Is there satisfying Bipolar success?


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Bipolar depression is here, again, still.  I hate it.  I hate feeling this way, and more than that, I hate feeling this way for no actual reason I can pinpoint.  Nothing is wrong, in fact everything is going rather well.  But, every afternoon this week, I have felt that dip.  Today, the dip became a ditch and it started at dawn.

I knew it the second I woke up.  I felt the low.  You know the low that you can’t pretend you don’t feel?  That one.  I started to get up and hubby asked me where I was going.  I managed to say ‘to make the coffee’ without being overly snippy.  I mean, it’s where I go every morning!  Why do you have to ask?  But, he’s not being rude or mean, I am, bipolar is.

Therapy was slow to start today as I wasn’t really in the mood for talking.  But, and I don’t remember what, something go me going on the way I measure success in my life now vs the way I measured it “then”.

For example, last week the rod in our closet fell down and all of our clothes ended up on the floor.  So, while hubby fixed it, I went through every single item of clothing I own and tried everything on and sorted it into piles to keep in a drawer, re-hang, donate, or put in a tote in the garage.  While I was at it I ran across several pair of pants that fit, that didn’t have drawstrings.  And the very first thought was ‘ I should make a separate pile of these pants in case I have to be hospitalized again’.  But, I didn’t do it.  And that is considered a success in my life now.

I used to close real estate deals all day long.  I used to be well-known in my area for being able to take the toughest deals and make them work.  I had excellent problem solving abilities.  I liked doing it.  I managed two companies.  At the same time.  And then I went home and cleaned and did the laundry and cooked dinner and lived my life.  These successes were important to me.  I didn’t even have aspirations to do more.  I loved doing what I did.  I loved solving problems and getting people to understand what they needed to understand.  I loved helping people buy their new homes in which they could make their own lives.

I was successful at a high stress, fast paced job that I adored.  Now, I’m supposed to pat myself on the back because I got one load of laundry done.

I know that there are people out there who get diagnosed, get their meds worked out and go back to living fulfilling lives doing what they love.  I will never be one of those people.  Treatment resistant with co-occuring disorders, has crippled me.

Now my victories are small.  They are things I never would have thought about twice in my old life.  Made dinner – yeah so did every other person in the country – whoopee.  Did laundry – yeah so did every other person in the country – yay.  Didn’t organize my pants into which ones were suitable for the hospital and which ones weren’t.

The pants thing really bothers me.  I know that I should be happy that I haven’t tried to organize my life so a hospital stay is easier to prepare for.  But, I’m not.  I see where it’s a success, but I think it’s a pathetic excuse for a success.

And then the passive suicidal ideation train drove through.  I’ve taken to just calling it the “passive train”, because it tends to just drive by.  It might be a long freight train or a shorter passenger train, but it keeps moving.  Which is good, because if it stops, the only passenger is active ideation, and I don’t want that.

But, comparing these successes in my old life with the things I’m supposed to call success now, brought the passive train by.  I feel like the expectations I need to meet are those of a child and I didn’t live all this life to end up feeling like the most I can accomplish is the same as a tween.  And if that’s the best I can hope for, then what the heck is the point?

Thankfully, I’m not low enough yet that the point completely escapes me. The point, ultimately, is my family.  They don’t look at my successes the way that I do.  Hubby wants to know that I’m ok.  And, if I’m ok, then he’s ok.  He doesn’t look at me and think about what I used to do and accomplish and wish that was the way things are now.  He looks at me and wants me healthy, bipolar or not.



Chutes and Ladders Bipolar

Remember that game from your childhood?  The object was to get to the top of the board first.  But, there were pitfalls in the form of chutes that could send you down one level or six.  But, there were also ladders and if you were lucky enough to land there you could skip a few levels or six.  Considering the game board had 10 levels, those times you were lucky enough to hit a six level ladder put you sitting pretty.  But, that six level chute could put you far far behind.

I’m not the first person to compare bipolar to chutes and ladders, and I won’t be the last.  I may not even be the best.  And that’s fine.  But, I’m on a chute now, and I don’t know how many levels I’m going to go down.

A lot of the times the mood shifts that bipolar causes are like the roll of the dice.  There aren’t any triggers, or stressors, or anything that your constantly running brain can find for the change in mood.  You simply got a roll of the dice that sent you up a ladder into hypomania or mania, or you got a roll of the dice that sent you down a chute into depression.

Because a lot of the time the mood shifts aren’t generated by anything external at all.  I’m currently on a chute on my way to depression, but there is no external reason for it that I can find at all.  No triggers, no stressors, no one has said or done anything to set me off.  Even my OCD is holding steady.  Yet, down I go.

I’ve experienced the ladders as well.  Last week even.  No reason.  My sleep was the same, my meds were the same.  But up up up I went.  And for a couple of hours it was great.  I love hypomania at the beginning.  I got a ton of stuff done, really fast.  But, as is usually the case with me and hypo, aggravation set in rather quickly.  And then, even the sound of another human being’s voice sets me on edge (if I’m able to control it) or sends me over an edge of extreme anxiety and irritation (if I’m not able to control it).

Chutes and Ladders is a very simplistic way to describe a very complicated condition, I know.  But it struck me because sometimes it is as simple as “no reason” (roll of the dice) for the mood changes.

It’s hard for our loved ones to understand that this morning we were happy and this afternoon we’re not.  For them, there is a reason that their moods change.  Even if it is as simple as not getting enough sleep, there is a reason.  I hate answering the question “why are you so down now when you were good this morning?” when the reason is that bipolar disorder decided that I am going to be down now.  No, no reason.

Just bipolar.


Boy have I been missing in action recently.

Hubby and I went on a vacation.  The week prior to the vacation was an exercise in organization and planning and completing tasks.  It was an extremely stressful week for me.  In a sense it was back to a life of deadlines.  I had my tasks written out for each day and each day’s tasks needed to be completed before the next days tasks could begin.  I was popping every Valium I am allowed to have in a day just trying to keep it together.

But, the payoff was amazing.  We went on a cruise.  We got an amazing deal and we decided to go for it.

Now, I know that I was still bipolar while I was on that ship.  I know I still had Generalized Anxiety Disorder.  But, I didn’t feel it.  I felt normal.

Let that sink in.

I felt normal.

It makes sense.  None of the normal day to day stressors and triggers.  Nothing to have to accomplish.  Wanna sit at the bar and drink and smoke all day?  Ok.  Wanna go in the pool? Ok.  Wanna go to the Casino?  Ok.  Hey, let’s eat.  Ok.  When the day to day grind goes away and you’re not responsible for anything except your most basic needs like going to the bathroom and showering, it’s easy to lose all that stress and depression and racing thoughts and all those horrible things that we live with 24/7.

I even allowed a monkey to sit on my head.



I told people who asked about my tattoo exactly what it meant to me and that I’m bipolar.  And I didn’t give a flying fig if they didn’t like it.

I was free.  For one blessed week, I was free of it all.  I can’t begin to tell you how relieved I was.

Sadly, my normal post-vacation routine kicked in right away and I developed a raging sinus infection and bronchitis.  So, that kept me down for a couple weeks, too.

But I’m feeling better now, at least physically.  Bipolar and GAD have settled back into my daily life.  I’ve been having a hard time dealing, because I’ve been trying to hold onto the feelings that I had (or didn’t have) during my vacation.   But, at therapy this morning, Karen encouraged me to come back here and write.   Because there is much to be learned from the times when we feel good, as well as from the times we feel bad.

I hope that all of you have been ok.  There’s no way I can catch up on the posts I’ve missed and for that I’m sorry, but it’s just not something I can do right now.

I have a lot of things I want to talk about coming up but a key one is disability.  I have a question for all of you and answers can be emailed to me at if you don’t want to leave them in the comments.  The disability system needs an overhaul.  Mentally ill patients wait years for disability to come through and some end up homeless or incarcerated as a result.  I have been fortunate to have a husband with a job and health insurance.  Yes, finances are tight, but we are doing ok.  I’m the lucky one, and I know it.  Anyone who is willing to share their stories about how they made it through that time between applying for disability and actually getting it, I’m really anxious to hear them.  You can leave them in the comments if you like, but feel free to email them to me if you don’t want them public.  And they never will be public.  Ever.  I promise.

Peace and love y’all.




My Speech for the Rally against the ACHA


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My name is Leslie Bracken and I have bipolar disorder.  I have a few other things, but that’s the one that usually freaks people out.

I’m not the first one to suffer from Mental Illness, and sadly I won’t be the last.  In this country 1 in 5 people are diagnosed with a form of mental illness every year.  1 in 25 are diagnosed with something serious, like bipolar disorder.  1 in 5 children aged 13-18 will experience severe mental illness in their lifetimes.  50% of all substance abuse patients are also Mentally Ill.  This is because medications often don’t work well or side effects are untenable.  The options left are to self-medicate using drugs or alcohol.

It’s expensive to treat the mentally ill.  Besides the 50% of us who have co-occurring Substance Abuse Problems, the doctors are very expensive and the medications can be as well.  We also have an increased risk of chronic medical conditions.  We die, on average, 25 years earlier than normal often due to untreated, but treatable, medical conditions.

President Obama felt that these problems were significant enough that one of the mandates of the ACA was that ALL healthcare policies, including those not purchased through the marketplace, had to have provisions for Mental Health and Substance Abuse Programs.

So, the Affordable Care Act, covers us.  It covers us through employer health care plans, through Medicaid and its expansion, and through Medicare.  It’s the only thing we don’t worry about.  These mandates of coverage through the ACA cover 62 million Americans for Mental Health and Substance Abuse no matter where the insurance was obtained. When you consider that the Affordable Care Act covers around 20 million people directly this is an astonishingly great accomplishment for the other 42 million.

But Representative Mark Sanford and the Freedom Caucus look to undo the Essential Coverages that President Obama gave us.  Those Essential Services are Maternity Coverage, Emergency Services, Substance Abuse Rehabilitation, Laboratory Services, Preventive Care, Pediatric Services, Ambulatory Services, Prescription Coverage, Hospitalization and Mental Health Services.

I routinely use Prescription Services, in fact I take 8 separate medications to stabilize my conditions.  I use Laboratory Services, because of the specific medications I take.  I use Mental Health Services, because I need therapy and a psychiatrist.  And on occasion, Hospitalization Services when my disease gets away from me.

As of 2020, Mentally Ill Medicaid recipients may longer have access to Mental Health Services or Substance Abuse Programs.  These are the poorest of the poor and I personally know some of them struggling with the same issues I do.   1 in 5 Medicaid recipients have a Mental Health Condition.  That means 20% of Medicaid recipients could easily lose their insurance to help with one of their most awful afflictions.

I’m very blessed.  My husband has a decent job with a big company and we have great healthcare.  However, if the Mandate for Essential Services is removed from the AHCA, it’s a logical next step for companies to start offering stripped down versions of health insurance.  Will I lose my lifesaving coverage or will I have to pay an exhorbitant “surcharge” to get those services back?  I don’t know the answer, but the possibilities have me worried.

What about the people, though, who rely on Medicaid to get their treatment?  What happens to them?

I desperately hope that I have made my point clear to all of you today.  Living with Mental Illness sometimes means that my anxiety is too high or that I forget things that are important.  The services I receive through the ACA Mandates are crucial to my survival

I call on Representative Mark Sanford to not forget the people who have already been left behind in so many other ways.  The vote is tonight and his office knows we’re here!


Researching the ACA and ACHA


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So, I’ve been doing a LOT of researching over the past 24 hours into what the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) did for those of us with mental illness and what the American Health Care Act (Trumpcare?) is proposing to do.

The really really short answer?  The AHCA is planning to do nothing.  Except rollback the protections we had under the ACA.

First, some statistics.

  • 1 in 5 Americans will experience mental illness during any given year.
  • 1 in 25 Americans will experience a serious Mental Illness during any given year.
    • Understanding of course, that all Mental Illnesses have the potential to become serious.
  • 1 in 5 youths (ages 13-18) will experience severe mental illness in their lifetime.
  • 50.5% of adults who experience a Substance Abuse Problem also have a Mental Illness

Now, the Affordable Care Act currently has mandates in place that ALL health insurance policies, no matter if they are purchased or provided through Medicaid, must include treatment options for Mental Illness and Substance Abuse Programs.  Currently, that means that about 62 million people are covered for these conditions no matter what insurance plan they have. ( U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)

That’s a lot of people.  When you figure that the ACA covers about 20 million people directly, it is also helping another 40+ million just in Mental Health and Substance Abuse Programs alone.

I also know that the Affordable Care Act is not perfect, so please don’t yell at me in the comments.  Thank you.

Now, the American Health Care Act:

The AHCA strips away requirements from Medicaid to cover Mental Health and Substance Abuse Programs.  There will be grants, given to states who apply, for money to fund these programs.  But those grants will be gone by 2026.  And your state MUST apply for those funds.  In my state, which did not do a Medicaid Expansion under the ACA, I have serious doubts that we will be applying for that money.  If you live in a state that does have Medicaid Expansion, hopefully your chances are higher.  This is absolutely a state by state thing.  You must be prepared to contact your governor about applying for this grant if the AHCA passes.

What’s Medicaid Expansion you ask?  Well, Medicaid used to just cover people who lived under, or just at, the poverty line.  For this year those figures (up to a household of 4 people) are:

  • $12,060 for individuals
  • $16,240 for a family of 2
  • $20,420 for a family of 3
  • $24,600 for a family of 4

(courtesy of

Medicaid Expansion allowed people who made up to 138% of the poverty line to still enroll in Medicaid.  So, for one person, that would now be $16,642.80.

However, as I said, not all states took the Medicaid Expansion option.  Whether those states will or can apply for the money to keep Mental Health and Substance Abuse Programs will remain to be seen if the AHCA becomes law.

But, regardless, the AHCA eventually looks to phase out the Medicaid Expansion altogether.  Which means that a person making $15,000.00 will have to pay for their health insurance out-of-pocket.  Yes, there are tax credits.  But, they are not enough.  Sick people and old people are going to have a very tough time.  Now, another interesting fact is that non-elderly adults working with disabilities are significantly less likely to have a job that provides health insurance.  So it’s a decent bet that the person making $15,000/year has a job without health benefits.

Representative Joe Kennedy (D-Mass) and Representative Peter Welch (D-VT) introduced an Amendment in committee to include mandates for Mental Health and Substance Abuse Programs, but the Amendment failed and it failed straight down party lines.

It FAILED.  I can’t say this strongly enough.  Failing to protect 60+ million people from ANY disease is despicable, deplorable and immoral.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released their assessment of the AHCA last week.  It’s going to reduce the deficit by a lot.  But it’s going to do that at the expense of citizens being able to obtain healthcare.  And that means us, the Mental Health Community, as well.

There are serious questions here.  If you are just over the poverty line, will you be able to afford to buy health insurance WITH Mental Health and/or Substance Abuse coverage?  If you are below the poverty line, will you be able to continue to get Mental Health or Substance Abuse coverage?  If you happen to be the spouse of a mentally ill wife will you have to pay extra for coverage for her mental health treatment?  And finally, with the AHCA doing away with employer mandates to provide insurance, will ANYONE get health insurance through their jobs anymore?

Tomorrow I will be speaking at a rally (I suspect with a healthy dose of Valium on board!!) about these issues.

The vote in the House of Representatives is Thursday.  Do yourselves a favor and call your Representative today and express your thoughts on how he/she should vote.

Don’t have your Representative’s contact information.  Not a problem.  Click the link below and enter your zip code.  If your district is very gerrymandered (like mine) you’ll need the 4 digit extension to your zip code to narrow it down.

Find my Representative








I need your stories

On Thursday, I will be speaking at a rally against the American Health Care Act.  I am going to center my remarks around the Mental Health Community, because let’s face it, it’s what I know best.

What I’m asking for is your stories about how the Affordable Care Act a/k/a Obamacare has helped you or someone you know with regards to Mental Health.

You can leave them in the comments, but if you wish you may also email them to me at

I assure you that no names will be used.  I’m trying to get a bead on the kind of help people have received through the Medicare Expansion or any other way in which you were able to get insurance.

Thanks all!  I’m soooo nervous to get up on that stage!!!!


Even Duct Tape gives out eventually


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I got in the way way back machine to pull this post out and re-present it to all of you.  This was during the disability fight and only my 3rd blog post ever.  But, I really like it.  I hope you do, too.

The diagnosis of Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Bi-polar disorder has changed my life in very profound ways.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the person I used to be; the way I worked at my job, the way I interacted with my friends and with strangers and just generally the way I dealt with life.  Not only have I been considering the who I used to be, but also how that compares to who I am now.

I used to be a real estate professional.  I worked as a licensed title insurance agent in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  If you have ever purchased a house, you know title insurance even if you don’t realize it.  I sat at the head of the conference table, making sure paperwork was filled out properly, making sure the money was distributed properly and problem solving, problem solving and more problem solving.

The old me multi-tasked.  The old me was detail oriented.  The old me finished what I started.  I dressed for work, wore my high heels, did my makeup (sometimes), did my hair and bolted out the door in order to be at work early.  I was heavy, but not too heavy to dash around in 4 inch heels.

During the last few years of this I started to see a therapist.  I didn’t want to, but my doctor really wanted me on anxiety medication, which I REALLY didn’t want.  The compromise was a therapist.  As I look back I am thankful that I had such a good relationship with my doctor.  If I hadn’t liked him or didn’t really respect him, then I probably wouldn’t have started therapy.  Starting therapy when I did is probably what allowed me to hold on for as long as I did.

A few years after beginning therapy I moved to a new job.  The economy was doing poorly and the real estate bubble had burst.  Business was hard to come by.  I was laid off from my old job, but thankfully was able to find this new one.  Less money and less to do, but at least I had something, which was more then some people could say.

And then I had my first nervous breakdown.  In my case, as is the case for a lot of people, the last straw was something ridiculous.  My favorite radio station had started playing all Christmas music all the time.  Thanksgiving was still 4 days away.

I spent a week in the psych ward.  I spent 2 months in intensive out-patient therapy.  I quit my job.  I couldn’t work and do the therapy necessary at the same time.

My husband and I had decided to move south.  I needed a calmer, slower paced environment and he needed a job with a future.  We both needed more sunshine.  I found a job in retail.  Much less stress, and as a result, much less money.  But, the much less stress was worth the lower paycheck.

But I still broke.  Not a lot.  Not enough to need inpatient hospitalization, but enough to have to leave my job.

And then, I broke again.  All the way.

I spent another week in the psych ward.  The doctors tweaked my medications and sent me home.

I started experiencing days and days of mania.  It frightened me because it had never happened before (well, it had, I just hadn’t known that was what was happening).  I had so much energy I could have run a marathon.   But I couldn’t focus that energy enough to even clean the kitchen.  That’s when the Bi-Polar was diagnosed.

Now, there is a whole new me.

The new me can do only one thing at a time.  The new me has a hard time with the small things.  The new me bounces from task to task.  And, the new me is always tired.

But who’s to say that the old me was the better version?

Even just sitting down to write this blog is a learning experience for me.  While taking a break from writing, I realized that I had been in the middle of emptying the dishwasher when I decided to sit down and write.  How I had just managed to walk away from what I was doing and start doing something else is kind of mind-boggling for me.  But, it’s also becoming a pattern.

I can’t work at a job outside the home.  I need to rest too often and my moods are a crap shoot each and every day.

I recently saw a psychologist for testing to see if a job is even possible.  He tested me for concentration (I’m on the 2nd day of working on on this blog entry), memory, task completion and a few other things.  His opinion is that the last time I broke, I broke thoroughly and completely.

It was a devastating blow.  I spent a week so depressed over the results I could barely leave my bed each day.  It physically hurt.  It could be years (and probably will be) before I am able to be certain enough of each day’s mood to venture out on a regular basis.  Or be able to concentrate long enough to spend a few hours working at a job.  I need to be able to rest a couple times an hour.

I’m not over it.  Not by a long shot.  I’m used to working, to contributing to the household income.  To feeling useful.

But, I’m on my way to accepting it.  It’s taking a lot of support from my husband and my therapist to get there, but I’m trying.

We moved here for the slower pace and I am trying to embrace that.  I clip coupons and have been able to save a lot of money on groceries.  I cook most days and have started baking.  I have a garden.

My new activities have rest periods built in.  They are slower paced activities.  I spend a lot of time in the grocery store, because sometimes I just have to sit down for a bit.  But, I get it done.  My savings are my contribution to the household income.  My garden provides not just a therapeutic activity, but free food for the home.

I yearn for the old days of working and feeling useful, but I am finding other ways to be useful.  Being present for my family is good.  When my grandfather was reaching the end of his life, I was able to be there and spend time with him, for which I will be eternally grateful.

The way I was doesn’t matter anymore.  It is a fond memory, but I am also starting to see the deep cracks that have been present for a very long time.  I filled them with chewing gum and duct tape, but even duct tape gives way eventually.

Now I’m picking at the cracks trying to see where they lead and trying to fill them with something more substantial then chewing gum.  I’m trying to fill them with understanding, knowledge and acceptance.

I have a very long way to go.  But, for better or worse, the old me is gone.  She is a tool for me to use to understand the new me.  But, I will never be her again.  Accepting that, and figuring out who I am now is what matters.

It reminds me of a joke Steven Wright used to tell (I know…you young’uns have no idea who that is) about how everywhere is walking distance as long as you have the time.

I have the time.

Peace and love.

Well, this is new


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Today was my disability hearing.

I was terrified.

My attorney had me to his office last week to explain what would happen, what would be expected of me, how to dress, how to address the judge and the role of the Vocational Technical Analyst.  I hated that analyst from the moment I heard about him.  He listens to the testimony and then the judge asks him, based on a “hypothetical” patients symptoms and needs, what work is available for that person in the marketplace.  “Button Sorter” tends to be a big one around here.  I don’t know why.  I don’t think there is a button factory anywhere local.

I spent the weekend frustrated, agitated, anxious, depressed and generally annoyed.  What was I going to say?  How was I going to explain this mess of mental illness in a way that would satisfy the judge?  I soon realized that there was no way I could prepare.  I wasn’t allowed to bring notes with me and any speech I crafted would be forgotten by the time I would have the opportunity to give it.

So, I chose to have faith in my attorney.  He said that if there was anything I missed or anything he thought I should cover more fully, he would ask those questions on redirect.

So today my husband and I went to the Social Security building for the hearing.  As I began to speak, things got a little easier.  Yes, I can give an example of rage.  Yes, I can give multiple examples of my forgetfulness and lack of concentration.  Yes, I can talk about my need to isolate when rage or depression or unwarranted sadness reared their heads.  Yes, I could talk about my inability to get out of bed because of depression, my ultradian cycling and the side effects of my medications.

Then the moment I had been dreading.  The Judge gave the Vocational Analyst the problems of that “hypothetical” patient (that patient we all knew was me) and asked if there were any jobs in the American Job Marketplace that this patient could do.  And the answer was an immediate “no”.


I think that means I win.  They can’t deny me if there are no suitable jobs for me right?


It’s not official, it won’t be for at least a month or two, but I won.  I freaking won!  Two years of stress and feeling less then useful because I’m not bringing in any money was over with that “no”.  My attorney confirmed that the judge told him she would be approving my claim.

There is a monumental weight that has been taken off my shoulder.  There will be no more obnoxious denial letters from the SSA.  There is no more fretting that I’m not contributing financially to our home.  And there is no more waiting for and working towards an uncertain goal.  It’s done.  I’m free.

What this has also done is freed me with my blog.  It has freed me on Facebook.  I can talk about my life.  I can talk about my struggles.  I can advocate, which is something I desperately want to try to do.  And it’s ok that it’s my real name out there.  I have changed to my real name on this blog.  I have changed my Gravatar to a picture of me.

My name is Leslie Bracken and I have Bipolar Disorder 1, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder with OCD tendencies, Panic Disorder with Agoraphobic Tendencies and Borderline Personality Disorder Traits.

And this is what I look like.


Me and Earl


Thank you to all of you for your support during this long and arduous journey.  For those of you currently in this fight, do not give up hope.





We adopted Earl from the SPCA near where we used to live in Pennsylvania.  Hubby picked him.  I had walked by him because of hubby’s dictate “Nothing with long hair”.  But something in Earl’s eye’s (known at the SPCA as Benji) sparked hubby’s curiosity and he stopped to pet Earl.  Once he was shown that immediate unconditional love from Earl, hubby was hooked and soon we were driving home with him trying to think of a name that was better than Benji.

Earl had lived in the wild for a bit if the condition of his coat and his pungent smell were any indicators.  Vets soon gave us validation for our assumptions.

Earl had almost certainly been abused.  His reaction to a straight-on head pet was to duck, but he came out of it after some time had passed.  He realized that we were only there to pet him and cater to his needs.

And we did that for 9 years.

Over the last year he’d been having recurring ear infections, attributed to allergies.  Sometimes the infection would spread to his skin.  He had all of the other hallmarks of allergies, so we gave him an allergy pill each morning with a host of different things to squirt in his ears to keep things at a dull roar.

Three weeks ago his pill fell out of the treat.  It happened sometimes and I did what I always did.  I opened his mouth to toss that little pill in.

And he freaked out.  In pain.

Distraught, I called the Vet and went right in.  My worries of a bad tooth were put aside as the Vet felt swelling.  But, then his ear started to bleed.  A lot.  Concerns of an abscess that had ruptured from the stress of opening his jaw got me a load of antibiotics and a steroid to take home for the weekend.  Re-check Monday.

Re-check showed no difference.  Referral to the Specialist  Clinic for a CT Scan was ordered.

I knew then.  Somewhere in the back of my head I knew that Earl’s doctor suspected a tumor.

We had to wait until Friday to see the Specialist Vet.  They were so nice.  I was escorted to a special waiting room for people who are going to be there all day.

The first update I received was that the ear had started pouring blood when they tried to take his temperature.  So looking in the ear wasn’t an option.  CT Scan it is.

My final update was the word I was dreading.  Tumor.  It was followed by “Lymph node Involvement”.  “Cancer” I said knowing how bad it was that the lymph node was involved.
“We took samples, we’ll know more tomorrow”.  I got bottles of pain pills and went home with my dog.

Saturday he wouldn’t eat.  I went to the drugstore, obtained a syringe, crushed his pills, mixed with a little water and shot it into his mouth from between the teeth.  Once, that dose kicked in he ate a little.

Hubby and I had a long talk.  If it wasn’t cancer, it still needed an operation.  As it is, we’ll be paying off the CT Scan for months.  To think what the cost of the operation would be was completely daunting.  And, Earl’s age factored in.  We don’t know exactly how old he was, but he was at least 10.

Then the specialist called.  And all of our “what can we do” talk went out the window.


In his ear and through the bone towards the jaw with lymph node involvement.


We don’t treat cancer.  It’s a pledge we made long ago.  Chemo and radiation effects dogs like it does humans, but they don’t understand.  Also, the cancer often re-ocurrs once treatment is complete.

So, we bought him McDonald’s.  Hubby fulfilled his normal actions when he gets McDonald’s at night and fed Earl french fries and burger pieces.  I hid pain pills in chicken mcnuggets all day on Sunday at double the dose to make sure he was definitely comfortable.

At 9:00 am on Monday my baby went to the Rainbow Bridge to play with his brother Simon until hubby or I get there.  It was humane, it was peaceful, it was kind.  It was devastating.

Today I received a card from the vet.  He wrote, in part, ‘Rest assured you did everything possible and that in the end your decision was both kind and correct’.

That card means so much.  I’ve been second-guessing myself quite a lot.  But, in my heart, I know that he hadn’t been acting like himself for a couple of weeks.

When I went to the Speciality Clinic I saw a poem that, somehow, I knew I would need soon.


At leisure


I thought of you with love today, but that is nothing new

I thought about you yesterday and days before that too

I think of you in silence.  I often speak your name.

Now all I have is memories, and your picture in a frame.

Your memory is my keepsake, with which I’ll never part

God has you in his keeping

I have you in my heart.