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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Another sweet cat in kitty heaven

Neelix was an orange tabby tom, a muted orange, with green eyes and no white on him anywhere. His belly was the same gold with soft burnt-orange stripes as the rest of him. He had to live with my Mom, because he couldn't stand being in a multi-cat household, so I really only had him for five years though he lived fourteen.

I had a young black cat named B'Elanna at the time I got him, but like to have two cats. When I went into the cat pen at PetSmart, I had my eye on a gray and white cat at the end of the aisle. But as I passed the first cage, a golden paw grabbed my sleeve, and a scratchy little voice said, "Meow." I looked, and the leggy half grown cat stared me in the eyes. He had a tail longer than his body, and it was straight up in the air. I bought him and took him home. He was upset that there was another cat in residence, and she sure wasn't thrilled to see him. I've dealt with that before, and left them to work it out.

That night in bed, B'Elanna was at the foot as usual. Neelix got up and curled himself under my chin.

Three months later, B'Elanna got run over and killed. Her story some other time.

Neelix loved to sit on my lap with his face up in mine, giving me kitty kisses, often with his paws around my neck. Sometimes he'd nibble a button on my shirt. I had to call a halt to that when he broke one! He was very friendly, and I was able to get him to tolerate a harness and leash, though I had to follow where he went rather than leading him.

The most special thing he ever did was at the library branch where I worked as the children's librarian. I did a program on cats, and brought Neelix. I had one little girl in my storytime group who had severe cerebral palsy. She was confined to a motorized wheelchair, unable to control any part of her body, unable to talk, nearly blind. Her mom said she loves cats but is allergic to them. With permission, I put Neelix on her lap. She tried to pet him but pounded on him instead. Neelix didn't flinch, just let her do it. He sat on her lap and touched his nose to her face, giving her kitty kisses for as long as her mom thought it was okay for her to touch him. It gave the little girl such a thrill, and I think that alone earned his place in heaven.

Later I got three kittens at the same time, and he did fine with them until I moved from a 1500 square foot townhouse to a small one-bedroom apartment. Even then, he was adjusting, until the apartment next to mine caught fire and my cats were traumatized. All four survived unhurt, but Neelix started spraying. All over. All the time. So Mom said she'd take him, and he settled into her apartment as only cat.

She enjoyed him, though she's not an animal lover. Her apartment has a tiny fenced back yard, the size of a patio, and she'd let him out on his leash while she watched him to make sure he didn't leave the yard. When he wanted out and she was too busy, he'd back up to something and look like he was going to spray it. Sometimes when he didn't get attention, he'd get up on a cabinet, stare at her until he knew she was watching, and knock off a nick-nack. Other times he'd get a toy and throw it at her. She thought he was very smart. Every night when she took out the trash, she'd clean the litter box. She'd announce, "I'm taking the trash now," and he'd go use the litter box before she cleaned it.

Smart, loving, handsome cat. Rest in peace, Neelix.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The big C: Saga of the teeth

The oral surgeon X-rayed my face and told me I was going to have to have 4 to 6 of my back molars pulled.


I have gone through all kinds of hell with my teeth, and now this.

To begin with, my baby teeth came in decayed. According to Mom, I had no teething pain at all. One morning she came in to my crib and I smiled at her, and there was a little black tooth sticking up. I had fillings in most of my baby teeth, and had to go in every 6 months for fluoride treatments to keep my permanent teeth from doing the same thing.

When my permanent teeth came in, they were blessedly free of cavities. That didn't last long. My enamel was thin and weak, and despite all the brushing and flossing I did, I had a filling nearly every time at the dentist, twice a year, every damn time until I got out of high school.

And then when I was sixteen, I got taken to an orthodontist. My bottom teeth looked like a picket fence, and my Bucky Beaver front top teeth were beginning to fold over each other. As the orthodontist put it, I had size 12 teeth in a size 8 jaw. One tooth got pulled then, the back molar on the upper right side. It was defective and growing sideways. The wisdom tooth promptly began to come down in its place, and the orthodontist looked at the X-rays and told me I had to go into the hospital to have the other three removed. The one coming in would trigger the other three, and they were under my back molars. While I was under complete anaesthetic, they had to make L-shaped tunnels in my jaw, cut the wisdom teeth into pieces, and pull them out. Thank God for anaesthetic. The worst part was the pureed food I was served in the hospital afterward. I took a big bite of what I thought was chocolate pudding. It was pureed liver. I hate liver. That ranks as one of the top 5 awful things I've eaten.

One thing I had to do when my teeth were being straightened was endure the dentist filing between my teeth with ribbon files to give them a little room to be moved. Think of fingernails on a blackboard, but in your mouth. Nasty. But they didn't have to pull any. However, as my bone is very dense, they had to push harder to get my teeth to move. Thank God for Sensodyne toothpaste! I had frequent dreams during the straightening time that my teeth were soft and I could pull them out with my fingers. Shudder.

After braces and retainers, my teeth looked pretty good for quite a while. I even ran out of fillings for a few years. Then, in my early 30s, I did one evening of tequila shots with a couple friends, and my front teeth were forever damaged from the limes. Weak enamel. Crap. Every single dentist I've been to since has asked if I habitually sucked lemons.

The teeth had a couple decades of no problems, though my once rabbity front teeth wore down to the point where they're no longer than the rest of them. In my 40s and early 50s I got four crowns, one at a time. Three were gold, and I've had no problems with them. One was porcelain, and I've always been sorry I didn't get gold again. The dentist thought it would show. I've had problems with that crown since I got it. Never went back to that dentist, either.

If I lose 4 teeth, I'll lose 2 of the gold crowns. They're on the back molars on the bottom. Maybe I can sell the gold. If they wind up pulling 6, I'll lose all three bottom crowns. The stupid porcelain one is on the next-to-farthest back tooth on the upper right side. If I keep the tooth, I'll have the crown replaced with a gold one. I don't at this point know if they'll fit me with a bridge of some sort to replace the teeth, or if I'll just have to do without them. Guess I'd better eat some steak while I still can, huh?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Big C part 4

There are two conflicting old sayings: "Ignorance is bliss" and "Knowledge is power." Usually both are a mixed bag. Wanting some knowledge, I found an oral cancer support site online.

It was not supportive. It was terrifying.

First were the statistics, which I mentioned previously. One-year survival: 85%. Sounds good, right? Five-year survival: 59%. Not so good, but still better than 50-50. Ten-year survival: 47%. Okay, not liking that one. I'd like to live to older than 68, thanks.

Then I investigate the chat groups, and found one woman who has survived oral cancer not once, but four times. The catch? She doesn't have any tongue left. They had to cut away a bit more each time. On that note, I exited the site and deleted it from favorites. That was honestly more than I needed to know.

And in the words of Han Solo in Star Wars, episode V (yes, I'm a nerd): "Never tell me the odds."

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The big C part 3

Had a dark night of the soul a couple nights ago. I found an online oral cancer "support group" that scared the bejeezus out of me. First were the statistics: 85% survival for one year, 59% survival for 5 years, 47% survival for 10 years. After I digested this, well, then I got onto a chat thread. The personal stories were even scarier.

So that night I got into bed and laid there feeling like it had finally sunk in that I have Cancer. Actual cancer. A disease whose treatment hasn't changed much since the turn of the last century, cutting out the bad parts and applying radiation. And I started thinking over all I've done and not done. I can't say I don't have regrets. I have plenty. But lying in bed trying to rewrite your life doesn't make for falling asleep. After a few hours, I got up and went into the living room.

My husband likes to sleep on the couch with the light and the TV on, neither of which I can tolerate, needing darkness and silence to even begin to relax enough to go to sleep. Not surprising, he was awake, so I had someone to unburden myself to. My mom's been visiting, but she was asleep, and I don't want to stress her out any more than she already is. So I shared my fear and got some comfort, which was good. Also a bit surprising, because he has never been able to relate to my chronic depression, and his usual advice to any fear I have is "don't think about it." This time he surpassed himself, and after we'd talked for a bit I was able to go and sleep.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Shall I give them another chance?

Most of my 6 finished novels have been tried on at least one traditional publisher. A couple have been tried on a dozen each. I'm just wrapping up number six, and I'm debating: straight to indie pub, or give it an outing first? It's post-apocalyptic science fiction, thought the focus isn't on the science, but on how the people react to nearly everyone they know dying and the entire structure of civilization crumbling into nothing in a matter of a few months. It's really a very quiet story. Sellable? I have no idea. I write the novel that's inside me. I have no idea what's "hot" and have never had much of a finger on the pulse of current culture. I've always been the sort that hangs onto the old fashions/trends/whatever until they're pried from my fingers.

Born in the 1950s, I still think the clothes from that era look best. Played with dolls until I was sixteen. Didn't date until I was eighteen, and only a year at a college in the boonies led me to getting my driver's license. I've always had a feeling my books would have been best sellers in the 1970s. I have never been in sync with my peer group. In the summer I would rather spend 2 weeks at my grandparents' house in rural Kansas than hang with my best friend. I never had a crowd, but one best friend at a time.

So, back to my novels. If anyone reads my ramblings, I'd like some feedback. I have one indie published e-book out now, and there are 4 more that had their shot at a traditional publisher. Should the new one have a shot as well, or go straight to indie?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Big C part 2

Step one is over. I have had the surgery and am recovering from that before the radiation starts. I lost a third of my tongue and a bunch of lymph nodes on the right side of my neck, some of which were malignant. I have a scar that looks like someone tried to cut my head off. I had 2 drains in the right side but both are gone now. The surgery was Friday, March 2. I got to come home from the hospital Wednesday, March 7. I got the second drain out of my neck on Friday, March 9.

The chunk of tongue that's gone is on the right side towards the middle. I've been on liquids and pureed food, and am slowly going to have to re-learn to swallow. My speech, according to the doctor, is amazingly good, but compared to the perfect diction I used to have, I think I sound ghastly, and I tend to spit when I talk. Part of my tongue is still numb and part stings. Seem to taste everything OK, but I never had much of a palate.

I have gone from 200 lbs. and a size 22 to 178 lbs. and a size 16 in 3 months. If I had any illusions about the weight staying off (never has before), I'd regard that as the silver lining. I've learned that I'll get thinner before this is over, so I'm setting about packing up my regular clothes and gleaning smaller ones from assorted thrift shops. As long as I have pants that fit, I don't really mind baggy tops. I never liked my clothes tight. Weirdness: I know I've lost all this weight, and I can sure tell when I look at specific body parts, but when I look at my entire self in the mirror, I think I look about the same. Thin or fat, it's still me in here. I really only notice how fat I am in pictures. I should probably take pictures to commemorate my thinness!

I sound like I'm handling all this well, and I don't let a lot of the stuff inside out. But I'm really scared. I have zero risk factors for this kind of cancer, and got it anyway. It went from nothing to stage 3 (there are only 4 stages) in 2 months. This kind likes to grow back. You can bet my dentist is going to get tired of "Refer me to the dental surgeon! There's a thing on my tongue!" from now on. The what-if bunnies are multiplying. What if I get one like that somewhere not so noticeable? What if it grows back and they have to cut out more of my tongue? What if the radiation makes me lose my teeth? Terror. Oddly, I don't dream anything scary. I think my subconscious is realizing I don't need anything else. The teeth thing might not get to anyone else but my dad had full dentures the whole time I knew him, and it instilled in me a deep desire to die with all my teeth in place. Preferably of an advanced age. Hair, schmair, it grows back. Leave me my teeth.