wheel of fortune

May 19, 2007 § 7 Comments

Ginger and Buttercup are gerbils.

gingersmall.jpg buttercupsmall.jpg

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.


Me too.

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.

Xoxo Momo

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.

xoxo Momo


§ 7 Responses to wheel of fortune

  • Paul Levy says:

    You got lucky that they were actually same-sex gerbils! Sometimes they tell you that and, surprise, lots of litte gerbils . . .

    Keep spinning. Good for the muscles, the mind, and the soul!

  • Kathy Dann says:

    Your gerbil story made me laugh and remember when I too fell for the pleas of my kids and brought home gerbils. Our last gerbil was really mean and bit Jessica so we brought it back and was told it was probably pregnant. We received another one in exchange and a few days later we looked in the cage and saw what looked like little peanuts…except they were moving. We returned a non-pregnant rodent for a pregnant rodent! I have to admit, the babies were cute and I imagined making a nice profit when we sold them back to the store (which turned out to be $4, not exactly what we had hoped for).
    Now we have a dog, which is a million times easier to care for than the many gerbils, hamsters and guinea pigs (don’t ever get one of those- they stink!) we have owned during the years.
    Keep up with your stories. You are an inspiration.

  • Ann D. says:

    Say it loud, say it proud, “I am the owner of a rodent”. I fell under the spell of hamsters a few years ago, and three hamsters later, we are still smitten, this time with “Cuddles” (no, I DID NOT name him that!).

    The hamster’s wheel, like your gerbils’ wheel, is a great metaphor, not lost on children. My son, Noah (the artsy one), was so inspired by Cuddle’s nocturnal spinning that he came up with an idea for a musical entitled, the “The Opera of the Hamster”. Like any great American musical, there are several show-stopping numbers. All the actors are wearing hamster suits (what an image) Act I., The Pet Store, song: “Pick Me!”, Act II., Evening in the Cage, song: “I’m On My Wheel”, Act III. big finale, song: “We are the Hamsters”, chorus line of hamsters singing the tune of Queen’s “We are the Champions”. Mmmm…maybe more of an A.R.T. production…

    Keep blogging, keep plugging, keep spinning!

  • Laura says:

    I would be honored to help you get even more strong, flexible and into better fightin’ shape!
    See you soon.

  • Ricki says:

    You are an inspiration,aspiration and over all sensation!
    Although a Bar Mitzvah may not be your fit goal there is one coming up and I see you dancing up a storm with hands held high above your head just like the old days.

  • Rick Beyer says:

    All your messages are so damn uplifting! Where are the grumps? I feel a lot of sympathy with the gerbil. Half the time I don’t have the inspiration to get on the wheel, and the other half the time I’m wishing I could get off. Don’t need a bigger cage, though, the one I am in is fine.

  • Gail says:

    Re:pain in the ass stuff – life sucks. Ok. There, I said it. Yesterday I got up from stooping in the garden (too much) and RIPPP. Who knows what I did, but it has to do with glutes.It’s not like I have nothing to complain about, but now I have a literal pain in the ass.

    On the bright side, I put one foot in front of the other. I have the love of my friends and family. I am way better off than 90% of the folks on the planet. And I have you. My funny, bright, creative, loving little sister.

    I still get a kick out of watching you grow up. Every day is a new adventure. I am with you on this one, watching from the sidelines. Keep keeping on.

    With love and support, Gail

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