Ah, with one slight, life changing exception.
It was the best/busiest New England Winter (Jan-Apr) Newmarket-Indialantic Equine has had with fascinating cases, expressive equine patients, and wonderful clients...a number of both, over the years, have become dear friends.
The practice was built with care, built on the principles that your horse's welfare is paramount and that education and evidenced-based medicine are the foundation of a quality equine practice. It has been a central focus in my life (along with a brilliant Labrador [2[phone redacted]], and 3 expressive cats) for the past 10 years.
In mid-Summer, I was honored to be invited to join 6 other internal medicine specialists, from university teaching hospitals and private practices, to publish a "Consensus Statement" on Equine Borreliosis (Lyme disease; in a forthcoming Journal of The Am. College Of Vet. Int. Med.), as well as to write an upcoming book chapter on "Borreliosis in Sport Horse Practice" (with a February '18 deadline)!
Yes, 2017 was quite the year professionally...and personally too:
In the Spring, the Big Bean Cafe was kind enough to let me hang 20+ photos in a month long wildlife art exhibit,
and I actually sold a few photos!
A love of seeing the world and meeting the folks in it--an "esprit d'aventure"-- was instilled in myself (and sister Amy) by our parents; a balance in life so that "work" is easier on one's physical and emotional soul. So, in the summer, with the use of frequent flyer miles and the gift of staying with Tiffany Carillet's family's missionary friends (with an overnight stay in an actual tribal village), we witnessed the unbridled celebration for the completion of 20+ years of work in translating the New Testament into the Mbore Na Kam language (one of >800 PNG dialects) in Papua New Guinea. A blessing, a wonder to see, and to share with extended family.
A once in a lifetime experience.
Now, you might ask about that one "slight exception":
It became apparent, in the Spring of 2017, that what, in the Fall of 2016, was tentatively thought to be a simple internal hemorrhoid, was not..."simple" (or benign for that matter).
And with that, I became intimately acquainted with a malignancy graded as a "Stage IIIA Colorectal Cancer".
I now began a new journey, an education, a transformation from being a physician into becoming a patient. One which I naively thought would be straightforward and one where I need not depend on the help of friends and family-much less the generosity of others. One where my education would be in dealing with radiation and chemotherapy side effects, being attached to a pump 5 days each week that delivered cytocidal ("cell killing") medication into an IV line buried in my chest,
and one of living in a world where the grocery shopping was less for Captain Crunch & more for prescription medications, baby-wipes, and Ensure liquid diets.
I was so very certain that I could keep up the volume of equine medicine calls while completing the cancer therapy program, even when those in the Mass. General Oncology Dept. expressed surprise that I was able to work at all.
Turns out patients should listen to Mass. General.
The overwhelming fatigue, nausea, GI difficulties (e.g. opioid meds stopping motility, and blood and tissue discharges as the tumor is destroyed by radiation/chemo), cold intolerance (tingling feet and hands, the "burning" and spasms in your throat if the drinks are cold), and often exquisite pain were, and are, a constant and disabling presence on those calls and in daily life. Trying to keep the infusion pump and IV line (into a port in my chest) out of harms way (or from freezing in sub-zero wind-chills) was an added distraction and fear.
The painfully hemorrhagic ulceration of skin where the radiation passes on it's way to the cancer mass has made even walking a short distance a challenge most days.
Travel to stables became impossible as the medications and chemo/radiation side-effects began to cause me to doze off behind the wheel, even at mid-day.
Clients and friends kindly gave me the widest latitude in those appointments- even offering to help drive, or to carry the (heavy, e.g. digital x-ray system) equipment.
After 9 months of fighting the side effects and fatigue, only to run what averaged out to be a call a week, it became apparent, physically and financially, that Cancer was just not something I could face and defeat alone. That ”3 months” buffer in savings was swallowed up, followed by personal savings and business checking.
Insurance covers some, but not all, costs, and new imaging and referral to more specialists seems to occur every other week.
All that said, the prognosis for life, with successful surgery within the next 3-4 months or so is very good (silver linings)!
The initial 4 months of intense chemotherapy was completed, and I am now on radiation (and low dose chemo) 5 days a week. Then there is a variable period to let the radiation have it's maximal effect on the tumor.
We pray that it does so, as currently the cancer has invaded enough tissue that a permanent colostomy is considered necessary.
What is needed?
Financial support for the coming 4-6 months, as running calls as an equine practitioner is no longer possible during this period. This will help not only with the current treatment but with the actual surgery, surgical recovery, and the rehabilitation time necessary to get back to full-time practice; Funds to cover the medical expenses that insurance does not, to help cover the monthly costs that the practice supported in past years: my home, utilities, loans covering the ultrasound and endoscopy equipment, food, etc.
If you cannot afford to help financially, then heartfelt prayers and thoughts are graciously accepted, as they can be of great benefit; and, when you post on FB, please (!) take time to share my story with your extended family and FB friends.
Even gift cards to a store with a pharmacy (e.g. Walmart, Rite-Aid, CVS) would be appreciated as over the counter medications are expensive.
Donations of cat litter and cat food have been covered by a friends and my sister Amy; so, gratefully, Shakespeare, Ruffian, and Pippin are well cared for.
With kind regards and best wishes for a wonderful 2018!
- Beverly Noffsinger
- Rosalinda Devereux
- Lauren Crowell
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