Inconquerable

I scanned Astoria’s medical records today to send them to my vet.  As I was removing the papers from the scanner, I caught the name of her previous owner.  For some reason I can’t really explain, I decided to look this woman up. 
I saw pictures of Astoria as a puppy, with captions that clarified some of her history.  She was indeed rescued from a Southern shelter as a very young puppy.  Story lived with this woman until the spring of this year, when she felt she could no longer keep the dog and planned to give her to a shelter.  Astoria’s trainer offered to keep her until a suitable owner was found.  I brought her home last month.  I am in her fourth home in two years.
Every time I go out, Story thinks I am never coming back.  She hangs her head and follows me around when she can tell I am leaving.  After I’m gone, she pulls down the covers on my bed and lay in my spot.  If I’m home and there is a closed door between us, she paws at the door and whines. She wants to be close to me all the time.  Every time I come home, her body vibrates with the intensity of her relief.  It is strange for me to think that she is still wondering why this other woman never came back. 
She is triggered by odd things and it frustrates me that there is this history I don’t know.  She lives around these limitations, but she is still scared.  She does not believe that I will return until I do.  I think she will eventually trust that I am her person forever and I will always come back.  I think someday her past will not hamper her spirit.
My health has been bad for so long that it started to feel like my body didn’t have any good days left in it.  I woke up this morning typically nauseous and sore.  I took a handful of pills with my coffee before disconnecting my overnight infusion from my port.  I knocked all my makeup off its shelf and was gearing up to fight through another difficult day.
As I was walking out the door, I realized I wasn’t nauseous anymore.  It was a cool and breezy morning and it smelled like frost.  I went to work and had a really pleasant and productive morning.  I had forgotten my lunch so I took a chance on a salad from a restaurant down the street.  I ate it at my desk in case I needed IV Benadryl.  But I had no reaction.  I felt totally fine.
I worked a full day and got a lot done.  I was able to share with my coworkers the success of a child on midostaurin, a Novartis clinical trial drug for Aggressive Systemic Mastocytosis.  They were so excited to hear the personal impact of one of our drugs.  After work, I got a Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks and took the train home.  My train was delayed for twenty minutes in a train tunnel for some reason and I didn’t even care.  I didn’t have any bone pain or joint pain.  I had no headache.  I wasn’t short of breath.  I wasn’t flushing.  I wasn’t bowel obstructed.  I wasn’t nauseous and I hadn’t thrown up all day.  I was still a little sore from the port being placed but it wasn’t bad.  I walked between stations rather than switch lines, drinking coffee as I navigated the sunny Boston streets.  It has been a long time since I walked around my city without having to sit down every few blocks.
When I came home, I found that Story had unrolled my yoga mat and was literally doing upward facing dog on it, so I thought, why don’t I do some yoga?  So I unrolled my other mat (because Story was still laying on the other) and did a good 40 minutes of yoga for the first time in a long while.  I brought her out to the yard to play with Harry while my friend came over to give me a massage.  And of course, that was super pleasant and I felt very relaxed when she was done.
I took Harry for his usual ten minute walk around the school yard and as the first stars were coming out, I walked down to the beach with Astoria.  For once, she wasn’t pulling me all over the place and was happily killing a stick as we walked.  We walked the length of the beach in the chilly night air and when we got home three miles later, I felt tired but otherwise fine.  I drank my can of Coke while reading a paper on mast cell biology.  I took a hot shower, which has recently become a lot more pleasant due to no longer having to cover the PICC line.  When I face into the water, I just hold a face cloth over the accessed port.  When I’m done, I just wipe it off with a towel.  It is seriously the greatest.
I took my night pills and opened Netflix on my computer after crawling into bed.  As I looked through new arrivals, I saw a documentary I have been wanting to see.  I put it on and pulled out my other laptop to write this as I snuggle under my heated blanket.
It is now after midnight, so I’m no longer worried that I will jinx it by saying: I had a perfect day.  I somehow, after all this time, and all this pain, had a day where mast cell disease did not affect my life at all.  I had a day with a really great Cobb Salad and yoga and a walk down the beach and a massage and getting to remind my very hard working colleagues on behalf of the mast cell community that what they do can save lives.  I am optimist because I don’t think there’s any other way worth being, but I have to admit that I was doubting whether or not I would see a day like this again.  Sometimes you get what you need. 
Someday Astoria will have a perfect day, too.   Someone will bounce a ball off the ground for her for hours so she can catch it and then a dog will play chase with her somewhere where she can roll around in the dirt.  She will get to pull all the stuffing out of a stuffed crocodile.  Then she will eat several cookies, and when I go to work, she will know that I will come home. 
We both live with these damaged spirits, but I’m starting to believe that maybe they don’t have to be damaged forever.  Because when I have a day like this, I realize it’s still there, as full and as vibrant as it ever was, and I know at once that it is inconquerable. 

Astoria

I have been trying to adopt a dog for several months.  There have been a few near misses, in which I was promised an animal, but they ultimately decided to give it to someone else.  The most recent was earlier this week, when honestly, I was not particularly in the mood to be disappointed again.  I have a really hard time when good things don’t work out because I look forward to them so much.  When I’m having a really bad day, I think about these things to convince myself it will get better.  So when it doesn’t work out, it is a serious let down.

Ten minutes after finding out I wasn’t getting the dog I was planning to adopt, I saw a new post on Craigslist.  It was a rescue group needing a home for a black lab mix that couldn’t stay in her foster home.  I sent an email saying I was interested.  To my surprise, the rescue group contacted me right away and wanted to set up a time to meet the dog.  I scheduled it and tried not to build it up too much in my mind.

I met the dog on Friday.  She is two years old and has very long legs.  She is quiet and likes to eat grass.  She is very snuggly.  Her foster father warned me that she would need some extra help with socializing and training because of all the upheaval in her life. 

“Would you rehome an animal because they were too much work?” he asked.

“I require a lot of extra work and I’m pretty glad my family didn’t rehome me,” I replied.  He told me I could have her. 

As we were walking back to our cars, I told him that I liked her name.  “I’m a writer, I think there’s some poetry to having a dog named Story,” I told him.

“Her real name is Astoria,” he answered.  I smiled.  Astoria is the setting of the 80’s movie The Goonies, one of my all time favorites.  She was supposed to be my dog.  I knew.

The energy boost you get from something working out just right cannot be underestimated.  Today, I cleaned my entire apartment, did all my laundry, ran errands, cooked dinner and lunches for the next few days, walked Harry, and took Astoria for a thirty minute walk with my friend and her small children.  I am very sore and tomorrow I will be exhausted but I am so happy. 

After playing with my meds recently, I am finally starting to sleep less.  I am sleeping mostly during the day, when I would rather not, but I’d rather ten inconvenient hours than the entire day.  I am still very nauseous, but I am throwing up less.  I am eating very small meals and having some success with that.  I have made some sacrifices in other areas (in particular, I am in more pain), but I am okay with that. 

I can deal with all the day to day bullshit if every so often, I get a big win.  Today was a big win.  I can ride this for a while.