May 19, 2007 § 7 Comments
Ginger and Buttercup are gerbils.
Initially they were my daughter’s gerbils, by default, they’ve become mine. It was late January and my daughter’s birthday was approaching. She begged, and I buckled. After four chemo treatments I wasn’t myself.
It was one stop shopping at the uber pet store. Two same-sex critters in a cardboard box for $13.95. Another $40 and we got a deluxe cage complete with bedding, bowl, food, water bottle and a wheel.
They were babies when we brought them home. Curious critters disguised as balls of fluff. Four months later I see what everyone else knew from the get-go. I bought rodents.
We stuck the occasional hand in for a feel of fur, tempting them with single seeds. Turns out neither I nor my daughter really wanted animals crawling on us. Instead, we watch them, and they watch us.
They love chewing; toilet paper rolls and paper towel rolls and cardboard egg crates. They eat the food in their bowls and then the plastic bowl themselves. They chew the water bottle and their plastic platform and anything else in the cage, and they grew quickly and never once used the wheel. Nimble little gerbils could be cute, but big fat slacker gerbils? I’d have none of that.
Stella, Frannie’s friend had gerbils and Stella’s gerbils loved their wheel. So, what was wrong with Ginger and Buttercup? How did we end up with the uniquely American variety of gerbil, lazy and overweight.
Three months into our almost love affair with rodents we came home to a bruised and battered Ginger. Oozy red gross something under her eye like she had a run-in with a Cuisinart. Or, did Buttercup turn against her? Would I have to separate them? Worse, would I have to clean two cages? They looked happy enough. I suspected something else.
Honey I think Ginger is sick.
My daughter was inconsolable.
Mama I don’t want Ginger to be sick.
She didn’t want Ginger to be sick anymore than she wanted me to be sick.
We both cried.
I consulted the website of the American Gerbil Society. They talked about a gerbil allergy which can cause red mucus under the eyes. But, the description didn’t fit 100%. Poking around the site, I learned that our cage was probably too cramped for these girls. I was feeling guilty about the whole thing and decided we’d get them a brand new cage. Stella’s dad suggested an aquarium. Among other things it keeps the bedding from getting all over the place. I was ready for an enclosed keep the bedding and everything else contained type house. Gerbils generate a lot of stuff and fluff and mess. And all that stuff and fluff mess can fly out of a wire cage, especially at night, and surprise you in the morning all over the floor.
Next day we took G + B to the pet store. Happily there was a gerbil expert on hand. He took one look at our girl Ginger and agreed there was something wrong. He suggested a trip to the vet, or the application of antibiotic ointment. Obviously he didn’t know just how skittish Ginger and I both were. Applying ointment was not an option.
By sheer coincidence looking down into the cage and I noticed a small piece of metal jutting out from a corner, it was covered in blood and the mystery was solved. Ginger simply got caught on the cage. Buttercup wasn’t bad. We didn’t have a case of spontaneous ulcers or deadly skin lesions. It was a boo boo, a scrape, an environmental hazard. I sprung for the aquarium, all glassy smooth inside and out.
Within the week Ginger healed. We all healed. But still, the wheel never saw a work-out. I feared lazy gerbils developing heart disease. We had more than enough illness at home. We went back to the experts and consulted Stella and her dad one more time.
I was shocked by what I saw in their home. A tidy glass aquarium. In one corner of the aquarium were two bucolic gerbils cozy in a single cardboard tube, in the other corner, a huge gigantic wheel.
Our wheel was too small. Our gerbils were too large. They needed a larger wheel and then they too would run circles.
A month has passed and the gerbils are getting plenty of exercise now. Late at night the wheel squeaks, I ignore it. They tire themselves out and they chew on whatever is in sight.
Prior to chemo, I exercised whenever I could. I did the same during chemo and the same after chemo. I jumped on the wheel, aka elliptical stepper. Then it was surgery, and I stretched before surgery, and I stretched after surgery and I got back on the wheel.
I am gaining mobility in my arm, and flexibility in my chest. The recent lumpectomy and axillary node dissection made me feel as if my arm was sewn on too tight. Once I recover from that ordeal, I can move on to the next challenge. A mastectomy scheduled for June 8th. I’ll spend the next few weeks recovering from that. And when I am flexible enough to pull my arm back, I’ll be good to go, not rowing, but for the radiation.
All this flexing and stretching and working out. I am getting in shape. Not for a bathing suit, not for a Bar Mitzvah, no one is getting married. I am getting in shape for my next cancer treatment. I am getting in shape for a toxic treatment marathon.
I get on the wheel. I get pushed off the wheel. I get on the wheel and I get pushed off the wheel. Like those noisy critters in the kitchen at night I just keep getting on the wheel. Good thing I found a wheel.
On that note, please consider sponsoring some terrific kids this weekend in The American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life.
Also, look to the right for a link to my favorite animated blog. It’s Jerry Time. I’ve got cancer, but Jerry really has problems.
May 9, 2007 § 10 Comments
I had my acting debut in the 5th grade. I was Lady Macbeth. What do 10 year olds know about Shakespeare? Not much. 30 some years later my knowledge is marginally improved. Macbeth has been added to my Netflix queue.
I liked being in front of an audience even as it made my palms sweat and stomach gurgle. I liked the costume; a long black dress that swept the dust from the stage. It would be many years before I would have the occasion to wear such a dramatic outfit again. Even now I struggle to find an event that mandates a spectacular black outfit. As for the play, I knew my cue and the abbreviated version required just an inch of memorization.
Out damn spot. Out I say. Who would have thought the old man had so much blood in him. All the perfumes of Arabia shall not sweeten this little hand.
At which point I was directed to moan deeper than the sea and loud enough to drown the sounds of kids on the playground. I did.
I read my lines with passion. I moaned as directed and my ear-to-ear grin never wavered. I was a hit. When the curtain dropped I received a flood of attention, and praise of one particular type. The audience of mothers approached me “You have such a lovely smile dear”.
No one thought I was serious.
Out damn spot. Out I say.
Left breast upper outer quadrant partial mastectomy. Comment: a scattering of single and nested tumor cells present within microns of margins. Out damn spot.
17 lymph nodes removed. Comment: 3 positive for cancer. Out I say.
I have yet to moan deeper than the sea but I feel a tsunami growing.
All that poison, months of ingesting paint thinners and toxic waste and the cancer remains. Smaller, but present.
I am not smiling.
Out damn spot. Out I say.
I scheduled my next operation for early June after Mothers Day and Memorial Day and all the wonderful concerts my daughter will sing in this month. After my windows boxes have taken hold and I plant some herbs and stick an old kitchen sink in the front yard. I might just have enough hair they will actually need to stick that silly cap on my head in the operating room.
Damn. I would have bet the house there was nothing in the nodes.
Out damn spot.