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A Severe Case Of Meno-Paws

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By rights my chocolate Labrador, Bailey, should have been with me on the Virgin Atlantic flight as I set off to visit my New Yorker husband. However, due to a series of unforeseen events, he is currently convalescing on the British coast.

The past three weeks have flashed by in somewhat of a medical blur for both Bailey and me. First of all we discovered a horrible open sore on the back of Bailey's neck which resulted in a trip to the vet and once again I prayed that my medical insurers wouldn't try to get out of reimbursing me by claiming some clause written in brail in the microscopic fine print.

Then, the following day, having visited my doctor with what I thought was a mild ailment, he proceeded to suggest a battery of tests.

"Should I be worried?" I asked (quite reasonably I felt considering he'd scrawled "CANCER??" on his notepad.)

'No, no, no," he muttered unconvincingly, "just routine to put your mind at rest." Well, my mind was at rest until he'd ordered the tests and now it wasn't.

Before I go further, I should point out that I am a total medical lightweight. I hyperventilate at the thought of an ingrowing toenail, so you can imagine what state I was in over this latest development.

In any case, while awaiting the tests, my doctor had prescribed some medication to help ease my symptoms which ended up doing the complete opposite!

On the Saturday afternoon, after I'd been taking said tablets for four days and in the middle of writing my will, my legs suddenly cramped up as if I'd been given 1000 volts in each limb. The pain was excruciating.

The first thing I did was scream at the top of my lungs, "Catherine! Help!" At this point Bailey, who just moments earlier had been snoring away, gave an exaggerated sigh which translated to "What now?"

Fortunately, unlike her mother, Catherine is very good in a medical crisis and lived up to her reputation by calmly Googling the drug I was taking to discover it can cause nasty side effects such as severe cramps and seizures. SEIZURES?

Despite the wave of panic that washed over me I told myself I would remain calm for Catherine's sake before opening my mouth and bellowing, "I don't want to die!" at a hundred decibels.

Fortunately, Catherine has witnessed this kind of behavior from me before (many, many times!) so she remained unfazed by my dramatic carryings on. Bailey, however, strolled off to the kitchen to resume his nap in peace.

In any case the word "seizures" had set me off, but Catherine snapped, "Mum, pull yourself together!" (She's training to be a teacher and will make a very good disciplinarian. )

Yanking my jeans off we set up our own triage unit before deciding to massage my legs in an attempt to get the circulation going. At this point I said once more, "I don't want to die." But Catherine totally ignored me and kept rubbing.

At one point Bailey poked his head in but seeing that there was nothing edible on offer disappeared again. "I'm going to give the emergency doctor a try," Catherine said calmly. Half an hour later, while she was still on Hold, listening to her 10th round of "Come Fly With Me" there was a knock at the front door.

Unable to stand properly, I crawled into the hall on my hands and knees.

Dragging my body up to release the lock the door swung open to reveal Gerda, my Norwegian neighbor. Of all people. It really was shocking luck. Gerda always looks immaculate and what my mum calls "perfectly turned out."

For some reason she always manages to catch me looking my worst so, it was typical that she turned up to witness me crawling around the house in my knickers and a pair of my husband's odd socks.

( Note to self:
1. Book emergency bikini wax.
2. Apply full makeup before walking Bailey on the off chance I run into Gerda.
3. Refrain from answering door in undies.)

I gabbled something about reacting to some medication hence my unusual attire and inability to walk properly but Gerda couldn't have cared less.

"We have an emergency on our hands," Gerda announced as if my condition was nothing. "Bailey is on the loose! Put your pants on and let's get going!"

Somehow, supported by Gerda, I managed to stagger to the end of the street where I clapped eyes on Bailey who was lying on his back having his stomach rubbed by a family of four who looked at me like the Devil Incarnate for allowing my wonderful dog out and about without human supervision -- as if I'd endorsed this behavior.

Again, I muttered on about having a reaction to a drug and hardly being able to walk but before I'd even finished the sentence they gave my hound one last pat and headed off down the road. I could have throttled Bailey to be honest but instead I forced myself to appear loving, kind, a non-demonic owner in case they reported me to Animal Cruelty.

Back at home, a cup of tea in hand, we discovered that somehow the back gate had blown open, which is how Bailey had pulled off his escape. He had never before expressed any interest in wandering off and Catherine said, "You know Mum, I think he was probably going for help. Labradors are very intuitive that way." Yes that was it. He really is one heck of a dog.

In any case, the next day was the big one for me medically. I was set to have a gastroscopy, which is basically a camera on a tube pushed down your throat into your stomach and duodenum where they have a good look around and take biopsies. Bear in mind I collapse over a dental appointment. I was petrified.

My worst fear was having the sedation so I had the procedure without it. I then had enough blood taken to qualify for a cameo in "Twilight" sequel before being scanned inside and out.

By the time I got home I was feeling a bit shaky but looking forward to proving to my entire family that I wasn't in fact the medical lightweight we all thought I was. I had weathered the entire procedure without any sedation whatsoever. I honestly felt a bit of bragging was in order. However, I walked through the door to find my kids and their partners huddled over Bailey. Apparently they'd found quite a deep cut on his leg and had immediately whisked him to the vet who had put four stitches in and sent him home with a giant cone over his head (cone also doubles as wallpaper stripper so I will need to redecorate.)

"Bailey was so brave," Catherine said.

That night Bailey was given neck massages, edible treats and my silk Laura Ashley cushion to rest his head on. I on the other hand sat on the couch swigging gallons of Bach Rescue Remedy as I absorbed the horror of my medical bill (I am self-funding unlike Bailey who, as we've already established, has private medical insurance.)

Then my parents arrived. Giving me a quick peck on the cheek my mum said, "Daddy and I have been talking and we think it's too much for Bailey to make the New York trip now. He needs to convalesce so we'll take him to the coast with us for a week or two."

I was too exhausted to put up a fight. "Oh well," I thought as I watched Bailey chauffeured off, "he deserves a break after his heroics on Saturday."

But during the next couple of days I discovered that Bailey's so-called search for help may not have been quite what it seemed. There had been several sightings which enabled us to reconstruct his little sojourn.

Apparently he sauntered up to the pet shop, helped himself to a chew, trotted into the florist where he always gets a treat then headed home before being intercepted by Gerda who had been planting out her immaculate window boxes in her immaculate Ralph Lauren Gilet. It seemed his journey was a little more self-serving than originally thought.

So as I land in New York to start catching up on all the work I'm behind on, and make the money I need to pay off my medical bills, Bailey is recuperating. In the old days when I left the country my mum would say, "Make sure you text us as soon as you land." Now she says, "Text me when you land so I can let you know how Bailey is doing."

Now, if that's a dog's life I'll take it!

Oh, and by the way. If anyone's remotely interested, I am not dying. Apparently all of my symptoms are connected to peri menopause. Of course they are -- isn't everything?