I’m not sure whether it’s a saying that crosses continents, but we have a saying over here that you should never try working with small children or animals. The reason is simple: when they can’t handle it, nor can you. Your life switches from min to max on the trauma scale in an instant. Now I absolutely must go out of my way at this point to say that our experience this week bears no resemblance whatsoever to that of a family living with childhood cancer: but what Jane and I did get was the tiniest wee snapshot of the pain and the trauma. Believe me, it was truly awful.
This is the unfolding story of baby Dennis.
The schedule for the week was pretty much well set. Still off the bike at the start of the week, I planned to get out for a wee fitness test of ten miles or so on Wednesday ahead of setting off down to Abington pre-dawn on Thursday morning so I could jump on the wheels and get down to Johnstonesbridge, 25 miles way, before Team Sian set off for the last but two leg on their epic walk from Merthyr Tydfil to Celtic Park in memory of her late husband Jonathan. It had been in my plans for weeks that Thursday was going to be the day that I was going to push the bike for 25 miles, cos I could, unless one of the walkers fancied resting their blisters of course.
It didn’t happen. It didn’t happen for quite traumatic reasons. Sometimes Google can be your worst enemy.
So, Monday and Tuesday, no miles as planned, trying to get as many recovery days into the mix as possible. I said four weeks ago when I took the timeout that I expected to have to take October out but Thursday was non negotiable in the sense that it was going to happen one way or another. I’m not so daft that I was going to just jump on the bike and ride 25 miles at (cold) dawn like I’d never been away. That’s what Wednesday was all about. Wednesday was about bagging a few miles to see if Thursday was even possible.
Wednesday didn’t happen either.
I guess everyone who reads the blog knows that I work from home. My daily routine is one of being sufficiently driven to fall out of bed somewhere between half six (am) and eight then pile in research query work for disease. For years I used to dream about having a cat in the office: for the last six months I’ve had two. When you’re me, there is nothing better than working away on the keyboard for hours on end, with a cat purring a couple of feet away. Bliss.
Wednesday started off perfectly normally. Fluffcake and Dennis camped out in the office before Fluffy headed off up to Joe’s room and Dennis went out to play. But when you’re a parent of small children or animals, you have a sixth sense for what’s going on. Many a time I’ve said to Jane “haven’t see Fluffy for hours: that’s not right, need to look for her”. Y’see Fluffy is a creature of habit. She likes dining chairs, settee chairs, the stairs (yes!), and beds. The stairs only happen in winter when she’ll lie for hours in the dark, waiting to get trodden on, don’t ask me why. Maybe it’s the heat from downstairs wafting past her furry coat: I don’t know.
Dennis is altogether different. What you see with Dennis is what you get. He’s shouty, he’s naughty, but he’s totally loving: the complete package in one wee ball of fur. Oh, and he’s addicted to fighting, demonstrated by the many wounds he always has around his face and neck. We keep telling him that he needs to give up this silly fighting game but he never listens. I think it’s in his jeans (see what I did there?)
So… back to Wednesday morning: Fluffcake went to bed and Dennis went out to play. I reckoned on working till about one then heading out on the bike for an hour to see how the war wound was shaping up. If it was still sore, then plan B was to head down to Abington pre-dawn without wheels then hitch a lift down to the start point. Forty years ago, before the world got paranoid, I hitched everywhere. And I would still pick up a hitch hiker today, except that no one does it anymore. Shame on socialist commuting….
Lunchtime: and Dirty Dick (one of Dennis’s nicknames) was crouched behind the low wall in the back garden. The patio doors by my desk offer an uninterrupted view of said spot so I was able to see him nae bother. I called to him and waved: no reaction. Unusual. Know your cat. He was still there half an hour later when a washing finished that I’d to hang out, not a yard from his spot. He never moved. Dennis never does that. He’s second in the queue behind her ladyship when someone’s in the garden. Not this time.
Something’s no’ right. My first thought was that he’s been fighting again and taken a sore one although I did cop him sitting by number 7 when I went up to the shops at half ten. Seemed alright then: bolt upright and very attentive.
Strange as it may seem, I didn’t wanna touch him. I knew something was wrong. So I went back inside and got some tuna: both cats’ favourite. I wafted it under his wee nose… no reaction.
Okay, this is not good.
Instinct: know your kids: know your pets.
I picked him up and he yowled. I mean really yowled. When I put him down, he was hissing and growling with every desperately slow step that he took. Once inside, I called the vet, got an emergency appointment then phoned Jane. By the time I planned to on the bike, Dennis and I were in the vet’s surgery.
I’m not sure how oh feah you are with vet’s bills, but Dennis doesn’t have a season ticket. Oh how we wish he did. Without the help of X-rays (remember moggies dinnae talk), all the vet could do was feel this, stretch that, and wait for a reaction. Then repeat. What was repeatable was Dennis’s yowl when his front left leg was wheeked about. Diagnosis: strained shoulder, possibly caused by jumping from a great height and landing awkwardly. Who am I to disagree? Injection on the spot, visits to see Auntie Inflammatory prescribed and off we went.
He was quiet for the rest of the afternoon and Jane and I headed into Glasgow to see Lisa Hannigan in concert in the evening. Lisa is the inspiration behind Amelie Bottrill and you don’t need me to tell you that Puddles is the inspiration behind Amelie’s latest album. But we found ourselves texting home about Dennis…
When we got back (late), Dennis was crouched quietly by my desk. As we went to bed, he made a valiant effort to climb the stairs but couldn’t make it onto the bed. Jane freaked. The wee man couldn’t even manage to climb two feet onto the bed.
You bet we were.
The next hour we’ll never forget. He camped out at the foot of the bed, but every five minutes without fail, let out an almighty wail of pure agony.
Five past midnight: phoned the vet. They work 24×7 so all I was doing was taking out someone’s beauty sleep. We discussed symptoms, cause and effect and agreed that wee Dennis would be back in at nine o’clock.
Assuming he made it through the night that is. Google’s great most of the time but once you realise that cats and antifreeze don’t mix (nor do cats and lilies, you kind of fear the worst: or at least I do). Poisoning was right there at the forefront of my mind.
No sooner was I off the phone than he staggered off the bed and left a trail of blood stained pee as he headed off into our slightly open wardrobe door. The screaming continued for another half an hour before he left our room and headed off for Finn’s bed. Finn wasn’t back from work yet as he was on a late shift so I sat up with Dennis till 2am. By then the wee man had conked so we made up the guest bed downstairs so Finn could sleep on that. I think I managed about three hours poor quality kip masel’. Jane got up and he’d pee’d the bed. Dennis doesn’t do that. He never does that. But when yer wean isnae well, you just make exceptions for material things and try to make their life as comfortable as possible.
We made it through till 9am then we were back at vet HQ. But by a sheer stroke of luck, he peed in his basket en route, and some of it was parked up in the corner of his basket, having not soaked into the blanket: enough for a syringe and a diagnostic strip. Blood in urine: check. Sky high white blood count: check. The boy’s fighting infection.
So now, not only is the wee man visiting Auntie Inflammatory, he’s two timing Auntie Biotics.
I tell you not, Jane and I are emotionally exhausted. And all we had was a wee trauma with a cat. We simply don’t know how the parents of children with cancer get through each day.
We’ve struggled with our day in the life of baby Dennis.