Our Lady of the Crappy Day
This morning I went down to Our Lady of the Damned to have my hideous port flushed. This is an unpleasant but mercifully quick procedure I have to repeat every four weeks so the damn thing won't clot while it's not in use. I go to the minor surgery drop-in clinic where a heroic nurse uses all her strength to forcefully ram a giant Huber needle into the hideous port's septum. This hurts like hell for about 30 seconds, but I'm so used to it I barely flinch. (A year ago I would have passed out just reading this description.) Then she pushes a saline solution and an anti-clotting agent through the catheter for a few minutes.
Sometimes I have a bad reaction to the flush, and today was one of those times. As soon as the saline hits my bloodstream, it floods my mouth and nose with a distinctive taste and smell that trigger intense flashbacks to chemo. And today was really bad: I was instantly overcome with associative nausea. Even now, ten hours later, when I drink tea it still tastes like the nasty saline and makes me gag.
Have I ever mentioned how much I hate this hideous port?
And speaking of the hideous port, I heard some very bad news today. The heroic nurse who performed the flush told me that the chief of surgery recently sent out a memo saying that his department will no longer remove hideous ports until the patient has officially been in remission for some ridiculous number of years. Yes, YEARS! He says that too often they have to turn around and put the port right back in when the cancer recurs, so from henceforth the new hospital policy strictly forbids port removal before the requisite number of years, yes YEARS, have passed. And it doesn't look like I'll be grandfathered in.
Fuck. I just want to bang my head on my desk. In fact, if I weren't feeling so damn seasick from the saline, I would.
The existence of this official memo tells me two things:
1. The doctors are officially not optimistic about their patients' chances for event free survival; and
2. I'm not in charge of my own body. I don't have any say in whether or not this hideous device remains implanted in my chest wall. Fuck. I'm sorry, but it's just so goddamn discouraging, so frustrating; the system is so impervious, and so impersonal. I feel hopelessly powerless and trapped.
Not a good day at all.
But as usual, the one thing that brings me joy and keeps me going is my wonderful dogs. The little girls, as always, are comforting, companionable, and communicative to the point of being telepathic. And my big Superman guy, who's been living here one month today, is just more and more fabulous every day.
Eraser Nose, my schmookums!
Last night I took him to his first class at obedience school. It was crazy and chaotic with 20 untrained dogs milling around but we both had a blast. I'm really impressed with the woman who teaches the class. She has excellent credentials, solid experience, an impressive track record, and an extremely sound philosophy. (For you canine savvy folks out there, I fall squarely into the Ian Dunbar camp, though I do take some helpful tips from Cesar Millan. I also like Jean Donaldson, Karen Pryor, and Turid Rugaas.) For the next eight weeks the class will be divided into small groups of five dogs so she can give us more individual attention.
Superman and Dolly Louise practice "stay."
Soop watches patiently while Dolly gets the first treat.
Superman is already learning quickly at home, but I like going to a class because it gives him an opportunity to practice responding to commands with lots of distractions around, and also to work on his socialization with people and other dogs. He's generally been mellow and friendly to strangers. Every day we walk three miles, with him heeling perfectly on the leash, and people inevitably approach to admire and pet him. He's aloof and dignified, but not hostile to being touched. I have him sit, and he holds his nose in the air like some regally serene cross between Queen Elizabeth and Ghandi. He's never snapped or growled, not even at the convicts out washing the cop cars (who are of course his biggest fan club).
But there was a bad incident the other day where he snarled at a male guest who came inside the house. This is totally unacceptable. Superman did respond quickly when I told him to stop, he snapped out of it and obeyed when I gave him a down command. But still this concerns me, and it's something the teacher and I will be working on correcting.
It's awkward enough squeezing visitors into our tiny shack. Up until this incident Soop has had a friendly greeting for all the men who've ventured inside, sniffing them then going back about his business and leaving them alone. He tends to be much more affectionate with female guests, lavishing them with kisses, leaning his head on their laps, and gazing up into their eyes like a lovestruck fool. He basically has a good temperament, but he had this one alarming reaction to one person, so now my vigilance is turned on full throttle.
I knew when I adopted Soop that he might be a challenging dog and that I couldn't slack for one minute on training and socialization. And I enjoy the challenge. He's bonded with me strongly, he's gentle with the little dogs and they respect him. He's eager to please, he learns quickly and responds well to positive reinforcement reinforcement. I'm optimistic that he's going to turn out to be a real gem of a dog, and so is the trainer who has evaluated him.
I say "Leave it," and Superman stoically ignores the liver treat on his paw until I say "Ok, take it." Good boy!
So that's the way it is: disappointments, setbacks, bad days, shit happens. But somehow I adjust, I rise to challenges, I find ways to be happy, and life goes on.
Work in progress: Our Lady of the Shitty Days
But it's not going well. I'm learning that it takes a lot more than a mustache and a monobrow to turn a meek, mild, doughy gray virgin with downcast eyes into the glorious and forthright Frida. Stay tuned for further updates as my masterpiece evolves...
Dolly Louise joins me in a rousing round of the hokey pokey. Who can stay glum for long around here!