Serendipity: How a Dire Situation Became Something Better

Serendipity is what I’d describe as chance encounters with unexpected and excellent outcomes. They don’t happen often in my life, but our family experienced it twice this week, and we needed them both.

I won’t bore you with descriptions of the many phone calls, pharmacy trips, assessments and stress that happened in April and May to try and get my 84-year-old mother more frequent and professional care for her dementia and pancreatic cancer. My sister and I were her advocates, and our family doctor initially thought professional home support and medication would be enough. But as her condition rapidly deteriorated, we began lobbying the powers that be for either palliative care treatment or a hospice.

Everyone tried to be helpful, but there are rules and protocols before one qualifies for hospice or long-term care facilities in British Columbia. As it turned out, impromptu assessments by R.N.s without my knowledge or any feedback from them resulted in their underestimating the depth of my mom’s dementia and relying on inaccurate information from her.

When it became clear that she wasn’t eating solid food, but living on ginger ale and Boost for several days, my sister got on the phone. She wound up talking to a sympathetic woman who suggested that a palliative care doctor could come and assess Mom, and this time, they invited us to be there, so I went. Twenty-four hours later, the doctor’s office told me that she would be placed in a hospice, but at a facility that was still a fairly long drive away. We were hoping for one closer to home, however no beds were available,  but  at least she was going where she’d get the care she needed.

Twenty-four hours after that I received a call, I received another phone call saying that a bed had just become available at a hospice five minutes from my home, and asking if I could bring her there at 2:30 that day. It was both a welcome surprise and a huge relief. She’s currently in a wonderful, caring environment.

MojoThe next dilemma was what to do with her fifteen-year-old cat, Mojo. I’d placed a poster at the vet, boarded him there a few days, asked friends, associates, and work colleagues, and did a shout-out on Facebook. As our family and friends were already inundated with pets who would not welcome a newbie and the cat shelters were all maxed out (we checked), we reached the conclusion that he’d have to go to the SPCA. A phone called to the Vancouver branch assured us that they have a high adoption rate, and that a number of people would be interested in adopting a senior cat. Still, life in a cage seemed depressing.

As it happens, my sister has a part-time retirement job as a cat-sitter. Although she fractured her kneecap last September and doesn’t take on new clients, she has a small number of long-term clients. The day before we were planning to take Mojo to the SPCA, she was tending to a client’s cats when a vet technician she’d met months before showed up to give one of the cats an injection.

They began talking and as my sister updated her about our situation, the tech volunteered to find Mojo a home. She apparently volunteers with a couple of cat placement centers. She told my sister that she’d make a couple of calls and see if she could find him a foster home right away, then look for something more permanent.

We held our breath, hoping she’d come through, and sure enough, she called the next morning. We were to bring Mojo to her workplace, where a foster family would take him home. Given that Mojo’s a Himalayan (not purebred) with gorgeous blue eyes and a friendly personality, we have every confidence that he’ll be placed in a permanent loving home.

Sometimes it takes prayer, other times visualization, or staying positive to achieve the best possible outcome in a tough situation. I think I used all of the above, and I’m thankful for the people who appeared in our lives to help us through a difficult situation. When the opportunity arises, I plan to pay it forward.

Stepping Off the Treadmill

lazy[1]Plenty of writers face burnout, but these days mine centers around real-life family issues which culminated in July when I learned that my mother has a cancerous tumor on her pancreas. We learned this four days before we’d arranged (after much cleaning, sorting, and recycling) to move her into assisted living for her deteriorating dementia issues.

Compounding the challenges was the state of the apartment building she’s living in. The woodframe building’s exterior was being replaced when the contractors discovered major rot inside, resulting in more work and special levy fees for condo owners.

My sister, Val, and I dealt with all of this and were doing okay until Val had a bad fall last month and broke her left kneecap into several pieces. A two-hour long surgery occurred the same day and her knee’s been put back together with wire and screws. She’s currently in an enormous leg brace and will need help around the house and to get to physiotherapy, and so forth.

Combined with my day job and the facilitating I do for a writers’ group on Saturday mornings, I’m feeling a tad worn out. I’d already spent many months going out to my mother’s home to shop, cook, and clean on weekends because she was no longer capable. So, with the support and understanding of terrific work colleagues, I’ve just begun a four-month leave of absence from the day job. As you can imagine, it won’t be all fun or relaxation, but it’s a start at the slowing down process I feel is necessary for my physical and mental well-being.

I had one day to train my replacement. After that I went home, and had a nap, exhausted. I’ve been napping a lot lately. As writers and family members, we need to recognize when it’s time to step off the busy-life treadmill we’ve inadvertently hopped onto.

I’m grateful that I’m able to do this. I’m hoping to write and read a little more, as they are calming distractions from real-life challenges. Besides, it’s what I do. And I know I’ll sleep more, and visit my mother and sister more often, and take care of what needs to be taken care of. It feels somewhat surreal to end the year this way (I won’t be back at work till mid-Feb.) but it feels right. I don’t know if four months is too long or not long enough, but time will tell.