Friday, December 19, 2014

Bye Bye My Little Love

Goodbye my sweet Gypsy boy
On December 13, just one year and nine days after I lost my beloved Tigger. I had to put my Gypsy boy down. Within five short weeks, his health deteriorated rapidly. It kicked-off with a seemingly harmless virus that gave him a fever and sniffles. Suddenly, his frenetic outbursts of energy, his morning jumps at the front door combined with raucous meows to get out and discover the day gave way to listlessness. I threw him a toy and he just stared at it. Clearly, there was something wrong.

The vet said, no worries, he just caught a virus and put him on antibiotics for 10 days as a precaution. During that time, his weight spiraled down inexplicably and his spunky spirit turned to lethargy. But let's not go into the end of his life just now. Let's talk about the beginning.


Gypsy is my fourth cat that I had to let go. They all have their special places in my heart. But he  was the most feisty one--the scrappy survivor that I discovered living homeless outside during a bitter winter.

His rescue story is perhaps the most heartbreaking of all my cats.  In February 2008--the month before I found out I had breast cancer--I had seen him roaming through the neighborhood. The condo association was about to contact Animal Control to capture him in which case he would have surely been euthanized. That association seemed like the Wicked Witch of the West, out to kill my little brown "Todo" of a cat.

With two rescue cats already in my care, I knew it wasn't a good idea to take in a third, but that spunky little brown tabby knew just what to do to capture my heart. He snuck inside my garage to stay warm one night, and before I knew it,  I created a sanctuary for him there to survive the winter. I made a bed for him and kept food and water there. I kept the garage door cracked open at the bottom just enough for him to slink inside. By the time spring arrived, he would rush up to me and swirl around my legs until I picked him up. He would purr loudly and look lovingly into my eyes. This was no feral cat. He had been neutered, so at one point in his life, at least someone cared.

I announced to all the neighbors on the block that this little brown cat with the crooked ear was mine, so no one better mess with him, much less call Animal Control. Besides, he had turned out to be a working cat by going on midnight runs killing pesky mice and rats. One morning, I found two fat rats lined up neatly dead at the doorstep. Gypsy knew he had to earn his keep. When I took walks, he strutted aside me like a dog. He greeted everyone that stopped to chat by swirling around their legs and giving them a hardy meow. When Gypsy accompanied me to get the mail one day, even the grumpy condo manager mumbled: That cat is really something.

During summer, my neighbor upstairs began renovating her kitchen. When her contractor saw my newly-acquired pet he proclaimed: "I recognize that cat because of his crooked ear! He lived in the house next door to me where the residents had more than 20 cats. They were evicted and rumor had it that they loaded all the cats into a truck and threw them out randomly throughout Fairfield County." My little brown tabby had come from 15 miles away, which is why I decided to name him Gypsy.

Gypsy was truly an outdoor cat. To try and lock him up inside what have crushed an essential part of his spirit. Most of the time, he was content to just sit at the end of my sidewalk like a guard dog and meow at everyone that walked by. If I was down at the pool, he would slide under the gate and saunter toward me meowing loudly with each step. The kids ate it up and asked if they could pet him, what his name was and generally fawn all over him. Their dripping wet suits and hair didn't faze him because he actually loved water. He would always spoon water with his paw in order to drink it.

One of my cat-loving neighbors proclaimed Gypsy had some Mainecoon blood in his pedigree because of his water-drinking habits, his constant meowing, his big paws that looked like snow shoes, his fur color and texture and the way he followed me like a dog. I googled the cat breed, and had to agree with him. He didn't have the tufted ears and bushy tail, but he had everything else.

When it got cold in Autumn, I decided it was time to bring Gypsy inside the house and meet "the boys"--Tigger and Mango. Tigger had pressed his nose on the window pane every time he saw Gypsy outside the front door. Once they met face to face, they bonded instantly. Who knows why they loved being together so much. What I do know is that Gypsy greatly enriched the last five years of Tigger's life with his big, loving heart.  They spent every night sleeping together on the living room ottoman and groomed each other for hours on end.

On two occasions when Tigger accidentally got outside, Gypsy hunted him down and brought him back home. Gypsy was the one that lead me to Tigger as he lay dying of a heart attack in my bedroom. From the moment Tigger died, Gypsy refused to jump on the ottoman he shared with Tigger.  It was too painful for both of us to look at that piece of furniture, so eventually I stored it away.

Gypsy tried in vain to cuddle up with Mango in an effort to replace that lovable friendship that was now lost from his life. But Mango would have none of it. I could see over the past year how a little light went out from Gypsy's soul when he lost his best buddy Tigger. He missed him terribly.

On December 1st,  I spent $200 on blood work to find out why Gypsy was losing weight, which yielded no answers to his condition. I refused to pay an additional $350 for a sonogram. So the vet prescribed two weeks of prednisone  to see if it was just irritable bowel syndrome. I also bought prescription, high-calorie food that cost $45 for a bag to see if he would gain weight and get back to his old self.

It didn't work. He ate all the time, and yet he kept wasting away. He would have a good day and then the next morning I would see he had vomited almost everything he ate. During the last two days of his life, if I touched his rear end, he would cry out in pain.

But during those last three weeks,  he would climb up on my chest every night as I lay in bed and fall asleep.  Occasionally, he would wake me up by softly by tapping my face with his paw. For the first two weeks he purred while his head nestled his head under my chin. But the last two nights of his life, that even stopped.

I knew it was time to let him go when he struggled to jump off my bed and limped into a dark corner of my closet. He just stared at me with this sad, forlorn face. It was as if he was saying: "What are going to do about me? I am sick and tired of this."

When I picked him up out of that corner to take him him on his final journey, he felt like a rag doll--limp and barely alive. During the drive to the vet he uttered not one meow, which is unusual for this cat, because he was always quite loud and verbal. Instead, he pushed his head into my hand every time I touched him in the mesh carrier. At one point in the car, he looked up at the sunlight in the sky and I saw a look of contentment.

During our 35-minute ride, I told Gypsy rescuing him was one of the best decisions I had ever made. I explained that very soon, he was about to join his best buddy Tigger. And that was surely something he could get excited about--especially since his life had been full of misery and pain over the past three weeks.

As the vet sprawled him out on a cold, metal table during Gypsy's final moments, I looked deep into his eyes and said thank you for all the wonderful memories he gave me. I kissed his head and told him how much I loved him and how much I would miss him. And then I said, go ahead, it's time to join Tigger now. Won't that be fun?  With that, he gently and peacefully slipped away.


Gypsy and Tigger happy together in heaven
It seems that it is no coincidence that Gypsy died practically a year to the day that Tigger passed away. Of course, I miss Gypsy terribly. But I feel good that I acted decisively and decided to put him down swiftly rather than drag out his pain for weeks. Two days before he died, he had a good day, I wanted him to leave on a high note. The day before he died, he was in misery. I did the right thing.

It's only been six days since he's been gone. My last remaining rescue cat hasn't missed him a bit and clearly feels lucky that after all these years, he finally has me all to himself again.

Mango is 13 or 14 years old now. I know our days are numbered. And I treasure every one of them with him. But just like all my other cats, no one of them will be like my precious Gypsy boy, that I rescued after being thrown off a truck. Thanks, my little love, for seven years of great memories.



Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving--Now Turn Off Your Phone

Thanksgiving in 2014
I believe I can speak for most people when the thought of losing or breaking my iPhone, iPad or Mac laptop would give me a huge meltdown. I know this to be true because it has already happened on a few occasions. I have stood paralyzed by panic during such moments and wondered how we ever got through life without these gadgets.

That said, there are some days when you just have to bite the bullet and turn off the technology. Yes, that means disconnecting with the newsfeeds of your choice, the constant twitter and Facebook updates--everyone's got their own cyberspace addictions.

Today, you gotta just shut it all down. Thanksgiving is one of the few holidays in the United States that is not tied to any religous observance. It was created soley by our American forbearers--The Pilgrims--to gather family and friends together in order to catch up, laugh, eat, bond and give thanks to all that we have.

So if you dare bring your iPhone to the dinner table today, consider this photo-
shopped Norman Rockwell painting and ask yourself: What's wrong with this picture?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Looking Back

Every October I make sure to participate in at least one breast cancer event. Sometimes its simply a cocktail party fundraiser. Other times its a breast cancer walk. If my memory serves me correct, I've participated in six breasts cancer walks so far--four Susan G. Komen walks and two community walks--the most recent being the Seymour Pounding The Pavement For Pink 5K this month.

Elin Hilderbrand, Novelist
I do these things every October so that I never forget that back in 2008, I was battling breast cancer in a fight for my life. Today, in almost every way, life is back to normal. But then I hear of someone I know or admire who is just beginning their breast cancer battle.  My knee-jerk reaction is to reach out and assure them that the odds are on their side. That there will come a time when they'll be just like I am now--back to normal.

One such person who is currently in the throws of numerous breast cancer surgeries is a favorite novelist--Elin Hilderbrand. Almost every summer, I settle in by the pool or beach to read her stories that are always set in one of my favorite places--Nantucket. I love reading her books such as Barefoot, Summerland, The Castaways. It is a guilty pleasure to live vicariously through her characters entangled in romances and frought with challenges as they romp the beaches of this idyllic New England island.

Every time I see an update on her facebook page about yet another surgery and another complication because of her treatment, I feel her pain. And yet she refuses to let it paralyze her. She carries on, getting back to her desk and pounding away at her next novel, just days after getting out of Mass General Hospital.

It inspires me to soldier on whenever I am faced with daunting challenges today. I remind myself that by the grace of God, I am armed with good health now. So there's no excuse for ignoring unpleasant issues that must be dealt with.

I was very fortunate because I was cocooned in a supportive environment when I was battling breast cancer. Now that I am well, there are less people around to cheer me on when things get tough. That's when I realize how important it is to get outside myself and help another breast cancer survivor so I  don't get pissed off about having to deal with life on life's terms. I have to remind myself that I fought one hell of a battle. After that, whatever comes my way should be easier to face head-on.

So Elin, do exactly what you are doing now. Follow your doctors orders, get through your treatment and just keep on writing those great novels. Someday when you look back, you will realize today's
setback is merrily a bump in the road.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Making Peace With Your Body

As breast cancer survivors,  I am pretty sure there is one thing we all have in common--body image issues. Our issues about our bodies are very different from the women out there who believe they can never be thin enough.  Our angst goes beyond trying to camouflage a tummy bulge. Back in the day, I was horrified at the point in my life when I crossed over from a size 6 dress to a size 8. What I would do to have that problem now!

For us breast cancer survivors, striving to maintain a thin and toned body is only part of our self-image equation. We must make peace with the map of scars on our physicality that will mark us for life. When a new man sweeps me off my feet, I must come clean about how I beat this disease called breast cancer so there are no surprises. Lucky for me, baring my soul to a man before I bared my body has had no bad consequences. In fact, I believe my whole survivorship story elevates my appeal to some guys. 

But still. There is no erasing those scars. They will always be there. It is ironic that all the plastic surgery I got through breast reconstructive surgery has made me look a hell of a lot better in clothes. When I go to parties,  there have been women my age that have had a few too many drinks and blurted out: "How come your boobs are so perky?" I just give them a serene smile and reply: "It's my reward for battling breast cancer."

That's when I look at those women and weigh in: Saggy boobs versus scarred boobs--you be the judge. That's when I realize that when you get to be in your 50s, there is no way in hell you are ever going to rock a bikini like you did at 25--whether you had breast cancer or not. In middle age, we all have something going on with our body that doesn't look so hot. Before I had breast cancer, I had not one surgical scar on my body. But I did have some oversized boobs that I believe only made me look dumpy. That problem has since been solved. With my clothes on, today my boobs look mighty fine.

Now if only I could get back into a size 8.

Friday, September 5, 2014

My Memories of Joan Rivers

Joan Rivers and me at the Fashion Accessories Benefit Ball in 1998
I had the good fortune to interview and meet Joan Rivers during my tenure at Accessories magazine. I was working on a feature article about QVC and wrote a sidebar story on her entitled: "Can We Shop?" The minute I got on the phone to interview Joan, I couldn't stop laughing. For every answer to a question, she fired back fast and witty one-liners. My colleagues peeked into my cubicle to figure out why I was practically giggling on the floor.
No doubt about it, Joan was funny. But she had a whole other side the public never knew. The very week the story was published, she sent me flowers, a piece from her jewelry collection, and a signed copy of her latest book. Two months later, I met her at the Fashion Accessories Benefit Ball (pictured here). When I introduced myself, she reached out to shake my hand and said thank you for the press coverage once again.
I've interviewed plenty of high-profile people in my life, but none of them exhibited as much thoughtfulness as Joan Rivers. I was truly impressed at how she never took her fame for granted. She touched me with her gratitude and inspired me with her grace and style. RIP Joan Rivers. You were a remarkable survivor who epitomized class.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Out Of My Hands

When I was diagnosed with cancer, I felt this overwhelming sense of powerlessness. Previously in my life I had never so much as had a stitch or spent one night in a hospital. Then suddenly within a year, I was dealing with the incapacitating effects of chemo, coping with the pain of a mastectomy and feeling exhausted from radiation.

Before getting cancer, my only health problem was high cholesterol and being overweight--all things that I could control by eating better. But this cancer thing was not going to go away by simply going on a diet. The scary part was that even with all the treatments I was going through, there was no guarantee that I would end up cancer-free.

I realized half of what happens to me is simply out of my hands. So I might as well accept that as serenely as possible. We can't change it, so just shrug your shoulders and get on with it.

That said, we might as well seize what we can control to help get a positive outcome. For example, none of my doctors told me to eat better and exercise while I was battling cancer, but common sense tells me it can't hurt. Plus, when you feel as though your life is spinning out control, it helps when you are doing your part to manage the chaos.

Even today as I walk through life cancer-free, I am reminded of all things that I cannot control and realize the choices I make throughout the day can at least make some difference. After surviving cancer, it becomes more important to exercise your choice to build a better life.

Blogger's note: Reposting a post from a couple of years ago by popular request.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Samantha Harris's Double Mastectomy Choice Will Impact Lives

Samantha Harris, who once co-hosted Dancing With The Stars and is currently an Entertainment Tonight correspondent, has announced she will have a double-mastectomy after learning she has breast cancer.

Samantha is only 40 years old with two little girls--ages six and three. She represents the growing trend among younger women that are getting diagnosed with breast cancer. On ET last Friday night, she started sobbing as she read an email of support from a breast cancer survivor on her iPad.

Samantha Harris
I couldn't help but jump on to her facebook page and add my own encouraging comment. I told her I was six years cancer free, that I had chosen the most radical treatment route to battle breast cancer, and I believed that choice saved my life. I assured her she had made the right decision and before she knew it, life would be back to normal. I also suggested she use her fame to raise breast cancer awareness. By doing so, she could potentially save many lives.

Every time high-profile celebrities step up to the spotlight and announce not only that they have breast cancer, but have opted for a double mastectomy, I can't help but give them a huge shout-out on this blog. 

They help take the fear away from women who are faced with losing their breasts. They give them courage to choose a radical approach that will give them the best shot at surviving breast cancer. Not every women in the same shoes has that kind of the power.

My mother used to tell me, when you have the power, USE it. I am so happy Samantha Harris and so many other high-profile women of her generation have chosen to go public with their breast cancer battle. It is a growing epidemic among them after all.

Thoughts and prayers to you and your family, Samantha Harris. Trust me, you will do just fine.



Friday, February 21, 2014

Introducing Trash To Treasure DIY Decorating!

After four months, my website, www.trashtotreasurediydecorating.com has finally gone live!


The mission of this website is to inspire others to think twice about buying something new and reinventomg what they already have.

My tagline? Rescue. Repurpose. Restyle.

It is also targeted to flea market, tag sale and thrift shop addicts like me that are always on the hunt for junk that they can turn into upcycled gold. If that's what you are into, do please checkout my website.

I not only cover diy projects, I document how I am refreshing one room at a time in my home.

Thanks for your support!

www.trashtotreasurediydecorating.com

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Shirley Temple Black: Breast Cancer Awareness Pioneer

Blogger's Note:  My mother was named after Shirley Temple and mom is my hero. So is Shirley Temple because she was a breast cancer survivor pioneer, raising awareness about the disease way back in 1972. RIP Shirley Temple and thank you for talking about your breast cancer fight to the world.

Tuesday, 11 Feb 2014 11:03 AM
By Charlotte Libov
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Shirley Temple Black was an iconic child movie superstar who later became an important diplomat. But her greatest legacy may be her pioneering role in breast cancer awareness.
Black died Monday at age of 85. No cause of death was announced.
In 1972 she startled the world when she spoke out from her hospital bed in Stanford, Calif., where she was recuperating from a mastectomy to remove a cancerous tumor in her left breast. At the time, women – especially movie stars – didn’t generally talk about their medical problems in public.


Her openness led the way years later for Breast Cancer Awareness Month and the Susan G. Komen “Race for the Cure,” both of which are credited with saving thousands of women’s lives.'“My doctors have assured me that they are 100 percent certain the cancer is removed,” Black said at the time. “The only reason I am telling you this is to convince other women to watch for any lump or unusual symptom. There is almost certain cure for this cancer if it is caught early enough.”  
Black’s brave and candid approach to her illness was remarkable for the time. She told a reporter that she “reached up to feel the void” after her left breast was removed.
“It was an amputation, and I faced it,” she said.

After going public with her illness, she received 50,000 letters of support. Black’s decision to speak out helped pave the way for later high-profile breast cancer survivors including former first lady Betty Ford and Happy Rockefeller, both of whom wrote books on the subject in an effort to help other women with the disease.  
Her enduring contributions to women’s health were recognized as recently as two years ago, when the Journal for Women’s Health lauded her not only as the “first public figure to come forward and write about breast cancer,” but also for her contributions to the then-fledgling consumer health movement.

When Black underwent her surgery, women routinely went into the hospital thinking they were going in for a breast biopsy only to awaken from surgery to find their breasts gone.
Doctors and family members often believed women wouldn’t be able to handle the news if they were told prior to surgery that they needed a mastectomy. That mentality, thanks in part to Black’s efforts, is considered unacceptable today.    
Black wrote in McCall’s magazine that it was outrageous that women should not have the right to make their own decisions about treatment, saying, “The doctor can make the incision, I’ll make the decision.”


Read Latest Breaking News from Newsmax.com http://www.newsmaxhealth.com/Headline/shirley-temple-black-breast/2014/02/11/id/552144#ixzz2t3auuZIL
Alert: What Is Your Risk for a Heart Attack? Find Out Now

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Pursuing A New Passion

I apologize for my lack of posts lately but I am about to launch a new website, www.trashtotreasurediydecorating.com. The site showcases how I  have repurposed old furniture and home accessories and given these sorry pieces a new lease on life.

This has been a hobby of mine for years. But when I realized I'd been living in my townhouse for 10 years and each room needed some serious refreshing,  I started building the website as a way to document my progress and stay on track.

I hope to launch the website, tomorrow, January 19. Take a look! In this blog I have always advocated breast cancer survivors to find their passions and pursue them. It is a way of honoring the fact that you've been given a second chance in life.

I love writing. I love hunting through tag sales, flea markets and Goodwill to find old things and refinish them. This website ties all my passions together in one tidy bow.

Since we have all stepped into a new year, I invite you to think about what you REALLY love to do and just do it.

Marcy