Never did I think I’d be pushing my late thirties with the amount of debt I currently juggle. Now I can thank my Sophie Sue and her expensive brain radiation treatments at Cooper City Animal Medical Center for finally bringing it all to a head (excuse the pun).

Sitting in the parking lot waiting for her treatment to conclude last Friday I finally experienced the epiphany I required: Making more money is NOT going to solve my problem as fast as sorting out my debt will. Not when I send big cash to the credit card companies every month only to find myself still treading water the next.

That’s why I spent the full four hours of my standard Sophie-vigil surfing the Web and calling credit-counseling firms. By the time it was all over, late afternoon, I’d had all my debt consolidated into one monthly payment at a fraction of the interest rate I’d been paying.

A satisfying crunch of plastic under kitchen shears concluded the day’s torrid business as tiny squares of my credit cards fluttered to the floor at my feet. I danced on them briefly before scooping them up, resolved to create something masterful, collage-style, with the shards.

So you know, I used to have a spending problem. That period of maximum irresponsibility ended about five years ago. Since then I’ve been suffering the ignominy of a credit card balance I’ve been unable to pay down due to randomly escalating interest rates on all this unsecured debt.

Never a late payment. Always more than the minimums. But the total always hovered too close to the maximum mark, more so after the double whammy of Sophie’s crisis (landing me back in the at-the-limit red zone) and the steep interest rate hike that followed (clearly the result of an “if-we-can-we-will” attitude on the part of the banks).

So now that I’m down to 6% I’ll be paid off in far less time than it’s taken me to try to whittle it down on my own after amassing the debt in the first place. I’ve also deferred my student loan payments for the first time since leaving school (a humane alternative available to those with this kind of secured debt). And I’ve cut out a few remaining random expenses on my monthly roster. Best of all, I’m lowering my tax burden by restructuring how I get paid and legally challenging my recent (huge!) property tax hike.

After this vet hospital parking lot experience, it’s clear to me that expensive veterinary care can be extra-rewarding:

The impetus to change based on the need to be truly financially responsible for my own animals (despite my possession of a vet degree)…telling.

A new-found sense of how a little financial restructuring (done in less than eight hours) can go a long way…enlightening.

A dog that will likely live another year of comfortable life despite her brain tumor…priceless.