Friday, December 31, 2010

New Additions and a Happy New Year

Cute little guys, huh?

They don't have names yet, but we acquired these two from an animal shelter. They met there four months ago and became friends, and we didn't have the heart to take one and not the other. So-o-o-o...

In the meantime, we don't "do" New Years Eve anymore. I'd be painting except that I need to prepare to teach TWO classes beginning in January: microbiology and zoology. So I'll be doing a little less art until I feel I'm caught up enough in those two subjects to squeeze in some painting again.

To make a long story short...

Have a Happy New Year!!! Please keep it safe!

Monday, December 20, 2010

It's Been Strange

Still chuggin' along as I continue to heal from surgery and deal with the loss of Gracie the guinea piggy a week ago today.

It's been strange ever since I was in the hospital. While there, I had some very vivid, colorful dreams. My dreams never really make sense, and that was the case then, too. But for some reason, one of those dreams bothered me, although the dream itself didn't have any nightmarish imagery or anything I could define as bad. In the dream, I missed out on an opportunity. I've had dreams like that before, but this one...well, I don't know why it continues to haunt and bother me, but it does.

In addition, I've had operations before, but this is the first one where a piece of me -- not just a growth -- was removed. And it was a piece of me where a small part was cancer.

This last point is especially significant. It was the first time a part of me had turned into the bad guy, to the extent where if I hadn't caught it, it could have killed me. Maybe that's all part of the mental issues I've been having: the death of our pet plus the fact I narrowly skirted death myself are sobering thoughts. I know I'm not gonna live forever. Of course I know we're all going to die, but OMG! This time it isn't just an academic reflection of our futures. I'm really going to die some day!

My Christian faith is supposed to comfort me during times like this. But it doesn't. Something's changed in me, and I don't know if it'll go away in time or not. I still feel tired a lot, and I know major surgery does that to patients. Maybe when I'm up and around more and I can become involved with life again, I'll feel better about things. Or maybe not.

I guess you'd have to be a surgery patient yourself to appreciate this; otherwise, the previous paragraph could be explained away by the lingering effects of the morphine and, later, the Pergocet I was given for pain.

Think I'd buy that explanation? What do you think?

It's been strange ever since I've been in the hospital.

Monday, December 13, 2010

No More Gracie =(

Today was one of the days we pet owners dread the most: when we see a pet's health deteriorate and we know we have to have to euthanize our critter.

In our case, the critter was Gracie, a guinea pig we loved more than we ever thought possible.

We acquired her from one of The Wiffee's co-workers in 2008. Gracie had already been well-socialized and was used to being handled and petted. We both enjoyed holding her, but it soon became obvious that I was Gracie's favorite human. She gave me "puppy-dog eyes" (even though she's a guinea piggy) when I petted her, and she trained me to pet her in all the right places. She also "kissed" me by licking and nibbling on my lips, and she often would hold perfectly still so I could do the same to her. She never did this with The Wiffee OR with the previous owner, and, needless to say, this endeared her to me tremendously.

Every so often, Gracie would have days when she wouldn't eat or drink anything for a day, then the next day she'd be perfectly fine. But last Thursday (9 Dec), she stopped eating and drinking, and she never really restarted. We took her to a vet on Saturday for some answers, and we got a few more answers today. Bladder stones, often a genetic predisposition in guinea piggies, were filling the space in her bladder. Cystic kidneys, which were undoubtedly shutting down and causing even more problems. And she was developing labored breathing. Plus, she was slowly starving and possibly dying of thirst as well (she was bloated, so I'm not sure if she was dehydrated and bloated at the same time). Her kidneys were enlarged and didn't feel right to the vet.

So, as hard as the decision was to make, we decided to have her euthanized today. We probably shouldn't even have waited this long, but we still had hopes she might rebound, and it's so hard to let go of critters we love so much.

Now, many tears later, we have to undo all of the habits and things we did for Gracie, and it'll be hard -- she became so ingrained in our daily lives. I had never been so attached to a pet before -- and as you might expect, I'm having a really hard time dealing with this right now.

Major surgery for me at Thanksgiving. Losing our beloved guinea piggy just before Christmas. I can't predict how I'll feel in a few days or weeks, but for now I'll just say: I'm just not in the mood for a holiday.

We love you, Gracie, and we believe you loved us, too. RIP, you cute, lovable piggy, you. =(

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Some Thanksgiving THAT Was!


This year's Thanksgiving left a little to be desired. Dinner for me was broth and clear liquids, followed by drinking a liter of very salty water with no flavoring added.

Y'see, my wife was laid off from her job in early November. That means our medical insurance would expire by month's end. So I knew I had to get catch up on the various tests I needed.

One of these was the fecal occult blood test, a screening for colon cancer. Unfortunately, I tested positive, which meant I had to submit to a colonoscopy to determine the cause of the bleeding.

Turns out I had some cancer cells, and I was quickly scheduled for surgery. On the day after Thanksgiving.

So now I'm recovering from surgery and doing quite well considering they removed most of my ascending colon. The cancer (adenocarcinoma, a rather aggressive form of cancer) was Stage 1 -- it didn't appear to have spread outside of a 20mm (3/4")-wide tumor. I should be OK -- for now.

The whole event was surreal -- actually getting cancer, having a piece of me removed (not just a growth, as in surgeries past) and knowing I have to be better in time to resume teaching my microbiology class in mid-January.

Also, I never felt as close to death as I did during this time. I had thoughts that I might not survive the surgery itself, and I made sure The Wiffee was up-to-date on all of the passwords I use when I pay bills online. And, of course, I didn't know what they would find after they ripped my colon out of my body.

Well, obviously I survived, I feel very little pain, and I'm mostly just tired and find I don't focus on things well right now -- like I kinda don't give a rip about anything. I'm sure that will go away in time, and I have to remember to take it easy on myself as I continue to heal from this trauma to my body.

Meanwhile, I'm still looking forward to Christmas, although I won't be physically active in going around visiting, shopping or attending events. But I'm glad to be alive, glad I didn't procrastinate any more than I did (or I could have had a very different ending to this story) and glad that God apparently wants me alive for a bit longer, to do whatever it is He wants me to do.

Maybe there's a painting I'm meant to do -- and I have to be here long enough to do it!