

6 month update

experimenting with English Paper Piecing

Thought I'd update you again - I like the idea of these updates being all in one place, for my future reference. :) As you see above I am dipping my toes into English Paper Piecing with hexagons - something I NEVER thought I'd try - the idea of a hand-pieced quilt always seemed so intimidating!

I have a tendency to bite off more than I can chew, crafting-wise, which leaves me frequently with half-finished projects and downcast spirits. So I was shocked at how well I took to hand-sewing these hexagons - my biggest inspiration being a Creativebug class on English Paper Piecing by Liza Lucy.

She explained it so well, answering all the questions that mere diagrams in books left me bursting with, and I began!

experimenting with English Paper Piecing

I'll be doing a more in-depth post on this project on Feeling Stitchy, so keep an eye out for that!

6 months post-chemo
In health news, I am feeling better than ever, at my 6 month mark, post-chemo. Last week I had my first period since October 2018, which makes me so happy that my body is finally resetting itself. I wasn't liking the idea of menopause at 42, so I'm glad that everything is getting back to normal again.

Getting back to normal was a struggle, and I did have some false starts 3 months post-chemo. I had an odd series of episodes with fast, irregular heartbeats that sent me to the ER and urgent care, and ultimately to my doctor and a heart specialist. But happily, all the tests came back normal, the racing heartbeats subsided, and my doctor said that aside from a fatty liver (which I never recall having before chemo) and a vitamin D deficiency, I was doing very well.

My energy levels are finally back to normal, if not better than before! My achiness subsided as well - I've found that walking and keeping active is truly the best medicine for that. I've been working out again as of several weeks ago, so my arm mobility on my mastectomy side has really improved as well.

This is all a case of answered prayers - there were so many scary times when I doubted I would bounce back and get back to normal - I am just beyond happy at where I am right now.

Project A Month
On Feeling Stitchy I've been doing a series called Project a Month where my one goal is simply to finish 1 needlework project per month. What I've found by scheduling my time this way, is, of course, I have way more time than I ever imagined. Last month I found myself finishing 2 projects, so I'm hoping each month I'll be able to learn how to schedule my crafting time better and better.

Ultimate needlecraft haul

Up above you see the massive haul of vintage needles, scissors and pins I found at the thrift store for $5. I won't be needing a needle any time soon!

I hope this post finds you all well, healthy, and inspired!

Friday, March 8, 2019

Dreaming of green

Dreaming of green a post by floresita on her blog unafloresita.blogspot.com
Dreaming of green a post by floresita on her blog unafloresita.blogspot.com
Dreaming of green a post by floresita on her blog unafloresita.blogspot.com

Here I am again, I know it's been awhile, just wanted to say hello and share a few images I'm enjoying lately - mostly I love when I am attracted to the same colors, over and over, unconsciously, in this case lime green.

I've been doing well, post-chemo - a lot of mysterious aches and pains, but every time I Google them, they seem to be normal side effects of women post-chemo. So, I'm just trying to bear with it, and each day I do feel stronger. Had a lot of pain in my hands last month, I've never had arthritis, but I imagine that's what it feels like. This month it's my knee and the ball of my foot, I just joke that chemo left me (I hope temporarily) with the body of an 80 year old.

Aside from that, I am keeping inspired - taking Karen Barbe's class on Color Theory on Domestika, finishing my Final project for that class (in lime green, as you see above), also taking Lisa Congdon's Creative Boot Camp class on Creativebug, which is SO MUCH fun, and starting on my next Project a Month for Feeling Stitchy. I'll give you a hint what the dominant color is on that one... lime green! :)

Hope you all are keeping well and inspired this Spring!

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Chemotherapy update #15-16

2 lovely birds, made last year, given to chemo friends

Well, I am done with chemo! My last chemo was 3 weeks ago, and I couldn't be happier. There are no words to describe how happy I felt when I rang the bell, waved goodbye, and went home. Pure joy.

- Swelling hands and feet, weight gain - a combination of the chemo, steroid, and lack of activity, I think.
- Light brown hair! I've always had near-black hair - an interesting surprise.
- Mood swings - the worst ones hit about 1 week after chemo, then got steadily better.
- Brain fog - off and on, getting better.
- Bloody nose - finally disappeared 2 weeks after my last chemo.
- Fingernail / tonenail changes - still weird looking, but getting stronger.
- Small spot of possible neuropathy on the heel of one foot - it's a small spot, at least. So glad I iced my hands and feet for Paclitaxel - it made a difference!

At 2 weeks, I was feeling better on all fronts, but at 3 weeks I am feeling the most normal since I started! Finally I am able to sleep through the night without issues, drink caffeine without being super wired, and walk at a normal, unlabored pace.

What can I say, but that I am grateful. Grateful to God for preserving me in this long, arduous trial. Grateful to my husband, my family, my friends. And grateful to all of you who reached out to me or left a comment to encourage me. Thank you!!!