To Everything There Is A Season, And A Time To Every Purpose Under The Heaven

There was once a man who was described as amazingly wonderful, compassionate and brilliant. He was a medical doctor. An oncologist to be exact. Highly regarded in his profession. Rumor was he graduated first in his medical school class.

His name was Dr. Eric Raefsky. His patients loved him. His patients’ families loved him. His colleagues and staff loved him. And his family loved him. Dr. Raefsky helped thousands of patients battle cancer in his Tennessee oncology practice. He lost patients of course. But many he saved. He and his wife rescued and fostered dogs.

I had the honor and privilege of meeting Dr. Raefsky when he became my mother’s oncologist over a decade ago. He exuded gentleness and kindness. He treated my mother through multiple cancer diagnoses for 1.5 years. I can’t even begin to tell you how many people recommended him to us when first we learned she had cancer. Former patients sang out his praises to us. Countless doctors told us he was the best in his field.


Dr. Eric Raefsky

I still have the letter he wrote to me when he learned of my mother’s death. It’s tucked away in my nightstand drawer and sometimes, when I’m really missing my mother, I’ll take the letter out and read it. And it makes me cry each and every time because in his own special and compassionate way, he honored my mother’s life with his words. It was personable and kind and written straight from his big beautiful heart. I’ll always cherish that letter. In it, he said he was honored to have been my mother’s physician. I felt privileged that he was her doctor.

After receiving his letter, I wrote him back and thanked him for all he did for my mother and our family. I praised him for his goodness, his kindness. I thanked him for the compassion he showed to her when she let her fears be known and let her tears flow freely in his presence. I thanked him for hugs given sincerely. I thanked him for the times he laughed with her on good days. I thanked him for his honesty in the end when he told us through sad and tear filled eyes that any further treatment would be futile. I told him a little about my mother’s last days at home and then her months in the Alive Hospice residence and about the wonderful caregivers at Alive Hospice. I told him I was with her when she died and I told him about her final moments (for some reason, I wanted him to know all that). And above all I thanked him for always always having the audacity to give back to my mother, the dignity that cancer tried so hard to take from her.

But I never mailed my letter to him. I felt at the time that it was just the writing of the letter that was a necessary tool I needed in my grief and not the mailing of it that was important. I think I was wrong. I wish now with all my heart I had mailed that letter– so that Eric Raefsky would have known just how much he meant to me and my family.

I’ve thought of Dr. Raefsky a million times this last week or so. Because cancer has once again reared its ugly head in our family.

I always said if I or anyone else in my family should get a cancer diagnosis (heaven forbid), that I would want Dr. Raefsky for an oncologist. Who wouldn’t? He was incredibly gifted and good at what he did. And he was so kind, caring, and compassionate. He knew the right things to say to terrified patients and aching family members. He knew well the struggles of cancer, the fears, the grief, the heartache it brings.

Unfortunately, Dr. Raefsky’s life was cut tragically short and he was killed at the age of 59. He had left the hospital on the night of August 5, 2014, and was minutes from home around 9 pm when a twenty year old drunk driver ran a red light at an intersection and plowed into the driver’s side of Dr. Eric Raefsky’s car, killing him instantly. I still remember the shock I felt at hearing his name on the TV news, seeing the crumbled cars, and the angry hot tears that streamed down my face amid heavy sobs.

The twenty year old underage drinker was under house arrest at the time and wearing an uncharged ankle monitoring device. He never should have been behind the wheel of a car.

But he was.

A community mourned the death of Eric Raefsky and mourned deeply. He left behind a devoted wife of 31 years. Dr. Raefsky was the Medical Director at Tennessee Oncology when he died. He was well-known for his generosity in helping both people and animals. How could this doctor, who saved so many lives lose his own life in such a senseless and tragic manner?download (1)

In the days following his death, it is said that hundreds of patients flocked to his office to be consoled or to offer comfort and support to his staff. This went on for weeks. That’s how much Eric Raefsky was loved. His funeral service was held at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center in downtown Nashville because so many people wanted to honor this exceptional man’s life.

The drunk driver who killed Dr. Raefsky pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide by intoxication and was sentenced to 12 years in prison. He had a blood alcohol of .184  at the time of the accident (.08 being the legal limit).

I occasionally have to drive by the intersection where the fatal crash occurred. There’s a green metal memorial sign now at the side of the intersection in the grass where Dr. Raefsky’s car came to rest. There’s usually flowers scattered about. I don’t understand (and never will) why this good man who helped SO many people and who still had many patients yet to help, was taken from this world much too early. I’m angry that our family and so many other families affected by cancer, now no longer have the option of seeking out his brilliant expertise should that have been our choice.

A drunk driver took that choice away from us.


photos from: In Memory of Dr. Eric Raefsky -Facebook page

Gail ♥

Posted in Death, Tragedy | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Sunday Glory- Patience


Always be humble and gentle.  Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.  Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.  Ephesians 4:2-3

In response to the WordPress daily prompt: Patience


Posted in Daily Prompt, Sunday Glory | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Gorillas Sure Can be Noisy

Back in my younger days, I was employed at a veterinary clinic which kept long hours.  We were open from 7 am until 10 pm. I was the night shift veterinarian and this night owl loved working those hours.

We had a young male technician working at night. This kid had a great sense of humor and was always playing practical jokes on people. There was the time he actually hid in the freezer where we kept the deceased animals. He jumped out just as I walked into the dark garage and nearly scared me half to death. Did I mention I was about eight months pregnant? It’s a wonder I didn’t go into labor.

And then there was the time he called me on the intercom and asked me to come downstairs to look at this “really large hairball” that one of the boarder cats had thrown up. I assured him I didn’t need to see it, and then instructed him to give the cat a dose of hairball medicine that we kept in the drawer downstairs in the treatment area. He told me he thought I really needed to come look at it. I was busy with a lot to do, but okay, I would come look at the hairball. I went downstairs and walked into the cat ward, peering into all the cat cages. To my amazement, there was this massive hairball, sitting next to a very calm and nonchalant cat. The hairball was larger than the cat and about the size of a basketball. My mouth flew open in amazement. It was authentic looking. What I didn’t know was that the technician had taken the hair from a dog who had been shaved that day and painstakingly matted it together with water and mineral oil to make it look like an actual regurgitated hairball. He placed it in the cage, called me on the intercom, and then hid in the adjacent X-ray room in the dark so he could see my reaction. He gave himself away because he fell over laughing when he saw my mouth gaping open and the stuporous look on my face as my brain tried to process what I was seeing.

At this veterinary clinic, the pipes down in the basement often shook and vibrated several times daily. I never really knew what caused them to do that. The noise could be heard upstairs in the waiting room when it happened. It was one of those sounds that we all got so used to, that we didn’t even hear it anymore, but clients did.

One night while standing at the reception desk with the technician, waiting for a client to be checked in, the pipes shook with their characteristic raucous. The floor vibrated. The client sort of jumped and said, “What in the world was that noise?!” The comedic technician, without missing a beat, said, “Oh, that’s just the gorilla in the basement shaking the bars of his cage. He gets restless at night and does that sometimes.” The client fell for it hook, line, and sinker. “So you REALLY have a gorilla down there?”  “Oh yes, we do,” the technician said.

gorilla-752875_960_720And so that’s how it came to be known that we had a noisy gorilla in the basement of the veterinary clinic. I was truly amazed at how many people believed that story. I can only recall one client who actually asked if he could go down and see the gorilla. But of course we couldn’t allow that. We couldn’t risk further stressing the gorilla like that.

Gail ♥ 

Posted in Animals, Daily Prompt, Veterinary Medicine | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Why I Despise Calling Doctor’s Offices

I don’t know if it’s just me, but it seems that dealing with the medical profession is so much more frustrating now than it used to be. I feel I’m constantly trying to jump through hoops to accomplish anything– to get an appointment, to get a prescription filled, or to just ask a medical question.

My husband is a nurse and he knows how busy medical employees are. He truly understands that and knows the system. I worked in the medical profession too, albeit it was the veterinary world and not the human world, but I think I have a pretty good grasp of how hectic life can be working in the medical world. I try to be kind and I try to be patient.

My husband and are in agreement that our dealings with medical offices would improve 100% IF WE COULD JUST GET A HUMAN TO ANSWER THE PHONE INSTEAD OF ALWAYS GETTING A MACHINE AND VOICE MAIL. Because when we leave a message that will require them to return our call, and three days later we still haven’t received a call back from them, does that mean:

A. They never got our message?

B.  They received our message but are choosing to ignore it?

C. They got our message but are so swamped, that they just can’t seem to find the time to call us back?

D. They got our message and fully intended to call us back but we somehow got lost in the shuffle?

We just can’t grasp the use of answering machines in medical offices.

I called my urology office early one morning recently on a Tuesday  because I was in pain. My body had tried unsuccessfully for 6 weeks to pass a kidney stone and so I underwent a cystoscopy and a laser lithotripsy.  A ureteral stent was put in place. I had the stent removed on February 8th and it was now almost three weeks later and I still had significant pain. I did not think this was normal.


After FINALLY getting a human voice on the phone, I asked if I could speak to my doctor’s nurse or if they could have the nurse call me back. I was told of course the nurse would have to call me back since she was in clinics. I was fine with that and understood completely. But first, the woman on the phone needed to know what my problem was and why I needed to speak to the nurse. So I went through my history, described my pain, and mentioned that I didn’t think that after three weeks, that I should STILL be having pain. Before she could have the nurse call me back she needed to ask me some questions. “Okay,” I said. And then she asked, “Are you having any pain?” I was dumbfounded. This person hadn’t heard a word I had said. I’m sure I audibly sighed before I explained my situation again, talking a little slower and louder this time. I repeated what I had just told her. I told her I had had pain every day since my stone was diagnosed on December 20th. Her next question was, “How long have you had the pain?”

My first thought was, “You’ve got to be kidding me!  This woman seemed to have no listening skills whatsoever.

I felt my blood pressure rise but still I was polite as I repeated myself. She said she would have the nurse call me and we hung up. I had not been listened to nor heard. I was frustrated and sat down in the recliner to close my eyes and take some deep breaths.

The nurse returned my call and I went through the story yet again, this time answering more detailed questions. Fearing they were thinking I was some junkie just wanting pain meds, I explained my pain was not excruciating but very annoying because I was experiencing it every day and at times it woke me up at night, more than once. I told her I was not having to take prescription pain meds and that Ibuprofen seemed to be doing the job. I did NOT need or want pain meds. I told her I was just very concerned that my pain was still present and wanted to get this problem resolved.

The nurse told me she would message the doctor and when she heard back from him she would call me back. We hung up.

I waited all that day (Tuesday), all day Wednesday, and all day Thursday for that return call. It never came. So at 3 pm on Thursday, I called back. After listening to elevator music for what seemed like an eternity (and a recording every 5 seconds of how all available associates were busy and to please remain holding), I finally got a human voice. I went through my story, told her I had called on Tuesday morning and had spoken to the nurse (I told her the nurse’s name) who had told me she would message my doctor and call me back after hearing back from him. I told her I had been waiting by the phone for three days and never heard back from anyone and yes, I was STILL in pain.

This woman’s reply to me was that they probably had returned my call but for some reason, I had not picked up the phone! Well, at hearing that, my blood pressure soared! I had reached my peak of frustration, and was on the verge of tears. Can someone kindly explain to me WHY I would not pick up my phone after I was the one who had called them asking to speak to a nurse and had been waiting patiently for their call for three whole days? Every fiber of my being wanted to tell this person how very stupid that was. But I took a deep breath (maybe two) and I reminded myself to be KIND. I calmly told this person no, that wasn’t the case, that I had both Caller ID AND an answering machine and no, I had NOT received any call from them or a message. She told me she didn’t know what happened then and she would message the nurse, this time marking it URGENT. I thanked her, hung up the phone and sat down and cried. Yes, I put my head in my hands and I cried.

I started wishing my husband was not sleeping because I really wanted him to pull out his sphygmomanomter and his stethoscope and take my sky-high blood pressure to see if I was indeed at stroke level as I suspected. All I could think about was what I had read on this office’s website (or maybe it was their Facebook page) that had said “we understand how painful and uncomfortable kidney stones are.”  No, I truly don’t think that they do. It also said, “We administer effective treatment with a patient-focused, compassionate approach.” I’m sorry but I beg to differ.

blood-pressure-pressure-gauge-medical-the-testThe nurse did call me back within about 10-15 minutes and she did apologize, telling me she didn’t know what had happened. She scheduled me an appointment to see the doctor the following Tuesday.

On Monday night at 6 pm, my phone rang. My caller ID said “unknown name” but I recognized the number as being the urology office number. “Hello,” I answered. ”
May I speak to Gail?”  “This is she,” I replied. “Gail, this is A_____ from the urology office and I was just noticing that you have an appointment with us tomorrow afternoon.” Yes, that’s correct,” I said.  I was thinking it odd that she was calling at 6 pm since the office closes at 5. I was thinking she was going to cancel or reschedule my appointment. But then she said in a snarky voice, “Well, I don’t know if you’ve received any statements from us but I see that your balance is $286.46 and I just wanted to let you know that you WILL have to pay this IN FULL tomorrow before we can allow you to see the doctor.”

I think my jaw hit the floor. Completely dumbfounded and not knowing how to respond, I reminded myself again, to be kind. Always, always be kind Gail. I took a deep breath, and told her I sure appreciated her letting me know and I hung up. There may or may not have been some spontaneous snarkiness in my own voice.

I have always, always paid my medical bills. 

I had paid every thing this urology office had asked me to pay which was co-pays and deposits on the surgical center cystoscopy and stent removal. 

I did not recall receiving any statements from them whatsoever. 

With bulging neck veins and feeling like my head might explode, I told my husband what had just transpired. He confirmed that we had NOT received one single statement from that office. He also said, after going over the insurance EOB’s, that he was pretty sure that they owed US money because we had overpaid them.  We pulled out all those forms, sat down, and spent an hour going over them all again. Hubby was spot on. They owed us.

We decided to go in an hour early the next day for the appointment and take this matter up with their billing office. I’ll be the first to admit, that I was glad hubby was going with me because he is ever so patient and much better and talking and dealing with people than I am.

That night I prayed for God to give me patience and compassion to deal with these people who were quite honestly frustrating me to the point that I was ready to find a new doctor. I really, really liked the doctor and didn’t want to switch. I prayed above all that He would help me to be kind and not show my anger. Because I knew that would only complicate matters further.

The next morning, I left the house early to be with my sister who was having surgery to repair a tendon in her elbow. When I got home from the hospital to get ready for my appointment, my husband told me we did not need to go in early after all. He had called the insurance company and explained the situation and the snarky call I had received the night before. The nice lady on the phone agreed with my husband that we were owed money and asked if he wanted HER to call the urology office and get this all straightened out? He told her to go right ahead and wished her luck. So she did. She called back a short time later, and said it was all worked out and they would be reimbursing us for our over-payment. The urology office also called a short time later and told us they would be reimbursing us and crediting our credit card. I thanked them politely.

pexels-photo (1)I made my husband stand with me as I checked in for my appointment that afternoon because I fully expected trouble. The lady checking me in stared at her computer screen for the longest time, squinted, leaned in closer to the screen, and furrowed her brow.  This went on for quite some time. I braced myself. She finally looked back up at me, smiled and said, “Okay, you’re good, you just owe your copay today.”

Thank you Jesus.


Posted in Daily Prompt, Health, Kindness | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

Sunday Glory


Therefore God Exalted him

to the highest place and gave

him the name that is above

every name, that at the name

of Jesus every knee should bow,

in heaven and on earth

and under the earth.

  ~ Philippians 2:9-10 ~



Posted in God, Sunday Glory | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Yes, I’m Blogging About Cat Poop and Litter Boxes!

Yesterday was my day to thoroughly clean my cats’ litter boxes. Though I love my two kitties dearly, cleaning their litter boxes is one of my least favorite chores to do. I’m convinced it’s why most people refuse to own cats. I can’t tell you how many friends I’ve heard say, “I would just love to have a cat, but I don’t do litter boxes.” Since there’s nothing more disgusting in my opinion than a stinky soiled litter box, I clean the litter boxes in this house faithfully, even when I really, really don’t feel like it. I do it for my cats and also because I sure don’t want company coming into my home and smelling a dirty litter box. Have your ever walked into someone’s house and the first thing you notice is the smell of a dirty litter box? I have and it’s a big turn off. My cat Nugget has Feline Interstitial Cystitis and so keeping a clean litter box is of paramount importance.



So just how often should litter boxes be cleaned? And how many litter boxes should one have for their feline friend?

The feline experts I’ve heard lecture at conferences over the years seem to be in agreement over these litter box recommendations:

  • Cats prefer large litter boxes. The larger the better! Unfortunately, most commercial litter boxes are too small.
  • Avoid highly scented litter or deodorizers. Fine, unscented clumping litter seems to be preferred by most cats.
  • Don’t use strong disinfectants or scented cleansers like Pine Sol or Clorox bleach.
  • The general rule is to have one litter box per cat plus an extra, i.e., if you have one cat, you should have two litter boxes, two cats, three litter boxes, etc.
  • Multiple litter boxes should be spread out in different rooms. Some people make the mistake of lining multiple boxes up along a basement wall. To the cat, that’s one giant litter box or one big latrine!
  • Scoop litter boxes daily.
  • All litter boxes should be thoroughly emptied and washed out with mild soap and water once weekly.
  • Keep litter boxes in a safe, quiet place and make it easy to access. If litter boxes aren’t easily accessible, cats won’t use them!
  • Sometimes the plastic in litter boxes absorbs odors that don’t seem to come out.  Replace them when that happens. Periodically, I wash mine out in the hose outside, let the soapy suds sit awhile, then I rinse them well and let them dry in the sun for a while. That seems to help.

I am constantly amazed at how entire seminars can be devoted to feline elimination habits. And yes, there are entire textbooks devoted to this issue. I loved the story one of the lecturers told about a client she had who had 10 cats, all indoors. The client was complaining that some of the cats weren’t using the litter boxes. The veterinarian asked her how many litter boxes she had. The client replied very proudly that she had plenty of boxes and that wasn’t the problem. Turns out she had only 6 boxes for her 10 cats (not enough) and she also proudly stated that they were lined up in a single row against her basement wall. She was told she needed at least 11 boxes and they needed to be spread out in multiple rooms. Yes, that’s a lot of daily scooping and a lot of work to thoroughly empty and clean that many boxes weekly.

Since I have two cats, I need at least three boxes. I actually have four– two on the main floor of the house, one in the basement, and one in the screened in porch. They prefer the box in the screened in porch except in really cold or really hot weather when they’re not spending much time out there. They don’t go in the basement much, so that box rarely gets used. But it’s there if they need it!

Most feline books will tell you that the average cats poops on average one time daily. I wish. Just like in humans, all are different and how much they poop is going to depend on how much they eat and what they eat. My cats obviously didn’t read the book because they each poop on average 2-3 times a day (and always have). Part of that may be due to the fact that I give them pumpkin frequently as it’s high in fiber and helps with hairballs. High fiber diet = more pooping. I scoop my boxes one and sometimes two times daily.


Please invest in one of these.  They’re cheap.  Walmart has very sturdy ones for only 94 cents.


My cats have hooded litter boxes which many of the feline experts dis but I think it gives them a little more privacy. I only wish they were bigger.


Actually, of my four boxes, two are hooded (just like the one shown above with the flapping door) and two are just litter pans. They use both equally. If truth be told, I have big cats (about 12 pounders) and probably need larger litter boxes which means I would need to make homemade boxes and I just haven’t gotten around to doing that. You can make nice larger boxes by just getting a plastic storage box and cutting one of the narrow sides down to make it easier for them to enter and exit. If you want some ideas, google homemade litter boxes in google images and you’ll see some nice ones made from Rubbermaid storage boxes. I think I remember hearing the litter boxes should be 1 1/2 times the length of the cat. They need to be big enough that the cat can climb in comfortably, be able to turn around easily inside the box and scratch in the litter.

So yesterday, I cleaned the three main boxes and barely had them set back down on the litter mats when Nugget climbed in one and urinated. Oh, how he just can’t wait to inoculate that clean box! Then he got out of that box, and walked in another room where the other box is and climbed into that box and pooped. I thanked him. THEN, he asked to go out on the porch so he could hit that box up too. So I let him outside and he had saved some urine to mark that box too. He loves to do that and does it just about every single time I clean the boxes. God love his little heart.


Nugget awaking from one of his cat naps yesterday


Dakota and Nugget snuggling


Posted in Animals, cats | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

I Wonder…..

Times are a changin’ people.

Recently when I went to a new doctor, I was given the usual “stack” of forms to fill out (except it was all done electronically on one of the wireless PhreesiaPads like this):


There were some questions I had never come across on doctor’s forms before. Instead of asking for my sex, they asked my birth sex.  Okey-Dokey. In today’s age, I can kinda see why.  Hint: Think Bruce Jenner/Caitlyn Jenner.  

Then it said:

Sexual orientation– there was a blank box after these two words and quite honestly, I was confused as to what exactly I was supposed to write in this box. And for the life of me I wondered why they have the need to ask this?  I left it blank because I honestly didn’t know what to put and was too embarrassed to ask. And furthermore, I didn’t really think it was any of their business.  I was there for kidney stone pain, so why on God’s green earth did they need to know my sexual orientation?

Then it said Gender Identity.  And there was a drop down menu with the following choices:

straight or heterosexual

lesbian, gay or homosexual


Don’t know

Choose not to disclose

Other, please describe

For the record, I’m a straight (heterosexual) female married happily and monogamously for almost 33 years to my straight (heterosexual) male husband. This being said, I still don’t know what I was supposed to write in the sexual orientation box.  

I couldn’t help but wonder what other, please describe under Gender Identity could possibly mean? What else is there? Am I missing something?  Anyone care to explain?  I’m so confused.

I told my husband that I want to be a fly on the wall when his sweet, dear 88-year-old mother comes across one of these forms for the first time. Oh Lordy.  And you thought I was confused?


Posted in Relationships | Tagged , , , | 9 Comments