The Hemp Connection + women's health

A huge reminder of the importance of mindfulness

I've never experienced infertility. I was overweight as a child/teen, but I've been the same weight for most of my adult life. I'm relatively healthy. I'm not saying this to intimidate anyone, but rather to share an insecurity I've had about what I do for a living.

I always wonder how in the world women who have those issues can even find me relevant and helpful if I've never had to experience them?

The last two months have presented me with a situation that, even though it may not be apparent on the outside, has very much changed me on the inside. I've learned a lot about control, gratitude, and what is truly important in life.

And I feel like this journey, challenging as it is, is molding me into someone better equipped to help the people who come to inCYST for help.

Regular readers of the blog will remember that I wrote about my sick kitty in October. I thought I was dealing with a simple urine crystal issue that a diet change would fix. I'm a dietitian, I know how to change diets. This was simple, or so I thought.

Well, Rodeo simply never recovered from the crystal incident. He would not eat. He became lethargic. About a month after the vet visit, I noticed, he just wasn't breathing well. Being the data fiend that I am, I started monitoring his respirations. They seemed stable, so I figured maybe he was allergic to the new diet he'd been prescribed for his urine crystals. I changed back to the old diet and waited to see if he responded.

Then he crashed. I got the last appointment on a Friday evening with his vet, and learned that he was dealing with one of four potential diagnoses. One was a fungal infection (no problem), one of those was a 100% fatal virus (that would require euthanasia), one was cancer (fatal over time), one was heart disease (manageable but life-shortening).

I had to wait almost a week for the pathology report to come back, and to get an appointment for an ultrasound with a cardiologist. (Yes, my cat has more specialists in his Rolodex than I do at this point).

The good news is, it's not the fatal virus, and it's not cancer, but it is heart disease, and it's a serious problem. There is no cure, but there is a lot I can do to manage the situation.

Sound familiar?

I told the vet,"If you can give me heart disease, I'll take heart disease. I can do that." Two sentences I never, ever envisioned coming out of my mouth at any point in my life.

I can tell you this. I have a reputation for being pretty even-keeled in even the most adversarial of situations. During my eating disorder treatment center gig, it was not uncommon for cans of Ensure to be flung my way after a tough counseling session. Nothing phases me after that!

But the night I came home from the vet with a couple of medications and no idea what was happening, I laid on my bed and cried my heart out. I didn't even notice that Rodeo had jumped up on the bed. He felt like crap, and he was sitting there trying to take care of me. I realized, of my two kitties, he is the one most affected by my emotions. And here he was, more concerned about me than about the X-ray, the aspiration, and all the poking and prodding he'd been through.

That was reality check #1. I knew I needed to allow myself to feel what I was feeling, but I needed to learn how to do it in a way that didn't turn itself back on the problem in a negative way.

As I imagine has happened with many of you, my life changed in a mere instant. I became hyper aware of respiratory rates, fluid intake, food intake, urine output, medication times…my life was filled with new details I had no choice but to learn to live with.

Even though I run a business, it's the holidays, and I had committed to coordinating vendors for a huge market here in Phoenix. Even though my five major plans for December revenue pretty much collapsed within days of getting the kitty diagnosis. Somehow, I had to figure out how to make it all work.

This is where I started thinking of all of you. How many of you readers are busy, successful women, juggling a million different responsibilities, happily living out your lives…when you're told you have to start monitoring what you eat, when you eat it, when you ovulate, when you menstruate, what your blood glucose number is…and on top of it all, every expert on the planet expects you to figure out when to work out, to plan the perfect meal combination, each and every meal, to buy the supplements, and on top of it, manage your anxiety, frustration, and anger over the situation?

Do these health professionals even have a clue? Did I ever have a clue with any of my clients I thought I was helping with inCYST? That's what's been going on in my head in the two months since Rodeo's diagnosis.

Reality check #2 for me was realizing what I was doing any time I had a free moment, especially during the week when I didn't know what I was dealing with. I found myself surfing the Internet, Googling symptoms, reading everything I could find about lymphoma and cardiomyopathy, looking for the worst in kitty, looking for anyone, anyone at all, who could tell me that there was a supplement or pill I could give him that would just make this all go away.

That behavior is known as magical thinking. It is a very common thing to do when faced with a situation that leaves you feeling cornered. Getting older. Cancer. Weight that won't come off. Infertility. It's about trying to find something, anything at all, that can give you the illusion that you're in control of something. Note that I used the word illusion. You're really not in control. You've transferred your need to be in control of outcome to a concrete, more manageable option. That's all. The only thing magical thinking succeeds at, is allowing us to avoid the pain of a situation. In many cases, it keeps us distracted from constructive and helpful things we can be doing.

So…knowing from working with all of you that this is what I was doing, I told Rodeo's vet what I do for a living, that I'm a real biochem nerd, and that I was probably dealing with my stress by reading waaay too much about cardiomyopathy. I told him at any time I was becoming annoying and intefering with his treatment plan and Rodeo's progress, he had permission to put me in my place. We negotiated a few things I wanted to try, one we're using, most we're not.

And I am adhering completely to what the doctor ordered. Even if it means staying up past my bedtime to get a med in, even if it means passing on a social invitation if it interferes with the treatment plan, even if it means using money I wanted to spend on something else to buy medication. The vet is not cheap. But he's incredibly smart. If kitty is going to get better, I can't be bargaining with him because of the inconvenience the instructions impose on my life as I wish it was.

Reality check #3 has been about how much control issues can be triggered when life throws a curve ball. We can do everything exactly perfectly. And Rodeo has a bad day. Or Rodeo can go dumpster diving, eat a fish head, throw it up, and be perfectly fine. At least for a day. How Rodeo feels today, is not at all about what I did for him this morning. It is about the consistency of what we do over time.

Oh, I'm so embarrassed to even be saying this, but this simple reality took me awhile to"get". I wanted him to always breathe perfectly. To eat when I gave him the food. To love the deli turkey. It doesn't happen that way. Some days he eats like he's the size of Zenyatta, other days, nothing strikes his fancy. I have had to learn to roll with it, and to not view one incident as failure, but as a challenge to figure out what another option might be.

On the days when things don't go as planned, I have to adjust my life. Yesterday morning, for example, meds did not go in at 8 am as scheduled. I spent 4 hours getting them in, but realizing that the four hours it took to make that happen was four hours I'd planned to spend making my contribution for a holiday potluck I was to attend tonight…I made the choice to cancel my attendance, focus on medication, and spend the evening tonight taking care of myself here at home.

Reality check #4. You know what happened when I stopped stressing about how I was going to do both the medications and the potluck and OMG what happens if I'm at the potluck and he bottoms out?!?!?! Rodeo settled in to one of the absolute best respiratory patterns and ate better for me than he did all week. I suspect he picked up on my more relaxed demeanor and was able to put energy into himself that he was putting into me. Some of the things I am inadvertently doing affect kitty as much, if not more, than the things I am supposed to be doing.

Reality check #5. I sometimes find myself getting annoyed at people complaining about things that now seem minor in the big scheme of things. All these people complaining about having to much to do for Christmas? In my eyes they are lucky they are able to participate. I have to remind myself, their situations are different and even though I might envy them, in their own scenarios are lessons from the Universe in action that may not include a cat. Still working on that one.

There are many early Christmas gifts this situation has brought me.

First of all, I have kitty happily sleeping on the bed today. He doesn't fit into a stocking and probably wouldn't consent to it if he did…but he's here compliments of two of Santa's finest elves…er…angels in elves' clothing, Dr. Oyan and Dr. Paige.

Secondly, my priorities, as healthy as I thought they were, needed some addressing. I have been able to let go of situations that I simply have no time to accommodate. I have more time to myself, since I'm home more, and that has given me quiet time to think about what inCYST will be for all of you in 2011. I hope you like the inspirations you'll see in the next 12 months.

Thirdly, I feel like I have a much better idea of what it is that you all need from inCYST in the first place. I am still at a disadvantage for not having experience every single thing you all have exactly as you have, but I have been humbled, I'm dealing with a challenge, and it cause me to consider every inCYST choice I make in an entirely different fashion. Humility is never a bad thing on which to base intention.

Fourthly, I've learned that it's not always bad if success has to be redefined. Of course I'd love it if there was a cure for cardiomyopathy. But there isn't. I can be angry about it, not follow the vet's instructions because I managed to find an obscure website on the Internet that contradicted them, turn to supplements which would put more control in my hands than his, or do nothing and hope the Calgon cardiomyopathy fairy will just swoop in and whisk us away to Kitty Tahiti.

None of that is going to happen. I got over it, decided to listen to the vet, and to redefine success as staying informed, being proactive and communicative with new information, and to the best of my ability, prioritize my life so that I can enact the recommendations I've been provided with. It's slowly turning things around. Not curing them. But, gratefully, allowing kitty to breathe. Oxygen in heart cells…is a lot more important than a complete and total cure. We have learned to think simply.

Finally, I still don't know what it is like to be infertile, not be able to lose weight, or live with insulin resistance. But at least I am more aware of how important it is to always remember that no matter who are you are, when you look to inCYST for help, guidance, support, inspiration, your story, especially the part we don't know about, or cannot immediately relate to, is important to consider in everything we say and do.

I hope all of you are enjoying your holiday season, whatever customs you practice.

One last thing. To all of my friends who are tired of hearing me talk endlessly about the cat, now that he's stabilizing I can get back to the gym and put the stress there. I appreciate all of your ears and support.

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A huge reminder of the importance of mindfulness + women's health