Plagues and Curses Upon the House of Hudson

The Forces of Evil Begin Smiting 

My text chimes. My email chimes. My cell phone rings. As I read the text on the way to answering the cell, our land line begins to ring.  I know.  It’s The Barn Emergency Alert System.

Bella texted:  Jim says Leo says Hudson is colicking. 

Jim says in my ear: Leo says Hudson is colicking.

Jim’s expertise is in How to Fix Things Horses Continuously Break. Which is why he’s reporting what Leo said, and calls Bella first.  He’s not sure whose horse Leo is worried about.

God bless ALL these people.

I’m 15 minutes out if I pull sweats over my pj’s, and break the speed limit.

For those not familiar with horse digestive systems: these big strong animals have the  digestive sensitivity of a cranky octogenarian. Change the pudding flavor, and cranky Octo could be bedridden for days, hammering her cane on the railing. Change her Jeopardy channel, and she could go into shock, burst a gut, and die.

Horses are that terrifyingly fragile.

While I try to focus on stopping at stop signs. Siri reads Bella’s email to me: H colicking. Can use Mo.

Mo is Hudson’s roommate, and Bella’s back up rope horse. You would LOVE him. He’s a Humvee-slash-Monster Truck in a world of sports cars. He’s so wide and bulked up, he looks like he’s been abusing steroids for years. (He hasn’t.) Despite his massive width and body-builder muscling, he has the heart of Ferdinand the Bull. Mo would very much like to find a tree to sit beneath, and smell a flower.

I tack up Mo, pry a bright and non-colicky looking Hudson away from banging on his feeder (Hellooooo…hungry…), and we pony. If I hadn’t listened to his gut sounds, I’d think he was fine: freight train moving through his bowels on his right side. Acute  and terrifying silence on the left.

we walk
Mo worries.  Hudson calculates if he can get grass out of this.

Hudson is nonchalantly relaxed while walking. A mild gas colic? No sign of pain. Twenty minutes in, he stops, lifts his tail, and produces one phenomenally long and sonically impressive Super Fart.  He poops regally, a gloriously giant deposit.

Hudson is cured! Ha. Take THAT, Forces of Evil.

I do the normal thing and take a poop photo, and text it to Bella: THANK YOUUUUUUU.

Better than flowers.

It’s gratifying to know Forces of Evil can be thwarted by farting.

Gravity Stealth Attacks 

On Hudson’s 26th birthday.  I make sure he’s thoroughly warmed up before I turn him out for play time in the arena with The Monster Truck.

I’m ridiculously proud of how good he looks and how young he acts. Ridiculous, because I have nothing to do with how good he looks. Good genetics, a sense of entitlement, and a stubborn attitude apparently help one age well.

A lot can change in 7 seconds.

Immediately after the video above, Hudson rocks back on his haunches, drops low, and rips flat-out into a dead gallop. He’s doing a speed drill. This is all wrong. My heart is pounding in my throat.  There are claws in my stomach.  He hasn’t done a speed drill in a loooong time.

Gravity hurls itself across the arena at the last second, and Hudson trips.

It devolves into the kind of crash about which horse people have nightmares. Hudson falls hard on both bad knees, his neck twists and whumps, the pipe fence is ringing bell-like from (I’m guessing) the impact of his skull. He’s all the way down, and against the fence. This is bad.  Horses need room to get up.  I’m terrified he might have broken a leg.

I ran to him as if I could scoop up 1200 lbs and carry it gently to a stall.  (Actually, it might have been possible in that moment.)  With great effort, he manages to untangle his front legs and get up. He looks bewildered and is trembling slightly. I can see this thought in his brain, though it means something different to him: this is all wrong.

I have so much compassion for believing you are still a Superhero.

I do a complete body scan, check his pupils, poll, and knees. He takes a couple of tentative, careful steps. Not lame. Fully weight-bearing on all four.  It takes awhile for his adrenaline to recede. I ask him to walk it out, so the acid doesn’t settle in his muscle.  Bute and Ice are our friends.

I work on his sore neck over the next week.  Better? But not okay. bizarrely, he is not lame. Sore as heck, but not limping. He needs the chiropractor. I set up an appointment for the next week. I want the acute phase over before he gets any body manipulation.

While we are waiting for the appointment day:

Locusts…? More Smiting…? WTH…?

Hives. Every. Where

One mild soap/glycerin bath later, he looks like he’s getting over the measles. The hives go down. Contact allergy? Can’t hurt to do the cowboy baking-soda purge to clean out toxins. Check. Pick up baking soda.

DETERMINED Forces of Evil.

The next day, he still has hives, but he’s better. I slather Caladryl on the big ones. Check between his front legs to see if I missed any.

I find loose, droopy, saggy skin on the inside of one leg. Mysterious lump near his breast.

Oh. No.

PIGEON FEVER? Are you kidding me?!?!?

I hit Nurse Jane mode like a stock car driver revving into a turn. No fever. No drainage. Check. He’s not contagious. Yet. I know this is too small for the vet to try to drain. I call Jamie anyway, and ask when I should call him, since calling him now is too soon.  (I’m sure he loves me for being so proactive.)

I scare the crap out of everyone at the barn.

I tell the barn manager we might have a case of Pigeon Fever.  We discuss protocol. She knows I’m onboard with strict measures.

Honestly, I’m completely panicked.  A 26-year-old mildly immunocompromised horse has a bad crash, develops weird mass hives, and then gets Pigeon Fever?  Is this the big IT? Are we there? Any one of these things alone would not rattle me (much) but all in a row, I’m beginning to wonder if something bigger is compromising his immune system.  Something more than an on-again, off-again low-grade sinus infection.

Yep. Right to: HE’S GOING TO DIE.

Carlos found me panicking. He very gently introduced me to this totally novel idea: deal with what is actually presenting: an unidentified lump, some edema.

Oh.  How…normal.

I stop being (mostly) an idiot.  We’ll stick to the default: all horses will be safe as long as we treat it as if it’s Pidgeon Fever.

Deep breath.

Day four: just a lump covered in ichthamal. Not bigger. Not softer. Not open. Not hot. No fever.

Bella remembers Hudson caught himself there once ten years ago, and developed a shoe boil. I’ve been around horses since I was twelve.  Maybe I saw a shoe boil 30 years ago.  Not on my radar.  I begin shoe boil protocol. Order a donut. Turns out, it IS a shoe boil. In a weird spot.

Forces of Evil Get to Giggle 

Hudson is convinced the donut is an ankle monitor, and he’s under house arrest. He looks surreptitiously for the orange jumpsuit. When holding the donut-encased ankle in the air doesn’t cause Jane to instantly repent and cut him free, he sighs. Walks off normally, and points his head into a far corner, his big rump angled accurately in my direction.

I guess donuts are the horse equivalent of The Cone of Shame for dogs.

Day Five:

The barn manager has a moment of panic: the old horse next to Hudson wakes up with a shoe boil AND a capped elbow, already getting infected. What are the chances…? She looks at me, then shakes her head. We both know shoe boils are not contagious.

Day six:

I’m filling in for Carlos, holding Clooney for the vet. His sheath is swollen on one side. After some examining: it’s a spider bite, on the inside of the sheath. Jamie says, “Not usual.  But it does happen.”  He looks down at Clooney’s front leg: “How long has he had this shoe boil?”

What shoe boil?

I don’t know…about an hour?

These three horses have paddocks all in a line. It has to be a coincidence, but how bizarre.

It’s a coincidence like this: I bang my elbow hard enough to leave a lump, and the next day, so does my neighbor, and the neighbor after that.

I searched the internet for ways to keep Hudson safe that didn’t involve sacrificing chickens or wearing funky clothing from the 1980’s. (Hey, shoulder pads and spandex are right up there with sacrificing a chicken.)

The internet giveth!

The following video has received Jane’s Good Horsekeeping Seal of Approval:

Hudson nixed this idea.  He’s  positive bubble wrap is a distant cousin of the shotgun.

His rump is still angled pointedly in my direction.

Murphy Monday: Four Years Old!

On May 5th, Murphy will be four years old!

Daisy and I went to see him on Friday.  He’s so huge I can barely get a grip on all that giagantic-ness.  I’m guessing he’s over 16hh.  He’s still the same sweet, easy going boy that plopped out on Day One.

One hour...
One hour…
1 week
One week
One Year
One Year
Murphy is THREE!
Two Years
Murphy is THREE
Four years!
We love you Daisy and Murphy!  Happy third birthday together.
We love you Daisy and Murphy!  (He’s huge. Daisy is 5’11”)

Happy fourth birthday together!

Back to Reality…Oops There Goes Gravity (The Super Model, Part Two)

If only our horse lives could stay in a sort of rosy, carrot and alfalfa scented fog of perfect bliss and connection.

Really Jane? What is my photo doing on a horse blog?
Our Reality and Gravity expert: Eminem

While my ideal state for relationships is All Bliss, All the Time, there’s a problem. That rosy, foggy, carrot and alfalfa scented state is strictly imaginary.

As anyone in any relationship anywhere is well aware.

This is partly why those incredible moments of connection are so sweet. BECAUSE THEY GO AWAY.  

Sorry.  Didn’t realize I was shouting.

Stand still so I can Disney-fy our relationships, dang it!
Why, Walt, WHY…?

Back to Reality:

The Super Model went back to being an ordinary horse.

I’ve learned this at the training barn: a surprising number of mares have “Blanket Issues”.  Even if they like blankets.  

The Super Model is more or less decent about having her blankets removed.  She is more or less psycho about having them put back on.  Often, a stud chain has to be involved, to keep all four hooves on the ground, and so we don’t end up pinned beneath her.  She would like the blanket to be put on very, very fast.

RIGHT NOW. HELLLOOOO. CHOP CHOP. MOVE. I’LL DO IT.  YOU’RE IN MY WAY.

She wants to charge me down and swan dive into the head opening, her ears pinned, her lips curled, her eyes small and glaring.

I was lucky.  I got a two-day “You’re back! You’re back!” grace period.  Soft eyes and sweetness while I gently pulled blankets off and on again. She’d been on the road.  I assumed she’d finally given in to trainers requirement that We Stand Still For Blankets.

Day three: she had a change of heart about many things: mowing me down seemed like a decent option when a butterfly gently fluttered down onto a pretty flower. 

Rats. My job is to make her more afraid of ME than random nunchuk-wielding butterflies.  

xx
Seeking World Domination and Arch Nemesis status.  Horrifying.

That unfair, totally wrong thing that our mother said? This hurts me more than it hurts you? It’s that hard to wallop The Super Model. I want to sob because she had been so sweet, and now I’m beating the crap out of her. More or less.

The good thing about horses…as long as we are fair and not acting out of anger, it doesn’t change how they feel about us. Once past the evil butterfly and in the barn, she nuzzles my hair.  

Awwwww. She still loves me.  

Later, she’d like to kill me when I’m putting her blanket back on.  Nothing like being in a 12×12 box with a 16.3 hot horse that is trying to climb up your body because you are not blanketing her fast enough. Note: this is not fear. She is impatient, and wants me to hurry up, preferably by making the blankets magically appear on her body, without all the annoying buckling, tweaking, and head insertion. I’m somewhat familiar with Reality.  I have the chain ready.  We work on standing still, quiet, and relaxed for blanketing.  Four times.

Oops There Goes Gravity:

I started laughing: it’s love. We don’t get to cherry-pick the warm fuzzy stuff and avoid the random bitchiness. (Shaun would verify this.) Love is all-inclusive. 

Damn it.

 

 

 

Recovery, Hudson, and The Supermodel

I started back at the training barn last week.

It feels like I’ve been gone a month, not two weeks. I’m sure it did to Trainer also. She had back to back class A shows, minus a helper, while I twiddled my thumbs in a darkened room, and strong-armed my thinking away from butter cream frosting. (My brain came up with an interesting combo. Horses made of Frosting.  Nice.)

Bella took care of Hudson for me while I alternated between whining and imagining horses made of sugar. Hudson probably didn’t notice I was gone. As far as he’s concerned, Bella belongs to him. As long as one of us shows up, he’s good.

First day I see Hudson, the conversation goes like this:

Hudson: FOOD. Finally. I’m starving.

Jane: Nice to see you too.  Did you even notice I was gone?

Hudson: What? Why is the bucket still outside the fence?

This makes me happy. Thank God for Bella. He feels so cared for and secure it didn’t register that I was gone. Friends like Bella are GOLD.  I’m testing my stamina (for upcoming return to training barn) by currying the crap out of him.  Note to self: it’s Hair Season.  No lip gloss. Hairy lips. Blech.

Hudson’s one concession to noticing I’m back: he swings his butt toward me and backs steadily in my direction, angling his hip just so. While this would be cause to beat the crap out of other horses, I know what Hudson is doing:

I need you to rub my butt.  No no. Not there. Jane! Just stand still while I back into your hand. Stick your elbow in…harder…no softer…no no…you missed it….yeah…yeah..right about….ahhhhhhhhhhh. 

His eyes glaze, he stops chewing, and his ears soften and flop sideways.  Hudson can always count on me for a butt rub. But as far as he’s concerned, he’s pretty sure he saw me yesterday.

That’s okay. I have enough “I missed you” for both of us.

At the training barn, it’s the same.  In fact, I have to remind a few horses they DO know me.  I go along, from horse to horse, doing what needs to be done.  Don’t think much about it, and neither do they.

There is a horse at the training barn I call The Super Model.  She is tall, has beautiful bones, long legs, amazing face, body, and her coloring….I don’t even know what it’s called, officially.  In the summer her coat is a chocolatey color.  Her mane and tail are flaxen with streaks of white.  She is beyond stunning. I first met her when she came in off the halter circuit to begin her under saddle training.

For reasons I do not understand, I love this mare.  It’s not about how she looks.  I don’t want to ride her (frankly, I don’t have what it takes to ride her). I don’t want to buy her and take her home.  I just…love her. I want to know how she is, check her, “listen” to her feelings.

It’s going to kill me when she is sold.

I have that feeling frequently at the training barn. So I assume this is a one-sided, Jane has an attachment and is probably over-dramatic thing.

When it comes time to go get The Super Model for her workout, I’m not thinking about much of anything.  My expectations are low.  I’ll say hello, listen, and off we’ll go to the grooming bay, while she’s thinking of other things.

It doesn’t happen like that.  I have her halter in one hand, and move to go in her stall. She’s come up and hung her head over the door, looking at me with surprise and…happiness? Huh. She does that quiet, breathy, horse murmur.  She leans against the door.  It’s so clear she wants to take me in that I stop, and let her greet me the way she wants. Very gentle muzzle touches and inhaling of scent. She inhales deeply close to my nose….and waits.  Does it again.  Waits.

Oh whoops.  Bad manners on my part.  I put my nose close to her muzzle and inhale the sweet scent of alfalfa breath, and softly blow my breath back at her: it’s me...I missed you too.

I didn’t know the connected feeling was mutual.

I have to ask her to back up, so I can go in the stall.  She does immediately, with a big question mark over her head.

Is this far enough? Did I do it right? Can I say hello again?

I’m flummoxed. I actually say out loud, “Sure…?”

She takes a step forward and inhales nearly every inch of my body. Her muzzle touches my legs, my hands, my face, my hair, my baseball cap.  She reaches around behind me and touches my back and shoulders, my hip and behind my knee.

You’re BACK. I missed you. I missed you!  I’m so so happy to see you.  What happened? Where were you? You were gone a long time. Ohhhhh…just say hello some more…please?

I feel like crying.  I’m so touched by her sweetness. She likes softness, so I whisper my hello back to her. Her muzzle gently inhales and exhales, touching me here and there.  She comes back to my hat often.  Funny that the hat interests her.

I take her down, groom her up, and it turns out she is getting a “recess” workout. She was at the shows, it’s new and difficult for her to be showing under saddle.  She’s a hot horse, and anxiety can come out for her as ratcheting up in the high-strung department. Trainer feels mare needs a mental break, and some relaxing joy time. Safe-play exercise.

I’m free lunging her when a client walks up with question.  The mare had a blast, and is done with her workout. I ask for a whoa and walk over to the fence to answer the client.  A minute later, I feel the mare’s presence behind me, at a respectful distance.

Client laughs, says “how funny!” She motions with her hand, “turn around Jane, you need to see this.”

I turn, and the mare looks at me with a question mark over her head.

Um. Can I come closer, or am I supposed to stay here?

“Oh, she stopped…”, says client.  “That’s too bad. She was being so cute!”

I feel a little twilight zone-y about the mare’s level of interest. The question mark is still over the her head.

“It’s okay”, I say to the mare.

Immediately she walks up to me. I turn back to talk to client, and I feel the mare’s warm, sweet breath doing the full inspection again.  From my boots all the way up to my baseball cap.  I reach back and rub her poll.  She lingers on my hat, whuffling intently.  She keeps checking me out while client and I talk, but I notice she is coming back to my hat more often.  I notice she touched the front of my hat, but her muzzle is hovering just above the back of it.  What the heck is so interesting about one side of the back of my hat?

“That’s what she was doing!”, client says.

Client leaves.  I rub mare affectionately.  She looks at me with a puzzled expression. Moves her muzzle to the back of my hat, and hovers over a spot.  She’ll touch all around it, but won’t touch the actual spot she is interested in.  Did I touch food and touch my head?  Hudson doesn’t get cookies.  No left over scent from that. Weird. I shrug it off.  Clip the lead on, and begin to walk out. She hesitates. Touches my shoulder with her muzzle, and then back up to the hovering over my hat.  Stops. Looks at me. Touches my shoulder, and hovers her muzzle over the spot.

I feel stupid.  She has a giant question mark over her head, and all I can think is, “Lassie, did Timmy fall down the well?” What does she want?

Oh. My. God.

It hits me like a brick: this mare is whuffling her sweet breath over the exact spot on which my head hit the pipe. My eyes fill with tears. I reach up and touch it with my fingers, and look at her. “I hit my head here. It doesn’t hurt anymore”, I say.

I add, “And yes, I feel completely nuts telling you this.”  I remove my fingers.  She very softly and gently lowers her muzzle to rest incredibly lightly on my head.  On the spot.

She moves her muzzle to touch my cheek.  Then she steps into leading position.

Thank you. I noticed…something.  It worried me. I’m happy you’re okay.

I had no idea she cared about me like I cared about her.

It was just one moment. Fleeting, beautiful, connected. I am so touched.

I have never, EVER had anything like this happen with a horse. Have you?

I still feel kinda twilight zone-y about this…I’d love to hear your experiences…

 

Scratches: The Musical

Enter Hudson’s Scratches, portrayed by Robert Goulet, center stage:

Scratches can be irritatingly devoted.  To the point of needing a restraining order.

In November, the areas beneath Hudson’s rear pasterns were so bad I didn’t recognize scratches. I thought he’d been in a weird rubber mat burn, getting-up accident. One that happened to get infected and scabby. Overnight.

In November, I’d never owned a horse with scratches. In fact, I’d never seen a horse with scratches that had not been within 100 miles of mud. Dry scratches.

What horse gets scratches in the middle of a drought?

*Warning to the medically queasy or non-horse people, this post includes graphic photos.

I didn’t think to take photos when the scr*tches were at their worst.  I was alternately Googling, panicking, COTHing, hyperventilating, and pelting  {Bella, Daisy, Alice, Carlos, Shaun, God, Laurie, The Vet…you get the idea} with questions.

How do you treat Scr*tches?? Why is nothing working?

Enter Hudson’s vet stage left, singing:

Dr. James Kerr doesn’t wear this hat. Which is sad.
Right here in River City!
Right here in River City!

Below: Scr*tches shot a month after a course of oral antibiotics and two changes of topical cream.

After a month of treatment, swelling is waaaaay down.
Trouble.  OW.

Another course of oral antibiotics and a sixth medicated cream change later, we got it down to this:

photo
Blech.  And still OW.

I leave my barn, and arrive at the training barn early to work. When trainer arrives, and I keep my professional demenor intact by hurling myself on her, sobbing, and incoherently anguishing all over her new jacket.

“What?”, she says, “Jane?!?”

Note to self: anguish sooner next time. Trainer knows stuff.

photo-1
She said, “try wrapping after topical”.  We discovered the magic of bandage socks.
photo-3
I also liberally applied my Christmas present from Bella: Flower and Rainbow Unicorn grooming tools. That should fix it!

 Luckily, I can now bandage faster than Hudson can think:

Cole Porter had no idea how much he knew about horses...
I didn’t know Cole Porter was so horse savvy…

You have to fight Musical numbers on their own terms.

How Can I Miss You If You Won’t Go Away:

I’ve turned to my favorite coping mechanism (when denial is not an option) and I am outgrowing my riding pants…again. Looking for cheer in all the wrong places.

My kind of work place.
My kind of work place.

Honestly. I had no idea that song was about the weather:

Jane, as Barbara, singing: “On Eclair Day, You Can See Forever”.

I can’t tell you how popular this musical makes me. The drama! The wailing and grief. The sheer joy of near recovery. The disaster of relapse. Very Shakespearian.

I’m certain there is a secret Phone-Tree Alert in place. Jane just pulled in, RUN.

Hudson is recovering.  Still.

I was standing next to Jamie. We both had our arms crossed, staring at the scr*tches. heads cocked. We have gone through his copious arsenal of treatments. If the latest cream doesn’t work, we will have exhausted every recipe except one.

Axel grease.

We look at each other.

“Theoretically, it could work”,  Jamie says.

Did the Policy Say Acts of God…or Acts of Dog…?

It started with The Magic Window.

Mmmm...tasty...or do I chase these?
Mmmm…tasty…or do I chase these?

After years of completely ignoring Shaun’s Giant Magic Window, Christmas has turned nightly TV watching into a vigorous aerobic exercise affectionately named “Save the Television.”

Bye Bye delightful Couch Potato-hood.

Can we claim we thought our homeowner’s policy stated coverage for “Acts of Dog” before we signed?

Christmas was severely malnourished when he adopted us.  We made the (in hindsight) disastrous decision to provide top quality dog food. His vision dramatically improved. How could this not be good?

Here’s how: he now understands we have a Magic Window.

He’s mesmerized.

I don't know what these things are, but they're in my house.
I don’t know what these things are, but they’re in my house.
Um. Do you not see the problem?  THERE IS A GRIZZLY in our livingroom!
Um. Mom?  Helllllooooo…monster dog in living room!
IMG_3966
What’s happening? Is that a cat? Why is it chasing a ball?
IMG_3967
Weirdest dog fight ever.
Uh. Oh.
HOLY CRAP!!!!
IMG_3979
Giant Seagull. I’ll bark ferociously and attack. Back me up here!

(We barely saved the TV from the eagle incident.)

IMG_3949

This dog is okay. She has puppies in her cave. Puppies good. My mom had soft eyes.

We tried Dog TV, mistakenly thinking he might enjoy watching dogs do stuff.  Disastor. Mega Aerobic Dog Tackling session.  Apparently we are a single dog family.

He has favorite programs:

  •  Anything on the Food Network. (Understandable?)
  • Grey’s Anatomy.
  • The Olympics

It makes me sad he doesn’t like to watch The Big Bang.  It’s my favorite.

There is one thing he loathes above all others:

geico-gecko
The Geico lizard. Copyright: Geico. Most Dangerous Animal on Planet. The only way to peel Christmas away is to turn the TV off first, then tackle.  It’s wrecking havoc on our reflexes.

The other night he woke me up at 3 am to go out.

He didn’t want to use the facilities.  He marched into the living room, plopped down in front of the TV, and turned his head to look at me, both imploring and impatient.

Turn it on please.

It took all I had not to throw the remote at him.  (Afterall, he might learn how to use it.)

I’m afraid he’s going to discover the computer…

The Problem With Elbow Celebrity… (Part Two)

…is you kind of forget the rest of your body is attached. And whatever fate happens to the elbow? It happens to YOU.

*If you missed my elbow’s 15 minutes of fame.

My first visit with Dr. God:

Typical exam room, if we ignore the stunning photographs of men and women free climbing. Little rocks like El Capitan in Yosemite.

Free climber credit
copyright: Corey Rich

I’m distracted by the free climbing photos.  Free climbing: a human with talc on their fingers and good climbing shoes, going up, oh I don’t know, a granite slab the size of two Empire State Buildings stacked on top of each other.

To get an idea of scale:

The yellow dot is a helicopter.  about an inch about are two small bumps.  Those are tents (portaledges)  specifically made to dangle off a sheer cliff, so you get a good night's sleep. Since you have at least 5 more days to go...
The yellow dot is a helicopter. about an inch above it, on the rock face, are two small bumps. Those are tents (portaledges) specifically made to dangle off a sheer cliff, so you get a good night’s sleep. Since you have at least 5 more days of climbing to get to the top. If the weather holds.

See? Distracted. El Capitan is one of my favorite rocks. We visit Yosemite often.  Why would a neurosurgeon have free climbers in his exam room?

Enter Dr. God.

I don’t want to talk about the lump.  I want to know about the photos. It would be impossible for a surgeon to be a climber (one look at a climber’s fingers and you understand).

My ability to ask intelligent questions when denial is already onboard, and I’m flummoxed by photographs of climbers? Out the window.

He jumps into the gap.

“So! Hi. I’m Dr. God.”, big, honestly friendly smile, “whatcha got there?”

I like him immediately. He wants to know the answers to all kinds of unreasonable questions I never considered: when did it appear? How fast would I say it’s growing? Does it roll around, or is it immobile?

“Uh”, I say.

“Results are back from the MRI”, he says, “it looks like it’s growing on an offshoot of the Ulnar nerve.”

It really is on the last nerve of my funny bone. Oh. My. God. That’s hilarious!!

He rolls the lump around as far as it will roll. “Does this hurt?”

“Nope”, I say.

“Any numbness?” he continues.

“Only if I do this?”, I say, holding my arm up in the air. I add, hoping to show I’ve paid some attention to myself, “…but I have to hold it up there for a while.”

“How long?”, he asks.

“About now”, I reply.

Nice.  That was all of two seconds. Could I look ANY more moronic? NO.

“Here’s what I think we should do…”, he says, conversationally, “I want to take a deep tissue biopsy of the lump. It’s surgery, we knock you out. We’ll biopsy it while you’re on the table, and if it’s cancer, we close you back up.  If it’s not cancer, we take it out.  If we just want to be extra super SURE it’s not cancer, we close you up, and send the sample to a special lab for extensive testing. Then if it comes back benign, we reschedule another surgery, go back in and remove the lump.”

What I hear: “lalalalalalala TWO SURGERIES  lalalalalala”.

What I deduce from what I hear: Any surgeon who says “super sure” while describing their surgical plan, is a keeper.

Oh, whoops. He’s still talking?

“I called a surgeon friend at Sloan-Kettering. He’s the head of Surgical Oncology, and I ran it by him. Sent him the MRI and Ultrasound. He thinks we’re on the right track. I think we should just go for it.”

His tooth twinkles reassuringly.

I do not want to know the worst case scenario. I want the Disney scenario. I search for a reasonable, but innocuous question.

“What is it?”, I ask, finally, “a tumor?”

“I don’t know”, he says, “Probably. Could be cancer, could be benign.  We really won’t know until we get in there. I’m hoping it will be a benign nerve sheath tumor.  If that’s what it is, you will probably lose feeling in your arm here…” he taps my forearm, “and depending on how invasive the roots are, you might lose some function.”

That’s the Disney scenario? I rearrange the songbirds and ribbons. Numbness? Fine. Loss of function? I can ride Hudson one-handed. Better than it not being benign.

I’m onboard. I nod.

“Okay. That’s all doable”, I say, making him a very relieved surgeon.  I’m not going to freak out.

I get it, suddenly. We’re free climbing here.  No helmet, no ropes, no clips. Nothing but his incredible skill, good shoes and a chalk bag. He’ll get in there, follow the best route he can find, and follow it to its hopefully butter cream outcome.

(I resist the urge to tell him my “frosting tumor” theory.)

“Why can’t you just take it out?”, I say, “I mean, you could just take all of it out and then biopsy, right?”

He breaks eye contact with me, and backs away. Folds up my chart. Moves to a chair on the other side of the room. WHOA. What did I do?

There’s a long silence.

In a slow and deliberate tone, he says, “If it’s cancer, we can’t take it out.”

Can’t?

“I guess you should know”, he says, unhappily, “it’s a possibility you’ll have to face.”

I wait.  He folds his arms and becomes very still. “We would close you back up, and tell you to go live your life. There’s no survival rate.”

WHAT?! I feel FINE. What does “no survival rate” mean? A month? A year? He sees all this go across my face. In that moment, I felt really bad for him. Who wants to be the person that has to say this?

Then I see a hopeful thought go across his face.

He brightens up. Uncrosses his arms, smiles kindly. “That’s the worst case scenario. Probably not what’s going to happen. But, you do need to be prepared. You know, if that’s where we end up, I could buy you some time.  I can remove your arm.”

REMOVE MY ARM?

~~~~~~

Outcome: I have both arms! 

While it was shocking to go from “hey look a lump!” to “one-armed Jane” in a single sentence, the tumor ended up being the no-way-do-you-have-this, impossibly rare, non-cancerous wacko tumor. Thank you, God. 

I found out later (when he threw himself on me post-op in a giant bear hug, crying.) he was fairly certain it was cancer. Thus the call to the expert at Sloan Kettering. 

The tumor grew from a single cell that lost its marbles, and multiplied like crazy, a very fast growing tumor mostly on the nerve sheath. Even more lucky? The tests couldn’t show exactly where it attached. Once inside, he found instead of being on the ulnar nerve, it was growing on a small branch of the radial nerve. That’s the nerve that sends messages UP your arm, not down to your fingers.

The ONLY removal side effect is occasional..wait for it…waaaaait for it…put down hot beverages…

armpit numbness

…until the nerve regenerates. Of all the terrible things that could have been, it only left me a little numbness in my armpit. If I’d been asked where I’d choose to be numb, it would not have occurred to me to think “I know, let’s go with the armpit!” while cataloguing body parts as locations for potential numbness.  

I have angels, with a terrific sense of humor, watching out for me.

(El Capitan with no gear.)

How My Elbow Became Famous, and Why We Need to Review Appropriate Birthday Presents

Part One: in which I have a birthday near the end of October, and get many appropriate presents, and one randomly inappropriate present that everyone else wants…really really badly.

My birthday started well.

The two candles: my mom didn’t have a fire extinguisher handy to deal with the potential blow back of my real age. (Or my mom likes to remind me I’m really only two, and could grow up?)

She knew I was coming, so she baked a cake.  Thanks Mom!
Chocolate. FROSTING. Does my mom know me, or what?!? And yes, there is a cloth hamburger on her table. It’s Jane’s MOM. Who else would decorate with cloth hamburgers?

Shaun gave me pajamas. With ZEBRA socks. Pink, fuzzy, happy, zebra socks.

I could live my entire life in pajamas. I think most of the world’s problems could be solved by making the Leaders of The Free World wear bunny slippers and Spiderman PJ’s to work.

And…the birthday gift that keeps on giving.  Hudson. Thank you Shaun, Micah, and Lee Lee!

What? I'm up here. Please. Go on. Rub my knee some more.
What? I’m up here. Please. Go on. Rub my knee some more. Where ARE you going with this, BTW…?

Bella, Daisy, and Alice got together and made me cry. On purpose. And I liked it.

Made from hair stealthily swiped from Hudson’s tail. So I could have him with me always. Don’t tell Shaun? But right up there with my wedding ring. *sniff*  Exquisite work, Tail Spin!

My favorite things in the world. Frosting, Family, Friends, Familiars*.

Being loved is the best gift of all.

*Familiars: couldn’t think of a positive word for equines that started with an F. The only thing that came to mind rhymed with “trucking”. Hudson developed a terrible case of mud-less scratches that need a lot of staring, poking, soaking, drying, patting and rubbing of 6 different creams in a weekly rotation. Horses. I’m avoiding the word…”truck”.

My body decided to jump into the gift giving Fray. (Hey look, I’m on an F roll.)

Ta Da! Below is  how Jane’s body sings “Happy Birthday to youuuuu.”

Yep. A third elbow. Just what I always wanted.
A third elbow. Just what I always wanted.

Nice.

I couldn’t seem to make myself worry. Who the heck has ever heard of Elbow Cancer? Shaun Googled the crap out of it, and tried not to look totally freaked out in front of me. I pretended not to notice the stealthy Googling and I Am Not Freaked Out – No Really, look on her face.

Luckily, I didn’t have to pretend not to care about the lump.

It’s just a lump.  I can live with a lump. Heck, Hudson lives with a lump.

Lump Schlump.

Still Giant. Still not hurting him. Still Freaking people out all over the world.
Still Giant. Still not hurting him. Still Freaking people out all over the world.
Would a third elbow help me be lighter on the reins?
Would a third elbow help me be lighter on the reins?

Fine. Fine. I promised Shaun I’d go to the doctor.  Then I promised the trainer, who poked the lump, said “I think it’s bigger than last week…?”.  Then I promised Daisy, Bella, Carlos, and Alice I’d go to the doctor. Promising to take care of it bought me a lot of time to ignore it completely.

Denial. My favorite method of self-care.

Doctor said, “Huh”, looked me in the eyes, then back down at my arm, “only you.” She pushed on the lump. “Does it hurt?”

Oh goody, I can rack up another bullet point in Jane’s “Let’s Not Slice Our Body Open” PowerPoint presentation:

“Nope. Doesn’t hurt at all”, I say, “It’s fine”.

Doctor looks at me.  “Lumps of unknown origin are NOT fine, Jane. Probably a cyst from synovial fluid.  You sure you didn’t bump your elbow?” Pause. “Hard?”

Denial is so….passive. Suddenly remembering a blow hard enough to cause a lump the size of a golf ball is not passive.  I’d be actively lying. Even if I substitute the harsher word “lie” for the innocuous sounding word “prevaricate”. Hmm…could I work with actively prevaricating…?

Maybe my mom was right: two birthday candles sort of sum up my emotional age. Don’t look at it, don’t touch it! It’s not THERE! It’s nothing!

Damn. Have to get it checked out.

I didn’t bother to take Shaun with me for the ultrasound.  They’re not allowed to tell you results. The plan: I’d go, stay happily in denial, and pick up a latte on my way home.

Um. Yeah. About that. How many of us can read the ultrasound while our vet is still running the wand over our horse? Right. I knew instantly it wasn’t fluid.  Solid tissue. I watched her do density scans.

The tech nervously leaves to: “check with the doctor that the films are clear and shot from the correct angles and stuff.” Even I know that’s technician-speak for: “Uh Oh. Must find DOCTOR.”

Denial is great.  I shrug. Decide my body couldn’t handle all the frosting I was ingesting (whoops…my bad) so it helpfully created a nice frosting lump behind my elbow, where it wouldn’t be noticeable.

Heyyyyyy…It’s a buttercream tumor! On my funny bone! I can’t wait to tell everyone: it will be a piece of cake to remove.  It has to go, because it’s on my Last Nerve!  HA HA HA HA HA HA ha ha ha ha ha….um…niggle niggleha?

I go back to my detective novel.

Dr. Radiologist comes in. “Can I…see…it?”, she asks tentatively, sounding nothing like the professional doctor she obviously is.

Oddly, she has the voice of a woman in Tiffany’s asking the saleslady if she could just look at a gazillion carat diamond ring.

“Uh. Sure”, I say, and poke my elbow into the air.

“Can I…touch it…?” she asks, in – I swear – the reverent voice of a woman asking to TRY THE RING ON.

“Sure?”, I say.  She’s not going to try to take it, um, out of the box, is she?

I hear excited whispering outside the exam room door. “No it’s in there.  Just wait. Maybe we can see it!! Shhhhhh!!! Did anyone tell Meghan…?”

  This is what a 69.42 carat diamond looks like. .
You’d think carbon based life forms – such as ourselves – would be able to produce a sparkly carbon based hunk of rock. You’d never have to worry again that your insurance won’t cover medical costs for retrieval. Hospitals would be RICH. And people with gallstones…? Kazillionaires.

My unusual lump started an epic odyssey of specialist surgeon visits, MRI’s, blood tests, and immediate surgery scheduling.  Not a fatty tumor.  Apparently a tumor so rare, most specialists never see it in their life time.

I don’t do immediate.  I’m not good with ch*nge. I tried hard not to panic when the first surgeon said, “Let’s see, today is Friday…Sue call St. Mary’s and see if we can book an OR for Monday.”

MONDAY? As in Saturday, Sunday, MONDAY??? This whole time I’d been thinking…January…was doable.

I needn’t have stressed over immediate. The medical community was jazzed. I felt like I was…correction…I felt like my tumor was about to hit the talk show circuit, and possibly end up with its own Mercedes. I waited in endless green rooms, doing coffee shots and waiting  for the signal it was time to thrust my elbow in the air in front of an all white-coated crowd. Wait for the collective gasp.  Oooohing and Ahhhing.  If I could have sent my elbow to the appointments without me, I would have. It started begging me for celebrity sunglasses, hip-hop style.

I was lucky.  The best nerve trauma surgeon in the country (referred to in medical circles simply as: The God) swept in and said to the other bickering neurosurgeons, “Neener neener, sorry about your luck underlings, it’s MINE.”

I raised my hand.  “Yes?”, he said.

“Uh. Can I come too?”, I said.

I was feeling a little unclear on the concept: does the famous tumor go in, and the (thankfully) unimportant mother of the tumor wait outside?

“Sure”, he said, and smiled a killer Hollywood surgeon-smile, complete with tooth twinkle.

Tooth twinkles: a sure sign that things are not what they seem.

…to be continued.

(Spoiler alert: I’m fine. We don’t need to worry.)

Alice Takes a Tour Through…Is That an Orc…?

Alice went down the rabbit hole, and missed the bottle marked “Drink Me”.

Maybe it's a good thing Alice didin't Drink Me. She might have come back with a catapillar
Maybe it’s a good thing Alice didn’t Drink Me. She might have come back with a giant caterpillar. (FYI, this would not have stopped us from bedazzling and riding said caterpillar.)

Unable to go through the small door, she took a left somewhere in the tunnel and got lost. Presumably she wandered through Lórien, had a chat with Gandalf, spent a little time in The Shire…

eiss-visiting_sh
Who cares about one ring to rule them all? SHADOWFAX.  How we know this was meant to be? Look, there’s a buckskin right next to him. 

Alice popped back out of the rabbit hole with a Friesian.

(And possibly an elfin archer. I figure she stashed the archer somewhere.)

Straight out of Lord of the Rings, if we pretend he will gray out:

1374276_535973246473377_462430418_n
We think the White Rabbit stole her flip-flops.

We all call him “Shadowfax”. No one will ever know his real name, because none of us care.  Shadowfax is AWESOME.

IMG_3848
Hudson is modeling stellar trail behavior. Shadowfax is going to be a trail Friesian. Hudson’s left ear: “Dude. Turkeys. Fun to chase”. Hudson’s right ear: “Jane, stop eavesdropping, so impolite.”

Shadowfax has spent his life as an Arena Flower. Going outside the giant sand box was new and scary. Alice rode him in a bridle, and wore footwear for the first few, “getting to know your newly leased horse”, rides.

After hanging with Hudson and the rope-horse crowd that warm up on the access road, Shadowfax settled down, and Alice went back to the back to the hippie-chick self we all know and love.

Bareback in a halter.

Ready to get down in The Shire.

It was weird to ride with a horse that towered over Hudson. He’s usually the biggest guy there. Alice said “I think they’re the same height.  Look at their withers.”

Hey, look at that. They are.  But Shadowfax’s NECK and HEAD are up in the stratosphere.

“Is it strange to have NECK in front of you?” I ask.

It makes my teeth ache, that tall neck, right there, ready to up and smack you in the face at first spook.

“Yeah”, Alice says, “It’s a little hard to get used to.  I feel like I can’t SEE.”

She holds up the reins, mimicking a little old lady peering over the steering wheel.

Carlos has teased the crap out of Alice. In addition to the unseen stashed archer, she’s come home to ‘anonymous’ gifts.  Gifts with which she may appropriately ride into Middle-Earth: glow in the dark sword, plastic bow and arrows, a lovely shield, a slighty dented tiara…

Oh. And us!