Life & Limb: Change, Resilience and Learning from the Three-Legged Cat

WHAT are the positive aspects of the pain of change, especially when it is overwhelming, full of sighs, groans, and fearsome ambiguity? Make it through, and you’ll know what resiliency is and the value in the struggle to be alive, and especially to fully live.

We witnessed this twice when Pearl, one of our two cats, the one with an indomitable, feisty spirit, suffered through two rounds of a potent kitty depression including listlessness, not eating or drinking for days, requiring vet consults and drugs to reclaim her.  (Two videos, including Nick’s inspirational human example completes the end of this post.) Pearl also is still with us in 2013 after injuries by a dog, again fully recovered, 7 lives left!

(Note:  This post was updated with a larger font, an updated introduction & competency references in 2013.)

Pearl, our cancer survivor, March 2009 photo

Pearl, our cancer survivor, March 2009 photo

Pearl was diagnosed with cancer in one leg in mid-April.  The recovery period after the initial surgery to remove the cancer was more tenuous than the follow-up surgery in early May to remove an entire hind leg so that the cancer would not return.

Pearl is fully recovered now, back to her normal, demanding, indomitable self after the life-saving surgery.  We learned that dealing with something unknown, ambiguous, and difficult tested our judgment, adaptabilty and resilience.  The Mayo Clinic defines resilience as the ability to adapt well to stress, adversity, trauma or tragedy.

[Resilience] means that, overall, you remain stable and maintain healthy levels of psychological and physical functioning in the face of disruption or chaos.   If you have resilience, you may experience temporary disruptions in your life when faced with challenges. For instance, you may have a few weeks when you don’t sleep as well as you typically do. But you’re able to continue on with daily tasks, remain generally optimistic about life and rebound quickly. (Full post here.)

We needed to help Pearl along a little to find her resilience.  Life layers happened in parallel — children’s needs, elder care, work demands.  This seemed an apt place to explore the status of the university developed competency of  Flexibilty, Adapting to Change.


means that, overall, you remain stable and …functioning in the face of disruption or chaos.”


From a competency definition: Flexibilty, Adapting to Change:

Responds positively to and champions change to others; demonstrates an ability to incorporate innovative practices into the workplace to enhance effectiveness and efficiency.

The Professional levels of the change competency includes:

  • Understands and accepts the need for change
    • Cat has cancer.  Leg must go. We exhausted all other viable options
    • Reorganizations and mergers happen.  Staff configurations change based on knowledge and/or goals at hand.
  • Deals with others’ resistance to change with tact and understanding.
    • Adult daughter is upset.  Family is upset.  Daughter repeatedly questions the diagnosis of amputation.  Many phone conversations.
    • Organization change usually involves a meeting, emails, followed by assortments of Facebook chats, hallway conversations, grapevine, etc. followed by a key email memo chaser  and hopefully two aspirin:  e.g. crucial conversations that help things look better in the morning.
  • Cooperates in the implementation of change.
    • Parents, e.g. mom, drops off the cat for the amputation surgery. Hopes for the best. Trusts the medical team.
    • If loss is experienced, a change/grief process cycle may kick in.  It is easier and faster if the change is accepted as positive and needed, similar to this positive change cycle model here.)

Flexibility/Adaptability to Change: Management
Level 1 – initiates and implements change that positively impacts a department or workgroup

  • Champions change by articulating its positive effect
    • Parents, e.g. mom, update daughter & family on cat improvements on phone & Google chat.  Recovery time is less and no drugs needed  this round.  Personality is returning to cat within a few days of surgery.
    • A new vision that incorporates facts and solid data helps move things along.

Level 2 – initiates and implements change that positively impacts a unit

  • Articulates a compelling vision to the members of the organization.
    • One healthy cat video is worth a 1000 words, 23 seconds and MC Hammer.  (Part of son’s spanish class project.)


Competencies are outside-in, …guidelines for …learning externally.  There is also the inside-out perspective…  the benefit of …the struggle.



Competencies are also outside-in; they are guidelines for development in a education and learning externally.

There is also the inside-out perspective, including the developmental benefit of the struggle to learn.   Struggle is a part of learning in leadership development.  There is the internet story of cocoon to butterfly mortality (or at least interrupted development) described here….

At times, it is important to NOT intervene, lest we stunt the growth of the very person we aim to help, even killing the object of our assistance (or affection) with uninformed kindness.  This is the aspect of inside-out development useful for developing emotional muscle or emotional intelligence.  It is also a key aspect in the coaching I do, making room for silence at critical times, allowing the shifts and discoveries to happen.


Without the struggle, the butterfly does not have the developed strength to live.


For the human example, I offer the story of Nick Vuijicic, a man born without limbs. Excerpted from the video below:

Do you think you have hope?  I’m face down.  It should be impossible for me to get back up…

If I fail 100 times, do you think I’ll give up?  I just want you to know it is not the end.  It matters how you finish. 

Are you going to finish strong?  You’ll find the strength to get back up. 

Like this:

Nick Vujicic, speaking to high school students & more about his life here.

Attitude, feeling, and belief systems are powerful, and transcendent.  They are built from many sources, and are responsive to confident, wise leadership.  There’s really no ideal wrap-up to the on-going story of managing change beyond Nick’s demonstrated resilency. 

As for the point of the struggle, I offer this quote:


“And the day came when the risk it took to remain closed in a bud became more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” 

– Anais Nin


Thanks for visiting and joining in the on-line mutual learning community.  Comments enrich the conversation. ~  Deb

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3 Responses to “Life & Limb: Change, Resilience and Learning from the Three-Legged Cat”

  1. Linda says:

    Hi Deb, I’m glad to see that that you still have Nick’s video here! It has disappeared from my facebook wall and also from the wall of the person I got it from. Maybe there was a copyright issue? Too bad, because I posted that for a specific person to see and not sure if they got the chance. 🙁
    Awesome story about your cat! Very sad, but glad everything came out ok in the end!

  2. dnrevel says:

    Linda, you are most welcome and thanks for your comment. I’m not sure how things work with YouTube and Nick’s videos, as he is a motivational speaker and sometimes videos are removed from YT when the subject of the video objects to their own videos being posted by others.

    Nick is quite an inspiration, so allowing wide sharing of his video I would think would only help his speaking career.

    Pearl is still with us, and quite the feisty little beast still. Seeing her recover like that from cancer and doing well with her three legs was inspirations for all of us. Nick just took it to a whole new level.

    Best wishes and see you around B’field soon,


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