Hunger Strike

The Q’s will not eat.  My two female deerhound sisters, Queen and Quicksilver, aka Quibbets and Little Grey, are coming four years old in January.  They are both AKC Grand Champions and as such, I have not spayed them yet, thinking that perhaps I will breed a litter, my first since my only prior litter in 1997.  At that time, I discovered that it is much easier to BUY a nice deerhound than it is to raise a passle of poopy giant puppies. In some respects, I am a quick learner.  Anyway, when the Q’s come in season and go out without being bred, a month later they stop eating.  The veterinarians call this a false pregnancy.  I call it a hunger strike. Today I have cooked fresh ground beef, chicken, brown rice, green beans, and have shared some expensive Sargento shredded cheddar cheese. The fruits of my efforts have gone untouched.  Queen is now ensconced on the family room couch.  She is glaring at me.  Later, I will cook bacon and pretend it is for her.

I don’t know why I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to get others to eat.  Although my children were never picky eaters, my youngest went through a period where he would ONLY eat jelly sandwiches for lunch.  Forget the peanut butter, forget protein, forget the healthy apple and the mozzarella string cheese.  It was gooey jelly sandwiches, or NOTHING.  Years later, he said to me, “Do you KNOW how unhealthy that was, what you fed me for lunch?”  I said, in my best Jewish mother voice, “Really?  I was supposed to let you starve?  Over my dead body would you go hungry at school!”  As a girl, I cleaned my plate, always, because of the starving children in Africa.  Still do.  I have a theory that if every time I reached for a bowl of ice cream, a touch screen in my freezer would give me a choice—eat the ice cream myself OR see the calories get deposited DIRECTLY into the mouth of an emaciated child—I and millions of Americans just like me would hit the “kid” button, walk away from the ice cream and make the world a better place.

Now the intended objects of my need to feed are my patients.  I plead with them, I entreat their spouses, I offer prescriptions for Ensure, Boost and Jevity.  In some cases, I recommend feeding tubes.   I tell them that they MUST not lose weight, because unintentional weight loss in many types of cancer can be a very poor prognostic sign.  I tell them to forget their cholesterol and focus on their cancer—eat protein, eat fat, eat sugar (yes, even sugar!), but please just eat.  I tell them that my job is to cure their cancer.  And then I tell them in no uncertain terms, that THEIR job is to EAT.  Even if it doesn’t taste good.  Even if they aren’t hungry.  Even if they used to be fat.  If my lung cancer and bowel cancer and head and neck cancer patients will just eat, their bodies and their spirits will get ahead of that thing that is eating THEM alive. And since most of my patients want to be good, to be cooperative and above all to live, they try.

As for me, age, arthritis and a very busy clinical schedule have not been conducive to keeping off the excess pounds.  My kids will know that indeed I am dying, if I ever miss a meal.  Especially if that meal is paired with a nice glass of wine and has a dessert course which includes chocolate.  But right now, I have to go.  There’s bacon to be cooked!

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