Bittersweet. That singular word wraps up my entire month of September. My feature in Business Insider and the continual work I’m getting since I moved to Bordeaux have proved that moving here was the right choice. But it’s been hard to enjoy the highs of my business going well. Tim and I are reeling from completely unexpected and devastating news about our dog, Emma. We just lost our 16 year old cat in May and, with Tim away long term, Emma is my entire world. Thankfully I have two good friends in Bordeaux and they have already been an incredible support system in getting through these hard days ahead. My mom also booked a flight last night and she’ll be here with me this week.
Our August feature in Business Insider rolled in to features in other publications
In case you missed it, though I don’t know how since we were singing it from the rooftops, we got a nice big feature in Business Insider. Business Insider also wrote several smaller stories over the first week of September and then other publications picked it up, like Yahoo and the India Times. Our 15 minutes of fame seems to be over for now, but it sure was nice being recognized for the business we’ve worked so hard to build.
My Atout France UK Instagram takeover was a huge success
I took over the Atout France UK Instagram account for a week with a Bordelaise food and wine special sharing my take as an expat in the Wine Capital of the World. I’m always nervous when I do Instagram takeovers – will that brands fans like what I have to say and how I see that destination?
I was thrilled that Atout France UK was thrilled with the results. My 9 posts over my 5-day takeover generated nearly 1600 likes and 100 comments, which averages more likes and comments per post than their account normally gets.
I was awarded my residency permit
It only took about six months from beginning to end, but I’m a full fledged legal resident of France. I had my final appointment at the immigration office at the beginning of September to complete my residence permit. I was nervous for a couple of reasons: I had to have a medical exam by a French doctor and the few people I know that have been through this appointment have had to get extra documentation and official translations of things like birth and marriage certificates.
Trying to be over prepared as I was with my visa appointment, I brought everything I thought they could possibly ask me for. I have a whole dossier at this point. And it’s a good thing, because they did ask for extra things not listed on the paperwork I received prior to my appointment.
I celebrated in true French style with a picnic in the park with Emma. And, of course, I’ll be writing about what to expect at this appointment in detail for those of you that are considering your own move to France.
We got devastating news about Emma
Everything else like still struggling with learning French just don’t seem to matter when your whole world falls out from beneath you.
If you’ve been following this series, you might remember that both Emma and I ate some bad Thai food the weekend we moved to Bordeaux and we both got incredibly sick from it. One of the emergency vets that saw Emma didn’t speak any English and she was unsure if Emma’s high liver enzymes were from the food poisoning or maybe something else.
Emma got better within a few days of taking the medicine that she was prescribed at that visit, so I didn’t pursue further testing. After just losing our cat, Angel, the vet scaring me in to thinking a variety of things. I spent the entire summer Googling symptoms of liver disease.
Nothing in particular was wrong with Emma. She was a little more tired than usual, but the summer in Bordeaux was an extremely hot one with a number of heat waves of temps into the high 90s. In Italy, we had a yard and Emma would just go out to potty and come right back. In Bordeaux, we live in an apartment in the center and we have to walk. She’d be excited to go out, but then didn’t want to walk for long. I couldn’t blame Emma; I, frankly, didn’t want to be out in that heat either.
But I had a nagging feeling I should take her to the vet. So I did three weeks ago just before I left on my trip to Pittsburgh. I was even starting to think I was crazy. The vet did a physical exam and everything looked good. She couldn’t believe Emma is almost 12 years old. We did blood work and her liver enzymes were on the high end of abnormal. Normally this wouldn’t be concerning, except she’d been in the abnormal range when we saw the other vet back in June.
The vet recommended Emma stop eating all the extra things she loves like bread (pizza crust), all meat except lean chicken breast and dairy. She said we could check her blood work again in a month or, if I was really worried, we could do an ultrasound to have a look around.
Call it dog mom intuition. I opted for the ultrasound.
That ultrasound found a large mass on her liver. From the ultrasound, there’s no way to know if the tumor is cancerous or anything about it. So the vet referred me to a specialist in a little suburb outside of Bordeaux.
I left on my trip to Pittsburgh with Emma scheduled to see the specialist the day after I got home. Unfortunately, my first flight home had mechanical failure. I ended up missing my connecting flight to France and stuck in Detroit overnight. I missed Emma’s appointment since I arrived back in France an entire day later than planned and the specialist couldn’t see her until the following week.
That was just last Tuesday and since Emma has been through another ultrasound, a full body CT scan under anesthesia and an echocardiogram.
Emma does have a very large cancerous tumor on her liver that is 15 centimeters by 7 centimeters in size. Unfortunately, the CT scan found another small tumor on Emma’s spinal chord at the base of her skull. Because of the location, there’s no easy way to biopsy the tumor and find out more about it. It’s kind of a wild card and we don’t know if it is the cancer spreading from the cancerous tumor on her liver or how fast it will grow. It could be benign. There’s just no way to know.
The tumor on her liver will rupture anytime and when it does, it will most likely kill her. If we leave the liver tumor, Emma probably has anywhere to from a few weeks to a few months to live.
She’s scheduled for a very risky surgery on Wednesday to attempt to remove the tumor from her liver. It’s going to be one of the hardest days of our lives. All we can do is pray that Emma makes it through the surgery and that the surgeon can successfully remove the tumor.
In the meantime, I’m just enjoying this time I have with her and sending loads of videos and photos to Tim. It’s incredibly hard to accept the situation when she’s acting so happy and normal.
Most Popular Post
I grew up in Western Pennsylvania and haven’t been back to explore much as an adult. When Visit Pittsburgh invited me to come see how cool the Steel City is these days, I couldn’t say no. Even though I just wrote about my trip last week, my getaway guide to Pittsburgh is the most popular post I wrote last month. Perhaps all my high school friends I’ve kept in touch with are plotting their Pittsburgh getaways?
Most Popular Instagram Photo
I’ve embraced Instagram Stories and had so much fun sharing all sorts of behind the scenes stuff from my trip with Visit Pittsburgh and from my daily life at home in Bordeaux. I’ve been a bit quiet this last week since I spent the majority of it at Emma’s various appointments, but be sure to follow us over there! Occasionally I even convince Tim to share a bit from South Korea.
“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” – Henry Miller I always photograph Bordeaux Miroir d’Eau from the center and only in the 3 minutes where the water is drained and it creates the mirror-like effect. But I loved how the mist and tonight’s slight breeze made a cloud.
What I’m Drinking This Month
I think I doubled my bottle count this month alone. I actually had quite a busy month visiting three different Bernard Magrez wine chateaux in Bordeaux with Luxury Wine Experience, having a tour of Bordeaux’s smallest wine producing vineyard at Le Saint-James, plus doing some urban wine tasting on my trip to Pittsburgh.
Bernard Magrez Wines
Bernard Magrez is a French wine magnate who not only owns multiple top producing châteaux right here in Bordeaux, but over 40 wine estates all around the world. I’ll be writing more about my very interesting visit to three of his châteaux in Bordeaux, which included blind tastings in black glasses, but the variety of wines I tried were:
- Château des Muraires Côtes de Provence 2015
- Passion Blanche Pays de Côtes Catalanes 2013
- Pessac-Léognan Grand Cru Classé de Graves 2007
- San Rafael Ariès Mendoza Tinto Malbec 2015
- Saint-Émilion Grand Cru 2007
- Saint-Émilion Grand Cru 2010
- Haut-Médoc Grand Cru Classé 2012
- Haut-Médoc Grand Cru Classé 2013
Carlo’s Garage Winery
Pennsylvania does have wineries, though most are located along the Lake Erie Wine Trail closer to where I grew up. Carlo’s Garage Winery is a unique concept though in Pittsburgh. It’s an urban winery who purchases their grapes from California, Italy and Chile. They’ve been producing their own wines in their Strip District urban winery since 2007.
- Carlo’s Garage Winery Malbec, made of Chilean grapes and “raised in Pittsburgh”.
- Carlo’s Garage Winery Spaghetti Red, made of Sangiovese grapes from Tuscany
- Carlo’s Garage Winery Raspberry, which was a red wine blend with actual raspberries also crushed with the grapes.
The wines that they make change depending on what grapes they’ve purchased and they are definitely different. I surprisingly liked the raspberry, which had just the slightest hint of sweet.
Le Saint-James Bouliac
Le Saint-James is a luxury hotel just outside of Bordeaux, set up on the hill in the village of Bouliac. They have a small vineyard and the smallest winery in all of the Bordeaux wine region, producing 400-600 bottles each vintage in just two tanks and two barrels. I got to try both the 2015 vintage, which had just been bottled recently and their 2009 vintage that is served exclusively in their Michelin star restaurant.
With my wine pairing lunch, I also had a Château Dubois Challon Bordeaux 2014 and a Chateau Peyrat Graves 2014. Look for a full post on Le Saint-James soon.
Bottle Count: 34
What I’m Reading This Month
I spent the majority of my reading time this month Googling and reading up on doggy cancer. But a new follower on Instagram did recommend Polar Dream, which I started on.
Coming Up in October 2016
Before everything happened with Emma, I was scheduled to be away for a month with three weeks in the Philippines before popping over to South Korea to spend a week there with Tim. I’m speaking at TBEX, a conference for travel media professionals, so I can’t entirely cancel my trip.
I have to admit that with everything going on with Emma, my heart’s just not in it now though. If Emma makes it through her surgery, I’m going to spend my time away from home worried sick about what’s going on with her while she recuperates. And if she doesn’t, I’m going to want to melt into a puddle. I barely got out of bed for a week after Angel passed away.
Besides speaking at the conference in Manila, I’ll be exploring Northern Palawan with a group of my fellow TBEX travel bloggers and Tourism Promotion Board Philippines and then putting my new dive certification to use at Two Seasons Resort & Spa Coron Island.