Tuesday, April 17, 2007

I've held it together for this long...and right now I feel like a shell of what I should be...no...more like a dried husk.

I won't bore you with all of the details but about six months ago I had a pretty scary health moment. Over a period of 2-3 months I had three ultrasounds, an MRI, a CT scan, and an ultrasound guided biopsy. Praise God on high everything turned out just fine!

Recently I went in for my six month follow-up MRI. Again...they found "something". I had to have an ultrasound and they couldn't find the "something" on it. So now I have to have an MRI guided biopsy. I can only imagine that's an "in the machine...out of the machine...in the machine...out of the machine" procedure. I also had my 6 month follow-up CT scan yesterday...no results yet...and frankly I'm glad. I don't WANT any more results.

God has held me up and kept me strong during all of this. I know it's Him because strong is really not a word I would ever use to describe myself. I had a doctor tell me recently, "I'm sorry this ruined your Easter." WHAT? I said, "This didn't ruin my Easter! You can't ruin Easter!" And you know what is even more amazing to me that I said that? The fact that I BELIEVE it! How can you ruin God's promise of everlasting life?! He looked at me like I was nuts...whatever! His loss!

I've been no stranger to health scares for the last 5-6 years. They used to petrify me and render me absolutely useless. Now I can actually function and find myself FORGETTING about them most of the time. I have decided I will NOT live my life from crisis to crisis. I'm going to enjoy each and every day of life that God grants me.

Now, what is TRULY bothering me? Humphrey. Here is this gorgeous creature that God has placed in my care for the last ten years. The week Garry left for China Humphrey presented with a lump on his foot which turned out to be cancer. The toe was removed...it spread to his lymph nodes. He went through two different types of chemo...nothing. He had one big whompin' surgery on the 6th to remove one big whompin' lymph node. He came home the 9th...looking like Franken-Kitty with a huge scar and a lot of shaved areas...but he was still Humphrey. As the days went by he became more and more listless...ate less and less...finally stopped eating all together. We took him in yesterday and they gave him some fluids and some appetite stimulants. He was much happier...ate a little bit...but still not Humphrey. He went back to the hospital today where they are keeping him for 24 hours on an IV to completely rehydrate him. If he doesn't start eating on his own, they'll syringe-feed him. Sounds horrible...it isn't...they did that with Garth once and he bounced back just fine. So why am I so worried? They did an ultrasound and a biopsy of his liver today. There are cells present that don't belong there. They could be the start of fatty liver disease...or they could be the lymphoma that has spread. The sample was sent out to the lab and we'll know for sure tomorrow. At this point we are all praying for fatty liver disease because even though it is horrible it can be turned around. If it is lymphoma...well...the chemo doesn't work.

What do I *want* to do? I want to go outside, stand in the middle of the street, scream at the top of my lungs and throw rocks at cars. I want to toss every single thing off of my desk and slam it into the wall. I want to take a sledge hammer to the side of my house. What *will* I do? I'll continue to pray on Humphrey's behalf. I'll continue to believe that God knows what He is doing even though I can't fathom why we'd be going through this with yet another kitty in such a short time span. And of course, I'll cry. You know...I haven't until today...and they just won't stop.

Well, the phone just rang with my CT scan results. Praise God, everything is fine and I do NOT have to have any further follow-up having to do with that part of the problem. Which, strangely, makes me feel worse. Again, I can handle *my* scares...it's the ones where ANY of my kids are concerned that simply tear me up. I called Garry and gave him the good news...and then sobbed. He said, "It's ok to get good news. You don't have to feel guilty about YOU getting a good report. Your report and Humphrey's report are mutually exclusive events." I *know* he's right...but at this point in time, that doesn't make me feel any better.

So I guess while we're waiting for his results and while he's in the hospital I can go back to sleeping in my bed. Yes, I was sleeping on the bathroom floor with Humphrey. He had to be confined so he wouldn't pull his surgical staples out jumping, climbing stairs etc. I wanted to be with him every minute I could. If you think I'm nuts, there's nothing I can do to change your mind! He's my child and has been since God sent him to me all of those years ago. Deal with it!

Hope stayed home from preschool today. She's coming down with something. I was almost grateful. This morning was filled with chicken noodle soup, applesauce, Tylenol, and Vicks. It was almost a blessing having a patient who could TELL me what was wrong.

In her short life she has lost two of the only four kitties she has ever known...and believe me...she's worried about Humphrey too. Yesterday she said, "Mama? Is Humphrey going to be all right?" I told her the only truth I know..."I don't know. We just have to trust his doctors and keep praying."

She sees me going into hospitals and doctors' offices and she gets very nervous. "Daddy? Is Mama coming home?" I've told her over and over and over that good forever mamas and daddies always come home. I'm afraid Satan uses that line over and over in my head as I go through my medical tests. I am more afraid of leaving my two girls without a mother...again...than I am of what might be wrong with me. Then there is the logical portion of my brain...roughly the size of a pea...no surprise to anyone who knows me. I'm not exactly known for my logic...I'm more about the emotion. The logical portion of my brain keeps reminding me...you know...you've been lucky so many times...the odds are against you on this one...eventually you're going to get bad news.

So that's what's going on here! I don't tell you this for sympathy or kudos or prayers...I tell you because I needed to get it OUT of me...and blogging is cheaper than therapy!

For those of you who don't know Humphrey's story I will post it below. This version appeared at my now defunct website; Prayer, Praise & Peace! Take care y'all...until next time...

Angels Don't Necessarily Have To Be Human---by Mel and Barb

This is my very favorite personal angel experience. A lot of joy has come out of so much pain. Be forewarned...this one is a long one and has been known to bring tears!

My husband Garry and I have been making yearly pilgrimages to Williamsburg, Virginia for close to eight years now. At one point we were going up to 2 or 3 times a year. During our September of '96 trip we ran into a giant black ball of fur, purrs, and love named Humphrey. I fell madly in love with Humphrey and after spending close to ten days with him I sobbed when I had to leave him. Had he been a stray, he would have come home with us, but he belonged to the gents in the Harness and Saddlemaker's Shop. He was not only their friend, he was their mascot!

While we were driving home in the pitch black we were listening to the radio and the song called "Angels Among Us" by Alabama came on. I turned my head to the passenger window and started weeping, thinking about Humphrey, but never said a word or made a sound. Being the wonderful husband that he is, Garry reached over, touched my leg and said, "I think Humphrey was an angel sent down to you too."

When he suggested that we head back down in April of '97, I was ecstatic! I'd get to see Humphrey all that much sooner! As soon as we arrived in Colonial Williamsburg we made a bee-line for the garden behind The Cole Shop, the historical trade building where the harness and saddlemakers work. We searched and searched but couldn't find Humphrey anywhere. When we went into the shop and asked where he was, we were told that he had died the day before. We felt so horrible! The next few days we just kind of wandered around in a fog, and I felt like a real moron for reminding the poor guys that their buddy was gone!

When I got home I typed out the following letter and mailed it off to them:

April 21, 1997

Dear Gentlemen,

Words can not adequately express the sadness that I felt upon learning of the death of your wonderful cat, Humphrey. The grief that I felt was overwhelming...I can't even imagine what you must be going through. Had I known the answer, I most likely wouldn't have asked where he was when we visited the shop last week.

I had dubbed Humphrey my "surrogate cat" when I first met him in September of 1996. My husband and I had made our yearly two week trip to Williamsburg and I was missing my own pet terribly. Around dusk on one of our first nights there, we were exploring the garden behind The Cole Shop looking for a squirrel or some other sort of soft, furry creature to annoy when we were startled by a streak of black leaping from amongst the flowers. I said, "How did you know that I needed to see a kitty?" To which that streak of black replied, "Riouw!" This was our first encounter with dear Humphrey. He immediately walked over to me and looked up as if to say, "Well? Aren't you going to pet me?" I sat down on the steps of the laundry and as if he'd known me all of his life, pounced upon my lap, tags jingling! He settled in like he was right at home and that spot was where we met almost nightly for close to ten days. So many people would come through and ask if he were mine...I always responded the same, "No, he's everybody's cat." I have a feeling that Humphrey's reputation is known far and wide.

Humphrey was a fellow who knew what he wanted and wasn't afraid to demand it. He demanded to be loved and had no problem expressing his appreciation for it! He was possibly the kindest soul, feline or otherwise, that I have ever encountered. Humphrey was an exceptional feline, but I don't need to tell you that. I can only imagine that God needed a good lap cat and there was only one choice. I can just see the old boy nipping at His flowing robes for attention...can't you?

A donation will be made in Humphrey's name to a no kill shelter in our area. And if a stray massive ball of black fur ever wanders into our back yard we've already got a name picked out.

Again, I offer our sincere sympathy. When you hang his collar up at the shop, give the tags a jingle for me. Colonial Williamsburg has truly lost one of its best ambassadors.

Garry and Melissa

I had all but forgotten about that letter when the following letter arrived inside a beautiful sympathy card:

9 May 1997

Dear Melissa and Garry,

I don't quite know where to begin to thank you for your condolences about Humphrey. Before I started writing to you I read again your letter and my tears are back. Your letter is one of the most beautiful things I have ever read. All of us who loved Humpty passed around copies of the letter, and all of us cried together. You expressed so lovingly what we could not put into words. My first thought when I was told he was gone was why? I'm angry, very angry with God. And then, later on the 17th of April, I thanked God for letting me know and love Humpty for even the short time I knew him. I used to go down on my lunch break every day to sit and snuggle with him. Sometimes he'd be visiting his friend across the street and I would have to miss him. But I can't tell you how many times Humpty got me smiling again.

Did you notice he had little, tiny, golden spots on the top of his head? Those were his "angel kisses"--now I know he is on a heavenly lap just as you said.

Eric, the Englishman at The Harness Shop, took Humpty home and buried him under a white azalea bush. That is the only bush that is ablaze with blooms according to Eric.

I've enclosed the "obit" I had put in the CWF news. Plus two pictures of happier times. (That's me with my boy)

Thank you both so much for caring to write. Your words and thoughts touched us deeply.

Greenhow Store
Colonial Williamsburg

You can't imagine how touched I was to receive the card, letter, pictures and obit of my surrogate kitty. On the back of one of the pictures, Barbara had written, "Humphrey, The Angel Kitty.

But wait! There's more!!!

In June of 1997, we went to Petsmart to get some food for our rather large and very spoiled cat Garth who was six at the time. As usual, I ended up cooing at all of the animals that they had up for adoption. There was a cage of little black and white kittens and I was petting them and talking to them and basically doing my own thing. All of them were rubbing all over me except one who was in the back of the cage sleeping. I don't know why I did this, but I said, "Humphrey? Is that you?" The little sleeping one stood up, yawned, walked up to the cage door, and kissed my face. Under his chin was a white spot that was exactly the size of a white azalea bloom. Yes, I started to cry again and he came home with us.

Things weren't all that rosy for quite awhile after that. He was very sick for almost his entire first year of life. Our vets told us that they were really kind of surprised that he lived through it. It's really just been in the last six months or so that Garth has finally decided that he likes him and we've had him for three years now! We, of course, named him Humphrey and as near as our vets can determine, he was born the same week that Humphrey Sr. died.

When we went back to Williamsburg in September of '97 I was determined to meet Barbara and thank her for her kindness. We stopped in The Greenhow Store several times a day for an entire week before I spotted someone that "kind of" looked like the pictures she had sent. When I walked up to the counter she didn't look like she was having a very good day. She was rolling her eyes and letting out these huge sighs! When I finally mustered up enough courage to approach her I kind of whispered, "Are you Barbara?" She said, "Who wants to know?!"

Ok...I'm really scared now! I said, "I'm Melissa. You sent me the sympathy card for Humphrey." Her whole demeanor changed dramatically! She almost jumped over the counter trying to get to me! She grabbed hold of my hands and wouldn't let go! The first thing she asked me was, "Have you met Ralph?"

"Umm...no," I replied. "But I did meet Murphy!" (Murphy is the new ball of black fur that now resides at The Saddler's!)

She said, "You've got to meet Ralph and see what he did!" She grabbed me and off the three of us went down the street in search of Ralph. (We never did find him!)

We stopped at The Shoemaker's Shop and were introduced to Donna, who had first rescued Humphrey and brought him to The Saddler's. She told me that she had a copy of my letter framed at her house. Then she took us down to meet Eric, who was Humphrey's Dad. He wasn't in the shop, but he was in the building behind the shop that used to be the laundry, now it's like their break room and off limits to the public. She banged on the door and in we went!

She introduced Garry and I to him as "the author's of THE letter". She then showed us what Ralph had done and I REALLY started to weep. Ralph had taken two pictures of Humphrey, a copy of his obit, and my letter, and had them professionally matted and framed. It now hangs in the break room.

One last "angelic" moment before this story ends. I had taken pictures of my Humphrey to show Barb and when she looked at them she was speechless. She then produced pictures of her cat Dinger who was born at the exact same time as our Humphrey; was abandoned exactly like my Humphrey; and they are absolutely identical. My chin actually dropped. If I didn't know better I would have sworn that she was showing me pictures of my very own cat!

In closing, Barb and I have been through a lot together AND separately since then. I love her dearly and she is truly one of the most wonderful people I have ever met. My life is so much better with her in it! I love you Barb...and your kitties too! = )

---Copyright 1997, 2000 Barb and Mel
The song "Angels Among Us" can be found on the player at the bottom of the page. Treat yourself to a listen.

1 comment:

Carolina said...

Since no one 'cared' to leave a comment I will!
This truly is the most wonderful story and I'm glad I kept tissues by my side. I know now what you meant when you wrote that you are a person of feelings and that the rational part of your brain is peasized. (Oh, and Gary sounds like a fantastic man!)
I am sooooo glad that you didn't have some scary disease and I'm happy for you that you find so much comfort in your faith.
And I'm also very happy for you that you knew Humphrey. Who said that it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all? Although I would really love to have loved and kept some of my loved ones, it is probably true. This is a very touching story and I really don't believe in coincidence.

Lots of hugs and xx

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