Saturday, June 2, 2012

A Normal Day

I was chatting with a writer friend and bitching complaining that I couldn't think of anything to blog about, and off-handedly mentioned that people were starting to nag ask me about my next post. I'm happy to accommodate, and glad people want to hear from me, don't get me wrong. It's just that I am a bit cancered-out. Oh, I have my usual constellation of symptoms, medical tests and doctor's appointments, but I get bored writing about cancer all the time, even when it's about me. My brilliant friend, in a moment of clarity, said, "you could always write about the shit normal people do. Cancer or no, we still deal with everyday stuff, eh?"

Oh my God, I'd forgotten.

I am a normal person. With a normal life. One that isn't all about cancer.

So let me introduce you to my dog, Cherry.

Cherry is a greyhound. She is beloved in our family, spoiled and catered to. If she was small enough, I'd put her in my purse and carry her around, and whisper baby talk to her and maybe dress her in darling little designer clothes.

That secret desire is why I prefer dogs in the 100 pound range, so I can never give in to it.

Like all greyhounds, she is a rescue. She came off a race track in Kansas, but unlike my previous greyhound, she never actually raced. She doesn't have the go-getter personality type necessary to be successful in the competitive, dog-eat-dog world of dog racing.

Cherry is a bit, shall we say, timid. So timid, in fact, that I'm pretty sure that when she was told to race other dogs, she ran backwards to avoid them.

Greyhounds are raised as working farm animals and not as family pets, so they are all a bit freaked out when suddenly expected to be domesticated animals. When we first got her, Cherry was frightened of many things. We have hardwood floors in half the house and cheap vinyl tile in the other half. The vinyl was, of course, terrifying. She was unable to walk on it without encouragement for several weeks. Unfortunately, the door to the back yard, and her dinner bowl, are kept on the vinyl side, so this was a fear she had to overcome to use the facilities or eat. When she got too hungry or couldn't hold it any longer, she would bravely take a step across the threshold, from wood to tile, just like a kid on a hot day sticking a toe in a too-cold pool. Tail between her legs, she'd take another shaky step, certain the floor was going to swallow her and she'd fall straight into the fiery pits of hell. Once she made it to the back door, she would stand there like it was a racing gate - nose down, body tensed, unmoving. The second I opened the door, she'd sprint out to the safety of the grass.

She was also terrified of the TV. Despite what you've heard, greyhounds are not allowed to watch The Daily Show in between races, so the noise of the TV was mystifying. My God, there are people talking, but not her people! And there are no people smells! You could tell by the expression on her face and her pointed ears as she stared at the TV that she believed she'd been brought into a house driven by black magic.

We've had her for a year, and she has settled down into a calming routine. Her tail is not kept between her legs anymore and she has turned into a happy dog, one who leaves toys all over the house, like my children used to do. She'll grab a toy and then play bow, asking me to join her. Of course, she has no game in mind so anything I do with the toy confuses her terribly, but she still seems to enjoy my attempts.

She no longer believes the tile floor is going to disappear, leaving her falling into space. She ignores the TV, unless on it a doorbell rings or she hears a dog barking, at which time she barks back and runs to the front door like a normal dog. She gets excited for her walks. Yes, she crosses the street to avoid other dogs and big scary strange people, and oddly, she refuses to pee, not wanting to mark her scent in case other dogs find out she exists, but she still begs to go. She eats well. She lies next to us at our dinnertime, nonchalantly pretending what is happening up on that table is not interesting at all, until the first plate is pushed back. Then she is up, nose approaching the table, chattering her teeth. (Some greyhounds chatter their teeth like they are cold when they get excited.) She knows she gets to lick a plate, which is the best part of her day.

Her world is solid, predictable. Safe.

Then, the top came off. Literally. We are installing a new roof. One day the animal is happily sleeping in various rooms, getting up to have a bite to eat here and there and sleeping again (kind of like me). The next, her dependable and comfortable life is shattered by unGodly sounds from above. I think it's safe to say that she heard about that face-eating guy in Florida, and she's now certain those mysterious noises above her head mean the Zombie Apocalypse is nigh and that dog brain is on the menu.

I've never seen a dog shake as much as ours did the day the roofers did the tear-off. There were twenty guys swarming the roof and the scraping and banging sounds were straight from doggie hell. Despite the fact that the cat had previously taken out a restraining order keeping the dog ten feet from her at all times, the dog decided to brave sharp teeth and claws and join the cat in sitting on my lap, while at the same time vibrating like a motel-room bed. There I am, all 95 pounds of me, trying to drink a cup of coffee, with a 75 pound dog and an 8 pound cat sharing space in my lap, both animals shivering in a sea of confusion and terror.

It was a work day so despite their obvious discomfort, I managed to dislodge the animals. I placed the dog in the quietest part of our house - my bedroom - with a hollowed out bone full of peanut butter. Then I ran a bath for work, and let the pervert cat watch me.

I have to say, I was slightly concerned about taking a bath with workmen only a few feet above me trying to tear off the roof. Knowing the shape the roof had been in, I expected I could end up with a) a big hole with a bunch of faces peering down at me b) a tub full of ceiling fluff, c) a pair of legs dangling through at me, or d) all of the above.

I was also afraid the the dog might decide she still wanted to get in my lap.

But, night sweats mean you don't skip your morning bathing ritual, and body aches means a bath, not a shower, so I went through my routine, modifying it by adding bubbles for protection. As I do each morning, I turned on the funniest radio show in America podcast on my iPhone, set it on a wide shelf by my tub, and soaked in the tub while my painkillers kicked in.

Not finding this too relaxing with hammering and the sounds of swearing in Spanish directly above me, I kept it short. I washed, got out of the bath, dried off, picked up my iPhone - and promptly dropped it in the tub. The sound immediately shut off, and the phone went dark.

Panicked, I grabbed my phone out of the tub in two seconds flat. Finding my towel too wet to dry it off, I ran, nude, to the kitchen, right by a bank of windows with a large ladder placed in front of them. I grabbed some paper towels and wrapped the phone, suddenly realizing that there were 20 men able to look in and see me merely by climbing down the ladder. Considering how scarred I am, with missing and reconfigured body parts, I was afraid they, like the dog, might assume that the Zombie Apocalypse had begun. I ran back to the bathroom, got dressed quickly, and came back to attend to my phone.

Everybody says their "life is in their phone" but what if mine really was? What if, now that my phone stopped working, I wouldn't know what appointment to go to next? Would I be able to recreate my myriad chemo and doctor appointments, and the many tests and scans? Would cancer take over because I killed my phone and didn't know where to go?

I had to fix it, my life depends on it. I know you are supposed to put wet electronic equipment into rice to absorb the water. I looked in my cabinets but didn't find any. I remembered a bag of brown rice I had in the freezer, so I grabbed that, snipped the bag with scissors, poured the rice into a ziplock bag, and then dropped my iPhone in it. I shook the bag so that the phone would be surrounded by rice, and finished my morning routine.

I came back and realized that frozen rice probably wasn't what they meant when they said to use rice to draw out water. Moisture was condensing on the outside of the bag, and my phone was even wetter than it had been before, and was now ice cold. I could only hope that, like in humans, the cold would slow down my phone's heartbeat and maybe it could recover. Anyway, I was about to be late, so I picked up the bag of rice and and went to work.

The temperature was going to be 90, so I came up with the brilliant idea to leave the phone in my car all day and let it dry out that way. I took it out of the bag and left it on the seat, hoping nobody would steal it. As I shook the grains off, I noticed a piece stuck in the headphone jack and tried to get it out but that wet, cold, sticky rice wasn't budging, so I just left it there.

I went the entire day without my phone. Just sayin', for those of you who thought it was impossible.

After work, when I got back in the car, the miraculous happened. The phone turned on. There was no sound, but once I got home I cleaned that grain of rice out of the headphone jack and swabbed it with alcohol, and thankfully, all was back to normal. My appointments, my treatments, my texts - all there.

My world was restored.

Sad to say, not so for the dog. Her world has shrunk to a very small place - about the size of an iPhone, now that I think about it. She dwells in a tiny corner of the bedroom, having now a very specific fear of the roof over her head.

I'm an evil owner master fur-mommy, because when I come home, and the roofers are gone, I make her leave her safe spot, and I close the door so she can't get back in, and she is forced to join us in the dangerous part of the house. I've no doubt that if I allowed it, my timid little Cherry would spend the rest of her life curled up on the 4x3 dog bed in the corner of my bedroom, occasionally peering up, wondering when the Zombies will return.

Now I have to spend my time after work teaching my dog not to be afraid of the ceiling.

So there you go. The shit normal people do.

Thanks Charles.

The dog and cat, in a rare moment of warm togetherness


  1. Your friend's advice reminds me of when my dad passed (NOT from cancer). It happened suddenly and I was woken up at midnight to be told by the police so suffice it to say overnight my world was turned upside down. It was Wednesday, 11:54pm when they entered and Thursday, 1:05am when they left. The rest of the day and night was spent on the phone and just in general shock. Then I called my best friend. She was my first call at 2am and I wish I could say my last on Thursday but the phone didn't stop ringing for days. She was, however, my only dose of normal. Bless her heart, she said to me "I gotta tell ya Jenn, I'm really at a loss for words. I don't really know what to say to you. I can't even begin to imagine what you're going through." and I said , "Nope, you can't. I called for some normal. Can I have some normal please? Is your sister coming over to watch Grey's tonight? I missed last week. Was it good?" and I heard a sigh and a giggle and that made me giggle. I remembered in that moment that while my life had forever changed, I had to make a new normal, yeah, but not today, today, give me plain old what the hell happened on Grey's Anatomy last week normal. I'll deal with the rest tomorrow.

  2. Awe! They are sweet and it is nice to know that they, and you, have a very normal side to life like dropping phones in water and running naked through their houses. LOL! Your word pictures definitely keep me laughing and I always look forward to your blog posts, no matter what they are about. Sending you happy thoughts and hugs!

  3. Sorry about your Dad, Jenn. Sounds like you have a good friend there - one that knows what you need. And, thanks K! :)

  4. Ann, I just really love you. I pray for your well being constantly.

  5. What a cute dog! I just had to chuckle at that suggestion from your friend that you write about what "normal" people do. A co-worker "friend" once told me that I need to be considerate of others by not mentioning how my cancer has affected me. That I should bring up everyday subjects. Oh? And her subsequent gossip about the office is an everyday subject? I guess I'll just have to live in denial around her, or walk on eggshells. Glad you have a good sense of humor! xx

  6. I loved hearing about Cherry, but I felt bad about the roofing incident. Your dog and cat are beautiful. Animals are wonderful companions. Thanks for sharing, Ann.

  7. Oh, Ann, thanks for the laughs. Please keep writing!

  8. Cancer people have normal lives too. Sometimes we just need to be reminded of it.

  9. Tami, I love you too, and all who read my silly blog regularly. Yes, we all do need to be reminded that we are living normal lives too. Sometimes it's hard when we don't feel good but it's important.

    I just hope the roofers finish soon so the dog can learn that the ceiling won't kill her. Considering how long it took her to learn to walk on the vinyl floor, I know I have my work cut out for me. Maybe I need another dog to teach her to be less frightened!

  10. samantha ClausingJune 4, 2012 at 6:35 AM

    I loved this post. You are a wonderful writer.

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  12. Oh Ann, I am LOLing over the 'zombie apocolypse.' Some days I look down at my scars and think the same thing. Thanks for another good laugh, it's good to be able to be able to make something funny out of the sh*tty world of cancer.

  13. OMG - I love your writing! Restraining order on the dog - you are too funny!! Love reading your blog no matter what you are writing about.

  14. I love that you have had (and currently have) rescued greyhounds!

  15. Wow. Your normal day and my normal day? Two different kinds of normal, sistah!

  16. Just came across your blog. I haven't laughed so hard since before my dx four months ago! Thank you!

  17. You are still my ROCK STAR... I love your rambles and crossed out words and wonderful way of describing Cherry and her roof issues.
    Our dog is afraid of toasters. I have found 4 now in the past 3 years and no matter what they look and sound like, the minute we touch it on the she goes to her "cave" in the back of our closet. Your Cherry is beautiful and you are too! Thanks for being there for all of us "breasties"...Ginny In Sunriver, Oregon


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