Thursday, July 19, 2007

Our Lady of the Crappy Day

I'll be frank: I've had a very crappy day today.

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!


Blogger debinca said...

Call me one sided, bot if this is the ONLY person Superman has reacted to, you need to trust his instincts.

Good that he listened when you told him to stop, I am impressed. Usually they wont change their mind about a person though.

My cranky dog who likes nobody except his family has cancer so we will be looking for a new friend soon. Sorry to hear the port news, thats stupid.

Love the virgin! I think you should paint her as an albino in honor of superman, debinca

2:03 AM  
Blogger Jamie said...

Well, another day has kicked your ass. That sucks. But I have yet to hear about a day that has completely kicked your spirit. You are as amazing as your superman, whom I am totally in love with by the way.

6:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well i totally agree with your 'fuck'...bastidge doctor!
I was also thinking the same as debinca, maybe Soop's right?
The picture of you and him is great - it made me lol. And you are look'n fabulous and healthy sistah :P

7:25 AM  
Blogger divrchk said...

That totally sucks. Isn't port removal something that you'd be paying for? I'd bombard the doctor's office with phone calls and e-mails and in person visits pointing out that if you have the port removed, you can work out again and have a much higher chance of kicking anything that might need kicking, down the road. Keep fighting the fight.

7:54 AM  
Blogger citygrrrl said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7:54 AM  
Blogger citygrrrl said...

i screwed up the last post...

how about a different public hospital? i don't know the red tape it would involve, but it might be worth the trip.

i'm with debinca and laurie on the growling incident. but what do i know. i grew up with and own cats...

7:56 AM  
Blogger Lymphopo said...

There is no other public hospital, this is it. And they have an ironcald 'don't call us, we'll call you' policy. There is no way to get through via phone calls or in-person visits other than the way I've been doing it which is fight for six months to get an appointment, wait for six hours to see a doctor, then nothing ever comes of it. Every time I get an individual doc to approve the port removal, the system itself always manages to block it from happening. It's unbearably demoralizing.

8:56 AM  
Blogger K said...

You're beautiful, talented and have the spirit of spitfire.

Hope tomorrow is a better day.

9:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Holy crap, another asshole doctor! This is yet another fine example of how it plays out when health care is treated as a business not a human right. Even in a charity hospital, or especially in the one and only charity hospital available to you, they have to be concerned about the bottom line, about not wasting their time or their resources. You're the reason they're there, but all that makes you is something to be managed. Fuckers.

This is about the fifth example I've seen this week of someone who I feel could benefit from experiencing personally something he clearly doesn't understand.

Thank goodness for pink-nosed, pink-tongued fuzzy loves.

9:38 AM  
Blogger Lucid Dream Yogini said...

Liz...maybe it's time to start looking into the Law of Attraction. You hate that port so. much. And have put so much time and energy into hating it on the blog, I had a feeling that things were going to keep happening to stall its removal...the more attention you give something, the more of it you get, whether you like it or not.
Knowing your keen intellect, I'm pretty sure that once you start looking into it and how it perfectly meshes with the latest theories in science and quantum physics, you'll at least be tempted to test it out for yourself :)

9:54 AM  
Blogger Najia said...

Your dogs are outstanding. Love Superman's soulful eyes. I'd say trust his instinct on growling at the male guest, but I understand why it is also unacceptable. He'll find other ways to protect you if there is danger. Trust Ian Dunbar and Cesar! :-)

I'm sorry about your crappy day. You're sick of hearing this I'm sure, but as Simonsays wrote, your spirit has yet to be KO'd by any of life's sucker punches. I love that about you.

Happy One Month Anniversary, Superman!

9:57 AM  
Blogger ay-em said...

YOU CALL HIM "SOOP"!!! That is absolutely the cutest thing in the world! =D

I'm so sorry the guys in white coats are bullying with your life. I can only imagine the frustration - energy you should be spending on positive, life-confirming thoughts and experiences. Hurray for dogs!

- am

10:56 AM  
Blogger Lingual X said...

Healthcare in the U.S. SUCKS and, I'm really sorry that you feel like you're not in control of your own body. That really, really sucks and it's discouraging. At the same time, I agree with simonsays: you have yet to have a day that completely kicks your ass. You are amazing and wonderful and we are all cheering for you. And, your concrete Frida virgins are the best project ever. So: Frida + superdoggy + wonderful you= all the elements you need to take you own day back from the grips of grim.

Lingual X

12:58 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Oh, Liz, your virgin Frida is gorgeous! Absolutely exquisite.

I'm so sorry to hear about the port. My instinct is to keep pushing and try to get it taken out anyway, since you were approved for it before stupid chief doctor sent out that memo. However, I understand if you're just spent or tired or whatnot, so please feel free to tell me I don't know what the hell I'm talking about!

5:22 PM  
Blogger Trasi said...

Since there's not much else to be said about the port, and you're a smart woman who has probably thought of every angle around it already, I'll just say grab an adult beverage of your choice and cry into it for 2.2 (seconds, hours, whatever it takes) then move on. It's a great thing you have Erasernose to come home to. What a lover.
Speaking of Erasernose, I totally am thinking maybe he's got a vibe on the person who came in that he didn't like. It doesn't mean the person is an axe murderer - just that there's something your dog didn't dig about this person, and a well-positioned growl seems appropriate in the way of communication. Aggression beyond this? Absolutely not. But maybe worth taking heed?

5:53 PM  
Blogger Ya Looblue said...

i love superman...he looks like a spirit or something.
sorry about the just sounds awful.

5:57 PM  
Blogger momo said...

That was the thing about Frida, her eyes were never downcast. She's always looking right at ya. Maybe a Princess Di-looking up from under the eyelashes effect?
I'm so glad you give care and attention to socializing your dogs. I have a dear friend who has now let a second dog turn into an uncontrollable nuisance, and it seriously cramps my enjoyment of visits with her.

7:03 PM  
Blogger Lene Andersen said...

The port thing? Unbelievable. Unbe-fucking-lievable. Sorry about the language there, but I can think of no words more fitting. Do you know someone who works in media? Is there a consumer watchdog thingy?

Soop is adorable and Frida rocks!

7:40 PM  
Blogger Lark said...

Love the doggie pictures and stories!

I wonder how much it would cost to go to a regular hospital and pay to have the port removed. I bet we'd all be glad to help pay for that. I know I would.

3:19 PM  
Blogger Najia said...

Lark, I second that!

Or, I know some medical professionals out here who can do some research. Hey, maybe it can be removed at a hospital out here! You're welcome to stay in our humble home. Bring Eraser Nose and the Girls!

10:30 PM  
Blogger Lymphopo said...

The problem isn't money, the problem is that doctors and hospitals will refuse to perform the procedure if I don't have insurance, even if I pay up front, ostensibly "in case something goes wrong." They aren't required to provide non-emergency services to uninsured patients, and most around here won't. Plus there's this code that they don't want to chance crossing the docs at Our Lady of Teh Damned.

But yeah, I confess I lie awake at night having fantasies of getting the damn thing ripped out in some back alley with a coathanger. They've reduced me to this.

10:43 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

WAUGH. Why can't the world give you at least ONE decent day at the hospital? it's NOT FAIR. If only I could adopt you and get you covered under my insurance. Though they'd probably balk at the fact that I'm the same age as you are...

On the other hand, your new guy is such a sweet looking fellow. Good to see that your careful training is working so well.

10:56 PM  
Blogger oncRN said...

what a post...what amazing dogs...what a great story you tell. i'm one of those nurses on the other side of the port. i just found you and already i've learned a lot.
all hail frida.

11:43 PM  

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