Changes, by Judy Horton

Seems like I fell off the Blogosphere the past few months.

Lots of things got in the way of blogging.  I didn't want the blog to become all about my experience with cancer, which though possibly interesting, is not the purpose of this blog. 

I did post some on Kelly's struggles with my illness, which is quite pertinent to the topic.  The whole thing hit Kelly hard.  First she developed TMJ, probably because of stress.  It took weeks to get a good diagnosis, followed by several weeks of physical therapy, followed by more weeks of visits with dentists, oral surgeons, fittings for mouth splints, etc.  And because she could not eat she began dropping weight dramatically.

“When can I be me again?” she would ask. 

She could not sleep either, and came to dread nightfall and going to bed.  She began to imagine something was wrong with her hands.  She obsessed on topics about which she had anxiety.

We sought help for her and she was put on medication which helped almost immediately.  She began seeing a gifted counselor.  Laura, our driver, would take her to those appointments.  Laura is compassionate and understanding, with a real gift for conversing with our Ranchers, and I believe became an integral part of the treatment herself as she and Kelly chatted on the hour-long drives to Austin and back.

The therapist, Alicia, worked with Kelly on framing her experiences, getting through the tough times, and in general developing coping skills.  Kelly clung to her lessons like a life raft. 

Gradually, things began to improve.  The pain diminished, though it took weeks for Kelly to learn to “trust her teeth” again and begin to eat on the TMJ side.

Alicia told me she had never had a client who worked so hard at getting well as Kelly.  And she wasn't talking about just handicapped clients, but all of her clients to date.

When I jokingly complained about my hair coming back curly, of all things, Kelly told me, “Mom, you've got to be more positive about your hair.” 

Today Kelly is herself again, stronger, wiser, having come through a scary time for herself and for her family.

As for me, here I am with curly hair, cancer-free, looking forward to a few more years on the mortal coil, and with a greatly enhanced appreciation for the love and generosity of friends and family who got me through the whole thing. 

Jerry and I realize very clearly now that time may be very short indeed, and we have dedicated ourselves to spending more and better time with each other and doing those things we've always meant to do but have put off. 

And so I retired on my birthday in May.  Officially, irrevocably.  Jerry has presented the Board with a plan for his retirement transition, and we are working on our last big fund-raising project, The Founders' Legacy.  You'll hear more about that.  I promise.

As for this blog, I'll continue to write occasionally about issues families of people with intellectual disabilities face.  I also want to continue introducing our staff and writing profiles on them.  AND I want those staff to begin writing for the blog should they feel so inclined.

So tomorrow Cathy Belliveau's piece on growing up on the grounds of the Travis State School will be the first of a series.  Cathy is the Ranch Program Director, and the first time she saw the Ranch it reminded her so much of those good days at TSS, where her father worked and the whole family volunteered, and where Cathy found her lifetime vocation.

Cathy now lives at the Ranch in a little cedar cabin with her two dachshunds.  She works 60 hour weeks (on the easy weeks) doing everything from high-level administrative work to chasing chickens in the evenings, a task she has finally delegated to Michael.  Jobs descriptions at the Ranch rarely cover it all…