It gets better? I sure hope so!

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It’s been a while, crocodile.

A loooong while, actually, since I’ve written anything on this here blog. And believe me, it hasn’t been intentional. Life sometimes has the way of taking the wind out of my sails… not to mention the desire to write out of my very bones.

I don’t think words can adequately describe what I’ve been through over the past few months, though I’m going to attempt an explanation. Unfortunately, it has nothing to do with being offered a dream job covering television/entertainment for a major network or meeting the love of my life, marrying and starting a family.

I wish!

Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away...We were a happy, healthy family./All photos by Ava Gacser

Back in the fall, my mother was diagnosed with bladder cancer.

You could have knocked me over with a feather. My mother? The C-word?

Sure, this is a woman who’d avoided doctors much of her adult life. Sure, she’d been suffering from assorted health problems for several months now. But cancer? Seriously?

You bet it was serious. Serious enough that she had to entrust her life to surgeons she barely knew and undergo two separate, painful, anxiety-filled procedures in order to get all of the tumor out.

My mom spent Thanksgiving week in Somerset Medical Center recuperating. Fortunately, she came through with flying colors (albeit with a few hiccups along the way). Other health issues, however, have caused her overall recovery to be very slow, difficult and at times extremely frustrating. At the moment her lifestyle remains limited, and a lot of the day-to-day responsibilities have fallen on me.

Strike 1 for creative inspiration.

My precious Baby. Little did I know she would be dead a week after I snapped this photo.

Things weren’t quite all doom and gloom, though. My eldest cat, Baby, received a positive checkup from the kitty cardiologist just before the New Year. She’d been diagnosed with congestive heart failure over a year earlier, but the diuretic continued to do the trick. Her asthma remained under control with inhalers, and she had been acting more active and engaged than she had in years.

But just one week later, Baby suddenly worsened and I rushed her to Red Bank Veterinary Hospital. This wasn’t like the numerous other occasions when her conditioned stabilized and rebounded. After 24 hours in oxygen, Baby’s breathing remained as labored as when I first brought her in. She looked tired and worn out. And unlike any other time, the vet suggested I consider putting her down.

It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Baby was just 10 years old and had been my constant companion. She loved sleeping beside me, kneading my lap and rolling around under foot as I cooked a meal. She was, indeed, my baby. She died on Jan. 6, 2011.

This was the last photo taken of Baby.

I was heartbroken. I cried and cried and cried, perhaps more than I did when my father died suddenly of a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm on Feb. 5, 2007.

Strike 2.

Somehow, in the midst of all this grief, I came to the painful and scary realization that my career of choice, writing, may no longer provide me with the bread – much less the butter – of my existence. After being laid off from a daily newspaper in May 2009, I have been unable to find a similar (or even non-similar) position elsewhere… much less one that pays a salary upon which I could even begin to support myself. With unemployment benefits quickly running out, I’m at a crossroads. Will I be forced to put aside my career and writing/editing talents and focus instead on pursuing something more mainstream? And if I do, how will I fare in a job market in which there are hundreds of people vying for the same few positions?

Strike 3. I’m out.

Well, I prefer to consider myself down, but not out.

After my mother’s health scare and my kitty cat’s death, I was hoping I was done with any more grief, worry and stress for a long while. And I began to think things were looking up when I met Bella at Monmouth County SPCA. I really wanted a new kitten to love and luckily I found exactly that. Bella is a curious and lovable 5 month old. She hadn’t even been at the shelter a week when I got her. She has brought a lot of happiness and laughter to my life at a time when I really need it.

Bella = irresistible.

But clearly the hard times aren’t over just yet. Yesterday my brother called with more horrible, shocking news: He’d come home from work to find his eldest cat, Mr. Cha, dead. My sweet little nephew, who’d spent the past 10 years skipping around the country with my brother, was gone, and we have no idea why. He died just 5 weeks after Baby. I feel awful for my brother, and I know very much how he feels.

Mr. Cha was a big snugglebug who never protested when I held him like a baby. I will always appreciate that.

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say the last 6+ months have been rough on me. Some days it’s hard not to get discouraged and impossible to fight the stress. But I keep plugging along, and I even try to be a little bit optimistic.

What else can I do?


  1. November 13, 2011 at 12:00 am

    […] path of enlightenment began with a series of traumatic events (including, but not limited to): the deaths of my father and my cat, my mother’s serious […]

  2. September 4, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    […] of my father, the loss of a longtime job, the death of my eldest cat, and my mother’s cancer diagnosis – grief-filled to the […]

  3. avagacser said,

    February 21, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    Thanks a lot. I think I remember you… did you know my brother, David? He was on the team my dad coached.

  4. M. Mani said,

    February 20, 2011 at 7:27 pm

    Hi Ava-
    You probably dont remember me from High School. Your father was my youth soccer coach all the way back in 1983. He was a gentle man. May he rest in peace.

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