Prescription for Disaster

Sunday, 27 April 2014

The Pooping Tree

The Pooping Tree

We are a family destined to never have a weekend without some sort of incident. I have come to accept that, and this weekend was no different. 

A favourite friend of mine recently told me that I 'don't quite view the world the way everyone else does - that not only do excessively weird things happen to me but that I laugh about thing in ways that maybe most people don't.' She's a psychotherapist, so I tend to take her somewhat seriously. I cannot understand, however, how these things continue to happen - and how anyone would not also laugh until they nearly wet themselves in these situations.

But I honestly wouldn't want it any other way.

This weekend featured a hike through the woods around Ashridge Estate, a beautiful woodland full of deer and dense forest surrounding a picturesque manor home. The area is dotted with ivy covered cottage farms and bright yellow canola fields - dangerously easy to get lost and with somewhat difficult to spot trails - which explains why you periodically see pairs of hikers thrashing through the brush like drunken yeti's, searching for anything that might resemble a walking path. But you don't see other people often on this trail.

In hindsight it wouldn't be a bad place to hide a body.

We had been walking for about an hour and a half straight when Kaitie started to get uncomfortable. She wasn't thirsty, she wasn't tired. She wasn't hungry, she wasn't just a whiny three year old. She had to poop.

Okay, no problem. We can do this. Pooping in the woods is totally no big deal - in fact it's a life skill. See? We're good parents! Plus, we've done it before - on a previous hike in which the entire family descended into outdoor bodily function mayhem. She got her pants down and I scooped her up, squatting down myself and using her weight as a counter-balance to keep us both upright, me again holding her by the back of her knees. Paul and Lochie went off to find walking sticks and to leave us in relative peace. My thighs quickly started to burn, I wouldn't be able to hold this position for long. I urged her to hurry, to which she responded with a mighty squeeze, her little legs straightening as I felt her entire body tremble with effort. I couldn't help myself, I started laughing. She told me it wasn't funny, which made it that much funnier. 

She squeezed out a little deer-poop and was so proud of herself that she twisted around to take a look at her accomplishment, nearly knocking me over in the process. I regained my footing, beads of sweat dripping down my face. I couldn't hold this position much longer, and called to Paul - he was going to have to come take over soon. Huar Huar then came out of nowhere, diving between my legs to try to get at her poop-nugget  - "Gaaah! No Huar Huar! Don't be disgusting! Honey, help! I can't hold her while fending him off!"

We needed a break, this was not a normal poop - this was going to take some time. So Paul found her a log.

And so we waited. And waited. 

And waited. 

Alright, this wasn't going to happen, perhaps it would be best if we kept going and she could walk it through her system - so off we went to continue on our hike. We had been going for another 20 minutes or so when Kaitie stopped on the trail, clutching at her bum. 

"I need to poop!"

Can you wait honey? We're almost to the manor house and I'm sure they have a washroom there.

"No, I need to poop now!"

Okay, wow. Alright, hang on, we'll find you a place to go.

"It's coming out in my pants, Mum" (she says this in a total dead-pan)

Oh my God ,what? Okay, okay - Paul, we need a log! It's going to be a big one! I picked up Kaitie and ran after Paul, who had found... Kaitie's pooping tree:

There was a small dry log directly in front of the tree and I stuck Kaitie on it, who strained and pushed like a snake trying to pass a small goat as we, her loving and supporting family, laughed until we cried. We were laughing with her, of course. Paul then noticed a major flaw in our plan - directly across from Kaitie was some sort of very large fox-hole in the base of the tree. Were there foxes in there? We both peered down inside, listening for sounds of life. Nothing, and we slowly backed away, keeping an eye on the fox hole lest a fox randomly burst out of there after Kaitie, who was determined not to move from that log for anything.

It was also about this time that we heard a sound off in the distance - our entire family suddenly still and completely alert - relaxing our vision as native Indians did in Canada when hunting to draw our eyes to movement (who said outdoor-ed was a waste of time in junior high?). We all turned to movement off in the distance to our left - a lone mountain biker was about to happen upon our perfectly normal family all hovering over a half-naked toddler straining over a fallen tree. No no no no no, please turn. Please please please please turn. Go any other way but this one. We all waited and watched silently, like deer in headlights - collectively sighing with relief as the biker did indeed turn the other way, then laughing like hyenas when his bike tire got caught in the mud and launched him off his bike and into a bush. Quiet and discreet hyenas, but hyenas none the less.

Kaitie announced that she was done - but our stash of biodegradeable TP was already gone. I had nothing.

"There's poop stuck in my bum."

What? What do you mean 'stuck'? Paul told Kaitie to 'assume the position' and he took a brave look - "yep. There's poop stuck in there alright."

"Get it out Mum!"

Wait, why me? WHY IS IT ALWAYS ME?!? Dad's right here too!

"Just get it out Mummy!"

Ah crap. I looked at Paul in desperation, I didn't have any tissues left and was considering using her socks. Paul unclipped the water bottle from my pack, asking me if I'd had all I wanted to drink. 

"Yeah, why?" He then asked the kids if they wanted any more water. "No? Good. Because either we sort out some leaves of this water bottle becomes a bidet."

Oh hell no.

In the end we found some large leaves and, after googling images of 'stinging nettles' and 'poison oak' from our phones in the woods I used them to clean up Kaitie, unsure of what to then do with the rather large collection of dirty, dirty leaves. 

And then I remembered the fox hole.

The rest of the hike was reasonably uneventful as we made it to the manor house, came upon a full village memorial for a horse and risked a deer stampede just so Paul could show up his mother's expensive camera with pictures taken from his phone. We started the long hike back through the woods when...

Lochie had to poop.

"Not on my tree!" shouted her sister as we tried (in vain) to convince Lochie to hold it until we got back to the car, or at least to a less populated part of the woods. It was happening now, like it or not (what is with my family?) There was a large log-pile up ahead, clearly stocked in the woods for use at the estate over the winter. I pointed it out to Lochie, we just had to make it to the privacy of the log-pile and she could let loose. Paul ran ahead of us to set up a log, which he had to take from the actual log pile and position behind the mound on the other side of the trail.

Can't we do anything like a normal family?

We all huddled around Lochie for support - she wasn't as cool with woodland pooping as her sister - and quietly coached her through the ordeal, again, gathering leaves and leaving a little mess of horrors for the estate groundskeeper to find later (I'm so sorry). Phew, it was done, we pulled up her pants, dusted her off and gave her a high - five, then we stepped out from behind the large woodpile and screamed -

We had scared the ever living crap out of an elderly couple walking along the path as our family of four just randomly jumped out at them from behind a woodpile in the forest. Six people screaming and clutching their chests in a huge forest with no sign of people in any direction, Huar Huar having been too interested in the poop to give us any kind of warning or for the couple to have seen him running around. They must have thought we'd been waiting for them from behind the log pile. 

How do you recover from something like that?

You don't. So we did the most British thing we could think of, commented aloud on the weather, wished them a good day and walked away as though nothing had happened at all.

One of these days we'll have a nice, normal day out.

One day.

My bum is aching with pride

My bum is aching with pride

I have officially become one of ‘those’ parents. It is 9:00am on a Saturday. I’ve had a viciously long and stressful week at work. The Friday night wine at home barely took the edge off. Oh how I would love to be at home in bed still, the morning light peeking through my bedroom curtains as I snuggle deeper into my soft, warm duvet and fluffy pillows.

But I’m not.

I am sat on a hard, dirty wooden bench in some sort of side-room full of broken sports equipment and paint-splotched chairs outside of Kung Fu class, with the rest of the miserable parents. Great. Rather than sleeping in and lazing about enjoying my Saturday morning I am watching my kids’ Kung Fu class through a tiny window obscured by other hovering parents eager to watch their precious darlings. I can’t turn off my newly acquired ‘mom instincts’ of tidying this room, pairing discarded sneakers and neatly piling children’s jackets that had been strewn about in the mad dash to get into class.

And then I wait. And waiting sucks.

I look around at the other parents – an assorted and equally miserable lot. Most are staring with glazed eyes at their phone screens, some texting. One has headphones in and seems to be learning Russian. Another heaves a sigh of defeat as his phone battery dies and he is left with nothing to do but actually watch the class. I am interrupted as my twins burst into the parents’ room – it’s a water break and I’ve got nothing.

“Sorry girls, I forgot water. Mum dropped the ball on this one. You’ll be fine though, it’s only an hour. Get back in there.”

Cue looks of judgment from the other parents – they didn’t just bring water, they brought snacks. Well then.

I look around at the newly ‘decorated’ parents room among the abject misery of parents watching the time and playing candy crush on their phones. They’ve put up some pictures, and one seems to be a signed picture of Chuck Norris. This place just got infinitely cooler.

Oh God. There’s still 40 minutes left.

It is like this wherever we go for their classes. Ballet is even worse, as we parents that pay for this crap are all crammed into a church hall side-room with too few chairs and a washroom with a broken door. The room smells of old people and the door sticks, so you have to push so hard when trying to get in that you end up bursting into the room and making a scene grand enough to raise a sea of heads from their iPhones. And then we all just find a spot by the wall and... wait.

I'm jolted from my self-pity by Lochie running into the waiting room - she's upset. Kaitie hit her. "Well yes, Lochs. We're at Kung Fu class. Go hit her back."

Other parents are always looking at me funny.

 I beam with pride as I watch through the window and see my three year olds in fighting stance – the teacher correcting their posture and the smiles on their faces as they look back at me for approval. The waiting is worth it - 

Even though Paul is out golfing.

I think he's got this 'waiting thing' pretty well figured out.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Deal with it Mum! (I kind of miss diapers)

Deal with it Mum! (I kind of miss diapers)

(a post not for the pearl-clutching variety)

We were walking down the street with friends of ours, having just met them for dinner with our three and a half year old twins. The twins remained quite civilized throughout the meal, regaling the other restaurant patrons with their chopstick skills and conversational Chinese. As parents we couldn't be prouder, and walked down the street back toward the car with our heads held high in pompous pride. 

I should have known it wasn't meant to last.

Out of nowhere one of the twins stopped and stood straight as a board, panic on her face as she shouted "Oh noooo! It's poop! It's coming out!"

Wait, what? Honey hold it, we'll go find a washroom!

"I can't, Mummy DEAL WITH IT!"

What?! Why me? Her dad was right there too - though we were all too busy busting a gut with laughter to help her. Parents (and friends) of the year, right here. I rushed her into the nearest ASDA (with her doing the cowboy shuffle) to finish off and clean up - a task with twins (the other one had to suddenly go too) that had me longing for the days the twins were still in diapers - life was so much easier back then. I emerged from the handicapped bathroom with two dripping wet three year olds, myself panting and coated in sweat to share this lament with Paul, who reminded me of 'the Great Indian Incident of 2012'.

Ah yes. That. Diapers don't always do what they are supposed to.

Who doesn't love a good tikka masala every now and then? The girls were about 2 years old and we had taken them out for lunch at a local Indian place we were eager to try. The food was delicious and the girls loved it, dipping their bread in masala and sweet korma, helping themselves to vegetable rice and generally eating and jibber-jabbering away while we enjoyed the meal. Both kids seemed absolutely fine, they seemed to love it, actually.

Until we got into the car.

The kids were strapped into their car seats in the back, happily looking out the window as we pulled into the street and started our relatively short drive home. Out of absolutely nowhere Lochlynn started screaming at the top of her lungs - an 'I am in mortal pain' type of scream. I turned in shock to see her purple in the face and completely rigid in her car seat, straining stiff as a board against her restraints. We didn't know what to do, we had no idea what was wrong or what was going on. Paul changed course for the nearest hospital as I whipped off my seat belt and crammed myself through the small space between our own seats and into the back seat of the CRV, kicking Paul in the face as I did. I am not a graceful woman in the best of conditions. Neither of us cared, we were desperately worried about Lochie, who was still purple, rigid and screaming. I tried to soothe her, to get her attention, anything to comfort my child... 

And then she smiled.

All was suddenly quiet and calm as we sped down the street toward the hospital, the putrid smell hitting us in the face like a can of mace. Lochlynn had filled that diaper. Her clothes were puffed out to the side to accommodate the size of the full diaper. I've never seen a kid so suddenly satisfied. I was frozen in place, mostly in the back of the car with the kids but still with one entire leg resting on my own seat up front. My mouth was hung open in shock, not quite comprehending what had just happened and giving my own child the side-eye as I told Paul that she was okay, no need to go to the hospital. We could head back home. With the windows down, please.

Paul obliged and made a U-turn, heading back toward home as I attempted to complete the crawl into the back-seat - where I didn't fit between the car seats anyway but figured I would at least give it a go as I was more than half way there anyway.

Bam! Lochie suddenly straightened in agony and screamed at the top of her lungs, again turning purple. She was gasping for breath, this couldn't be normal - there was something seriously wrong. Paul made another sudden U-turn and we sped back toward the hospital - Lochie's twin sister Kaitie losing her own cool at the roller-coaster of panic within our family vehicle. Lochie was screaming and I was trying my best to hold her without removing her from her car seat, wishing nothing more than to hold her and take away her agonizing pain -

And then she smiled, again.

I swear to God that kid filled that same diaper again so much that she got taller in her car seat. I couldn't take this. I was hanging half into the trunk of the CRV with my bum bent over the seat frantically emptying groceries all over the car so I could use the plastic bags to shove down Lochie's sides to contain the poo-splosion and save the car seat - and the car. There was so much in there that it had overflowed out the top of her pants and cascaded outward like a rolling sea of putrid foam. Tears stung my eyes - I was jerked violently to the side, Paul having made a fourth U-turn to again change course and head home. The Indian poo-foam was now in the tips of my hair.

I stayed there for the remaining journey home, perched with a single bum cheek on the tiny middle seat between their gigantic car-seats, hair blowing wildly in the wind of the open windows and staring at my happy toddler, sure that there was no way this was over.

We made it home, spilling out onto the drive and releasing both kids. Lochie's situation was so dire that I took her pants off in the car and left the overfull and shredded remains of her diaper in a horrific mess in her car seat, plastic bags and all. Paul would be getting out the pressure-washer, that was certain. Relieved that there didn't seem to be any more coming we brought the kids inside and I went off to the bathroom to clean myself up as Paul tackled Lochs with a pack of wet-wipes on the couch. I was in the midst of scrubbing under my nails when I heard more screaming and a "nnnnooooooOOOOOOOO!" from the living room. I yelled to Paul to find out what was happening as I started down the hall when he shouted back "Run a bath!"

"What? What happened? Did she go again? Is it on the couch?"

"It's too late for the couch! Don't come in here! Just run a bath!"

"What do you mean it's too late for the couch?!"

"Run. A. BATH!"

"Do you want bubbles?"


Never, ever in our lives have we dealt with so much poop at once. The next time we ate Indian food as a family we ordered in, the kids were naked, the couch was covered in a sheet and the potty was within arm's reach.

'Cause hey, who doesn't love a good tikka masala?

Friday, 18 April 2014

Kamikaze Shihtsu

Kamikaze Shihtsu

So my dog Huar Huar is a special sort of dog. First off, he's got a clear case of 'little man syndrome' in that despite his teeny tiny cutesy size he fully challenges larger dogs such as rottweilers and huskies with delusions of grandeur and determination for a fight he is not fated to win. Always.  He has gotten better, and will sometimes even completely ignore other dogs at the park. Unless they come my way, then they must be destroyed. 


Secondly, he's old. A grumpy kind of old. He is, we think, around 14 years old but still looks and has the agility of a limitless puppy - with the disposition of a grumpy old Chinese general. He may be cute, but he's got a dark side.

And that's the third thing - he's Chinese. Like, actually Chinese. We got him from a street market in China back in 2002 and the 6 month quarantine to bring him over to the UK six years ago gave him PTSD - this dog has issues

But we love him, our ridiculous Huar Huar. We couldn't leave him behind...

Plus, he seemed to like the basket.

So there we were, cycling away through the forest – the bikes and trailers finally worn in to the point that it no longer posed a significant maiming danger to our children. Huar Huar was running beside me, pausing here and there to dash gleefully into the woods like a miniature deer, bounding through the ferns to emerge again beside me on the path. We kept on, being relentlessly driven by my whip-cracking daughter Kaitie, determined that we were ‘winning the race’ despite my insistence that this was most certainly not a race and that mummy’s entire body would revolt if I were to keep pedaling at this ridiculous speed.

Huar Huar started to lag a bit, and was now running beside Kaitie. Still with a look of idiotic glee as he bounded about along the road, deftly dodging our bicycle wheels like a pro.

Then he started to run beside Paul, then Lochie, then Lochie nearly fell off her bike twisting around to look for Huar Huar, who had given up and sat in the middle of the road behind us, panting and valiantly insisting that we go on without him.

It was time for the basket.

We struggled. Getting Huar Huar into the bike basket was a two person job, one to hold the bike still and make soothing baby-babble noises (who’s got your basket? Who’s got your basket?) like a pack of senile old women and the other to grip all four of his paws and lower him in butt-first while avoiding his teeth.

The dog was in the basket – and he seemed to like it. Well, he wasn’t jumping out, so that was a good sign. He tried to sit up and we coaxed (pushed) him back down. The kids were yelling at us from behind – they wanted to go! There was a squirrel ahead that needed catching up to. We looked again at Huar Huar in the basket – he did seem happy. He also seemed very tired, which would probably work out well in our favor as hopefully the breeze and exhaustion would keep him in the basket. I gave the bike a bit of a turbulent shake. He didn’t seem to mind. A bit more of a violent shake, he was still in there. I gave the bike a really violent shake – he was fine but Kaitie was pissed, I’d shaken her right off her bike.

(that kid’s got quite the glare worked out)

It was now or never, we were ready to give this a try. Murmuring encouragement to both Huar Huar and Kaitie I took off, wondering to myself how my mountain bike had turned into a family vehicle that now sat three. It was working, this was not so bad! Granted, Huar Huar on the handlebars was quite a bit heavier than I had anticipated and the first turn I attempted grazed a tree, from a starting point of about three meters away. No matter, Kaitie is used to it and got her hand and leg out of the way in time, though we did blow off one of her training wheels (which Paul went fumbling through the woods to then recover). No matter. We’re good!

Another mile or so and I had really gotten the hang of this – we passed other families in awe now not only of our awesome toddler bike trailer contraptions but now the ‘sweet little puppy in the basket’. Little, yes. Sweet, not so much.

Twice Huar Huar saw another dog and sat up in the basket to get a better look. I pulled him back down by his collar each time with one hand while failing to steer straight with the other, nearly plowing down other families and trailblazing into the forest very much to Kaitie’s dismay and the entertainment of many strangers. But we were good – this was fun. Paul was keeping a close eye on us but there wasn’t much he could do other than shouts of encouragement and to ‘look out for that tree’.

We were good – cycling along for another mile or so alongside our friends – a 9 month pregnant woman on a mountain bike pulling her 4 year old son and all of our picnic gear in a trailer. We’d already arranged with the bike rental staff at the park that should she give birth on the trail that the baby would get free forest Segway adventure rides for life, so it was okay. Things were going great, Kaitie was so far enjoying her first bike ride that didn’t break any skin and Huar Huar was chilled out in my basket, my lungs were screaming and thighs burning – and then we came upon a family with a beautiful tall white Husky.

Huar Huar wanted that Husky.

It was one of those moments in life when time seemed to slow down. The Husky came into view and Huar Huar’s ears perked up in attention. He sat up and I heard myself start to form the word ‘noooooo’. He wanted that Husky – his bum started ‘the wiggle’ in the basket and I reached for his collar, veering violently to the left as I did. The family walking the Husky looked up, hearing my cry and our bikes swerve against the gravel. Huar Huar lept, in a single fluid movement, out of the basket and toward the great Husky directly in front of my bicycle. In his mind, he thought he looked like this:

But reality was much more like this:

My kamikaze shihtsu burst out of the basket and hit the ground rolling with the speed at which we were already travelling. Screams erupted from all around – the family with the Husky, Kaitie, Paul, Lochie, other strangers along the path and me – as I ran over my own dog with my front tire. He rolled out, dazed but determined – he still wanted that Husky. With a jerking twist he was up and again on his feet before Kaitie and I had even come to a complete stop and we all watched, silent and speechless as he ran directly to shove his nose up the sphincter of the great white Husky who, having just witnessed the lengths to which Huar Huar had gone to procure such a sniff, just raised her tail and let him do it. Then, to everyone’s collective horror, my very small shihtsu let loose to have his way with the very large Husky.

I did the only thing that was socially appropriate to do in such a situation – I leapt off my bike leaving Kaitie to fend for herself trying to hold the whole thing up and ran for my dog, apologizing profusely to the Husky’s family for such a strange display of canine sexual harassment – explaining that my dog is really old, and Chinese. As though that would somehow justify his suicidal and rape-y behavior.

There is really no way to gracefully recover from something like that, other than to grab my dog, shove him back in the basket and ride on to Kaitie’s shouts of ‘mush’ and ‘go faster mummy’.

And Huar Huar? Content as can be, just chilling out in his basket for the rest of the afternoon. As Paul said, we’re fans of the school of natural consequences, and he’ll only do that once.

Well, hopefully.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Adrenal Shock is not as fun as it sounds

Well that was fairly unexpected.

I had honestly figured that with the Infliximab/Remicade infusions I am now on that my remaining medications are no longer as effective or important.

Not so much!

I missed my morning dose of steroids. Totally skipped my mind as I walked out the door and went to the hospital and then work.

11am (+2 hours)
Feeling fine. A little tired, but I had just walked 7 miles (to the hospital and then to my office)

12noon (+3 hours)
Totally fine, feeling focused and very productive. The long walks in the morning really pull me out of my 'brain fog'.

1pm (+4 hours)
Mega productive. Brain firing on all cylinders. Also starving, even though I ate lunch. Started to obsess over teriyaki tofu.

2pm (+5 hours)
ate Teriyaki Tofu at desk in shame.

4pm (+7 hours)

I started to get a bit aggressive. Nothing was angering me, I was just irrationally angry. I knew this, but couldn't stop it. Trying to separate myself from 'people' I went to a quiet room to calm down, and passed out on a table for half an hour.

5:30pm (+8.5 hours)
I left work early, just couldn't take it any more. I couldn't focus and was dead tired - assuming it was from my walk earlier in the day.

This is when things really went downhill fast. I called Paul to tell him I was on my way home and we chatted, I felt fine. Until I realized, while talking to him, that I had walked 10 minutes in the wrong direction like I was on auto-pilot. It was one of those times when you think back and wonder how in the world you crossed the street safely as you clearly weren't paying attention to anything you were doing. None the less, I got on the tube and pulled out my book, ready to settle in for the next 45 minute ride.

And then I started to cry.

See, I did not have anything to be crying about. I wasn't in pain. My feelings were just fine. It was like sudden, random, overwhelming depression. And then debilitating nausea. This didn't make any sense. I put my book down and stuck my head between my knees while sitting on the train bench, gripping a nearby pole for support. I ironically looked up to see the TFL Public Service Announcement sign about getting off the tube if you are feeling ill.

Gripping my head in my hands I acutely felt every sway, every bump of the train as it hurtled through the underbelly of London, feeling intense relief when we rushed out of the tunnel and into open air at White City - I debated crawling off the tube to lay on the platform out in the sun - but instead texted Paul to 'please, for the love of God and all that is holy come and get me at the station, something is wrong'.

It is a good thing he did come to pick me up, as when he did I was looking and feeling something like this:

I didn't know if I was going to be sick or fall asleep. I was fighting off my sudden onset narcolepsy as I zombie-lurched home, ready for the sweet release of my couch and the potato pot to curl up with. It was awful. We ate dinner and I passed out at the table, chopsticks in hand. I was so weak that I could barely hold my chopsticks together, resorting to stabbing chunks of broccoli and laying my head down on the table to suck rice off my plate like a fish out of water. It was pathetic.

My family set me up on the couch with a heating pad, an ice pack, a dog to warm my freezing feet, the potato pot (just in case) and a blanket. I couldn't move. I was done. I was going downhill fast. Paul came over to check on me and my wrists were hot and flaring, as were my cheeks and shins. I was confused, talking to nobody and imagining conversations about Lego princess cat molting (to be fair, though, it is quite probable that the twins were actually talking about that). My right eye swelled shut and my face began to droop. He wanted to take me to the hospital but I refused - I didn't want to look like a hypochondriac. 

Things were getting worse and I slipped into a deep coma-like sleep on the couch, certain that I was just reacting to having a cold. Also thinking that maybe I was going to have my period soon? Or this could be a sinus infection? Or maybe I just over-did the walk earlier?

No, no. That wasn't it.

10:30pm (+13.5 hours)
Paul woke me up with a verbal bitch-slap - he was just looking at my med case for the week - I'd completely skipped my morning meds, I'd had no steroids for over 12 hours. 

"You muppet! You don't have the flu! You're in adrenal shock!"


Well, I guess that made more sense. Another couple of hours and we would have needed an ambulance. I guess I'm more drug-dependent than I thought. 

It could always be worse though, it could have really been the flu.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Even My Bruises Have Bruises

Even My Bruises Have Bruises

Alright, at first I felt badly for poor Kaitie, given our last experience with these bikes where the poor kid went flying off into fences, bushes and trees like some sort of flying squirrel with delusions of grandeur. 

It was all a ruse!

This kid is a relentless dictator! A whip master! A raged-up sled driver - a tireless Viking drum master and a ruthless Catholic, harnessing the power of soul-crushing guilt to drive on her exhausted mother like a lathered horse ready to drop but eager to please.

It didn't help that the entire bike trip was an organisational failure of face-palm lore - given that we had invited Xiaona and Andy to come with us - and they brought Andy's dad along for the ride. Even though they only had two bikes. Alright, fair enough - I'm sure they will figure it out. 

We arrived at Blackforest Park and set up the bikes and bike trailers in the parking lot, the standard ooh's and aah's from passersby and a couple of people snapping photos. Andy and Xiaona unfolded their bicycles (yes, unfolded) and we were ready, walking out bikes through the parking lot and toward the bike trails. Kaitie was nervous, and more or less shouted at me the entire walk across the lot.

"Be careful this time mummy."

"Go slowly this time mummy."

"Don't make me get hurt this time mummy."

The guilt is strong in that one. I promised, over and over, that she would be just fine. She might even have fun. Maybe, just maybe, she might even like bike riding. Maybe. 

Have you ever had a three year old give you the side-eye? It's a bit disturbing, although nobody else saw it. 

We got to the busy cafe by the entrance of the park and Paul suggested that we all get on our bikes. I requested that we go a bit farther along so we'd have a bit less of an audience but they had already taken off - he and Lochie already off in the distance like smug, graceful swans. Again.

The crowd loved our bikes and watched Lochie and Paul pedaling away into the forest, then turning expectantly toward Kaitie and I - me looking determined and her looking dubious. 

As usual. 

We had a quick debate as to who should get on their bike first, which ended with me pretending to get on my bike while she got on slowly and yelled at me to get going but go slowly. I pleaded with her to lower her voice for the sake of the chuckling crowd - my pleas fell on deaf ears. She was on. I was kind of on, and almost ready to go. She became aggressive - "Go mummy!" she shouted, "But be careful this time!" - cue roars of laughter from the crowded cafe. "Hurry up mummy, we have to go get Daddy and Lochie!"

"I know, I know Kaitie! Okay, we're going to go now. Are you ready? One, Two..."

"Just go mummy! You're so slow!"

What the hell? I looked around to the laughter from the cafe. "Three?"


"Oh my God fine!" I yelled back as I stood up on the pedals and we shot forward to Kaitie's screams of "slow dowwwwwwwn mummy!" Roars of laughter behind us - I wasn't slowing down for anything, we needed to get the hell away from that cafe.

After a bit of initial screaming and shouting, Kaitie's sounds turned from terrified barks of "slow down" to squeals of glee and instructions to 'go faster'. Thrilled with the turnaround in her feelings toward bike riding and visions of our 'summer of camping and biking' making a triumphant comeback I obliged, whizzing her past trees and mud puddles, over streams and catching up to the group.

I even managed to take pictures with my phone without riding us both into a tree, so I was well impressed with my mad bike riding skills. We caught up to Paul and he reported that Kaitie was pedaling away behind me, having a great time and full of smiles. Until he tried to pass us - prompting the rage monkey behind me to screech in fury - she wanted to be the leader .Still feeling horribly guilty from our last bike riding debacle I obliged, pulling ahead to lead the pack through the forest. "Faster, faster!" she shouted - so pleased that she was having fun that I pushed harder and harder, despite the screaming protests from my legs and the fact that I had just had an infusion yesterday- pumping my heart this hard was probably not the best course of action.

Paul came up close, advising that I slow down and reminding me of my health - maybe we should take a break? 

"No breaks!" came the dictator from behind. "No stopping! Go mummy go!" I shot Paul an apologetic smile as we again pulled ahead, nearly running over a dog and plowing through a mud puddle. She was having fun - we had to keep going. I shouted back to see how everyone was doing - nobody needed a break so we just kept at it. 

My thighs were burning. Spasms shot through my bum cheeks as I pedaled away, so pleased that Kaitie was having a good time and that above all I was able to do this - taking it easy was for sissies. 

Kaitie laughed from behind, encouraging me to go faster and faster. We came to a hill and I tried to shift gears, but I'm not very good at that either. I also thought momentarily that perhaps I should have Paul do some work on my brakes as I plowed forward up the hill, legs screaming in protest. I shouted back for Kaitie to pedal harder, I needed all the help I could get. She shouted back, telling me that she was holding her brake.


She released the brake and we shot up the hill, me standing in my seat to leverage my pushes as much as I could. My legs hurt so badly - my lungs were tight and my right eye started to twitch. Maybe I should slow down after all...

"Go faster mummy!"

I pushed harder, determined to make it up the hill - I could hear the pants of the group behind me - I couldn't do it. I had to stop. Thankfully, Kaitie was distracted by some ducks and wanted to stop (whew!) so we pulled over to the side to let the group past. I needed a minute, and a moment of privacy to clear out my nose and throat in the most unladylike of fashions - "just keep going" I told them. But no, they all stopped. I had so much phlegm in my nose and mouth that I could barely speak, I needed to clear this out. I had no tissues with me. It was going to be gross and manly - I needed them to keep going.

But no. Andy and his father whipped out their professional grade cameras, taking pictures of us, and the surroundings. I was sick, they wall wanted me in the lead so they could keep an eye on me. Kaitie wanted to go. Despite my protests, without actually explaining to them what I needed to do they wouldn't leave. Nobody would leave. Off we went again, pushing as hard as I could to try to get a good lead so I could grossly clear my throat without anyone seeing but we were now going downhill -  I had minimal brakes and we were now really picking up speed. I risked a quick look behind me and saw that I had a little bit of distance between us and the rest of the group - it was now or never. 

I've never been able to spit. Given that it is a rather un-ladylike thing to do this inability has never much bothered me, but I was desperate and, as Paul had taught me, I built it up and spit it out away from me as discreetly as possible.

I had spit directly into the wind and to the side. I could see it fly out in slow motion, whipping out behind me and past my line of vision until I heard a scream from behind - Kaitie had something in her eye.

Oh God no.

I truly am the worst mother ever.

I've got my penance though - I woke up this morning with legs so sore I can barely move. Even my bruises have bruises.

I am an irritable sort of drug addict

I have come to develop an extreme appreciation for drug addiction. Like a stranger boldly and confidently standing up a midst a circle of cheap plastic chairs and bland coffee within a church basement declaring themselves a sex-addict or an alcoholic, I am a drug addict.

And my life couldn't be better for it.

My chemotherapy has now finished, after 13 rather grueling but rewarding months, and I have entered onto the maintenance stage of Infliximab infusions – now only every eight weeks. Coming up to the seventh week I was feeling alright, starting to sleep more and do less, while pain in my bones and joints again started to rear. My thoughts became again cloudy and unfocused. My dreams became again more vivid and by about the middle of the seventh week I was going downhill fast. At times I needed to lay down as it felt as though my heartbeat was shaking my body.

I just had to make it to Friday. 

See, having spent over a year coming regularly to these infusion clinics, as well as the medical drama I've been through over the past 3 years I have an extreme appreciation for the NHS and the people that make up this incredible system - and I get irrationally upset when people knock it, or are disrespectful to the nurses and doctors that take such great care of us. I was doing pretty good, people would often just soften with a bit of kindness and understanding, until I met...

The grumpy old Irish man

Sat directly across from me at my last infusion was the nastiest, rudest, grumpiest old man I'd yet ever encountered. Everything was wrong. He was so angry that he paced the halls with his cane, berating anyone that would listen. The nurses were idiots. The doctors were hiding from him. The bathroom light was too dim. He didn't see any justification for giving them a urine sample so he wasn't going to.

Even better was that his conspiracy theorist tinfoil hat was positioned firmly atop his head - he wouldn't give them a nose-swab because then they would have his DNA. He wasn't going to blindly follow their instructions 'like a brainless amoeba'. He wanted his infusion and he wanted it NOW - they didn't need to take bloods first, he felt fine.

The other patients in the room and I shared 'looks' and shot nurses quiet expressions of support and solidarity against his rants. He was like the elephant in the room - nobody really had the guts to say anything directly to him for fear he would turn his rantings our way, so we did our best to ignore him - hoping that at least he would soon fall asleep or something.

My infusion was hooked up and, after the pain I had been in all week gearing up for this, I was feeling particularly euphoric and grateful ( I had, like a drug addict, practically run to the infusion clinic slapping the vein in my arm shouting 'fill 'er up!'). I was ready. I was happy. I was tied to a chair across from a ranting old man. It was going to be a good day.

This euphoria, however, produced a boldness I don't normally possess. 

The grumpy old man started to berate two poor nurses, there to take more bloods from him. The lab had requested a second sample. He wasn't having it. He demanded to know why, what were the results of the first test, why would he have to give it again, why do they need to stick him again, this is inhuman treatment, on and on and on. With uncharacteristic boldness I shouted to him from across the way "Oh my god just give them your arm, it's not their fault and I'm trying to read over here!"

That shocked him into a rare moment of silence, the nurse seized the opportunity and stabbed, getting the blood she needed and hurried out of the room while he spluttered and stifled his rage at not having been able to produce a coherent response.

All was quiet for awhile, whereas the other patients snuck me hurried thumbs up and smiles of support while the grumpy old man wasn't looking. All was quiet, until a junior doctor came to do a final once-over of the grumpy old man before starting his infusion - and the infusion was running late. The junior doctor pulled the curtain closed around the grumpy old man and this irate pensioner let loose a barrage of abuse and bizarre arguments. He demanded to know what happened to the first blood test - the doctor didn't know there had been two. Oh dear God, that really set off the old man. Ranting about how computer systems should work, the doctor explained to him that the first sample had possibly resulted in an error (at which point he then listed off a number of common reasons for needing to take a second sample - the grumpy old man accused him of 'making up words'.)

The grumpy old man was refusing to be checked over until he 'knew the results of his first blood test' - that the doctor didn't have. Because the doctor was an idiot, apparently. The doctor explained that he couldn't start his infusion until this examination was done - and him having to chase a phantom, meaningless blood test was just going to delay this further - but the old man still wasn't having it.

It was around this time, at the goading of the other patients also tied to their chairs, that I more or less heckled an old man.

It started mildly enough - with me calling across the room and through the curtain:

"Sir, he's not making it up. Problems with blood tests do happen, and it's not anyone's fault. The blood probably did hemolyze, which is just random."

Okay, that wasn't so bad. Shocked silence from both the doctor and grumpy old man from across the curtain, as the old man considered the input and the doctor waited with baited breath for his response. 

"Well, okay. I guess that can happen." came from the old man. He wasn't letting it go, though. He wanted a report showing that this had happened. BEFORE the doctor was going to touch him. The doctor explained that he could get a nurse to do this for him, after the examination. The old man exploded again - that doctor was 'good for nothing' and he wasn't going to rely on 'some idiot nurse' to find that out. How could this doctor come to him so unprepared that this information wasn't in his file?

I got a bit bolder.

"Sir, it's not THIS doctor's job to chase your paperwork. He's just here to listen to your lungs and give your infusion the green light."

More silence from across the curtain. 

The grumpy old man then ranted about how long it was taking to just get his infusion started,the longer it took to start the longer he would be stuck in this hell-hole. The doctor was well annoyed now, telling the man that the only barrier to him starting the infusion was, in fact, him and this ridiculously circular conversation. If he could just check him over they could get started. The man ranted some more at the doctor being an 'unprepared idiot of incredible proportions'.

I got much more bold.

"Hey! Grumpy! Just let him check you over so he can leave and help someone else!"

More shocked silence. Then the grumpy old man said "Fine, let's just get this farce over with." and we assumed from the sounds and descriptions that the exam had started - though the grumpy old man wasn't going to let this be easy either. The doctor asked him to take deep breaths, and the old man shouted "How?!" The doctor explained again, just breathe deeply. "HOW?!" came from the old man - he was determined to be ornery. The doctor asked him to clarify, what did he mean by 'how'? The old man shouted "How do you want me to breathe? In through my nose? Out through my mouth? How do you want me to breathe deeply?" The doctor told him to breathe deeply any way he wanted, it didn't matter - to which the old man lost it ranting about how the doctor is completely useless and probably isn't even a real doctor.

Even the rest of the peanut gallery was ready to jump in there as I shouted:

"Oh my God! Just stop talking and breathe deeply! In and out, in and out! You've been doing it for years!"

Silence again from across the curtain, save the sound of deep, angry breaths. 

The examination was finished and the doctor declared him healthy enough to start the infusion. The old man exploded at him again, he could have told the doctor this, he didn't need blood tests and an exam to tell him that he felt fine.

"Dude! If any of us were 'fine' then none of us would be here!"

We heard the doctor finally break into a stifled chuckle as he pulled the curtain back around, freeing himself and revealing a very angry looking old man, white knuckling his cane like he wanted to hit the doctor. Or us. Before I could open my mouth to apologize for the heckling the until then silent patient next to me looked straight at the doctor, smiled and shouted 'RUN!"

The funniest part? Seeing that poor junior doctor take that cue and bolt out of there.

The old man glared at each of us in turn, a seething troll sat in his lounger, red in the face from unspent rage.

"Oh relax" said another patient a few seats down "we're all miserable. Stop making it worse."

All was again right with the world as I sat back to enjoy my book. And my wonderful, wonderful drugs.