Tuesday, June 14, 2011


If you go on any given e-mail list that is sharing their opinions about our beloved breed, you are bound to run into a few disgruntled people. Emotions can become rapidly agitated and tempers can reach the boiling point. Like the German Shepherd Dog that they own, they are a proud community. They feel things strongly and "Oh my goodness," challenge their viewpoints and sometimes the "uglies" spew out of their mouths, feelings become hurt and sometime friendships strained or lost forever! But like the most faithful dog on the planet (of course that's the German Shepherd Dog), the majority of the people connected to this breed when called upon for help, step up to the plate and score a home run! I always knew that I had made some wonderful friendships in this breed, but little did I know how wonderful they truly were. Even more surprising were those in our community that I never met who was right there for me during my hard times. Most people know people in this breed by the dogs they own and show, but sometimes we forget that they are human beings before they were ever a dog person. I am so blessed and so appreciative to all of you that reached out to me. It proves that there are, indeed, angels right here on earth.

It all began with my dog "Amber." Yup I wanted to include her here on my list of "thank-you's!" Like most German Shepherds, she's very smart and very curious. I remember how she would come up to me looking for a pat on the head because she's an extremely affectionate dog. When I look back on it, many, many times she would take her big black German Shepherd Dog nose and press it against my stomach and sniff and snort loudly. I would jokingly say to her, "What are you smelling Amber.......some bad stuff inside of me?" I've had some health problems these past several years so nothing surprised me anymore. Now I know what it was she was smelling. They say that a dog can smell cancer or other illnesses that you may be harboring inside. I was convinced that she did just that! So pay attention if your dog is paying attention to you a little more than usual.

When I was first diagnosed with uterine cancer and told some of my closest friends in the breed, they all were concerned and before I even knew what hit me, they were busy behind the lines, if you will! So here goes with all the many "thank you's" that I need to say. The first one goes out to my dear friend Marilyn Smith. Many of you only know her for the lovely animals that she's bred. But Marilyn is much more than a friend to the German Shepherd Dog. She is a friend that goes out of her way more times than not when someone is in need. She has this calm demeanor but don't let that fool you, she knows how to get things done. I told her that I was very concerned for my three dogs when I go to the hospital and then when I come home for my recovery. I knew that I wouldn't have the money to have people come in to take care of my dogs. She told me that she didn't want me to worry about my dogs. She said "You get your operation and I'll take care of the rest." And true to her word, she did. First she gave me the number of a organization that helps dog people when they become ill. It's called "Take the Lead." I contacted them and filled out the papers that they asked me to only to be told that it was too expensive to pay these dog sitters and with a "pat on the back" wished me well and sent me on my way. In my opinion, their attitude was not very friendly and almost made you feel guilty for being sick at all. They depend on donations to help their cause. I'm sure other people that they helped would give them a favorable review. I'm sorry that I will not be counted as one of those people. In my opinion they need more friendly, sympathetic people that answer their phones and deal with ill people. While I understand that they can't help all that may come to them, they need to do some work on learning how to turn people down with more kindness than they do now. They may be dog friendly, but I didn't feel they were very people friendly!!!!

Marilyn reassured me that all was not lost. She said she was going to contact the "Sunshine Squad" from the German Shepherd Dog Show list. So she placed a call to Doc. Zoe and called me back to let me know she was waiting to hear back from her. Later that night, Marilyn and I were talking again and she was getting a call from Zoe and told me she would call me back. A little while later, she excitedly told me that I was approved and for me to call up those dog sitters and book them to come take care of my dogs. I cried with joy as my dogs were a major concern for me. Now I could go get my insides cut out of me with a smile on my face!!!! (Not)! My dogs were going to be taken care of!!! Doc Zoe was marvelous to talk with and so very supportive during my hardest times. She wrote to me and called me several times to make sure I was doing well. Think she's just one of the administrators and founding members of the Show Dog list? Then you don't really know one of the kindest people that I didn't really know either!!! The Sunshine Squad is a marvelous charitable organization that helps fellow German Shepherd enthusiasts that are in need during their trials and tribulations. The word "sunshine" is an appropriate name for this organization because that is just what they did for me...........brought a little sunshine during some of the blackest days of my life. I don't know all those that contribute to this wonderful organization but from the bottom of my "itty bittie" heart, thanking you and Marilyn seems so inadequate! God bless you all! Please check out the Sunshine Squad's link here. It offers so many different resources for those that are in need. And donations are gladly accepted for you never know when you too may need assistance! It's a great website for information. http://showgsd.org/sunshine.html

And then there's my good friend who makes me laugh more than most. You guys may only know her as that lady from "Last Hope, Safe Haven." Yup that's the one and only Dawn Restuccia! I asked her to take over my e-mail list (The GSD Showcase) in my absence and she graciously accepted. But more than supporting my e-mail list, it was that chicken soup of hers that most impressed me! Since the time that she knew that I was ill, she kept saying to me that she wished she lived closer so she could make me some homemade chicken soup. Then one day she gets this brainstorm (she's gets a lot of these) and tells me that she's going to send it me in the mail!!! I thought she was kidding and told her she was crazy and I just laughed it off knowing what a "joker" she is. Well no she wasn't kidding and yes she is crazy because "lo and behold" there's a big box waiting for me on my doorstep one morning! I look at the return address and it's from Massachusetts. Who do I know that lives up there? It could only be Dawn! I open up this overly taped up box that houses a big old bowl that she froze in her freezer. It's taped up with a gazillion wrappings that took me forever to remove. Sure enough there's the soup that she told me took three pounds of chicken to make! Can you believe it?! And "man of man"..........the woman can cook! My stomach loved every spoonful. Knowing Dawn has been a true pleasure in my life! Thank you dear friend. You are really special.....even if you are a little crazy!

Thank you to all my other many friends in the breed for your many phone calls and e-mails. They all meant so much to me. It's true, you really don't know who your friends are until you are in need of their friendship. It's so easy to be a "friend" to someone when their life is good. It's those people that hang around when your life stinks that are true friends! Those that impressed me the most were those that I never met who reached out to me. Thank you very much. There was Steve up in Maine that offered to take care of my dogs for me. There was Bruce who had prayers said for me in his church as many others did as well. There was a special e-mail group of German Shepherd people who say prayers for the sick and dying and Deb would send me prayer updates all the time. The list goes on and on. I never really appreciated how truly blessed I am until I became ill. I never felt sorry for myself and asked, "Why did this happen to me dear Lord?" I just accepted it and knew I was in God's hands and he already knew what was going to happen to me anyway! Life is what it is............not always easy, not always fun, and certainly not what you may want it to be, but it is what it is. You can either accept it or fall down and crumble, moan, groan and complain or "get up" and go on! Well I'm still here for as long as God wants me here because I know he has work for me to do yet in whatever way he chooses to use me. All I know is that I am blessed.

I also want to thank my family that has been here for me. You already read about my youngest brother, but my other brother Jedd has been a God send to me as well. He was with me after my first operation and waited with me in the recovery room and listened to my endless drug induced chatter for what must have seemed like hours on end! He has the patience of a saint for that one. I was no better in his immaculate car when I threatened to get sick in it from the triple morphine running through my veins. He got me home just in time because what I threatened to do in his car, I did in the kitchen sink. Yucky! Sorry for the visual, but I'm telling my story as it was! Then he also took me down for my follow up at Sloan Kettering which ended up being an all day event because of more testing. We left at 9 in the morning and returned at 9 in the evening!

Then there's my sister who commissioned the dog sitters to stay a few weeks longer. Thank God because I just couldn't do the physical work needed to take care of them! Then there's my cousins that called me all the time and my best friend Brenda who has been "too kind for words!" She's like a second sister to me!

I have to say something here about my faith. I have very strong feelings about it. But there are times when you wonder what you are going to do about something that you see no way through. I experienced this many times during my trials. I wondered how I was going to do this or that. One day I was walking through the kitchen talking to myself and asking myself these exact questions. I felt my blood pressure elevated and through my "self talk", I heard a silent voice say in answer to my questions........"Ye of little faith!" You have no idea of how enlightening that was to me! I had to remind myself........"Let go and let God!" And because my faith is strong (although tested many times), God was there for me once again.................he worked his miracle through all of you guys that were there for me! So next time you go to a show, say hello to a stranger. Help out a newbie that is looking for a friend. You just never know if he was sent to you as your "Guiding Angel" for sometime in the future!

So this has been my journey. I am still recovering and it's a slow process. I live my life one day at a time. For all those that reached out to me in this breed.............you are so much more than just a breeder or exhibitor. You are special human beings above anything else. Some of you may never own a champion and some of you own more than your share of them, but to me, you are champions among people!!! You may not have a title just yet, but your crown is reserved by a judge far better suited to judge than any AKC licensed judge on this earth!!!

From the book: A SECOND HELPING OF CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL: The runaway bestseller Chicken Soup for the Soul captured the imagination of millions of readers with its uplifting message of hope and inspiration. With a nation still hungering for more good news, Canfield and Hansen went back to work and cooked up another batch of life-affirming stories to warm your heart and soothe your soul.

Through the experiences of others, readers from all walks of life can learn the gift of love, the power of perseverance, the joy of parenting and the vital energy of dreaming. Share the magic that will change forever how you look at yourself and the world around you.

My rating: "Sunshine Squad": (4), Chicken Soup for the Soul books: (4), most German Shepherd Dog people: (4)!

Friday, June 10, 2011


The last time that I wrote on my blog was right after my first surgery and I was not looking forward to the second one down at good old Sloan Kettering Hospital in New York City! Facing the unknown is always a scary prospect. I must say I didn’t dwell on it, but there were times that it hit me in the face with the force of a brick being thrown at me. I could never really wrap myself around the fact that I had uterine cancer! My relatives and my friends shared with me their cancer horror stories in the past, but now my reality was I too was added to the list of those that would battle this invader of life! Having lost my beloved mother to colon cancer, I was all too familiar with this dreaded disease. And that’s exactly what it is…….an invader! Who asked it to come and reside inside of me anyway? Invited or not; it took up residency and it planned on staying for awhile.

The morning (and I’m talking about the wee hours of the morning) of my dreaded surgery, was dark, dreary and raining heavily. I said goodbye to my three dogs and told them to be good and I’d see them in a couple of days. My youngest brother Jack who had been taking me back and forth for my Sloan Kettering appointments was once again at the wheel of the car as we hydro-planed our way down to Manhattan. If I was nervous about the operation, riding in this temperamental weather ran a close second to my already stressed nervous system that morning! Thank God my brother is a good driver and knows his way around the city because if I had to depend on “yours truly,” I’d still be looking for the hospital!

Arriving at the hospital and walking down those long, cold corridors that would lead me to “who knows what” is like playing an old black and white news reel that spins in my head. I know I was there, but it’s like someone else was pushing my reluctant body along. I didn’t want to be there, but I knew I had to be! Filling out more papers, signing in at the desk, small obligatory chatter exchanged between me and the receptionist and all of those nurses. My, my, there were so many nurses! I met so many people before the actual operation and now their faces are but a blur in the memory bank of my brain.

I’m told, take off this and put on that. I remove my gold cross and hand it to the man that takes my “valuables” down to security. I’m given a cap to put on over my head and a robe with the opening in the back. I can’t ask my brother to tie the little strings that holds the gown in place so I struggle to make myself “decent” before I pull open the drapes. My brother, who has probably one of the funniest senses of humor that I know, decides that I’m looking more like a scrub nurse than a patient and snaps a very unflattering picture of me on his I-Phone. He threatens to expose me on Facebook but feeling sorry for me shares it instead with my other brother and my best friend. Let me tell you, looking unfashionably yucky is the last worry on my mind. I have every needle pricking me, x-ray of my chest taken, and the anesthesiologist reassuring me as I tell her once again that I almost died from anesthesia one time. Oh let’s not forget about the little old lady in her 80’s that came around my bed and said prayers over my unattractive looking self. What did she say her name was? Sister Hillary? Oh well it was “Sister” something or other. She was a gentle soul and was sweet and kind and momentarily made me forget while I was talking to her in the first place. Wasn’t she there to say a prayer that I make it through the operation alright and if not, may I be taken into the hereafter and hopefully God might find a place for me in Heaven?

Finally after a couple of hours of waiting, my bed is moving along the hallway that will lead me into that sterile, white, cold place called the operating room! My brother walks along side of me and I grab his hand one last time as I turn the corner and he is left behind me. The bottom of the bed hits the double doors and opens into a smaller room than I would have imagined the operating room to be. I was having robotic surgery and I was expecting a larger area for this “robotic doctor” to perform his magic on me! I was asked to get off of the bed that I was on and crawl up on the operating table. More nurses are in here. There’s a man above my head whose face I never really get to see. He’s kind and gentle and keeps on talking to me. I’m nervous and confused as I’m strapped on this gurney that will secure my body for the next four hours. Where’s the doctor I wondered. Then the man above my head was saying, “Barbara, I’m going to put this needle in you now to help you relax. I never did remember relaxing, because I woke up in the recovery room instead.

I’ve got five different needles in me. If that wasn’t bad enough, I am told that they are going to put a sleep apnea mask on my face as I was in the high risk category. Let me tell you, everything up to that point was nothing compared to this horrific thing on my face for an hour and a half. I thought I would just about die with that thing. I felt myself become panicky probably because I felt claustrophobic. And they wouldn’t remove it when I asked them to. They insisted I needed it on. When I was finally released from the “torture” mask, I literally breathed a sigh of relief.

Once in my room, my brother was texting everyone he knew to let them know that I pulled through the operation just fine. But because of the pain that I was feeling, I made many unattractive and goofy looking faces. My brother couldn’t stop laughing at me even when the nurses came into the room to attend to me. I told him that I was happy that he was having a good time for himself laughing at my misery! But all kidding aside, I laugh a lot at myself anyway, so I found myself laughing right along with him until a sharp pain would snap me back to reality!

They gave me dinner that night and most of it I couldn’t eat anyway. My poor brother was exhausted because he hadn’t slept the night before and then driving in that awful weather for two hours and worrying about me knocked him out. Little did I know while I was sleeping, he pulled open this lounge like hard bed and lay down and in minutes was peacefully sleeping. I awoke being serenaded by the deep, robotic sounds of an overly tired brother laying ten feet away from me. “Oh no, I’ll never get back to sleep now” I thought. I didn’t have the heart to wake him………..well not just yet anyway.

So what was a “just operated on” girl suppose to do? I looked over at my bedside table and I saw that my dinner was never removed. So I took a couple of straws and removed the wrapper and threw it at my brother thinking foolishly that something as light as this would make him roll over. Really? What was I thinking? Blame it on the anesthesia that was still cruising around inside of my body. I buzzed the nurses several times for pain meds or some other incidental that I needed and even with them coming back and forth into my room and talking to me, my brother never budged. He just kept on snoring as loud as could be and I just kept on thinking how am I going to get him to stop. Now I ask you was I selfish to think that I needed rest as well? Nope I didn’t think so. So after a few hours of this torture, I called out his name several times and woke him and told him to turn over, stop snoring or go lay in the lounge for a while because my weary body was, just that…….weary. No argument on his end. He just got up and told me he’d see me in a few hours. I guess he must have remembered all those “Hot Wheels” that I bought him when he was a kid! I didn’t know it then, but it must have left a positive influence on him!

Anyway, I’m happy to say that I’ve made it to the other side but not without a few complications here and there. After being home for about two weeks and complaining about this tremendous pain I was having, come to find out I got an infection following the operation. My doctor put me on an antibiotic and thank God, it took care of that. It is now a month and a half since the operation but I’m in pain because I’m not yet healed inside. Some days are better than others. It’s a process and I deal with everything on a daily basis. I’m happy to say that my doctor said that they removed the “invader” and that I do not have to have chemo or radiation! WHOOPIE! I am so very blessed.

I have so many people to thank, but that will be for my next blog writing. For now I thank my doctor and his team of professionals for saving my life. I thank God above everyone else for it was he who held my hand through this whole thing. I could not have made it without my faith! But for this blog I want to thank my brother Jack for he was my hero and I will never forget how he laid in my room at the hospital and how I awoke to his annoying snoring, but the love I felt for him at that moment for being there with me, I shall never forget. Thank you brother!!

My rating: There is life after cancer: (4) Going through life threatening diseases with friendship and love: (4)