We Are Both Dancers…
Ginger and I

There are a couple things that you might not know about me. A dozen years ago, I led death on my dancefloor of life…twice. In both dances, I successfully out danced death. My prostate cancer’s dance was a several years dance. The cancer had metastasized beyond my prostate. Dr. Zorn, at the U. of Chicago Hospital, robotically removed my prostate. While he hoped that he had gotten all cancer cells that had spread to tissue beyond my prostate, I had to take PSA blood test for several years. Then the PSA number spiked, which meant I went back for hormone therapy and radiation for four months. It has been a decade without any PSA issue.

During that same year as the prostatectomy, I fell off a ladder and cracked my head against a stone retaining wall. Those in the medical field prefer the usage of subdural hematoma rather than cracking my head. Either way, after two months in ICU and a rehab hospital, it was a relatively fast dance with death, and I got back to normal quickly.

It took me several years before I realized the transformation in my mindset due to the two dances. I was having dinner with someone who I had never met. He informally interviewed me for a teaching position. At the end of a couple hours of dinner and being interviewed, he could tell that I had danced with death. He asked me whether I have seen The Last Lecture video by Randy Pausch. I told him that I hadn’t. The next day, he sent me a link to The Last Lecture.

Pausch’s lecture lasted 1:16:26, and it was the most revealing time that I ever spent in my life. Now, I understood the obvious changes in me. I realized that my clock was ticking more than I had prior to my two dances. Since then, I make every effort to enjoy the moment. I am fully aware that sometime, I won’t have any more time.

Interestingly, four years ago, I got Ginger. At the beginning of my work life, I got a job and then got an Irish Setter who I named Ginger. I loved my first Ginger. She and I were a team. Everything revolved around my first Ginger. All that is completely correct. The worst day of my life was when my first Ginger died after more than a dozen years together. I spent a couple hours comforting Ginger in her last hours of life.

Nevertheless, Ginger II have the same bonding, but this time our closeness was on steroids. I don’t know all the reasons for this partnership, but it is there. The first three years were fun and exciting. She grew and matured into an 80-pound overly hyperactive Irish Setter.

However, just over a year ago, she became extremely sick. She seemed to have had every possible medical problem. Her vet, Dr. Sabedra, suggested that I took her done to Purdue University Veterinary Teaching Hospital where she had a complete workup including an esophagogastroduodenoscopy, which was a procedure, which contained a device with a light and an instrument to get biopsies of her esophagus, stomach, and the beginning of her small intestines.

When Ginger was ready to go home, this picture is of Jesse who was a student vet and Dr. Embersics, a clinician. They changed Ginger’s meds and food. Things seemed to be turning around…for a few months. However, things progressively worse.

Dr. Sabedra suggested that I should take Ginger back to Purdue, which I did last week. Since Ginger’s first time, more things changed than her being sick again. COVID-19 has made nearly nine million Americans sick and has killed nearly a quarter million other Americans.

Therefore, taking Ginger to the Purdue was different. You park in front of the hospital, call the hospital, and tell them your parking space number. My number was 15.

I talked to a veterinary student, Aida. She got all the medical details from me about Ginger. She was a clone of Jesse. Aida is caring, helpful, and would answer any question that I had. I was worried about Ginger, but she claimed my anxiety.

Ginger wanted to look around while we waited for her turn to see her Dr. Roque-Torres who was going to treat her. So, I opened the sunroof, and she surveyed the parking lot, which is a construction site. Purdue is building a much larger veterinary hospital. It wasn’t long before Aida called and came out for Ginger.

Ginger was excited about going on a walk with Aida. Off the two of them went for Ginger’s appointment with Dr. Roque-Torres. Since Dr. Roque-Torres and I haven’t officially met due to the COVID-19 protocols, this is a photo of her from Purdue’s College of Veterinary Medicine website.

Dr. Roque-Torres

Dr. Roque-Torres called and discussed her diagnosis of Ginger’s condition and suggested a treatment plan. She expressed various issues about which she wanted to discuss with me. Her concern for Ginger was identical to that of Aida’s.

I have written about what I see as two types of dog owners. One group are those that have a dog. The other group is really into caring for their dog. It is the same way about vets. Vets all know the medical issues, but some also show a great deal of personal and emotional concern for their animal patients. Man, it is obvious to me. A part of my awareness has to do with my two dances with death. I’m sensitized to taking good care of myself…along with taking care of Ginger. Both Aida and Dr. Roque-Torres were in that second group.

Dr. Roque-Torres said that Ginger would stay overnight. On the following day, she would have additional tests, and I could pick her up at 5:30pm. This is Aida bringing Ginger back to me.

I was glad to see Ginger, and she jumped into the car.

Then Aida gave me a bag of Ginger’s new meds with instructions regarding spacing the drugs out between meals, etc. Ginger and I returned home. I got new pill box for Ginger. The blue and yellow one was her previous pill box. The larger pill box is Ginger’s new one. I took me some time to arrange a timetable for her pills and then fill her new drug dispenser.

Today is Ginger’s 4th birthday. My next article will be about her birthday party.