Something really big is coming our way. I don’t know what it is, but something really big is coming, and I feel it coming soon. It’s the next chapter in my dog loving life.
It was the summer of 2017 and those are the exact words I said aloud to my wife. This blog is called Fidose of Reality and there are so many things I am now wanting and able to share so that you, my family of followers, readers, friends, and dog lovers of the highest order know what’s going on in my life and where I am headed. Here’s our (fi)dose of reality:
Feelings…Nothing More Than Feelings
In the fall of 2017, within the span of one week, my wife learned she had lung cancer and my dog was diagnosed and hospitalized for a life-threatening immune-mediated disease.
I told my wife, Darlene, that I still felt something big was coming, and that this wasn’t the end of our uncertain news brigade. Do you ever get that inner feeling that something isn’t right, you cannot put your finger on it, but you know or sense that something is about to change, and maybe that something is even for the better? I was getting that feeling in epic, overwhelming waves.
We Will Survive
Darlene was diagnosed with stage 1 adenocarcinoma of the lung. During a routine pre-op chest x-ray before kidney stone removal surgery, a few unremarkable nodules appeared. Although her family doctor recommended watchful waiting and just following them because apparently millions of people have lung nodules these days, Dar wanted reassurance and not to just sit and wait. I agreed then and now, thank Dog. We aren’t people to sit and let grass grows under our feet.
Bottom line: A CT scan to assess the lung nodules evolved into a PET scan due to two suspicious areas with an eventual lung biopsy at a cancer center. Adenocarcinoma, early stage, no spread to lymph nodes was the diagnosis. During the fall of 2017 and eventual holiday season, we spent much of Thanksgiving week and Black Friday at the cancer center where Dar received five separate high dose radiation treatments. The treatments are not the typical radiation, but rather akin to cyber knife where highly targeted radiation attacks the cancer with a 90% success rate versus 100% success rate to dissect and remove it.
Option B for cancer removal involved a procedure called VATS, which is basically where they shut your lungs down, remove the offending nodules and surrounding tissue, and you spend nearly a week in the hospital to recover with a solid three month recovery. It isn’t for the weak of heart, but Dar had this procedure a year earlier for when the nodules were first discovered. We learned from much research and talking to the pros, that you want to preserve lung tissue.
For the next several years, as has been the case since late 2016, Darlene must undergo CT scans of the chest every 3 months. She has many lung nodules, and as stated, apparently this is a more than common occurrence in people these days. Doctors are finding them due to the advancement of technology and CT scans, PET scans, MRIs, etc.
If there is any change in shape or rapid growth rate, a PET scan will follow and if the areas light up, then a biopsy to determine if it is cancer or not. The nodules, by the way, are millimeters in size.
After struggling with anxiety and sheer terror at this lifelong sentence, I came to this conclusion: The alternative is much worse. If we let this go and Dar ignored her desire and innate need to know what was happening, this would advance and be more of a struggle to control.
We’ve learned of a term called scanxiety where folks, like Dar, must be scanned in regular intervals and the not knowing simply sucks. It is that not knowing that can consume a person’s thought process. I know because it has consumed me for a very long time. We never shared any of this on social media.
My wife is a warrior. She prefers not to talk about stuff like this with friends and on social media and to just deal with it. Me, I am the talky, feely, let me talk to someone so I don’t fall apart type of person. She told me not to share the news but that if I needed to deal with it, then to form a private and confidential support group of friends. Yes, that’s my wife: Facing cancer and worried about my own feelings. So a private group of friends was formed, learned of the news, and they even wore custom bracelets during her fight. I will never forget the generosity and love they showed and continue to show.
The 3-month scan in February of 2018 showed the two cancerous nodules were gone and the radiation was a success. I cannot begin to tell you the sheer joy and gratitude we felt and continue to feel. The next scan and oncology visit is late May. Bear with me and keep reading because this will evolve into where I am headed career wise. These are the most frequently asked questions we have received:
- Is or was Dar a smoker? She quit over 25 years ago, but yes, she smoked cigarettes for many years. We don’t know if that caused this issue with the nodules. It could be because we live in an area where asbestos in schools was the norm growing up. We live in an area where radon testing in homes was not the norm until we were adults. We just won’t ever know.
- Can nonsmokers get lung nodules and/or lung cancer? Yes! We are told that a large percentage of people with lung cancer have never smoked nor been around smoke.
- How can I prevent this from happening to me? Don’t wait until you have symptoms. Trust your gut. Insist on further testing if in this situation. By the time there are outward symptoms, the cancer is generally a higher stage. Dar had NO symptoms.
- Why are we talking about this now? To help others and to share our journey.
So we deal as it comes, make healthy lifestyle modifications, and live life to the fullest. We cannot let scanxiety rule our emotions and we won’t, despite my own ease at succumbing to it as the re-scan date approaches. Due diligence and quarterly followup is now a part of our lives. Catching things early, if there is anything to be caught, is the key to tackling this head on. She also had every test known to mankind to assure nothing had spread. It hadn’t. Thank Dog.
During this time period, as stated, our dog, Dexter, was diagnosed with a very aggressive immune system disease, for which he is now in remission. We get by with a lot of help from our friends.
Things Come in Threes
Remember that “something big” feeling I just could not shake? Boom! It happened.
In March of 2018, I learned that my position at BlogPaws under Chewy’s leadership would be eliminated. For those who do not know, I was the Marketing/PR/Social Media Manager at BlogPaws for close to seven years. My family and I, Dexter included, attended all 10 BlogPaws Conference and I helped to grow the community and company to the social media pet industry icon it is today.
When I engage in something and for something that is my passion, it never feels like work. BlogPaws never felt like work to me because I loved what I did. I worked remote, as I have since 2001, and I found my place in the world.
This was my third layoff from a full-time employee position over the years at three separate companies, all as a result of corporate acquisitions and mergers. I began to realize that full-time employment is not necessarily the secure future it once was…at least for me.
One thing I have learned in my life after three corporate mergers with eventual layoffs: It’s not the action of the corporations that define you…it’s how you react, rise up, reinvent, and own your destiny that says it all. I will never walk away from something that is in my DNA and I feel so strongly about. I am never leaving the pet blogging world. I can’t change some things, but I can change me and my direction so that I am a part of this amazing tribe that I love from the bottom of my heart. Pet bloggers, unite, our time is now. We are a force with which to be reckoned. I wish nothing but success for the company I helped to grow.
The second thing I learned from this experience is that losing your job pales in comparison to the thought of losing your spouse and dog. Jobs can be replaced. People and pets cannot.
I worked my final BlogPaws Conference in Kansas City, Missouri the week of April 17th and now I can focus on new horizons and that inner “big” feeling I’ve been hinting about. The friends and pet blogger pals I have made along the way will not go away; they are an essential part of who I am. The cool thing about this BlogPaws Community is the friendships and bonds form do not end with the closure of my full-time employment. I am not bitter and I am feeling pretty darned blessed these days.
The “big” thing that was due to descend on my life was not the news of family health issues nor job loss….it is to finally follow my heart, my passions, my goals, and forge my own way.
What Do You Do With an Idea?
- Helping people, including dog parents and pet bloggers
- Working with pet industry brands I trust and love
- Working remote in my fully functioning home office
- Traveling with my family
- Keeping up with the pet industry
- Speaking to a group and speaking on camera
In letting go and being let go, I could now embrace who I am supposed to be. I could claim my destiny as my own. A cloud of relief washed over me and poked at me as if to say, “It’s time to stop being afraid to take a chance on you.”
I give permission to myself to be who and what I want to be: A dog lover of the highest order who affects the world via the bulleted list above.
Ironically, I’ve been feeling like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz throughout 2018, in that I have had the power all along. It’s time to use it. As I stood with my co-workers in Kansas City, Missouri I felt like my team of a scarecrow, tin man, lion, and Dorothy with Toto, too, all embraced our inner fire and are poised to glow.
My New Career Path
I received the Dog Writer’s Association of America Distinguished Service Award sponsored by the American Kennel Club earlier this year. Coupled with the success of my blog, the encouragement and messages of support I’ve received from dog parents over the years, and my wife’s encouragement to be a part of this new chapter in my life, I am forming my own business!!!
In writing this post, Rick Astley’s “Together Forever” came on the radio. He bellows what I am doing:
So don’t stop me falling
It’s destiny calling
A power I just can’t deny
It’s never changing
Can’t you hear me, I’m saying
I want you for the rest of my life
In my acceptance speech at the Dog Writer’s dinner and awards in February, I shared the (fidose) of reality of who I am:
Two things got me through my childhood, which was not an easy one, and those two things are books and dogs. Here I am as an adult, and two things continue to save me and those are books and dogs. (although now I have the love of the most incredible human being on the planet, but that’s another blog post).
My heart beats dog® and I know I am not alone in this canine cardiac rhythm. We live in a country divided and I think it’s safe to say that dogs unite us. Dogs are the best of us when the worst of us let us down. My life is truly a celebration of dogs’ time here on earth.
Those who have learned to love more richly because of a dog I have found carry a light in their souls. Dogs welcome us into their worlds and they want us to celebrate with them. Dogs have taught me to be more of a human being and less of a human doing.
Today, tomorrow, and until my final breath, I celebrate dogs.
You can watch my speech here:
My Next Chapters
I will be working with brands I believe in and sharing them with you so that your dogs can live longer, healthier lives. I will be writing books…books for life. I will be speaking and teaching online and in person as my career evolves. I will be helping dogs and dog parents in a variety of ways. I will continue fundraising and working with pet lovers who want to become influential online through a blog, social media, and a number of ways. I will be taking on clients who believe in healthy dogs and allow a closer look into who they are. I’m a dedicated, committed kind of gal: I am loyal to the brands and companies I work with and I will make an indelible imprint on your business, your dog, your shared goals better than you could ever imagine. I love making pet people and their dogs happy. I am pulling back the green curtain, clicking my heels three times, owning my destiny, and taking the ideas to task. Goals, for me, are dreams on a timeline. I am poised for success and to leave this world a better place for dogs than when I entered it back in 1968.
If you are a pet brand wanting to work with me, let’s connect. I have so many things in store, that I am certain you’ll want to be a part of them. If you are a dog parent reading this, please connect with me in any of the links below. I promise you’ll learn and have fun in the process.
This year, I turn 50 on Christmas Day and I feel better than I ever have internally and emotionally. Stay with me on this journey, walk with me through this exciting new chapter, and let me continue to be a part of your lives. It won’t be an overnight launch, and it will take time to build, but Rome wasn’t built in a day either. Good things come to those who wait, but greater things come to those who act on their goals. I am taking my female-owned entrepreneur status to the next level, and I am so excited that I no longer have to hide it! I have a very secret weapon who is the most creative and intelligent person I have ever known: my wife, Darlene, and oh the ideas she has! #Squee
The best is yet to come.
This month’s cover page is dedicated to a few badass babes who are as tough as hell, an total inspiration and (with much gratitude) friends. To what comes next, ladies. #BlogPaws #plannernerd #PGW #bujo #artjournal #bulletjournal #pgwbujo #wonderwoman #rhsin #quotes #inspirationalquotes #quirkyheart #qhdigest
* Special thanks to planner queen extraordinaire and friend, Jodi Chick, for the above.
Links to Connect With Me
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Club Cocker: Wigglebutts Worldwide Facebook Group: For Cocker Spaniels and their canine friends: Club Cocker