Friday, February 10, 2017

The two times that we almost lost Rowena

My daughter, Trevor, has 2 pet rats: Salazar and Rowena. Sometimes I call Rowena "Ro." Trevor got Salazar first and then Rowena. Trevor is a huge Harry Potter fan (known as a “Potterhead”) and so Trevor wanted to get 4 rats named after the four founders of the houses of Hogwarts: Salazar Slytherin, Rowena Ravenclaw, Helga Hufflepuff and Godric Gryffindor. So far, we just have Salazar and Rowena. Rowena is currently 1 ½ years old.

We all love the ratties. Both my husband and I each had a pet rat when we were younger, so a pet rat is not unknown to us. We have all enjoyed their company, their quirks, their curiosities and their personalities. Rowena is certainly different from Salazar, even in the foods he eats! And while Rowena is female in the HP fandom, this Rowena we have is a male.

One of the things we do when the rats are out of their cages is allow them to wander around on the computer desk while someone is working there. They either walk around on the desk or sit on our lap or hang out on our shoulder as we are at work on the computer. There are MANY times I have been at the desk writing while one of the rats was just chilling out near the keyboard or on my shoulder. (They LOVED going into the hood of my hoodie!) We often played classical music for them via Youtube on the computer while we had another window open with whatever we were working on.

This is how it was a few weeks ago, when I was writing on the computer, Beethoven was playing on the speaker, and Rowena was chilling out near the console. But at one point I stopped typing and looked at him. He didn’t look right while he was breathing. I called Trevor over and asked, “Is he supposed to be breathing like that?” He was really struggling to breathe, his whole chest huffing and puffing. Trevor examined him and assumed he was fine. I assumed he was okay, too, but still, I worried.

A few days later, Trevor informed me that she’d made an appointment for Rowena to see the vet. She did say she was concerned about his breathing but he was also acting lethargic, barely eating, barely drinking and not taking interest in anything. So we took Rowena to the vet.

And we got some bad news.

The vet who examined him said that Rowena either had a harsh case of pneumonia or cancer. The pneumonia was treatable, but the cancer? Well, they could try giving him medical care for it, but if it was cancer, it would spread quickly and Rowena would suffer before being cured – if that was even a possibility. (I didn’t know rats could even get cancer!) We could give Rowena antibiotics to treat the pneumonia, but if he wasn’t better in a few days, that meant it was cancer. And if it WAS cancer, it was decided that he would be put down.

We were both very upset about this. We both sat there crying and just trying to process WHY this was happening. Rowena was so young. I DID NOT like the idea of putting him down at such a young age.

So we took Rowena back home and started him on the antibiotics. He refused to drink the water that the medicine was in so I had to hold him while Trevor made him drink the water. She told me that I’d have to do this again tomorrow while she was at school. The plan was to give him the medicine water 4 times a day.

So that’s what we did. And we waited.

Thankfully, the next day, Rowena did not put up a fight when I had to give him the water. In fact, he drank it down greedily. I texted Trevor about this and she started to feel hopeful that that meant he was getting better.

And, well, he WAS – for a while. The only problem was, the breathing problem continued. I guessed it would just take a little while longer for that to clear up.

But the Day of Reckoning came. The day that would determine if Rowena had pneumonia or cancer.

But since we saw an improvement, we surmised it must not be cancer. He WAS getting better. He was moving around AND eating again.

Then sometime after THAT, I found Trevor in her room with a Q-tip in hand and removing stuff from Rowena’s ear. Later, she told me there was pus coming out of Rowena’s ear. It was his right ear. And on the right side of his head was a tiny bump.

Now, I didn’t know about this, but when we were at the vet, the vet DID see the bump and mentioned it to Trevor. They did talk about it but I don’t remember exactly what was said. I am not sure if even “tumor” was brought up here.

But now that it was a topic of discussion again, and I was more aware of it now, we did consider the possibility that the bump was a tumor. And if it was leaking pus, that was Very Bad.

So we were back to keeping a watchful eye on Rowena. Meanwhile, he was still drinking the medicine water — and still having breathing problems. And now, at this point, he was starting to take a turn for the worse. Again. He once again refused to eat, became very weak and he even appeared disoriented.

We started to assume that at this point, the bump must be a tumor and that Rowena likely had cancer. I did think it might’ve been an abscess, but I was not sure if that was possible with pus coming out of his ear.

So it was decided that Rowena would be put down. Trevor called the vet and the appointment was set. We were all really saddened, stressed out and even a little angry. But we mostly kept it together as we made our last days with our little furry friend count.

Today was supposed to be the day that Rowena died. Today would have been the last day that Rowena lived.

It was a pretty sad day for a while there. I mean, the day started out good – even though it was Day 2 that my son was home from school, still sick – but it started good and then the reality of The Day set in and I started feeling pretty sad. I spent some time with Rowena. I was saddened that this was his last day alive and I just prayed for him a lot. Jesse spent time with him, too, since he was at home. We took him outside so he could experience some sunshine and walk around in the grass and explore underneath Trevor’s tree. We took A LOT of pictures. I also set up the paper bag on the table for him so he could hunker inside there (something he always loved to do) and I also let him explore a shelf of one of the bookcases. (He’s always so curious about books!) Then I just sat with him on my chest, petting him and telling him how much we loved him and that we would miss him.

Basically, I just said goodbye to him.

Jesse spent time with him, too. He held Rowena and talked to him. He made a paper heart colored red that said "goodbye" on it. He played some Beethoven music for Ro at the desk and also allowed him to walk along the keys on the keyboard so he could "write" something just like we do. (He wrote a very interesting something!)

Then the time came when Trevor and her dad got home and Trevor got him ready to go to the vet. We spent time with him together giving him cuddles and saying goodbye. We took more pictures, too. It was a very sad time.

After they left, Jesse went to play a game on the computer and I went into the bathroom to cry. (I don’t like crying in front of the kids and I knew I had to be strong for them, especially Trevor, who would hurt the most from this.) Then I came out of the bathroom thinking I was done crying but after I sat on the couch, more tears came to my eyes and I very discreetly cried a little more. I sat there pretending I was watching TV but I was really thinking about Rowena and crying about the situation.

Then I got a text message that stopped my tears. It was from Trevor. The message was in all caps – that’s the first thing I noticed – and there were 4 of them in total. I opened them and started reading. And I started to get excited and crying out with joy.

Apparently, Rowena was examined by another vet, and he DID NOT have cancer! The bump on his head WAS an abscess!! He also had an ear infection, a respiratory infection, AND some kind of skin infection. He was pretty much REALLY sick but not deathly ill. He COULD be treated! HE WOULD LIVE!!

Trevor told me they were draining the abscess and starting Rowena on antibiotics to treat the infections AND help with the pain he was in. And they were going to be sending Rowena back home – ALIVE.

I was just so very, very grateful. I kept saying “Thank you, God!” and I was so relieved and just HAPPY that Rowena would live. There was just so much gratitude and relief and joy I felt at that time.

I was excited to see Rowena again when he was brought home, alive, and looked a lot better now that the bump was gone. He still had breathing trouble, but he was moving around more now. I once again helped when Trevor administered antibiotics and I reminded Trevor to keep tabs on when we had to give him the medicines again and also when he’d received medicine.

But Rowena is still with us. He is still in our family. That is two times that he dodged the bullet. They say “third strike and you’re out” and I hope it will be a very long time before Death comes knocking for a third attempt to take Rowena away. In the meantime, we are going to cherish his presence in our lives even more and appreciate his company. I am so thankful he is still here!

Monday, February 06, 2017

This THING that happened

This morning, my husband and I had an appointment with the school counselor at my son’s school. During the meeting, we were asked how long we had been married. I was trying to remember the exact length of time it’s been since he and I got back together, and during that time, my husband answered, “Fifteen years.”

I sat there thinking, Wow, has it really been that long? I haven’t lived in Oregon THAT long. Our daughter is fifteen and she was not born here.

But after some thinking more on this later – and checking the calendar – I realized that it’s actually been almost 10 years (it will be 10 years this summer). But did he know that? Or was he doing what some other people I know do, and that is acting like certain things NEVER HAPPENED. Not too long ago, when he and I celebrated our anniversary, the whole mention of the divorce that he and I went through got a whole “we do not speak of this” kinda treatment from some relatives. Like they wanted to pretend the divorce never happened.

Here’s my question: Why? It DID happen. I know it happened. I WAS THERE!

So, yes, the man I am married to now used to be a man I temporarily WAS NOT married to! Once upon a time, he and I were divorced. My daughter may not remember it (she told me later that she blocked it out) and maybe it’s not exactly a favorite topic of discussion with my husband’s family, but, yes, we WERE divorced once!

Why is mentioning it a bad thing? It’s not like mentioning it is gonna make it happen again!

But, maybe mentioning it only brings up bad memories or feelings of disappointment or whatever. Whatever!

But I’m not going to act like it never happened. It DID happen.

I’m just not the kind of person who likes to pretend bad things never happened. Uh, no. Bad things happen in life. THAT’S LIFE! That’s just the way it is. I’m not going to pretend I all of a sudden have amnesia and can’t remember any of them.

Especially this thing. I don’t want to forget this part of my past. I don't want to go back to being the person that I was then or even sometime before then. I want to stay the person THAT experience made me become. Sure, that experience meant struggling to feed my child when it was just her and me living by ourselves in a city where we didn’t know anyone. Those were some very trying, difficult and scary times. I was divorced for seven months, and it was HARD. It was damn hard. But you know what? I am glad I went through it, because it made me stronger. I hated it that I had to work two jobs and even THEN for lousy pay, but I was able to see just how much of myself I could count on to provide for me and my own when we didn’t have anyone else there for us. I was able to see that I WILL step up and do what I need to do to make sure my kid is fed and has what she needs.

I learned some really good lessons during that time of my life. I got to see who was there for us (and I mean you, Jimmy and Melissa!), and just how hard it is to be a single parent struggling to pay for everything, do everything and be everything for a child. I knew what it was like to deal with a child being hungry and only having a box of crackers in the cabinet and I knew what it was like to be afraid, DEAF, and the only person to keep myself and my child safe when there was some crazy person trying to break into the house or some bum at the window demanding we let him in. And because I was on food stamps, I know what that is like, too, and just how much a family RELIES on food stamps to feed themselves with. You know, I’m glad for it, because I have “been there, done that.” I have never since looked down at people who receive food stamps or felt they were just freeloaders looking for handouts, because I know the struggle they go through in trying to provide. And I’ve been more sympathetic to families on the street begging for money or food.

Oh, and, of course, I had SO MUCH FUN learning how to ride a city bus! (Or not, should I say. Ugh!)

So, you know, that is a part of my past that I kinda want to hold onto. I know it was a bad thing to happen and I know that some people got hurt, but that doesn’t mean that I want to erase it from my past. I don’t want to pretend that it never happened. And I certainly will not “erase from existence” the people who came into my life during that particular chapter (shout out to Jimmy, the Grynch guys, Heather, Kathleen, Nicole, Kim and all the folks at the Willamette Christian Center for helping us!). I can’t believe it has been almost 11 years since I walked into that courthouse that one summer and filed those papers. And it’s been nearly 10 years since that decision was overturned. I don’t regret going back to my husband, because my daughter is happier that her dad is in her life, I have a son now who is almost 10 because of it, and my husband now treats me A LOT better than before. Sure, it was hard at first, but we made it. You know? I think on some level, he realized that he shouldn’t take the marriage for granted.

Me? I don’t take ANYTHING or ANYONE for granted. I appreciate every single thing that has happened in my life – both the good things AND the bad things. I learned so many lessons from all the bad things that there’s no way I would ever pretend they never happened. They all taught me some VERY important lessons in life. And, they have made me stronger.

I still see some places from that part of the past – that little house that Jen and I lived in on West 11th when it was just me and her (and the Grynch guys living next door! And where that lady who often appeared on our lawn with her lawnmower just blissfully mowing away!); the house of the guy, Mark, who lived across the street who we often chatted with; the laundromat Jen and I walked to to wash our clothes; the church we went to; the White Bird clinic to get medical assistance; the bus station; the courthouse. And when I see those places, I remember those particular times from that part of my past.

Some of the people from my past are still in my life (like Jimmy and Tobby), and some of them are not. Some of them walked away, and some of them just disappeared.

I remember ALL of them. Every. Single. One.

I won’t erase them from my past, either. I am not going to pretend I never knew them or they never existed. They did exist, and some of them still exist in my life right now. They are all a part of that chapter in my past. Maybe some of them are still left there, in my past, but they’re not gone completely. They’re in my memories. They’re in my story. And this story is not going to get a rewrite.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Clearing the air

Recently, a friend and I got to talking about a health-related issue that I was going through. I tried to make some dietary changes but ended up having dizzy spells and I suspected it was because of the dietary changes. (Unfortunately, the dizzy spells have happened many times before and usually when I tried to do this very thing. Sigh!) Somewhere along our conversation, though, I think she got confused about something, because she got something wrong about what I was saying. I don’t know where that came from or how that happened, but there it was.

After I realized she had made this mistake, I was trying to figure out how it had happened. I really couldn’t figure that out, but I realized, you know, this was just a misunderstanding. You know the saying, “What we have here is a failure to communicate”? I think that might have happened here. Maybe I was not communicating with her effectively.

In any event, I knew I had to clear the air with her and let her know that she had gotten something about our conversation wrong. She had misunderstood what I said, I think. Or maybe she later interpreted it wrong. Who knows! (Everybody’s perspective is different and there are SO MANY times people have taken things I have said the wrong way or taken mistakes I have made and twisted them around to make me look like I intentionally made that mistake or am an evil person. There was one time a friend and I had just one such misunderstanding and she really let me have it via text messaging. Later, after we had both cooled off, we both cleared the air, I was able to explain my side of the story and she explained her side of the story and we realized it was a misunderstanding and made up. We are still friends!)

So, yeah. I realized I had to clear the air with my friend. She IS my friend and I want to keep my friendship with her. And it was not a good idea to allow her to continue thinking that this wrong interpretation of our conversation was the RIGHT one. I had to let her know she’d made a mistake!

But….I didn’t want to. I knew if I said something, she might be embarrassed or feel stupid. She might take my pointing out the mistake the wrong way.

But it’s not like I was doing anything bad by pointing out the mistake! Like I said, it was a bad idea to allow her to continue thinking this particular thing when it was not the CORRECT particular thing! I had to let her know that was not true!

So, finally, at one point, I just did a mental about-face and told myself, “You have to SAY something!”

I had to let my friend know that there was a misunderstanding. I had to GENTLY let her know that what she thought I was saying was NOT what I was saying. That she had somehow misunderstood me. And that’s exactly what I said in my email to her this morning: “I think there has been a misunderstanding."

I did clear the air with her, but I didn’t do it in a way that was blatant or harsh. I gently let her know that what she thought I said was NOT what I had said. (And before we go into psychological debates, let me just say that I did not need to review my conversation with her to let her know that that was not what I had said – unlike that OTHER mistake that is going to be hanging over my head for the rest of my natural life!!!!!)

After I sent that email off, I actually felt better that I had cleared the air with my friend. I was relieved to have finally tackled this issue and get the truth out into the open. And if she really is my friend, she would understand. She would know that I was not trying to be condescending and I was not trying to make her look bad. We have never fought (though that COULD happen someday because that is the true test of friendship – if we forgive each other, we really ARE friends!) and we basically get along well. I love her, really. She’s an awesome friend and I hope to keep my friendship with her. And if the friendship is sound, this would not be a deal-breaker with her. (I have never known her to act all high and mighty about what she perceives or what she thinks, so I don’t think it will be.) But the bottom line is, I felt a huge weight lift off of me after I sent that email. A problem had come up between us and I finally took action with it. I was really nervous about doing so, but I couldn’t just let that SIT THERE! I had to clear the air with her, and I did.

And you know what? Getting THAT particular thing resolved and taken care of helped me to feel a little bit better about being able to tackle OTHER sticky issues with my friend, should any of that stuff come up.

Friday, February 03, 2017

The big scare

 Rowena at the vet

Earlier this week, my daughter asked me to give her a ride so that she could take one of her pet rats, Rowena, to the vet. Before then, I had noticed that Rowena was breathing differently. It really did not look like he was breathing normally. I came to find out he was also lethargic and not really eating so much, either. So I agreed to take Trevor to the vet so that the rat could be examined.

We got bad news from the vet. We were told that Rowena either had a harsh case of pneumonia or cancer. The vet advised that the best thing to do would be to euthanize him if it was cancer because the treatment period would be long and he would suffer from that disease during that time. She also said they had medicine for Rowena to take for the next couple of days to treat the pneumonia – if that was what he was indeed sick with. In the event the medicine did not help him, it meant he had cancer. That would mean putting him down – which is ultimately the choice that Trevor made. She did NOT want Rowena to suffer.

We were pretty upset about this news and crying a little about it. Rowena had only been with us for a year and a half. We got him when he was a baby. It was hard to accept the possibility of losing him so soon.

I convinced Trevor to try the medicine first and see if Rowena got better. So they gave us the medicine and we let them know we would schedule an appointment if we had to go with euthanasia.

That evening, I ran to the pet store to buy more rat food, rat bedding and also rat treats. (I was feeling pretty sad and wanted to spoil Rowena.) Also, Trevor put the medicine in Rowena’s water and we just hoped for the best. Jesse was very upset by this news and we spent the evening huddled around our furry friend.

Now all we could do was wait to see if the medicine worked.

Unfortunately, Rowena would not drink the water. We had to force him to drink it.

The next morning, I was really upset about all this going on. I was sad but also angry. WHY did this have to happen?? Rowena was so young. It wasn’t fair. We were not ready to let him go and we loved him so much.

Later that day, I had to give Rowena the water while Trevor was at school. This time, I did not have to force him to drink the water. He drank the water on his own. He even wanted more water when I tried to move the bottle away. He also ate.

I was very heartened by this and let Trevor know. She was also excited and thought that Rowena was doing better. Indeed, he was. He still had trouble breathing but he was eating and drinking water now and moving around.

Later on in the day, Trevor told me Rowena was doing more better. I was so glad!

Today was the day we would have had to decide whether or not Rowena would be euthanized. Thankfully, we did not have to make that decision; he is recovering, and that means he doesn’t have cancer. He is doing better and the medicine is helping him. Thank God! (And thank you to everyone on FB who prayed for him and sent good vibes!) Still, Trevor wants to take him back to the vet next week to get examined again and just to make sure that Rowena is in the all-clear. I am just relieved he is not as bad as he was before.

We are all relieved Rowena is getting better now. This scare really created a lot of tension, stress and anxiety for us. I was really NOT looking forward to having to say goodbye to our furry friend just yet. I am so very grateful he is getting better and getting his strength back.

I hope the next time we take Rowena to the vet, we will have better news about his health.