Troy, the Silver Tribute

I could not live without a dog.  I need animal wisdom, animal communication, animal humor, and the companionship they bring to every moment.  So, to make a long story short, I put out the word that we were ready to rescue another dog.  Hopefully a chow.

That was not to be.  No chows around here, only north about 11 hours or so.  I can’t do that anymore.  So, a friend suggested a Norwegian Elkhound.  Never heard of them.  Had to look it up.  They look a little like a small wolf, or a tiny Malamute, with a tightly curled tail.  Thick coats.  Black ears that tend to ride down alongside their face, or upright like a German Shepherd, when they are wondering.  About life, probably.

So, along came 9 year old Troy, from the Magnolia Ridge kennel in Mississippi.  To here.  We live on Magnolia Ridge, in Rose Villa, so that works.  He came striding in our front door, crawled into our laps, and announced that he was here to stay, and that he is the champ, and not to forget that part.  Ever.  We don’t.  He reminds us in hundreds of ways.  He loves the automatic doors into the main building, and just strolls in waiting for the reception to his champ self.  He loves everyone he meets, and charms them all.  Egads.  A show dog.

And he’s freaky smart.  We’ve had 4 other dogs, but never one like this.  We are buying puzzles for him to keep him occupied, Ph.D. dog level puzzles.  He aces them all, and then stands there, what’s next?  He wants to crawl into my lap all the time, to give full body hugs which are sweet and not always comfortable and take my energy.  So I bribe him to leave me alone, at times.  These dogs are food motivated, so he eats all the time.  Literally.  We have to measure food, so he doesn’t get obese.  He is, in effect, a challenge, but a delightful one.  Mostly.

Elkhounds, like chows, are not necessarily obedient.  They are self directed, in order to hunt down moose in Norway.  They are smart, and also clever.  It’s not that he isn’t trustworthy, it’s just that he has his own ideas about how things should go, and if they don’t, then he goes around the other way….  with one eye on me or Eric.  We are working this out, one day at a time.  One blessing – he lets me sleep in the morning, when Eric isn’t here.  And I can sleep as long as I need to.  Thank God!

In terms of cancer, its a fact that people with pets, in our case dogs, tend to live longer.  So, he is now a part of my health care team.  All 60 pounds, a long black nose, and busy paws.  And that scary smart little brain of his.




My Health Care Team Lost a Vital Member

Eric and I are deeply grieving the loss of our dog, Tara Asa, a Chow Golden mix rescue we’ve shared our lives with for the past 13 years.  She kept a close watch on me, let me know when any alien invaders might be close by, including leaves and squirrels, and slept on our bed with us.

In the middle of the night, she would crawl up to my face, say hello, and then slowly drape her head down and over my heart, for a chow love feast.  Then she was up and on guard again, almost immediately.  That’s a Chow thing.

But she kept me happy and going to bed on time and so much more. She was a valued member of my health care team.  Just seeing her greet me at the door gave me joy.

And now she has gone on.  Bone cancer took her down into way too much pain, so we decided to end her life, never an easy choice.  She died on September 17.  The At Home Veterinary Service folks shined their love into our lives and hers, a blessing.

We are devastated.  Ripped apart.  And slowly healing.




Which Realm am I in Now?

So, one foot in the land of the living, and one foot in the land of the dying.  That’s where I’ve been for quite awhile now, learning to lean into this place in balance, without too much one way or another.  Too much dying, well…  and even too much living brought on several very close calls with the death thing.  So I learned to walk the tightrope.

Now, it seems, I am in the realm of Recovery. I think.  Which, while I am profoundly grateful for this, has it’s own teaching and learning curve.

When I first found out I might live awhile longer, I called my friend who went through a pretty terrible cancer, ten years ago, and has been cancer free for quite awhile.  “What do you call this new place?”  I asked her.  “Recovery”, she answered.  Hmmm….  So, I’ve been trying that on for size.

My first concern is that people will think that I am now well, and can go back to my old life, the one I had about six years ago.  Nope, that isn’t going to happen.  I still feel like shit and have very little energy in life.  Essentially, I am still very ill.  So I deal with other people’s expectations.  And my own.  Trying to find a new balance and new meaning, due north.  Please do not expect that I can now do the things that I used to do.  I cannot.  And the pressure to meet these spoken or unspoken expectations isn’t good for me, either.  I understand this, however.  We are all pretty sick of death and dying these days, including the planet.  I get it.

Every day I seek the parameters of this new realm.  Can I attend a meeting, and take a shower and make supper in the same day?  Maybe, maybe not.  No way to know, I just have to continue taking this one day at a time.

When people are near death, all sorts of things get put on hold, perhaps forever.  For example, I didn’t get dental care I needed, because…why?  I was going to die soon.  I didn’t get my second cataract surgery done for well over a year, because, well, I was going to die soon, so why go through that?  Need new underwear?  Why?  If I’m going to die soon (can you begin to hear that refrain?) I don’t need any new clothes, I don’t need I don’t need I don’t need I don’t need….

And now I do, because it appears that I will be living for awhile longer now.  So, teeth, eyes, underwear… I’m catching up slowly.  Clean up my lap top, deal with the 6,000 emails on my computer, and so on.  Cleaning house slowly.  Thinking about our garden.

One thing I’ve done which gives me a great deal of pleasure is to buy a Planner.  It’s called Rituals for Living, Dreambook and Planner.  ( Think a Planner for hippies, if you can imagine.  Very well done.  Made here in Portland by a local couple.  One day I realized that I can probably, maybe, hopefully, actually begin to have a plan for my days and months ahead, instead of, well, not.

By the way, have you ever heard Eva Cassidy sing?  Zowee, what a voice.  She’s been dead  since 1996, but is topping the charts all over the place, as people hear her voice.  She and Cat, what a pair.  They keep me joyful.  Check out her singing “It’s a Wonderful World.”

My theme for 2019 is, surprise, Recovery!

What do you know! It worked!

My CAT Scan in August blew me out of the water for quite awhile.  It appears that I no longer have cancer in my lungs, assuming that I ever did.  I always thought it was basalt dust, but what do I know.  So, no cancer there.  No cancer in my lymph system.  And, hold on to your hats, the primary tumor on my left kidney has reduced in size by .4 mm.  Not a great amount, but significant.  Enough for me to get fired by my oncologist.  She has sent me back to my primary care physician, she doesn’t want to see me again.  Ditto.

So, God bless Cat Stevens/Yusuf, and his music and his inspirational songs.  It worked!

As I reflect on these changes, and what it means to me and to my future, I realize that it is incorrect to lay it all at his feet, however sweet they may be.  I also credit my husband’s tender care, our dog Tara’s constant presence, living at Rose Villa with all the help that they provide.  Also the medical marijuana that I have used every night since the very beginning, early Spring of 2015.  And my diet shifts.  Sleep.  My acupuncturist, my friend the Shaman, the care I received from my Tibetan doctor.  You may recall that she said “All you need is Joy!”  And I believed her.  Doing Soul Collage Cards when the way ahead was murky and scary.  Receiving zillions of prayers. What a journey.  To now.

About a month before the CAT scan, I experienced a vision of sorts.  I was sitting in my chair, looking out our window across the Willamette River to the fir trees on the other side.  Gradually, I noticed a type of portal in front of me, in my mind’s eye, opening up to show a vista.  A little like looking at distant fields and hills through binoculars. The content of the vista was unclear, vague, shimmering.  I thought to myself, “I wonder if I have a future. Alive.”  It appears that I do.  These portals tend to be trustworthy, but I didn’t want to say anything, for fear I was wrong and would be embarrassed, made fun of.  Old tapes.  In any case, I wasn’t terribly surprised to hear the good news.

My oncologist appeared somewhat frustrated.  “We didn’t do anything to create this reduction in the tumor.”  “No”, I said to her, “but I have been doing quite a bit.”  She never asked me what, and didn’t really want to know.  No curiosity.  No place on the forms for joy, I suppose.  Maybe some day there will be.  Western medicine is remarkably devoid of soul work, overall.  As if the mind and body and soul are unrelated.  Love and Joy, the best healers for all time.

For those of you who may suffer from cancer, please understand.  You aren’t doing anything wrong, nor can you compare your own journey to mine.  Every single cancer, every single person, is unique.  Kidney cancer is especially slow growing. Sometimes surgery, radiation and chemo are the answer.  Sometimes the cancer is too fast.

Cat has a great song, “Never”.  “There will never be another you!” he sings.  But “there will be another Spring.  There will be another Story. ” I listen to this song over and over again, feeling so blessed to think that I may see Spring again, that there will indeed be another story.

I hope to share that story here with you.  Wow!




Vibrational Medicine with Cat

It’s a thing, vibrational medicine.  You can look it up.  I know two dear friends who went that route, one with a ghastly cancer who used Tibetan bowls to help her heal.  10 years now, cancer free.  Another friend used her own sounds, singing to heal from an almost complete collapse many years ago.  I tried Tibetan bowls too, but once every 6 months doesn’t cut it.

Fast forward to my new love affair with Cat Stevens, Yusuf.  Its been over a month now.  I listen to his music anywhere from 1 hour to 4-5 hours a day, from his music as a hugely gifted boy to the Cat Stevens we remember, and now to the mature old man Yusuf, 4 years younger than me, all through YouTube.  Every day I discover something new, an old song, a concert I didn’t know about, interviews, and new songs, too.  Just found a new Yusuf song yesterday that I especially love, something about the editing room floor.  We all do edit ourselves, our lives.  Without the editing, there he is, stripped bare, almost unbearably intimately present.  What courage he has.  His talent is mind boggling.

But here is what I want you all to know.  It’s making a huge difference in my life.  I have way more energy, overall, than I have had in 5-6 years.  It’s the joy in his heart, the sound of his voice, his music, and the words, pouring into me, filling me up!  For me, it’s the perfect match.  Not for everyone, no doubt.  Some might respond to Bach, or Willie Nelson, Richie Havens, or whatever touches your soul.  For me, it’s the Cat.  I simply cannot get enough.

I listen daily to O Caritas, a song in latin that is haunting, a climate change song he wrote in the 70s, prophetic.  I listen to Miles from Nowhere, about death itself.  “My body has been a good friend, but I won’t need it when I reach the end!”  I listen to a new song, Thinking ‘Bout You, which is a love song on many levels.  I listen to a rocking version of Tuesday’s Dead, about changing the world “one more time”.  I watch him sing Peace Train as a young, gorgeous man barely able to contain all the energy within his soul, and then listen and watch as he sings it now, almost 70 years old, mellow and looking out over a rich and fulfilled life. He is still touring, can you imagine!  So many great songs.  And all this is just pouring into me, reversing the deadly drain that is kidney cancer.  You might laugh, those who know me well, to see me swinging and singing and dancing with him, in pure joy and love.  Sick as I am, I am rocking out with Cat/Yusuf!  Well, a very sick old lady’s version of rocking out, anyway.  It’s mine.

It will be most interesting to see how my CT scan is in August.  My CAT scan….  I do have hopes, so much more I’d like to do in this life.  But even if there is no change, or things get worse, it will be just fine.  Worth every minute.

And who knows, maybe vibrational medicine has much to teach us all.  I’ll keep you posted.  Meanwhile, check out his music, you might love it, too!



Pockets of rage and the love of Cat

Recently, I’ve discovered that I have little pockets of rage here and there, and I stumble upon them unexpectedly from time to time.  Generally, I am a pretty peaceful soul, non-violent and practicing awareness.  But then I suddenly find myself raising my voice, and the level of emotion is shocking to me, and probably to others.  I’m enraged!

Gentrification is one trigger.  I hate to see the homeless, the income disparity, and suffering that is coming with all of this, even though as a white middle class woman, gentrification does not affect me directly.  But indirectly, I see it everywhere, looking so innocent.  O look, a nice new park.  O look, a lovely new set of apartments.  O look, a whole section of Portland that used to be poor is now a vibrant section with all sorts of amenities, stores, places for food and concerts and art.  Isn’t this great?

And people who lived there for generations can no longer afford to live there.  Where do they go?  Often, onto the streets.  Or further away from the services and community that they need and depend upon. That they cannot afford.  So yeah, gentrification sucks, big time, in my mind.  And my rage just rears up and explodes.  I see gentrification as a symptom of our economic cruelty, slipping into place with very little push back.  An invisible attack that looks so nice, so good.

Because I am ill, I have very little energy available.  Rage takes a large chunk.  So I am trying to identify the triggers to these pockets and bring the power of mindfulness to bear, for self protection.    Trump of course is one, but I have stepped back from all that.  All the destruction of our country, the treason, the betrayals, drowning democracy itself…  all the killings… of course I feel it all.  We all do.  How could you not?  I refuse to let him kill me, however.

What I have found, recently, is to counteract that rage with the power of love.  I know, I know, that sounds useless, considering the situation we are all in now.  But it works.  I think love is up to the task.  Maybe just one person at a time, one village, one town.

Remember Cat Stevens, the pop star?  From the 70s?  He walked away from his music about 30 years ago, quite literally.  Just walked off stage one day.  Sold his instruments.  He is back now, singing his heart out as a 70 year old man with 5 kids, a whole passel of grandchildren, living in Dubai, his heart still overflowing with love itself.  I have immersed myself in his music via YouTube, and for the past 5 days I have not felt any of the godawful fatigue that I live with.  I feel happy, enlivened, joyful.  Replenished.  He is not naive, he sees the horrors, and he still opens his heart wide and lets the light shine through him.  I want to do that, too.  He builds schools around the world, provides relief services, steps up.  He is living in harmony with the universe, doing his best.

I believe that his soul, his music, might actually be healing me.  It’s the joy.  And the love.

Sort of odd to find myself falling in love again.  Yeah, he is a muslim, but I don’t care about that.  I am responding to the love light.  Thank you, Yusuf Islam Cat Stevens.   God bless and keep you.

And thank God for those little ear buds, so I can crank up the sound!

There is a name for my temper tantrum

Remember my temper tantrum, eating cookies and bacon and doing all the things I know that I should not be doing?  Being unwise, from a Buddhist standpoint?

Anyway, I recently discovered that there is a label for this behavior that has plagued me for decades, my rebellious nature. It’s part family, part ancestral (The Kerrs were noted as being ornery people in northeastern Scotland, eons ago) and part survival mechanism.  “Don’t tell me what to do!”

Oppositional Defiance Disorder.  

Yup, that’s me.

If you have that too, please do make friends with it.  It hold a great deal of life force within.  Sort of like having a two year old making your decisions, but with more experience.  Just watch out, it can lead to danger, too.