The alarm sounded at 4 AM. I turned over with a groan and let the melody continue so I wouldn’t fall back to sleep. I knew if Sir Cussalot woke, he would be responsible enough to make me get up. He didn’t disappoint. I resented it but appreciated it at the same time. I just wanted to sleep. One of us must be the responsible one.
It was a rough weekend on me physically. Everything hurt and I didn’t want to get out of my warm, snuggly bed. I felt like a million bucks, but I overdid it. The muscles in my legs ached, but in a good way. They told me I had done something for a change. It has been a long time since I have done anything other than stroll around the yard. I had not planned to run a dog for a few more weeks, so I hadn’t made an effort to get into better shape. The only running I had done was to the refrigerator! I have gained about 15 pounds now since my lowest weight right after surgery to remove a cancerous three pound tumor from my colon back on October 29th. I am not worried about it though. I think with the six months of chemo, I will be OK with the extra poundage. I do need to get back to Dr. McDougall style eating though! I felt better and looked better when I stuck to it.
It was our first weekend back to agility in more than three months. Crushie hadn’t run since July! She was having shoulder troubles in the same side as the tumor she had removed from her triceps last year. We did shock wave on her shoulder this fall and she spent several months on crate rest and leash walking only, during her treatments. At almost eight years old, her career is coming to an end and we want her to stay sound and healthy for many more years. However, without a job to do, Crushie is miserable, so we need to do our best to keep her sound and happy. A bored Crushie is a miserable Crushie! A miserable Crushie means misery for us and all the other dogs!
Crushie is about one and a half to two seconds slower than she once was, but she still loves agility. It is difficult to see her run so much slower, but we need to remind ourselves that we are doing this for fun and not for bragging rights. Been there – done that! She is now just normal fast, not alien fast. In her prime and before her injury three and a half years ago (which happened running in the back yard), she was hard to beat. J That is no longer the case. Now it is about the joy on Crushie’s face after a run. God help her, she loves it so. We were very happy with her runs. It took a few for Sir C and Crush to get in sync, but they won Master Standard on Sunday. They had a wide turn to the weave but otherwise a great run!
Sir Cussalot has been working all five dogs since I got sick. It is a lot of work! The plan was for him to run Pankies for me, along with all of his dogs. Even though she has trained well for him, I was apprehensive about her running for him. That messed up mind of hers is very fragile and Mel’s ring nerves are ever present. Pankies is used to be directed strictly by my voice. Sir C runs silently like a submerged sub trying to go unnoticed. They might not be a great fit. I hoped for the best.
Their first run on Friday was Excellent FAST. They qualified and placed second! The timer wasn’t working so there was no buzzer. That put them 10 seconds behind the time or they would have won. She was stressed on the Aframe but otherwise ran well for him. However, she refused to tug with him so I knew it was only a matter of time before she had a meltdown in the ring. Her routine must be exact every single time before and after she steps in the ring or she can’t deal with it.
The Master Jumper run was another story altogether. Her stress got the better of her, so she did a bunch of jumps for extra credit. When she stresses, she just runs around doing jumps and ignoring her handler. I decided that even though I was not supposed to run a dog for another few weeks, I would give it a try anyway.
So, the next day, I asked her if she wanted to go running, jumpin and weavin with Gramma. She looked at me with great excitement! I got goose pimples thinking about running her. I gave her the stink eye. She returned it.
Game on BITCHES!
She flew out of the x-pen and grabbed her thick rope leash and began tugging like a fiend! I tried hard to only tug with my left arm only but it was difficult as she leaped around like a trapped gazelle. The port arm is off limits for now for tugging, or supposedly anyway. We tugged and leaped our way over to the ring. I warmed her up by doing tight turns in place, front crosses and directionals and sit stays with releases. It tunes her into me. I use all verbals to run her and that takes a LOT of practice and work so she will be able to process what I tell her in the heat of battle. We can’t do the practice jump or she stresses. I have no idea why.
We have our routine down to a science. Right before we enter the ring, I ask her, “Are you ready?” She gives me the stink eye. I return the look and goose her butt. Then I tell her, “We’re next!” That means, the treats are gone and let the tugging begin! I tug her into the ring through the ring gate to make sure her mind is off her surroundings and other dogs and people. I tug her into position. My adrenalin is pumping. Her adrenalin is pumping. I can’t wipe the S#!T EATIN GRIN off my face! I ask her to sit, hope the airplane taking off overhead will clear out quickly. At least she no longer ducks and tries to bolt when they go overhead! The roar of the ascending plane is so loud I can’t hear the robotic, “GO.” I look toward the table but they are not looking at me. So I look to the judge and shrug. She gives me the thumbs up to go. I carefully toss Pankies leash to the side, being careful not to spook her (easily done!), while still holding onto her collar. I ask her if she is ready. More stink eye exchanges. That means, “LET THE BARKING BEGIN!” I had to teach her to bark in order to take her mind off all the things that go bump on the show grounds. It keeps her head in the game and on me and off all the scary monsters about to jump ut and get her at any given moment. I tell her, “EXCELLENT! GOOD! EXCELLENT!” as I take the long walk to my position for the lead out pivot.
I set myself, take a deep breath, ask Pankies one more time if she is ready, then yell, “OTAY GO!” At this moment and until the end of the run, nothing hurts. For the next 26 blissful seconds I am free from the bondage of my crippled old body and pain. My heart sings and my soul soars. It doesn’t get any better than that! I have never had cancer or chemo or polio or anything else. It is just Pankies, the course and me. In my mind, Pankins is faster than Crushie and I am Flo Jo; smoke coming out of my shoes and the wind at my back! Nothing can touch us. We can never NQ. We are INVINCIBLE! After the run, Pankies, who is a million miles ahead of me, runs to her leash in the waiting chair, then looks back to see where the hell I am and runs back to me with a HUGE smile on her face! I tell her how wonderful she is and lean in to smack her behind. Of course she scoots and I miss but the game is still fun for both of us. We are both on a big A$$ adrenalin rush. Pankies is very proud of herself and I am very proud of her bravery!
Later, I watch my video. Can you see the balloon flying around the room as it deflates? That is no balloon! That, my friends, is my wounded and deflating ego! <SIGH> OK, so we are slow and I run like I have hot potatoes in my shoes. WHATEVER! WE HAD A BLAST AND I AM LUCKY TO BE ALIVE AND DOING WHAT I LOVE MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE IN THE WORLD! GOD I LOVE AGILITY AND PANKIES!
We pulled out of the driveway at 4:45 the next morning. It was still pitch black but we needed to feed the diesel guzzling Stinkmobile/Extortion. She was broadcasting her hunger pangs through the low fuel dinger and we had a long drive to USC for my blood draw, ct scan results and chemo treatment. Back to my reality: a far cry from that 26 second run the day before! I was a million miles from my wonderful weekend of agility. I was just starting to feel AWESOME and it was time for another chemo torture. Such will be my life for the next six months.
With many still on Christmas break, traffic was very light and we arrived at USC about 6:30. I signed in and they sent me to the blood draw room for my labs. I told them they were supposed to use my port but she explained she couldn’t. “Only the nurses can access ports for blood draws,” she explained. CRAP! The day hospital didn’t open for another half hour so I just figured I would let her get blood from my vein. I could see her eying a vein I knew wouldn’t give up anything. I told her don’t even bother trying to get something from that vein! I said,” Everyone tries but nobody is able to get blood from that one. Please try this other one.” Well, every time I say that, they take it as a FREAKING CHALLENGE! I SHOULD HAVE DEMANDED SHE USE A DIFFERENT VEIN. BUT I DIDN’T. <sigh> I can be a real DUMB A$$ AT TIMES!
She poked and prodded and poked around. I said, “I think you need to try another.” She said, “No, I will get it.” Then she poked me more. It hurt like HELL! I finally said, “You need to move on now.” So she says, “Do you want me to pull out the needle?”
So, then she tried the one I told her to use in the first place and got blood on the first try.
I related the story to my doctor later and he said sternly in his thick German accent, “Why did you go to blood draw???? You were supposed to go to the day hospital! NEVER go to blood draw again! You are a smart woman! Why did you do that?”
I said, “Because they told me to at the front desk check in.”
He just looked at me in disbelief and shook his head. He started to say something but stopped and shook his head some more. I got the message loud and clear. I was a dummcopf! Sir C and I laughed. I love this guy! There is no guessing what he is thinking!
He informed me that my ct scan was clear! YEAH!!!! I was relieved to say the least. They scanned my entire torso before my last chemo. He asked about my side effects from the chemo. I told him the sensitivity to cold sucked. I also told him about the cramping in my hands and jaw. He suggested taking four Tums when that happens. He said the chemo drug is trying to suck calcium from my body so feed it Tums and that will help.
After seeing him, we walked to the day hospital for my chemo. I really didn’t want to give up how great I was feeling! I knew it was for the best though. Even though I was sore from running Pankies and Barque, I felt like a million bucks and was about to feel like rat crap. I knew I would feel like rat crap for at least nine days; then by day fourteen I would start to really feel great just in time for more chemo. <another big fat SIGH>
It really hurt when she pushed the needle into my port. I think I must be a big fat baby. I can’t wait to get rid of the port and the chemo! Two treatments down, ten to go.
Chemo is like that old joke:
Why do you bang your head against the wall?
Because it feels so good when I stop!
As I type, my hands are tingling and cramping, even with gloves. My lips are involuntarily pursing and my throat is objecting when I drink water and I am starting to feel very cold and achy. I want to finish this blog but it is difficult at best. I think I will go to bed and finish it tomorrow. I normally have four or five hours before the side effects start to kick in, but I think I have reached my limit.
Fast forward next day when I drag myself out of bed to finish this blog.
It was a horrible night! It started with my tasered and cramping hands, then I was so cold, no matter what I did I couldn’t get warm. I curled up in bed with a heating pad, gloves, many blankets and pillows piled all around me. Sir C turned up the heat but nothing helped. I fell asleep about six last night and woke up about midnight soaked from sweat. I removed my gloves, asked Sir C to turn down the heat (I am sure he really loves this as much as I do) and tried to cool off. The problem is if I get too cool, then the tasering and cramping starts all over again. Some of the other lovely things I experience are:
Somebody sticking a knitting needle in my eye, stomach or leg. It seems to be random.
The left side of my chest felt like I was having a heart attack but it was just muscle cramps.
Every time I woke, my eyes were glued shut from gunk.
The side effects feel like I have Dengue fever all over again. When Sir Cussalot and I were on one of our many trips to South or Central America (back before agility was discovered in our household so we still had money), we traveled to exotic places with Dr. John McDougall, his family and others. The McDougalls put on great vegan trips and we saw most of South and Central America. We floated down the Amazon River, took widow maker showers with water right from the Amazon and saw things that blew my mind. We took a train to Machu Picchu, climbed to the top of Huayna Picchu, SCUBA dove in the Galapagos Islands, and came face to face with an enormous sea lion that swam within an inch of my body and circled me up and down and blew bubbles at my mask, spent the night at Carnaval in Rio, saw where the scary drug lords live in Colombia, visited Mayan ruins in Guatemala (we had to have two jeeps with armed guards to keep away the bad robbers there) and so much more!
Anyway, while on one of our trips, several folks got gravely ill. Some had to be airlifted to the hospital. One nearly died. We didn’t get sick until we got home, but when we did, it was HORRIBLE! I had to crawl on my belly to go to the bathroom because I was too weak and sore to stand. I have never been so sick in all my life, except for now that is. The locals down there called it the “bone breaker flu.” It is also known as “breakbone fever” because you feel like all your bones are broken, but the real name is Dengue fever! That is how I feel on chemo, like I have Dengue fever all over again. Every inch of my body hurts.
The other day I was talking with my insurance company. I asked them how much my chemo cost. When she told me, I nearly fainted! $23,000 a treatment! That is $46,000 a FREAKING MONTH!!!! FOR SIX MONTHS!!!!! $276,000!!!! I could take that money and fly first class around the world several times and stay at five star hotels and have a much better time! The trouble is, I don’t think my insurance company would spring for that. I am thankful to God I have great insurance! I sure feel for those who don’t. Starting January 1st, that will change, but those of us who can afford it, will pay through the nose for those who can’t. I don’t know why medicine costs so much. I would love to know how much it costs to make my chemo drugs! OK, I am getting a bit too political for my liking.
I should have gone to a veterinarian for treatment! It would have cost a fraction and my care would have been terrific. Unfortunately, I don’t think I would have fit in their crates.
Now I am headed back to bed.
Happy New Year everyone! May 2014 bring you joy and prosperity in every way you want!