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  • Writer's pictureallieyohn

Writing while dealing with illness(es)

My blog has been pretty quiet this year. To be honest, I haven't had much to say about writing as I've barely done any. Most of my time the last several months has been devoted to illnesses- my own and that of our beloved pet Aussie named Scorch.

My illness is hard to talk about, mainly because, as of yet, we don't know what's causing the symptoms I have. For a while fibroids, early menopause, perimenopause, polyps, and uterine/ovarian/cervical cancer have been contenders. Some of those have been ruled out with further testing (or mostly ruled out as a couple need biopsies which I'll hopefully get by the end of the month). In the meantime we don't know what's wrong with me. At least the doctor and I can both agree I'm ill, a refreshing change from the way some women with similar issues are treated.

I'm anemic and constantly exhausted. I've joked that I finally understand what vampires go through because I've found myself nauseatingly hungry at the smell of rare red meat.

Before the last few months I rarely ate any meat but turkey or chicken. With the way bodies use iron, I have to eat some red meat every day and take iron supplements twice a day to barely function.

It's depressing and debilitating. Some of the testing needed is not something I can do without heavy medication and/or sedation due to trauma. For example- the reason I have to wait until the end of the month for biopsies? When they tried to do the biopsy with only valium in my system I had a panic attack severe enough they had to stop. Now I'll have to do the same procedure under general anesthesia. When I sit down to write my brain is foggy. I have a hard time keeping a train of thought. With the depression aspect of it, I feel as though my writing matters to no one but me so what's the point? I fight the battle of pushing people away or of holding them too close- my moods and feelings are all over the place constantly.

Worse than my own illness is that of our beloved Scorch. We adopted Scorch with her sister, Mercury, nine years ago. They have been best friends since birth with poor Scorch being the runt of the litter. Being the runt came with a whole host of health issues. Scorch has had:

  • Valley Fever (twice. The first time her weight got down to 25 lbs. She should've been around 50)

  • Addison's Disease (her body didn't make Cortisol. It's pretty uncommon in dogs and she had to take steroids to combat it)

  • Gallbladder sludge

  • Pancreatitis

  • and Diabetes, which we found out when she went into Ketoacidosis and almost died

The diabetes was discovered right before Christmas when Scorch became critically ill. She spent days in the emergency vet with round-the-clock care while they tried to stabilize her. We were relieved she was able to come home for Christmas Eve as she'd always loved Christmas. Every year you could find her laying under the tree staring up at the lights and ornaments with a smile on her face.

For the last few months we've changed every part of our daily routine:

  • My wife had to get up over and hour early to test Scorch's blood sugar as I initially couldn't- the sight of her blood made me woozy.

  • We had to track the time of every medication given (she was on 9 in the morning and 4 in the evening).

  • We had to dispense medications on a certain schedule related to the time she was fed, including learning how to give insulin.

  • We had to change the food she was eating to one that wouldn't spike her blood sugar or aggravate her gallbladder. Scorch hated that- she's always been a picky eater and we had a hard time getting her to adjust to a new food.

  • And we had to track all of this information in a spreadsheet to send to her internal medicine doctors every week.

When any part of this routine butted up against my established writing times (which is did basically every day), it was easy to choose Scorch over my writing. It's a choice I made without hesitation or regret, though I didn't have a lot of time each day to write to begin with. Last week we finally got her blood sugar stabilized enough that we could see the light at the end of the tunnel. Imagine- being able to do such small things as take her to grooming again (impossible while her blood sugar was unstable as it could cause it to spike) or letting her see our friends (same issue).

Sometimes you can do everything right and still find it's not enough. Wednesday morning started well. Scorch's blood sugar was stable and she was playing with Mercury. Then she regurgitated food in the afternoon, and again in early evening. My wife rushed her to the emergency vet (during a storm that made visibility on the freeway extremely low) where she was admitted overnight. Her liver values had gone from 350 in January to over 6,000.

I'd love to say that, once again, the emergency vets and internal medicine doctors were able to put our fragile pup back together again. I'd be lying.

Her blood pressure dropped overnight and by the next morning she had an assigned nurse sitting with her every minute as she was critically ill. The first ultrasound didn't reveal anything to explain the liver issues. They did also find a massive bacterial infection when they did bloodwork.

As we were driving to the vet early Thursday afternoon, they were doing a more detailed ultrasound. They called us right as we pulled into the parking lot to find out how far away we were.

We knew in that moment that we likely weren't ever bringing Scorch home again.

The ultrasound revealed Scorch's gallbladder had begun leaking. Surgery was, at best, a 50/50% chance on a healthy dog and Scorch was unstable. Her blood pressure issues were pronounced enough they were afraid to give her pain medicine until we arrived as they were worried it would crash again.

While the doctor was willing to attempt the surgery if we wanted, we knew we couldn't ask Scorch to go through yet another procedure. Holding on to her any longer would've been selfish and cruel. We brought Mercury in with us to say goodbye to her. Then we petted and soothed her as she was laid to rest. I've been trying to write in the last couple of days as Scorch always loved it when I did. She liked sitting under my desk and wagging her tail as I tapped away. She loved jumping up for a hug when I finished something. During NaNo she'd get into a routine of herding me to my desk (once I had an established pattern of write-in times) to make sure I was where I was supposed to be.

Writing anything fiction right now feels as impossible as Sisyphus pushing a boulder up a hill expecting to reach the top.

At some point in the future I know they'll figure out what is wrong with me and we'll either fix it, or we'll determine it can't be fixed. I'll continue grieving Scorch until the pain is a dull ache rather than a raging fire in my heart. My urge to work on my novel revisions or a short story will strike me again. I'll sit down at my keyboard and happily write.

For now though, I'm going to lay the boulder to the side of the road and concentrate on remembering the best dog anyone could ever have. I'm going to concentrate on existing. And I'm going to give myself the grace I'd give anyone else to say I'm not giving up- I'm merely taking a break.

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Anita Kendall
Anita Kendall
Mar 05, 2023

I'm so, so sorry you're going through so much and that you lost such a precious part of your family. Keeping you all in my heart as you work through your grief, and your illness.

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