As I sit here on the eve of my 51st birthday, I feel compelled to reflect and recap this past year of changes, experiences, discoveries, adventures, and challenges. Turning 50 and the months that followed, was epic and not to mention, overwhelming.
To kick off my “50th birthday”, Jamison and I started with running, ok, so it wasn’t really running, but it wasn’t walking either…I prefer to call it “slogging” (a slow jog) a half marathon in Corning, New York. This was a race that we were both terribly untrained to run due to nothing more than our own lack of effort and maybe too much traveling and eating. We were hell-bent to mark off one more state in our “50-State Race Challenge”, no matter what. Having registered for this race many months prior, we opted to just grin and bear through it and hope we could at least finish. It wasn’t glamorous or even respectable in comparison to our races of years prior, but we gutted it out for the sake of prosperity. That and we were driving through New York anyways on our way to JFK airport for our upcoming Europe trip….that’s REALLY why we ran that race!
After the above race, we headed to JFK airport in NYC where we embarked on our amazing 16-day adventure to Eastern European to visit Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Slovenia, Italy, Austria and Germany. The special highlight for me was a side trip to the small village where my great-grandparents were born, married, and ultimately left during WWI, Mezzacorona, Italy (formerly Austria). It had always been a dream of mine to go there since I am fascinated with my Italian ancestry. I still can’t believe that I stood in the very church where they were married. The entire trip went off without a hitch, utterly perfect in every way and Jamison planned every last detail to perfection. Every country was unique and special and I could spend weeks writing about this journey! My blog post on the plane home from Europe
After recovering from the trip, I underwent spinal surgery, ten days after turning 50, to have a fusion of my cervical 4-5-6 area to repair stenosis and nerve damage that resulted from being thrown from a horse in 1997. This surgery that was long overdue and the condition was affecting my quality of life. I put it off because I didn’t want to stop running, but mostly because I was scared shitless to have surgery on my c-spine. I knew that it would be very difficult to start back up running as I was required to take six to twelve months off from running. That is tough for someone who is active and relies heavily on fitness and exercise in lieu of medication for my autoimmune disease (Sjorgren’s Syndrome). I finally got up the courage to get it done and inasmuch as I hate that I’ve lost my fitness, gained 20 pounds, and can barely run, I almost wish that I hadn’t waited so long to do it. My pain has improved significantly despite my loss of fitness. I’m trying to make a comeback, but the effort has not yielded favorable results. I will not give up. I will be back. I feel like I’ve never ran a single step. Everything hurts, everything is stiff, I get discouraged, and then I stop. Then I go back to ground zero and do it all again. Finding motivation is the hardest part, but I’m not throwing in the towel. Now that I’ve been cleared with no further restrictions as of last week, perhaps I will rise from the ashes once and for all.
Early 2017 was exciting too. We took a fun cruise with some awesome friends that we met on our last cruise and made some spectacular memories during this trip. To start, there had been an unfortunate shooting at the Fort Lauderdale airport the day before our arrival, causing the terminal to be closed. At the last minute, we rented an SUV and made the long drive to Florida and hit a blizzard that hit the southern states. Yes, a freaking blizzard. It was a brutally long and slow drive to Fort Lauderdale and one that actually stranded us on interstate I-75 outside of Charlotte, NC, for three solid hours, completely stopped, while emergency crews cleaned up the aftermath of a jackknifed semi. Luckily, we had a full tank of gas, an empty cup to pee in, and some sort-of warm clothing (we were headed for a cruise, so not much in the line of warm). We cat-napped while we waiting for some sign of movement in traffic.
After returning home from the cruise, we anxiously and excitedly awaited our next adventure…Savannah cat ownership. We had bought/reserved a Savannah kitten from a breeder in Alabama. We were to receive the kitten on February 15th via Delta airlines. After 13 weeks of anticipation, we received an email on Valentine’s evening from the breeder that the entire litter had been killed by another cat. I won’t go into the bogus b.s. that transpired from this “story” (we don’t believe that the kitten actually ever existed). The long and short of it is, that we were able to get a refund and buy another kitten from a reputable breeder in Maine. We waited for this new kitten to mature and on March 23rd, I flew to Boston to pick her up. Her name is Luna and she is the best kitten/cat ever. We bonded and fell in love with her over the next month, only to find out that she had a rare and fatal disease called “Feline Infectious Peritonitis” (FIP). Luna was given 1-2 weeks to live. We were devastated and there was no way I was giving up on our little angel. I spent hours upon hours researching this dreaded disease and started calling several major veterinary colleges in the U.S. looking for clinical trials or new innovations. Time was running out and Luna grew sicker each day. Lo and behold, I got a call back from UC Davis in Sacramento, CA with news of a new trial that was about to start and how soon could we get Luna there? This was on a Sunday and we had her there that Thursday. Luna was administered an antiviral drug of a human form that I cannot yet disclose. She responded immediately and we were able to take her home after 5 days. 84 injections later, Luna became the first privately-owned cat to be treated with this drug…and now, seemingly cured of FIP. Luna’s FIP Story.
As I neared the closing of my 50th birthday year, September 2017, I got a new granddaughter; my second grandchild and I was there to witness it (like I was with the first one). Being able to make it to Maryland now twice to witness these two beautiful baby’s births is a dream come true for this mamma/grand mamma (and OB nurse). While I’m on the subject of grandchildren, I will announce that grand baby #3 is due to arrive on April 1, 2018 (to my son Ryan and his girlfriend Ashley). I hope that I get to help guide this baby’s safe transition into the world as well, should that be their desire. Here’s the comical part of grand #2’s arrival: I got the call that labor was in full swing at 4:22 a.m. My husband had me booked on a direct flight that was leaving at 6:45. We were at the airport by 5:15 and I was on the ground by 7:30. My son and his actively laboring wife, swung by the airport and got me on their way to the hospital! The timing could not have been better.
To close out the year of the big 5-0 and to celebrate Luna’s cure of FIP, we decided to add a second kitten to the family so that she could enjoy the company of a buddy. Over the course of Luna’s treatment, we had met another breeder, also in the Sacramento, CA area. He wanted to gift Luna a buddy Savannah, a most generous gift after all we had been through! So…back to California we went to pick up our new kitten. Upon arrival to the cattery, another older kitten attached to us. We simply could not leave him behind, there was no way. Despite not being financially prepared to buy another Savannah, we were able to rob Peter to pay Paul with our funds (literally…the breeder’s name is Paul) and made it happen. We came home with two more Savannah’s instead of one, for a total of three in our house! For the first 5 days it was like living on the set of Wild Kingdom as we kept the cats separated while our two newbies acclimated. After the 5th day, we opened the doors and let them duke it out. “Wild Kingdom” because “Born Free” and now we are a happy Savannah cat family.
In summary, what I can safely say is that I certainly do not “feel 50-51”. I’d like to think it’s my healthy choices, but I’m not quite convinced that I didn’t just get lucky. I’m grateful for all that is good, for all the lessons I’ve learned from the not-so-good, and I continue to have hope, patience, and tolerance for what still needs work. Every day is an adventure to be cherished.