Under The Pendulum, Over the Pit

Bloody typical. Just when I sit down to write my first posting in months, my stomach flips out. This year, par for the course.

This summer has been truly strange, a special brand of karmic brutality. Shouting “ew, ecky thump!” the way folks do (in northern England, apparently), and shouting it at the top of one’s lungs (as we often with just about everything here in the US) seems like the only sensible response. Or just typing WTF?!?!? a lot… but where’s the reading pleasure in that, y’know?

At the rate things have been going this year, I figured I ought to sit down and fill every last one of you out there on the innur-nets. Before something else happened.

Shortly after my last posting here, my wife and I had a sudden medical crisis. It had been building for a while. We’d been trying to have a baby. No success. That in itself hurts to admit, but only because I have the time to consider it. (Sometimes I wonder whether regret is a luxury, like pet peeves and celebrities.)

July didn’t give us that option, not when it dropped Jamie on the floor of a restroom, knocked down by mortal pain. Sounds urgent, don’t it? Hence her trip to Urgent Care. So you can probably appreciate the sheer incongruency of waiting for two weeks for a diagnosis, a clue, a recommended course of action, little things like that. The most we’d gotten was an effective ‘scrip of pain-killers for Jamie. A way to dull the pain, not to end it.

We had to take the initiative ourselves, demanding to see someone about her condition, and managed to shake a referral for a specialist out of our HMO. Even seeing him involved some hurry up ‘n’ wait. And once we see him, it was instantaneous crisis (just add speech). Jamie’s ovaries had to come out.

Four days later (I think), we were in the hospital with friends and fears in tow. I sat with Jamie during her prep in a tiny, tiny room. After hours of waiting, she was drugged up and rolled out. I was sent into a swanky waiting room.

I called friends and family, telling everyone surgery had finally begun. Flip the cellphone open. Dial. Talk. Focus on the words, not how to say them. Hide the crack in your voice. Close the line. Do all it again. And again. And again.

Sit down. Wait. Pretend you know how to get up again.

Two and a half hours later, I get the good news from the surgeon himself. The procedure went well and not a moment too soon. Jamie was doing fine. A half hour after that, the staff let me sneak upstairs to her room, so I could wait for her there. An odd sense of relief came over me. It simmered while I waited a bit longer for her to arrive. And it grew when the nurses rolled her into the room.

I didn’t expect her to be awake. Then she looked over the railing of her bed, tape and tubes trailing over her face and arm, and croaked out a surprisingly energetic, “Hey.”

I tried to conceal my stark horror when I saw the blood on her gown. On her thighs.

My God, what have we done…. No, think. She’s alive. Responding well, blah blah, endo-mee-tree-something gone.

My brain was almost useless that week. I was in a state of near-panic the whole time, terrified and exhausted, fully expecting more grief from somewhere. I went on like that for days. I didn’t think of calling a cab, only the cost and how the in-laws would love to pounce on me for it. Instead I took public transit — stuffing coins into ticket machines, shambling, staring through the road ahead. I got more numb every day. A woman pulled me off a train track before a light rail train could flatten me. Didn’t see it. Didn’t care. Scattered on the inside, dead on the outside.

Fortunately friends and family stepped in, helped us get home and well situated with a BBQ party that weekend. They kept us going, no matter how much or how little we asked of them. When they heard I hadn’t seen it yet, they even offered to take me to see “The Dark Knight.” I said thanks, but no. My mind was on Jamie, not Gotham City.

And cats. I still had the radioactive cat to take care of. Kyouju was still locked up in a cage, not exactly glowing like Dr. Manhattan, but about as hard to avoid with his wailing for release. Curiously enough, his last day in the cage was also Jamie’s last day in the hospital.

All that was months ago. Jamie is better. Jamie is home. Jamie is busy taking over the world again. I try not to give her a hard time, much more aware of what that time is worth.

So yeah. Weird-ass summer.

Why didn’t I just say that in the first place? Beats the hell outta me.

No Enemies In Science

Snarky remarks have been made about my recent cat-related blog postings. Awfully sorry to whine about friends dying around me. And on my own personal blog. How selfish of me.

Here’s a little change of pace. Let’s talk about global warming.

A few months ago, I worked on a radio adaptation of John Campbell’s classic short story “Who Goes There?” Most people remember it as The Thing From Another World and The Thing. I set the script in the modern day, which referred to a frozen island that was now a mile further away from the coast of Antarctica than it had been a year before the story began.

I was never sure how controversial that little snippet of backstory was — within the cast or the audience. There were questions about some other science bits, but not that.

This afternoon I stumbled on a news item. Here are three articles:

Here in the fact-based world, the Wilkins Ice Shelf didn’t lose one or two measly square miles. It lost 160 square miles.

And the audience at the live show thought we were scary. Sleep tight, kiddies.

I Can Haz Raydioakitv Kat?

We interrupt the unexpected project that has become Lilith’s biography to bring you this news bulletin.

There is a radioactive cat in my apartment.

No, really.

(I feel like the opening credits of “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” A møøs once bit my sistur… no, realli!)

Anyway, so soon after losing Lilith, we have another feline with health problems, a precociously ingratiating Japanese Bobtail named Kyouju. He’s the Welcome Wagon of our humble abode, worshipped by gorgeous females everywhere. Some of them are even cats.

Kyouju’s problem these days has a hyperactive thyroid. It sent his metabolism into high gear, burning through calories faster than normal. He’s been wasting away. And he’s a little guy to begin with.

Our best option, whenever mentioned, makes most people nervous. A vet specialist injects radioactive iodine into the cat. The thyroid absorbs the iodine and the radiation right away. The iodine gets absorbed and processed by the thyroid. Meanwhile the radiation does the real work, killing the abnormal thyroid cells.

Hence the radioactive cat. We left him with the vet specialist for a few days, so the worst elements of the treatment are long gone, literally flushed away.

We have to take precautions. Kyouju isn’t glowing, but we still have to keep a discreet distance. One foot away, slightly less than a meter. He stays in a cage at the far end of the living room. We have to flush his waste everyday, so he has to use his own litter box. We can touch him, but we must wash our hands before we touch anything else. And for the next two weeks, we must restrict our close contact with Kyouju for one hour a day.

Now Kyouju is a major love bug, demanding that he petted and hugged and snuggled. So imagine his enthusiasm. He can’t bump our hands, slobber on us, sit on us, sleep on us, roll all over us, pounce on us, or hide in our bed.

Yesterday, he spent the afternoon wailing like a mourner. This morning I found him with his head propped up on a little pillow toy we gave him, silent and glum. Gloomy cat is gloomy.

The good news is that he’s already better. The beauty of this radioactive iodine treatment is its effectiveness. Ninety percent effective. Feline bodies handle radiation much better than humans do, so we don’t have to worry about his fur falling out or anything like that.

The vet said Kyouju was responding to the treatment beautifully. And we can already see an improvement. Kyouju is still skinny, but his fur is in better shape.

With luck, we will never have to do this again.

This will be a long four weeks, though.