Ways Cancer Doesn’t Suck: Sandwich Edition

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My mom offered to buy me a sandwich today before we head to my dad’s appointment at the cancer center. She even asked if I wanted mayo! This is a pleasant change of pace and especially welcome since I didn’t have anything in the house to pack for lunch today. And, given I have two lunches out with colleagues this week and a dinner out with a candidate for a position for which I’m hiring (this is six now – it’s very Mary Poppins around here), I would rather have skipped lunch than had something out.

That’s all I can turn up today.

Because there is an appointment. And because my dad fell three times last week. And because he didn’t remember the last one even though he has two black eyes from where he must have fallen onto his face, smashed his glasses, and was carrying a nail gun with an unknown purpose. Maybe it’s a stroke. Maybe it’s the tumor. But something is making him forget what he was saying, use the wrong words, and have an unsettling greyish pallor.

Perhaps this text exchange with my sister will make you smile in that gallows humor sort of way the way I did.

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  1. From mom to family – picture of she and my dad with no beard.
  2. From sister to family – I don’t condone her use of ‘daddy’ #shes36
  3. From mom to family – inclusion of winky face to show this slippage is not a big deal.

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  1. Recently I mimed calling RR on the phone. I used the classic pinky and thumb to ear. She picked up and used a flat hand. I hung up with a setting down motion. She turned her palm and thumbed an invisible button. #old #agegap #weshouldbuyaphone #shecantcall911 #parentingfail #seriouslyold
  2. Left in because, come on! It’s a great joke! For those too young (#getoffmylawn) or out of the country, Miss Cleo was a famous television psychic in the 90s.
  3. Me to my sister in response to Text Thread 1.
  4. My sister to me. She is the best. And, I never would have had such a chuckle if it hadn’t been for the cancer so I guess that’s another silver lining?

 

Handling Death at 6 – Practice Session

Three years ago we finally took a deep breath. We moved RR from a good but not right for her preschool to a Montessori school. I worried constantly that summer and through the first year. Would they kick her out when they realized she didn’t care for circle time? Would we get a stern talking to when they discovered she couldn’t, wouldn’t potty train at three? Would she thrive there? Would she finally make friends? Would she learn? Would she be able to transition to public school? Were we making a terrible mistake?

We did not. Any fan of Montessori and, more importantly, any fan of our local Montessori would have lovingly patted us on the head to hear our fears but they didn’t because they are fans and there’s no head patting in Montessori. And they were right. Here we are in July, RR has graduated and is too old for their camp. She misses the work. She misses her teachers. We miss them too. And not just because together they made a good Montessori school, but because they are good, kind people.

Good people. People that when we called in tears last Monday to ask for help, to say that our beloved cat was dying, to say that we couldn’t bring RR with us to the vet, to say that our other lifelines (and there are a surprising lot of them) were all elsewhere, they said, bring her to us. We will keep her until you come. How many schools can you call and ask them to take your child?

The point of this post, and it’s a grim one, is that we had to say goodbye to imperfect, frustrating, biting, soft as a bunny, fluffy as a cloud, fun and funny, Sol. While he made it through the first scare, he never really bounced back. After a terrible weekend of staggering and listlessness, the vet confirmed that there was nothing more to do. One giant chunk broke off of my heart.

Debra and I spent last weekend, crying, petting him, and having a conversation about what more to do, there was a question with no answer. Do we tell RR so that she can say goodbye? How do we do it? Neither of our parents ever let us into the animal euthanasia conversation. Both Debra’s and my pets just disappeared with a comment after the fact. This didn’t seem right or kind or fair. And perhaps we were different children, but we felt like RR was mature enough to take it in.

What a terrible thought: This will not be the last death she endures as a child. Better to begin.

And so, she and I sat for a moment next to him. We held hands and petted his small head. Said goodbye.
Sol is very sick, I told her. I have to take him to the vet and he might not be able to come home.
He will die? she asked. Yes, I told her.
I’ll miss him.
Me too.
You’re crying mama. Big tears. Yes, I said. I’m very sad. I love Sol so much.

And that was it. When we picked her up from her amazing school, I told her that Sol had been too sick and that he died. She said, I’ll miss him so much. And that, was that. I doubt it will be so easy with her grandfather, but I’m so grateful for Sol’s last gift. A practice session.

 

Big Ass Cat

One of the pitfalls of having wonderful pets is having those same wonderful pets near the end of life. Also, there’s the spite-peeing (ON THE DOG) and the toilet-swimming, but you know, even if you have to keep cleaning litter footprints off of the rim of the toilet, cats still purr and sometimes keep your feet warm and look cute even when you can’t regularly cuddle them (I’m looking at you, Solomon).

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Sol is (was?) fluffy and soft and practically begged to be scooped up and squeezed. At your peril. He is our hardy cat, weighing in at 15 pounds of pure cattitude, never sick, bounces back from anything that comes his way, plays in water, sits in the rain, plays fetch, charming…from afar.

But he started to look gaunt. He meowed more. Purred less. He lost weight at an alarming pace. He upped his litterbox misbehavior. He was no longer the big ass cat you could trip over in the night as he solidly, silently, sits at your feet waiting for your attempt to walk.

 

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So off we went to the vet. I’m not generally the vet runner but a string of events left me the designee and for the best since had things gone less well, she’d have been dealing with a dead cat and dead is not Debra’s thing. But, the conversation still had to be had and he is still very very sick from and undetermined background cause and so we’re giving a steroid and antibiotic course a chance to see if he can rediscover life. As the vet says, some cats bounce back quickly, and other cats will not and if that’s the case, there is no further treatment we will try. No obvious cancer, possibly kidney failure, but alarmingly anemic and, well, it doesn’t look good for 13-yr-old Sol.

It’s not totally a surprise, we have three”senior” animals. As I said to the vet, we will be spending more time together in the next couple of years. And that’s super sad. And a reality. And just not the thing I need right now (or ever. Who does?) Wish Sol peace, however it turns out.

 

Meltdown in 3…2…1…

For an entire week RR’s behavior has been spinning into chaos. She’s screaming at things that haven’t bothered her before (bugs), she’s screaming even when we tell her to stop (at the dog), she’s ignoring us when we ask her to do something (help, walk, shoes, stop screaming already for pete’s sake), she’s throwing an almost tantrum at bedtime when we stop reading (and physically grabbing at the book), she’s kicking and pouting and generally being an asshole.

As she says about anyone else behaving this way, she’s “mist-understood”.

Whereas on Friday I was wondering what got into her and how illegal it is to lock her out, I think the reasons are starting to surface. She went to visit her new camp yesterday, the first time she won’t be staying at her regular school for camp. On Tuesday, she is headed to her new school for a day-long visit, part of what they do with all incoming students. On Friday, her school holds an international luncheon which is a big event for the kids. They rehearse songs in many languages and have a family feast afterward. It’s the traditional indicator that school is almost over and it’s downhill from here.

Whether it’s  a symptom or is part of the cause, she had several accidents last week. On the bright side, I’ve noticed she’s actually dancing around and crossing her legs when she has to go. She’s never shown any signs like this before so I’m hoping we’re turning a corner. It’s stressful for me knowing that she’s going into a new environment with this issue and I worry that she won’t fit in or will be asked to leave. I know that’s unlikely (at least at the new school) but it’s keeping me up at night. Still, we remain neutral when an accident happens, ask her to change, and let her take responsibility for clean-up. It’s just the norm.

Last night she burst into tears at bedtime and wept about how she will miss her current teachers. My heart breaks for her (and for Debra and me too – this isn’t easy!). I think it’s a testament to our parenting that she was looking for solutions even as she cried, wondering if we might invite her teachers over for dinner.

I don’t know how to make this easier. We are giving her time to warm up to new situations before they happen since we’ve long since learned that she needs that attention to transitions. She’s visiting the new places she will be and she’s doing it with optimistic anticipation, if not outright enthusiasm. We let her take the lead and try not to push when it comes to meeting new people. Yesterday at camp, she tried things she hadn’t mastered before, like a short rock wall and a seated scooter. She also sunk down to draw with chalk at the first opportunity, relief practically oozing out of her. I don’t know what the new school will hold tomorrow since we won’t be by her side. That’s a good thing. At least until she comes home transformed into a terror.

I hadn’t even noticed how overwhelming it all must be. And now I feel bad for wanting to lock her out. A little. Let’s hope this isn’t a pattern until school starts in September and that there’s at least a little reprieve after camp gets into full swing.

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15 Minutes

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Last Wednesday we landed on the cover of the local weekly paper.

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The interview came about the normal way, which is weird in and of itself, to think of interviews as being normal. There was less angst over clothing and talking points this time since it’s our sixth time in one paper or another in the last couple of years (seventh if you count an impromptu television interview). It’s both cool and surreal to see RR grow up in newsprint.

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It also satisfies something inside that with each interview we’re getting closer to equality. The evolution from captioned activist photos on the front page to below the fold interviews to DOMA updates to a sizable interview in a weekly has come with more tolerance and more acceptance (and a better photo each time). Our interviewers have become increasingly more well-informed and relaxed (and so have we). We sound more confident and articulate each time (thank goodness).

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Pride was this weekend and Debra sat under a dripping tent while RR and I donned raincoats and  camped out on a blanket in front of the stage. Our allies stopped by and friends joined us on the blanket to have a very short but gratifying conversation about queer space.* I was prepared and sort of nervous to be recognized since our pictures are tucked inside a news box on every corner but we slid through the day peacefully. It was a weird feeling wondering whether people were identifying us privately but not saying anything or whether we were surrounded by 2000 gay folks and their friends at a gay celebration who hadn’t picked up the gay issue of the popular weekly.

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To top it off, Debra was quoted on the front page of Sunday paper having very briefly talked to a reporter at her Pride booth. The butch-focused booth was a new endeavor for her and I was thrilled to see her hard work well received by the community. And, while we live in a progressive town, having something about butch identity on the front page is a major accomplishment.

I say all that to say this: I’m hugely proud of my family and I really hope this is the last time we are in the news talking about our rights. If we’re in the paper again, I’d like it to be a wedding announcement.

*While we have super friends, super super friends, there’s something to be said for that moment when everyone at the table (or blanket, in this case) is coming from a common place of understanding. I’m delighted to be able have it both ways and the first makes the second even more cherished.

 

Hot Damn!

I wandered through my house this morning at the fine time of 7:30 completely unimpeded by gates or screens or panting, huffing, bodies because not only have my parents moved out, but they have taken their dog.

Some of you will remember that it’s no small thing that he’s their dog to begin with. There was a very real risk he would be our dog until we rehomed him. But, my mom surprised us with a sudden desire to rescue him (not only from his crazy self but from our home, which seems to have become unfit). That’s right, while it was perfectly alright last week, it is now an environment barely fit for a flea, let alone a dog. I mean, he’s crated while we’re at work and even though he seems to enjoy it, surely it’s not good for him.

This is not an argument for him to stay, just general commentary about our apparent and sudden unfitness as dog owners. On the other had you guys, how can I have a bad attitude when I HAVE MY HOUSE BACK?

Now, I’d like my body back, my sex life back, and a whole lot of cleanliness back. I’ll take that in any order, as soon as possible. You guys. MY HOUSE. It’s MINE.

 

 

 

In Which My Coping Mechanism Might Get the Better of Me

You guys, I prefer pragmatic to pessimist. I don’t always assume the worst will happen but I do prepare for the worst so that I can make the most of it if it does happen. When the worst case scenario is suddenly reality, I’m often past it before it can get the better of me. I’m pretty sure my former therapist (not former because she wasn’t awesome, which she is, former because I am mostly sane and mostly broke. Voila. Former.) would call this negative fortune-telling or some such. It’s not a self-fulfilling prophecy though, as I said, the worst rarely happens.

Aha, you say, but you’re dwelling on the negative! And I’ll concede that you could look at it that way. But, in almost all situations, I’ve come up with solutions long before you could call it dwelling. Flight being cancelled? Out of my control. Not self-fulfilling negativity. But, because I considered the possibility, I’m usually able to bounce back (at least when not stranded with my family) and make the best of it. It’s a coping mechanism, not something I spend all day doing.

Coping with not having a baby has been well within the “dwelling” zone. Again, I reject the idea that this is a self-fulfilling prophecy, though my mother would certainly insist that by even considering it, I’m making it come true. While I agree that our thoughts have power, I’m not caving on this one, if I’m thinking myself unpregnant, then I’ll eat my hat.

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That has left me in a difficult position. I’m coping with this. Debra and I have been keeping a running list of all the reasons why just having one child is a really good idea. But now I’m late and I have to admit, having just one sounds great. I’m afraid I’ve dug a very uncomfortable hole.

So I’m late, but only by a day and the pregnancy test I took still screams negative. As has been the case this entire cycle, I have no symptoms of anything. No PMS, no anything. I’m not down with this, as you can imagine. This coping strategy suddenly is making things very…awkward.