My dad, who is 81, had surgery on Monday of this week. He had an aortic aneurysm repaired, and today I went to the city to bring him and my mother back home. It's great to see how well he is doing today. I am so thankful that his doctors found this problem early, and were able to repair it with a less-invasive surgery.
I've been waiting for an excuse to post this photo of him and Katie. It's one of my favorites, and it shows how they felt about each other.
It's been a bit of a crazy week. On Monday, Dad had his surgery, and while he was having that done, I was trying to figure out whether our cat, Liger, might have rabies. He had started drooling a LOT over the weekend, and we were concerned about it by Monday. I Googled "drooling cat," and what do you think popped up? RABIES. Yes, isn't that nice? Not inflamed or infected gums, not dental problem, not irritation due to hunting rodents, but rabies. Just that.
So here is what happened...I remembered that I had kissed Liger on the paw on Friday, and it was wet with his drool. Of course we kiss our cats; of course we do (you all kiss your pets, too; admit it!) , but not on the lips. However, Liger was drooling so much this weekend that I got some of his saliva on my mouth when I kissed his paw. UGH! (Do you remember Lucy Van Pelt in the Peanuts cartoon, after Snoopy the beagle kisses her while bobbing for apples? "My lips touched dog lips! Auugh! I've been kissed by a dog! I have dog germs! Get some hot water! Get some disinfectant! Get some iodine!") I didn't do that on Friday; I wiped my mouth, and forgot about it.
Well, on Monday, a couple of days after the incident, something got to me, because I snapped. After reading about cat drooling and rabies, I was suddenly pretty sure that Liger had rabies; that I had it, too, and had given it to Gregg...and we didn't know about David. I called and talked to people who had years of pet-experience, including pet-illness; I also retrieved the cats' health records, called my clinic, and finally called a veterinarian.
He's had his shots; he's protected. Therefore, we are protected. I needlessly alarmed myself and others, wasted energy and time over an IMAGINARY illness. How silly, and how unlike me...before. Nowadays, when fear arises, it can feel as if a flashing red light goes on in my head, as if the police are already on their way, with fire truck and ambulance in hot pursuit...all of this inside of my head and heart. It's terrifying, and it's unpleasant to be so brittle, so not resilient.
I've thought about this over the past few days. I wonder if any of this was a trauma/flashback. Katie was sick for three weeks before she had the scan that revealed her tumor. She saw the doctor several times, had different medical tests, labs drawn, spent nearly all of those days at home, resting and getting more tired, instead of improving, and still the diagnosis wasn't made until after we had been admitted to the hospital.
It may also have had something to do with the fact that at that moment, my dad was on the operating table, having his aorta repaired, but I knew what was going on with him. While there is always risk with any surgery, especially in a person over 80, I felt confident that Dad was in good hands, and that his surgery was exactly what his doctors prescribed. It was also what he wanted to have done; he was in great health otherwise, and prepared for it.
I used to be one of the most positive people. I rarely imagined "the worst" actually happening. I was a "glass-half-full" kind of gal, most of the time. My fears were pretty consistent, and sort of ordinary (airplane crash, cancer, going broke). All of these fears had some rationale behind them. And one of them has come true: Katie got cancer, and she died.
I classify what happened to Katie as "the worst thing ever." Now that "the worst thing ever" has happened, I have clearly not made peace with it, not yet placed it in perspective or a framework that allows me to function as rationally as I used to do, putting fears into their "proper" place, according to "reasonable probability." I think God is going to have to help me with this!
The idea that a family member might have an undiagnosed, fatal illness is not acceptable to me. It never has been, and that thought still has the power to unsettle me, even if it's a cat. And what do you think happened to Liger? He stopped drooling, THAT SAME DAY. Yes, he is fine.
On Tuesday, after my dad was stable - and moving out of the CCU to a regular hospital room - Mom and I attended a luncheon at the Seattle Children's Hospital Research Institute, a few blocks away from Dad's hospital. Katie's oncologist, Dr. Julie Park, was one of the speakers, along with two other eminent doctors. One was a researcher and expert on bone-marrow failure, and the other on umbilical-cord-blood stem cells. All of the talks were fascinating, and we learned many encouraging things about the work underway to save children from cancer. Dr. Park thanked The Katie Gerstenberger Endowment for supporting cancer research; that made my day. Mom and I then made a quick trip to take 11 quilts to Children's Hospital for the Hem-Onc ward, and a special one for our ChildLife friend Julie, who is due to deliver her baby soon.
Trivia: I have "flunked" growing my hair. I have tried for 2 months to let it grow, but had it cut short yesterday. I found that I can't stand having to blow it dry. It's too time-consuming and boring, and the benefits of longer hair just aren't apparent to me. So I'm back to care-free and sporty, and am already thrilled with the freedom. After being shorn, I ran errands and caught up on other work.
Tomorrow morning, I leave for a "girls' weekend"...to see Father Richard Rohr! That is, he's giving a conference in Portland, and several of us are taking a road trip to go and hear him speak. YAHOO! I have been reading his new book, Things Hidden - Scripture as Spirituality, and I love it. It's one of the only things that makes sense right now.
Gregg and David are going to hold down the fort here, and David will play his first tennis match of the season, tomorrow afternoon. GO VIKINGS! And, I hope, goodbye to the "crazy" part of week.