Saturday, March 27, 2010

Baby Steps

Robin and I decided to try and let Lucas walk on his own today. We were shocked at how well he did!! At one point he took off and started running! It's amazing that he was mostly paralyzed just a couple of days ago and we were actually thinking of ending this poor kid's life!

Today he finally had a bowel movement (Thanks to Activia and canned pumpkin!) and he peed standing on his own! We are hoping in the next couple of days that he will be able to get himself up from the sitting position!

Amazing!

Our Fancy Dog Purse

Last night was the first time in a week that Robin and I got more than 4 hours of sleep at one time and it was sooooo nice! We've been working shifts with Lucas. Since Robin works nights and I work days it has worked out pretty well and he has shown so much improvement.

A couple of days ago I was going to put him in the crib and I accidentally popped the catheter out... oops! We were worried that he was going to urinate all over the place without it, but he has actually held it and goes outside when we take him. Obviously he can't tell us when he has to go so we constantly have to observe his behavior and try to figure out when he needs to go.

Initially, Lucas has absolutely no use of his hind legs. The vet's office gave us a simple harness so we could support his backside while he walks with his front legs, but we ended up buying an Australian made rear harness called the Walkabout and had it overnighted. His rear legs go through two slits and then it wraps around his backside then fastens with velcro and fasteners. Each side has a handle that makes Lucas look like a fancy dog purse.

(not Lucas!)

It took a bit, but Lucas has gone back to his normal outside routine. The first thing he does when he heads steps onto the deck is smell under the chair where he recently caught and killed a squirrel. I keep telling Robin that I think the reason he became paralyzed was because of a "hit" that the underground squirrel mafia did for retaliation. I suppose we'll never know.

During our walks it's sometimes hard to keep up with him! He drinks from the large empty flower pot that holds rain water, he goes to sniff the tree where the squirrels hide, he makes a trip around the pool and constantly tries to run under the deck. I keep telling him that there's no way we can go under the deck because I don't fit under there and secondly, that's where the snakes hide! It's so good he remembers his environment!

He is slowly regaining strength in his hind legs but remains incredibly wobbly. If we were to let go of the harness he would surely fall over, but he has taken 2-3 steps on his own as we let the tension on the harness fall a bit just to see how he does. Because of his great progress, we are really hopeful for a full recovery!

His appetite has been good, but there may be a downfall from what we have been feeding him. For his medicine we hide it in hot dog bits and he now refuses to eat his dog kibble! He was already spoiled rotten so we might be creating a monster! As far as we are concerned if he has gone through this and fully recovers, especially after we came so close to putting him down, he can eat ice cream sundaes every day for all we care!!

The down side of all of this is that he has still not had a bowel movement. He acts as if he has to by hunching down, but nothing ever happens! We have been told that pure pumpkin will help with that so he had a little today. He really didn't care for it so we are hoping what little he ate will help. Hopefully the poop-fest doesn't happen on my shift!!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Lucas

I am drained. The last two days have been so exhausting for us.

Yesterday Robin called me at work around 10am. I didn't answer because I was on the phone with an insurance company. I sent her a text saying that I would call her back in a minute. She replied with one word... "Emergency!" I immediately hung up with the insurance company and called her back. She said that our youngest dog, Lucas, couldn't move his back legs. I asked her what happened and she said that she thought he jumped off the deck chasing a squirrel and he fell wrong. She said she heard him yelping and when she ran outside he was laying in the grass and couldn't move. I told her that I was leaving work and would be home in as soon as I could.

I turned off my computer, grabbed my bag and ran to my boss's office and told her that I had a family emergency. I think I blabbed something about the dog and said that I had to go and I would call with an update later. I drove home as quickly, and legally as I could.

When I arrived home, Robin was sitting on the living room floor with Lucas. All of the other animals were surrounding them. She said she already called the vet's office and they were expecting us. Luckily, the vets office was about 2 miles from the house.

Robin sat in the back seat with Lucas and I felt so bad for him. He was sitting on his hind with his back legs extended. The look on his face was pure fright. My heart was racing and I was trying to remain calm.

When we were called to the exam room Dr. Brown came in and did a couple of quick tests and said that he didn't have any deep pain and recommended we go to the emergency vets office. Dr. Brown does not specialize in backs and the emergency vets office also had the imaging equipment needed to properly diagnose his condition. We left Dr. Brown's office and headed to North Charleston.

When we pulled up, the vet tech was waiting at the door for us where he picked up Lucas and brought him inside. Robin filled out paperwork and we were brought back to an exam room where we waited.

About 15 minutes later the doctor came in and explained that Lucas actually did have deep pain, which was good. He told us that his opinion was that Lucas had a herniated disc and that he recommended imaging to properly diagnose the condition. He also said it could be an embolism and without x-rays he wouldn't be able to tell us for sure. He went to run and estimate and a couple of minutes came back with the numbers for x-rays and surgery... $3995,00!!

The doctor said that they could keep him overnight and we could think about the option of surgery. He said they would give him pain meds and we could call any time to check for any improvement. We left the vet's office feeling numb, sad and like we just abandoned a child.

Last night was a quiet night at the house. Lucas is the most rambunctious of all the pets and he is constantly under your feet - especially if you have food! The other animals knew something was up so they were especially quiet.

Late in the evening we called the office for an update. The tech told us there was no improvement. Robin and I cried and talked for a long time about what to do. We knew there was no way we could afford surgery and we just felt helpless. I called my friend Becky, who works in animal welfare. She recommended we take Lucas home for his medication and therapy to see how he does before making any drastic decisions. We thought about doing this, but we didn't want Lucas to suffer for our own selfishness. We knew we really didn't have any choice but to euthanize him.

Today I called into work and left a message for supervisor about what was happening. There was no way I could work and deal with all of this. We were told that the vet came in at 9am to do his rounds and we should receive a call around 10am. We didn't hear from them, so at 10:30am we called for an update. The tech told us that they brought Lucas outside and he actually tried to use his hind legs. There was a little bit of improvement and even the Dr. was surprised. We were both super-excited at this news and told them that we would be there as soon as we could.

When we arrived we were brought to the same room as the day before. A couple of minutes later the tech brought Lucas in the room. He was on a leash, which one tech was holding while the other tech held a harness supporting his backside. I think both of us had the same reaction. All the hope of his improvement slowly disappeared. We really thought we would see something totally different. Lucas was basically just dragging his hind legs behind him.

They left us alone in the room with Lucas and we just looked at each other. We had a really hard decision to make and it was like the elephant in the room. Lucas was so drugged up but we knew he recognized us from the small tail wag he did when he entered the room and saw us sitting there.

For about 20 minutes we were alone with Lucas. It was so sad seeing him like this. At that point we were fully prepared to put him to sleep and were were basically saying our silent goodbye's and cried many tears.

After a while, the doctor came in. We told him there was no way we could afford surgery and we wanted to hear about other options. The doctor said that from when we brought him in yesterday to today was an improvement. We asked him if taking Lucas home for meds and therapy would be beneficial and the doctor said it couldn't hurt. We decided that's what we would do.

We loaded Lucas, his catheter and paralyzed legs in my Jeep and headed home. Robin looked at me and said 'Are you up for this?" and I said "Are you?" and we both nodded.

When we got home we set Lucas up in the living room on the dog bed. All the other pets were very happy that he was home, but wanted to know where the hell he had been and why he wasn't raising hell like he normally did. After a good sniff we made them mind their business and prepared for several weeks of doggy sitting.

Robin gave him some water and we were trying to figure out how to protect him from everyone else. I said that it was too bad we didn't have a baby crib or playpen. I decided to put a call out to my peeps on Facebook to see if anyone had one we could have or buy and within 20 minutes our friend Teresa came to the rescue! yay! She came over and delivered it, and then we all attempted to set it up which was more difficult than we all thought! How many lesbians does it take to set up a crib? Three, apparently!

We brought Lucas outside using the harness, which was really trying. Robin had his leash and I held the harness and cath bag. Lucas kept turning in circles and we just couldn't get him to walk forward. I finally had Robin go ahead a couple of steps and call him. He managed to walk a few steps but his back feet were pretty much dragging. The harness the vets office gave us is a piece of crap. We ended up ordering a rear harness online this evening and had them overnight it. Hopefully it will work better!

Robin tried to give him his medication in some mashed potatoes we got especially for him from KFC but he was on to her. There's not fooling him! She ended up forcing the pills down his throat and then I followed up with some tasty bologna. He was pretty pissed at her after that whole situation.

Right now Lucas is resting in his crib and we are all exhausted after two very long days. Tonight I forced myself to stay up instead of crashing earlier but now I'm off to bed. Robin is going to sleep in the living room with Lucas in case he has any problems.

I'm hoping tomorrow is better than today.
(and sorry for the typos!)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Loyalty

When I was a child my Father told me to never lie. He said that if you lie you will soon forget what lie you told and to whom you told it and pretty soon all of your lies will catch up with you. After not following his advice a couple of times I decided that what he told me sounded reasonable so I decided to live by it. I don't lie. I really have no reason to. I don't embellish the truth or tell "fish stories". My life is wacky enough without having to do all of that.

In being an honest, up front person I've found that a lot of people don't know how to take me. I've been told that people are intimidated by me and my honesty. Even some of my closest friends have told me that upon meeting me they were standoffish and until they got to know the "real" me. I would have thought this was an odd occurrence if I hadn't been told this more than once. I have been told by friends that they have had to explain to others "oh, that's just Pam!" when they were asked about my bluntness. Don't get me wrong, I would never intentionally say anything rude to someone about them personally, it's just that I have an opinion about things and I'm not afraid to express it. I'm actually quite a caring and polite person.

I think that by being the person I am I have had to develop a tough skin. I assume that the people that don't really know me think that I don't have feelings. I've thought long and hard about this. I have a tough exterior and perhaps they think my feelings are impenetrable so they say and do things they feel won't affect me emotionally. It's quite the opposite, being that I DO actually have feelings and am very sensitive.

When I was young, I moved around so much and had to make friends every couple of years. I do not take friendship for granted. I cherish my friends and would never betray them and I expect the same of them. I've learned hard lessons with some of my friends and have been very lucky that they have stood by my side even when I wasn't exactly friend material. This is why I find it incredibly painful when I learn that a so-called friend has betrayed me. That really sucks.

What sucks worse is that I learned of this from another friend and was sworn to secrecy that I wouldn't say that they told me. There are other friends involved and it's a he said/she said kind of thing and it's all just ridiculous. I would love to confront the situation and nip it in the bud, but there's that whole confidentiality and loyalty thing. I stand by my statement and really don't care what the person on the receiving end says about the whole situation, but what I DO care about is that the person delivering this message was thought to be a friend.

I stand by everything I say, write and do and if I make a mistake I am quick to apologize. If someone has an issue with something I have said or done I would hope they would confront me about it like an adult instead of gossiping like a 12-year old because frankly, I don't have time for it.

Monday, March 15, 2010

We Are Family

Once upon a time there was a nightclub in Charleston called The Treehouse. If you were one of the regulars that was lucky enough to discover it early, you were witness to something magical. There were several bars in town that catered to the gay crowd, but there was nothing like The Treehouse. The sign on the door read:

They meant it.

The first time I went to The Treehouse I was mesmerized. I had been to clubs in Seattle, Atlanta and Manhattan and nothing compared to it. The Treehouse felt like home. It wasn't so huge that you were just another person in the crowd. We knew everyone and everyone knew us. For the next couple of years you could find me on the dance floor... eyes closed, hearing Jesse spin and feeling the vibration of the music rise from the dance floor and work it's way up my body. At times there would be so many people on the dance floor that I just knew it would collapse and we'd all end up on the first floor. There was one song by The Movement called 'Jump' where you could actually feel the floor move up and down as people bounced all over. It was divine.

On a normal day, during that time, I would work my shift from 4pm-12am and after changing my clothes in the bathroom I would head out to pick up friends. It seemed that I was always the taxi cab for wayward gay boys! After dancing for several hours - this was before clubs were forced to close at 2am - we would walk over to Fannies on Market Street for breakfast. Our server Sherrie was always lovely and incredibly patient with all of us clubbers. Mike (RIP) was always behind the grill cooking up whatever we wanted. Sometimes, after breakfast, a few of us would head over to the beach to watch the sun rise. This was most every night of the week. We were young and living in the moment and it was beautiful.

The entrance to The Treehouse was down an alley on George Street. Being a V.I.P. member one of the benefits was never having to wait in line, which sometimes was down the street. I remember walking past at least one hundred people toward the entrance of the club one night and a girl shouted to us as we walked by "Excuse me, are we going to the same club because I've been waiting for an hour!" I hoped that we didn't bump into her an hour or so later when she finally gained entrance!

Everyone I know who was a part of that magic remembers it the same way I do. A while after The Treehouse opened things really changed. People in the suburbs, mostly straight, would hear stories about all the crazy happenings at the club and decided to check it out for themselves. Sadly, those people never left and The Treehouse eventually lost that home-away-from-home feeling for most of us. We might as well have been dancing at Illusions on Rivers Avenue. In 1992 the owner, Ron, sent out this letter to V.I.P. members:

The Treehouse slowly lost it's faithful clientele that made it the legendary club that it became and eventually closed because of it. The Treehouse building remained vacant for a while and eventually had a pretty bad fire due to some people squatting and I believe two people perished in the fire. I'm not sure who inhabits 348 King Street now. I need to remind myself to look next time I pass by.

Fast forward 15 years...

Ron Klenk has passed away, we've all grown to be 40-somethings and this past Saturday Jenn Klenk hosted a Treehouse reunion party at Club Pantheon. My friend Jim came to town from Greenville and stayed with Robin and I for the occasion. We went to dinner at Hyman's and then headed to Pantheon. I already contacted most of my Treehouse-loving friends in hopes that they would meet me there. We arrive just after they opened, grabbed a cocktail and watched people as they arrived. For the first two hours it was kind of slow and then the old Treehouse DJ, Jesse, started spinning. I was really hoping he would play some of the old tunes from The Treehouse, but he only played a couple. I was bummed. Regardless of the music Jesse plays, he definitely knows how to get the crowd on the dance floor, including myself. I'm definitely not in my early twenties anymore so there was no way I was going to dance from opening to close like I did back in the day!

I knew I wouldn't recognize a lot of people, but I was really glad that I saw my favorite former waitress, Sherrie! I haven't seen her in years and it was so great to hug her again! I did see an old friend on the dance floor but when I went to look for him he had disappeared and I never ran into him. I was glad that I had several friends there with me... Of course my girl Robin, Chantel, Paul, Teresa, Jim, Mark, my sister Traci and her girlfriend Tanya. We had a really great time!

All of this was planned by Jenn via a Facebook group. On March 5th she wrote this letter that really summed the legend of The Treehouse up:

Treehouse tradition was that at the end of the night the last song played was ALWAYS 'We Are Family' by Sister Sledge. I wondered to myself if they were going to do the same thing tonight. Sure enough, right around 2am I heard that old familiar tune start. I was on the dance floor and I paused for a moment and looked around me. You could definitely tell who were the Treehouse regulars and who were the regular club-goers at Pantheon. The Treehouse people got so excited when they heard this song. There was cheering, hugging, clapping and pure joy. It meant so much to all of us back in the day. I still think of The Treehouse everytime I hear it.

When I was scanning the crowd I looked at how young some of the people were. I guessed that some of these kids were probably 5 or 6 years old when the rest of use were basking in the glory of The Treehouse. It almost like we all had this secret... this monumental thing in common, a confidential club and the membership was closed forevermore.

I didn't dance to "We Are Family"... I just listened and watched and remembered. I knew that this part of my life was long over and really, I'm a totally different person now. It was nice to go back and revisit those memories again, but like they say... you can never go home again (but we will always be family!)

Friday, March 12, 2010

Thyroidectomy and Country Music

I went for my biopsy follow-up yesterday. While waiting to be roomed I sat there thinking about the last year. Since I turned 40 I feel like I've slowly been falling apart. Aches, pains, high blood pressure, gaining weight... the list goes on. Last year I decided to at least be a better diabetic. Well, this really only entails my taking the medication the doctor prescribed, but that's a start, right?

Each morning at work I take out my little purple pill holder that Robin fills each week with all of my prescriptions. We've got a diabetic pill, 2 glucosomine and chondroitin OTC horse pills, blood pressure pill, cholesterol pill, a pill that keeps me from killing people... I think there's one more but I can't think of it right now. I put the pills on my desk as my morning ritual and Clancy (the girl that sits behind me) usually says something like "Dang, girl! What are you?? 80??" I complain about all the prescriptions daily as I hate taking pills. I was totally non-compliant for the longest time. I'm trying to be better about being compliant. I'm trying to be well.

I was finally put in an exam room after an hour and a half wait. I think the room was actually made for children because it had this God awful mural in it. It's a jungle scene with a monkey... the monkey has a purse for his bananas. That amused me.

When Dr. McNellis finally came in we talked about the nodule and my biopsy results. I asked him how he went from the nodule in the back of my neck to my thyroid. The connection didn't make sense to me. He told me that the nodule is something to watch carefully but from what the CT said it isn't big enough to cause worry... yet. He said when they did the CT he saw the calcifications in my thyroid and that is why he ordered the biopsy. He said they were big enough to see and that was a concern.

The cells from the biopsy were atypical which, of course, is not normal. He said that he could do more invasive studies but what he recommends is to do a partial thyroidectomy so we will not have to worry about it in the future. During the procedure he will take the thyroid and do a frozen biopsy of it while I am still under. If the pathologist says it's cancer he will then take the other half out. He explained that if it's only one half I can live without taking any additional medications, however, if they take the whole thing out I will have to take something along the lines of synthroid as well as calcium for the rest of my life.

I kind of knew that this was going to be the news I would hear today so I wasn't really freaked out. He said recovery time would be 4-7 days and that I should plan to stay overnight in the hospital but he may surprise me and send me home. I've never stayed (as a patient) overnight in the hospital so this will be a new experience for me. We scheduled the surgery for April 5th at St. Francis.

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This past weekend was a clash of cultures! Friday night we had tickets to see Henry Rollins. I was really looking forward to this since I've long admired him but have never seen him live. For the past several years he's been doing spoken word. The show was absolutely intense and nothing short of amazing. In the words of my good friend, Devin:

he basically came out at 8:15pm, stepped up to the mike, and started talking, and didn't stop ... until almost 11pm. He didn't take a sip of water, barely paused between subjects, which went from American history, to the differences in the grasp of the English language between Obama and Bush (one of my fave quotes of the night was that Obama "speaks in perfect, upppercase Hellvetica font), to why he hates Thanksgiving and texting, to being friends with William SHatner, to seeing the punk band Bad Brains for the first time, to starring in the TV series Son of Anarchy, to traveling the world. He bounced around subjects like a pinball, and the nearly three hours flew by. It was one of the more amazing performances I've seen onstage, music or otherwise. He also keeps it very democratic. For instance, he obviously doesn't like Rush Limbaugh, but he definitely stands up for the guy's right to be on the radio, no matter what he says. He is totally against racism and most other isms, but he plays a white supremacist on Sons of Anarchy, and explained why he chose to do so.

Devin, me, Robin, Steven (Robin's brother) and Karen

Devin is a freelance writer and his official review of Rollins was in Charleston Scene's online edition as well a fabulous photo by your truly! Did you see that photo credit? I'm a star!!

On Saturday night it was, well... totally different from Friday! We had an offer for free concert tickets to see Brad Paisley and Miranda Lambert at the coliseum. I knew that Robin really liked Paisley (and country music) so I agreed to go. I've never been a big country fan. There are a few country artists that I enjoy like Darius Rucker (Duh, I live in Charleston!) and Sugarland. The only country concert that I've seen was outside at the fairgrounds. It was redneck land from hell.

After parking in BFE we made it inside to find out that we had amazing seats! We were in the 4th row just above the risers. The crowd was very into their country thing and I very much felt like a minority. I'm glad we weren't in a section where people were being obnoxious. It was actually a pretty laid back section because of the location of the seats. We could either stand or sit and either way we had a great view. I enjoyed both shows, especially Miranda Lambert. I really liked her hair... I'm thinking of getting a cut now!


I was really surprised at the production that went into Paisley's show. I think most of the time he was preforming I was watching the videos on the big screens behind him!


This coming weekend my friend Jimmy is coming to visit from Greenville. Saturday night we are going to Hyman's (his request) and then to The Treehouse reunion at Club Pantheon. The Treehouse was a club in Charleston that we practically lived at about 15 years ago. Back then I worked a 4-12pm shift and would bring a change of clothes with me. After my shift I would make a quick change and head out. After a night of dancing we would go for breakfast and sometimes head to the beach to watch the sun rise. This was practically every night! There's no way I could do that these days. I'm really looking forward to hearing the old tunes from the club - DJ Jesse is spinning! as well as seeing some familiar faces!

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Results and Ticks

Monday morning I called the Dr. McNellis’s office to see if they had my biopsy results and I was told that the doctor would be in surgery all day and would not be able to review the results until the following day. I was pretty anxious so I pulled a favor from Dr. Eads, my former boss, who is now my primary care doctor. I knew that Dr. Eads could get the report so I decided to email him. I would have made a call to his office but the last months events were way too much to relay through a receptionist! The problem was I lost his email address ages ago so I decided to send him a Facebook message to let him know what was happening. I followed my email up by asking him if there was a CPT code for a Facebook consult, which I’m sure he found amusing.

Dr. Eads knows my family history and probably knew I was a little freaked out by the whole situation. I didn’t hear from him that afternoon, nor did I hear from McNellis’s office so I called them on my way home and was told “You know, the doctor is really busy seeing patients.” Having run a medical practice I’m well aware of how it all works, but I also know that after my CT scan at this practice I NEVER received a call with my results so I had no problem with being persistent.

The next morning I received a call from Dr. Eads with the “unofficial” test results. He told me that all the samples were benign but there is still a slight chance (10%) that cancer cells may exist deep within the calcification. He said that surgery was probably inevitable but of course that was Dr. McNellis’s call. He also said there might be a chance of McNellis ordering a more invasive biopsy. Ugh. I felt much better after hearing this, but was still really aggravated that I was hearing this from Dr. Eads and not Dr. McNellis. I think I much prefer a physician that is patient satisfaction driven and not numbers driven!

Later in the afternoon I called Mcnellis’s office again and was told that he STILL has not had a chance to review my results. I was really thankful for Dr. Eads because at this point I would have been going nuts not knowing what was happening. Dr. McNellis knows nothing about the high rate of cancer in my family, but that shouldn’t even be a factor. What if it really was something serious and needed urgent attention?

On Wednesday afternoon I called Dr. McNellis’s office for the fourth time. The nurse got on the phone and said “Oh, he JUST gave me your chart. The cells in the specimen were a-typical and no cancer was present and he wants me to schedule a follow-up for you to come in and discuss surgery options.” Now, really? How difficult was that? It probably took him two seconds to look at my chart and make that decision.

On Monday, the 8th of March I have an appointment scheduled with his office for allergy testing so I made my follow-up for Wednesday, the 10th so we can discuss the allergy test results as well as possible surgery. I am not really excited at the thought of surgery but I will do what I have to do to not suffer like some of my family has.

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This morning I woke up to get ready for work and while taking a shower I felt something a little unusual where the bottom of your butt meets the upper inside of your thigh (if that makes sense!) … almost in what Robin would refer to as your “bathing suit area” At first I thought it was a large pimple and scratched it. When I looked at what I scratched off it was black and a little bloody. Ew! It was a freakin’ tick! I felt again to see if I got it all but really couldn’t tell. I finished my shower and sent Robin a text message telling her to hurry home from work! Next, I called my boss with probably the most insane call-in ever! I told her I would be a little late because of my “situation!”

I took a nap so I wouldn’t have to think about the thing still being inside of me and Robin arrived a little after 8am. After an up-close inspection Robin said I got the whole thing out and the hole was still very angry. Also, I guess the tick was a little picky because it bit three different places until it found the tastiest spot.

I have no idea where the tick came from since we haven’t been in the woods this week. Robin had one on her last week (very close to her front bathing suit area) but that was right after a day of geocaching. I can only assume that when I let the dogs out at 4am this morning (they woke me up!) Lucas brought one in with him. He always sleeps under the covers with us so I’m thinking he jumped off of him and on to me. I think we need to have a conference with him to let him know that he needs to leave his “friends” outside where they belong!