I Am a Hero. Obviously.

Heroic Act #1:

A body was sprawled out in the grassy lanes between the paddocks, a large hat knocked off to one side. I recognize the hat. It’s John’s. He’s not moving.

If I had not been leading a very excited horse down this hill, I wouldn’t have had the vantage point to see him in the tall grass at the bottom.

He was waaaaay down by the tree in the middle.

He was waaaaay down by the tree in the middle.

I call out his name. No answer. Horse feels my nerves and begins to try the whole “I am a Dervish” thing, on the line, ensuring I can’t run straight down, or John will get trampled. I yell for trainer and co-worker, shouting “John is down! I think he’s hurt, HELP! Paddocks!!”

They run out of the barn, closer to him than I am, and like good horse people, instantly read my body language, following my line of sight, know where he is before I say a word.  I whip out my phone and start to punch in 911.

This is how John was rescued from a nice nap in the sun, in the grass, near his beloved horses.

I am a hero.

We’re calling it a safety drill, FYI.

Heroic Act #2:

Last night, in my dream, I finished bagging Hudson’s Happy Meals for the week. (Okay, aside: who the heck dreams about bagging grain?) I was suddenly, in the way of dreams, standing on my front porch: halter to clean in one hand, turning the key in the lock with the other. I open the door and am faced with a very large mountain lion. One pacing and eyeballing Husdon’s good leather halter in my hand. It smells like horse. The lion wants the halter.

Just throw the halter to one side...

Just throw the halter to one side…don’t clean it

But. But. It’s Hudson’s good halter…(horse people are unbelievably stubborn)

lt still takes a slight amount of stalking behavior from the mountain lion in my kitchen, to convince me I probably should hand over the halter if I want to live.

I do. Resentfully.

The dream should end here.  Smart people’s dreams end here. (The horse person lives, buys a new halter, the mountain lion has a light nosh on sweaty leather. Win win.  Right?)

Instead, I follow the lion as it stalks out of the house, halter in  mouth. Somewhat safety conscious, I stay back at least six whole feet. The lion doesn’t think six feet is enough.  We stare at each other.

I am not a brave person. But dang it. It’s Hudson’s good halter. Why didn’t I grab a can of tuna? Bait and switch. Too late.

What do I do? Dart forward and snatch the halter from the lion’s mouth.

The lion flattens his ears and hisses, begins to whip his tail. I immediately come to my senses and hurl the halter back at him. He picks it up, and turns to walk away.

Unbelievable! I run up and snatch it away again. I am highly aware this is a very very bad idea.

So I throw it back again.

I woke up on the third mad dash to steal the halter back.

Can we say: “Jane has problems letting go?

I could understand this dream if the lion wanted Hudson. I can see becoming uncharacteristically brave if I were trying to rescue my beloved horse. But…a halter…?

Since I was uncharacteristically brave in the face of a mountain lion (over a stupid halter), I’m sticking to “I am a Hero”.

Obviously.

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.)

What Does Your Horse Want for Christmas…?

Daisy sent me a dad’s response to his 7 year old’s outrageous Christmas list.

Yeah, I don’t think I’d give a seven-year-old $1,00 bucks either.

But it did remind me of Hudson’s last outrageous Christmas List. This year’s plan: don’t ask.

I repeat, Hudson: I AM NOT BUYING YOU A STEER.

So let’s here from all the horses out there! What would you like your human’s to get you for Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanza, Yule festival, Solstice…or just BECAUSE?

If your horse writes you a paper letter, email a photo to theliteraryhorse@yahoo.com, and we’ll post ‘em. OOoo…send a photo of your horse too!

Too late, Jane. I WIN.

Too late, Jane. I WIN. It pays to bribe the cat to type. FYI, I promised her you’d bring a can of tuna.  Please pick some up. Also, pencils taste terrible. Why do humans like them?

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.)