Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Saying Goodbye Sucks

A few days ago I had to say goodbye to my first baby, my furbaby, my constant companion for the past 15-1/2 years. Maddy Moo's spirit has been set free to chase squirrels and cats on the big farm in the sky. My heart is heavy. I am so sad. I am prone to spontaneous bursting into tears. But I need to write this. I need to talk about her and honor her and remember her in my own way.
Maddy Moo 4/13/97-10/5/12
I'm still coming to terms with the fact that she is gone. When I close my eyes at night and try to sleep I keep reliving the nightmare that was Friday evening. We were headed out to the country, Maddy's favorite place in the world. My parents have a little farm a few hours west of here and as soon as she would hear the word "Grandma's" she would go nuts. We loaded her up in the car (she could no longer jump up to the seat herself) and headed out to my sister's house to switch cars so we could travel together. She had the entire backseat of the van to herself so she could look out all the windows. Before we were even out of the driveway she fell against the seat and couldn't get up. I will spare you the details that keep me awake at night... let's just say that she wasn't doing well. My sister said her vet was on the way out of town, we could stop there and have her checked out, but I knew in my heart that this was it. She wasn't going to be okay. By the time we got to the vet, she was unresponsive and they took her in. Within minutes they had started an IV and did an ultrasound. It turns out she had a tumor (probably cancerous) on her spleen that had ruptured and she was bleeding internally. Rapidly. She wasn't aware of her surroundings at all. I knew I had to let her go. It was the hardest thing I ever did and it was worst day of my life so far. 

I thank god that my sister was with me. I'm grateful that my nephew was there also and he stayed with my daughter while I was with Maddy saying goodbye. I'm thankful that Maddy wasn't in pain or scared during the last moments while I was stroking her and talking to her. (Lack of blood/oxygen to her brain made her pretty "out of it") And while this experience totally and completely sucked, I'm glad that she went quickly and most likely not painfully. And while I may have nightmares for awhile, I'm glad I was with her during her final moments. I hope she knows I was there. 

She was truly the best. dog. ever. She was so easy to train as a puppy. We never needed an electric dog fence because she learned where her boundaries were and stayed in them. When we brought the baby home from the hospital she rolled over and submitted. I could leave a turkey sandwich inches from her nose and be 100% confident that I could walk away and she wouldn't eat it. She endured years of playing Princess Madeleine Mooples and being dressed up with scarves and crowns. 
Princess Madeline Mooples Fuzzbut  Cousineau
She never bared her teeth or showed aggression. Her joy was chasing squirrels and cats, playing frisbee when she was younger and ball when she was older, napping in the sun, and showing unconditional love. 
Pooped from playing ball.
She followed me from room to room and was my constant companion. My walking partner. My fuzz therapy. She helped me endure all my cancer treatments and stayed by my side during chemotherapy. 
At Grandma's house
She was the world's biggest mooch, she loved peanut butter, buttermilk pancakes, chicken, beef jerky and popcorn. She sat and waited patiently, staring at us until she got her nibble. She was so gentle taking food and she would chew every tiny morsel instead of gobbling and/or swallowing whole like a lot of dogs do. She stood patient and still while little kids pet her and poked her and pulled her fur and loved all over her. 
Enduring the love.
I seriously couldn't have asked for a better dog. She was my shadow and I don't know what I'll do without her. I'm going to have to get used to a new normal. Again. I love you Maddy Moo.
When dogs and recycling bins collide...

I would like to thank Animal House Veterinary Hospital and Dr. Sage for the extreme kindness and compassion they showed while caring for Maddy. And all of the people who have offered their condolences and understanding.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Back in the Saddle

Life here is slowly getting back to normal. Well, as normal as can be once you've had a cancer diagnosis. Normal will never be the same, it will always be a bit prickly. During these trials and tribulations I've been posting and updating on my other blog, Life, Interrupted. But it's been awhile there too I'm afraid. Mostly because I'm tired at night, which is when I usually sit down to write. And I gave my old laptop to my daughter to use for her movie-making so it's no longer in my studio with instant access.

To Infinity and Beyond!
Trying to find a new normal is a bit discombobulating. (I love that word!) During my chemotherapy treatments I didn't feel like being creative. Instead I was showered by friends with little pieces of art and cards and well wishes and prayers, which meant the world to me. Each one lifted my spirits like only good friends can. I feel awful that I didn't get the chance to individually thank all my friends who sent gifts. I just didn't have the energy. But I want everyone to know that each one is appreciated greatly and loved dearly. I have them in a special box and I look through them occasionally when my spirit needs a lift. I am grateful for every. single. one.

I feel like I am getting back in the (creativity) saddle again. I took 984238572 pictures when we were in Maine. Okay, it just seemed like it because the camera was attached to me at all times. And just in case my new camera didn't work I always had my iPhone camera in my back pocket. I see in pictures, I can't help it. It was a wonderful trip, very relaxing surrounded by beauty with inspiration everywhere. The ocean does that to me. I have saltwater in my veins. 

While we were in Bar Harbor/Mt. Desert Island, they had their Legacy of the Arts week. Artists are appreciated, studios are toured, classes are offered, friends are made. One rainy Saturday my daughter and I decided to drive to Otter Creek to take a Zentangle class. I have never been in such a quiet and studious class! After about an hour of mad zentangling, people started loosening up and talking and visiting. I met a few really nice people who encouraged me wholeheartedly to follow my dream and move to Maine. I also rediscovered my love of doodling.
It kind of looks like fish? 
Long and Linear
Sand dollars have the most interesting patterns!
The sand dollar one was pretty big, I drew it in my 9x12 sketchbook. It took several days here and there and a lot of hand cramping!

On the way home from Otter Creek the mist was rolling in with some storm clouds and the pond on the side of the road looked so beautiful I stopped and took some more pictures. Shocking, right?

Anyway, a lot has been going on since June, Michael and I attended CHA Chicago, we came out with some new Map Stencils at Artistcellar, we renovated our 1950's bathroom, and at the end of August I took three classes at CREATE Chicago and had a ball creating art with others. I think it sparked me into feeling creative again. I have several projects in the works but I'm going to save them for another day. I'm going to really make an effort to get back in the blogging saddle again, it's been way too long!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Life, continued

I hate that I haven't had time to update my blog... things have been quite demented around here. Okay, in a good kind of way, I guess :-) I do have some updates on THE Cancer diagnosis. (I refuse to call it "MY" cancer because I'm not claiming it!) I met with a medical oncologist and a radiation oncologist to find out more about the treatment process. I also had to have a second surgery because the margins weren't clear after the first one. The good news was that the second surgery left a nice pocket of "nothing" and I found out I qualify for a newer radiation procedure called "brachytherapy". It's a High Density Radiation therapy where they insert a catheter of tubes inside the breast (picture an eggbeater here) and radiate the tissue from the inside. Fewer side effects and it only takes 5 days-twice a day rather than typical radiation therapy which is usually daily for 5-6 weeks. I've had the catheter in for about 10 days now and in a few hours I will have my last treatment and then the catheter will be removed. I tell ya, I'm looking forward to it. It's not easy to sleep with a bunch of tubes sticking out of your body! But then... Viola! Radiation treatments are over with. Woohoo!

Life is going to speed up from now on... next week I have a heart scan, chemo class, and a port put in my chest. On January 10th I start chemotherapy. I hope the folks in the chemo department are as nice as the folks in the radiation department. They helped me laugh and forget the reason I was laying on that table connected to "The Source" of radiation. Big shout out to the techs, therapists, nurses, physicists, and doctors at CDH Cancer Center in Winfield! 

So anyway... chemo will now be 18 weeks long. A big dose (TCH) every three weeks for 6 cycles and a smaller dose of just Herceptin every week in between. After the initial six cycles are over, the Herceptin can be scheduled for every three weeks until January 2013. So next step is getting through that ordeal... 

I've been dabbling in some art work here and there, in between filling orders and ordering merchandise for Artistcellar. We are working on adding some fantastic new art journaling supplies, coming soon. I'm trying to keep up with Wild Precious Studio, this is something I made during a livestream video that Effy Wild does called "Church of Art."  It's highly layered, something I need to practice :-)
And then there's the fear of Copic Markers. I love Copic Markers. They don't smell like the toxic markers I used to use in my younger days. They blend and are bright and colorful and I have a mess of them I've collected over the past year, a few here a few there a few on sale... I had the opportunity to buy some portrait colors at wholesale prices at CHA last summer.  I also still have a fear of drawing faces... so I decided to challenge myself and put the two together. Markers are unforgiving so it was a huge challenge for me. This face was done in ONLY markers. It might not get me an A in art class but I think it's pretty good for a Marker Portrait Virgin :-D 
My hands are twitching to some more art. I think I NEED to do something... so I'll keep you posted. I need to get going now... I hope everyone has a happy and safe new year celebration! See you in 2012!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Life, Interrupted.

Dear Blog,
This is going to be the hardest post I've ever written. But first, I am so sorry for neglecting you for so long. I feel terrible about it. It has been quite a ride since the last post. I was mostly preoccupied with Artistcellar. We decided that we didn't want to wait until the new year to launch our new stencil line. And so we went full speed ahead through the ordering of supplies, designing graphics, making art for the inserts, manufacturing, and then packaging thousands of stencils. Whew. All without telling anyone what's going on. 

The launch on October 28th went well. People loved the stencils. We got a lot of positive feedback. We were drunk on the excitement and dreaming of future possibilities. Life was good. A few days later I got a phone call from my doctor. 

"You have breast cancer." 

Four little words. Never in my life did I imagine that I would hear those four little words said to ME. I've never smoked or did drugs. I don't drink alcohol. I eat good foods, and drink organic milk and filtered water. I'm healthy dammit! And then this? I have never been so mixed up emotionally. Along with the excitement of our stencil debut, I am angry, sad, scared, depressed, anxious and full of self pity. And tired. So mentally tired. Already. 

Where am I going to get the energy to kick this cancer's ass? I need a superhero costume...

My whole life has changed in a heartbeat. Some things just don't matter anymore. My family matters more than ever. My friends matter. As more people find out about my diagnosis, more love pours forth. I am amazed by the outpouring of support and prayers. The small stuff? Not sweating it. 

I feel like I have stepped out of my life's story, out of my book, and right into the middle of a new story, written in a foreign language. I'm lost. The door has closed behind me and locked me in this new world and I can't get back. It sucks. Like a bad episode of "Twilight Zone".

It's not fair. 

This Friday, December 2nd, I will have surgery. A lumpectomy and sentinel node biopsy. My cancer is a Stage IIa, Grade 3, ER/PR+ and HER2+ (still learning the language...) In English, Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, 2.5cm tumor, aggressive. After I heal from surgery I will start Chemotherapy for 3 months, then radiation therapy for 6 weeks. Targeted therapy for the HER2+ factor every 3 weeks for a year. Then hormone therapy for 5 years. (The worst drug I've ever taken? Tylenol 3. I promptly vomited. My body doesn't like drugs.)

I already feel like I am losing myself. Who I am. I don't know anymore... this isn't me. I want my old boring life back.

Dear Blog, I don't want to turn you into a "Cancer Blog" but I will occasionally write about my journey into the dark winter months ahead. I hope this doesn't bother anyone. I try to journal but I find myself gravitating towards the keyboard rather than a pen and paper. I am attempting to make art to help sort myself out but so far I just want to tear up pages and stomp on them. I'll get there. 

Goals: Get as healthy as I can before Chemo. Try to maintain a healthy mind and body during treatments. Collect some really kick-ass hats. Focus on Artistcellar because it may be the only thing that gets me through the day. Put on my warrior costume and fight like a girl. 

And  B R E A T H E 


Tuesday, October 4, 2011


I'm jumping up and down doing a happy dance! My last post I shared a link for everyone to enter the free Lifebook class giveaway. The class spot was being given away by Effy Wild of Wild Precious Studio. I said "If I was meant to win, I will. If I wasn't meant to win, maybe YOU will." And I meant it sincerely. I guess Karma smiled upon me... because I won the spot! It wasn't the first entry I put in, it was this entry, the one where I shared the link with my friends. The only thing that's a bit sad is that I wish all my friends could win a spot and share this class with me. Be on the lookout for other giveaways. Every teacher will be giving one spot away, so go to Willowing to check out the teachers and their blogs. 

If you're too antsy to wait and try for a free spot, I highly encourage you to sign up for the Lifebook Course. For $99.00 you get 12 months of lessons, videos, PDF's, Community, and FUN with 14 different teachers. And if you sign up using THIS link and then tell Effy (Effyswild@gmail.com) that you signed up through her, you will get the FREE "Elements: Self-Guided e-course" at Wild Precious Studio! And of course along with the basic Lifebook package you get another FREE course with Tam, you can choose between 5 different courses. So that's a year of Lifebook and TWO self guided e-courses for one price! 

I will also be in the Elements course at Wild Precious, I hope to see you there. And for Tam's free course, I chose "World of Whimsy." I am SO excited about these courses!

I am not only feeling very lucky, I am feeling extremely grateful. Thank you to Effy and Tam, for all you do for the art world!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Lifebook Love

Every once in awhile I come across a class offering that resonates with me. Something "speaks" and I feel like if I don't listen I'll miss out on something wonderful. I've been pretty lucky in the past, I've won DVD's, beautiful jewelry, books from various blog giveaways and Effy Wild is giving away a free space in this Lifebook class. (Listen for the whine...) I waaaant toooo wiiiiiin this ooooone. (Thank you very much, thank you...) 

Okay, okay, since I believe that if I was meant to win, I will. If I was not meant to win, maybe YOU were meant to win. So I'm putting in a link to the giveway. Give it a shot and good luck! And I mean that. (Sarcasm free!) 

Lifebook giveaway

The teacher lineup is incredible... Just to name a FEW: the host- Tamara LaPorte (Willowing), Effy Wild, Gritty Jane, Connie Hozvicka, Jane Davenport, Jodi Ohl, Samantha Kira Harding, plus more to make 14 teachers total!

Sigh. Goddess of Luck, can you hear me now? How about now? Am I clear now? How about now?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Sunni Brown: Doodlers, unite! | Video on TED.com

A facebook friend of mine posted this on her wall and I HAD to share. My daughter is a doodler. And she's been "caught" doodling in the past, on her homework, on her schoolwork, on the backs of tests, while listening to the teacher read... I told her it's okay, but not sure everyone agrees with me. Take a look at this. It's not too long and well worth it.

Sunni Brown: Doodlers, unite! | Video on TED.com