Under the Knife…Again

For about the last couple of years, our dog Princess has had hypoglycemia and occasionally experiences hypoglycemic seizures.  At first, it was a scary sight to see when she would just suddenly keel over and go into uncontrollable convulsions that would last for several seconds, especially when we didn’t know the cause at the time.   After a lot of Googling for answers, we were able to assess that the she was indeed suffering from hypoglycemia and a blood test at the vet confirmed it.

Fast forward two years, and we now have Princess’s hypoglycemia pretty much under control by means of a controlled diet.  There are still times when she gets into a picky mood or has an upset stomach, and refuses to eat, which it turn causes her blood sugar level to drop.  But most of the time we are able to catch her seizure episodes before they go into a full grand mal mode, and give her a shot of glucose to bring it back under control.  Of course there are other rare times when we miss the signs completely and she seizes.

For the most part everything has been fairly controllable, but it has always haunted me as to what the root cause of the problem is.  I have research it until the ends of the earth and I could not find anything conclusive as to what the cause of the hypoglycemia is, so I just accepted as being a part of old age, even though hypoglycemia affects dogs of all ages.

Shortly after discovering that Princess has hypoglycemia, we noticed small growth on her face.  At the time, it was about the size of a pea, so I didn’t really panic too much.  I figured it was just a growth and it wouldn’t get much bigger than it was.  However, over time the growth of the growth seemed to accelerate, so we took her to the vet to get it examined.  They assured up that it was nothing to be alarmed about and that although visually unpleasing, it probably wouldn’t get any bigger.  A year later, the growth had grown to about the size of half of a walnut, and was now clearly visible.  We debated as to whether or not it would be worth having it removed.  We really wanted to have it removed, because it looked terrible.  However, since Princess was now 15 years old and also had hypoglycemia, there was a risk that the removal procedure could be fatal.

Then last month, we noticed some blood stains on the doggy bed that both Princess and Jenna shared.  At first, we had thought that one of the dogs had brought food into the bed, hence leaving the stain.  However no matter how many times the bed was washed, the stains would reappear.  We inspect both dogs to see if there were any wounds that may have been bleeding, and that’s when I noticed a small open wound on one of Princess’s underside.  I figure that she may have just bit or scratched herself, but even after a few days, the wound didn’t look to be healing and I was a bit worried about infection, especially with the warm weather ahead.

Again, we took Princess to the vet to have her wound examined, and was told that it was a cancerous growth.  Because it was cancerous, the wound would not heal on it’s own and needed to be surgically removed.  The vet also recommend also doing a complete mastectomy to reduce the chance of the cancer spreading to the other mammary glands.   This was also a good opportunity to finally get rid of the unsightly growth on her face as well.  Although we were reluctant to have Princess undergo surgery just for cosmetic purposes, this surgery was a necessity, so we opted to get it done.

So the next week, we took Princess in for her surgery, and said our final goodbyes to the big walnut on growing on her face.  I had a theory that perhaps some of these growths may be responsible for her hypoglycemia, because cancer cells need a lot of sugar to grow, often robbing the blood of its glucose content.  So I was hoping that we were killing not just two birds, but many birds with one stone.

After spending the day in the hospital, Princess came home with half of her face missing…well not quite.   In order to operate, the had to shave half her face, which made her look more like a toy poodle than a westie.  But what was pleasantly obvious was the big walnut was no longer there.  Despite looking like a show poodle, he looked so much better, and I was so glad that we finally were able to get her face fixed.

Unfortunately, analysis of some the cancerous cells removed showed that they are malignant, and have spread throughout her body.  So although the removal of some of the visible cancers does help, there are other inoperable cancers that exist and could be trouble for her in the future.  For now, they seem to be dormant, and I really hope that they stay that way for a while, but there is no telling when they can flare up again.

For now, I just want to enjoy looking at Princess’s tumor free face once again.




A couple a weeks ago, Haru’s cheerleading coach announced that there would a few openings in both the Ace and Elite groups.  Haru had already spent a year in the Peach group, which is the beginner’s group in which absolutely everyone needs to spend a year in when starting cheerleading.  She also spent the following year in the Clover group which is like the novice group, in which they begin to do aerial stunts.  Ace is the next group, which is the intermediate group.  Along with doing more complicated and fluid dance routines, this group also does more complicate gymnastics skills like round off to back limber, front limbers, and front hand springs -all of which Haru was already doing as a Clover.

Last spring, both the Ace and Elite groups had their spring casting calls.  Many of the older girls who graduate elementary school and go onto junior high school tend to quit cheerleading to either move onto competition cheerleading or to join school clubs.  This in turn, frees up spots on all levels so that the lower level kids can move up to higher groups.  Because Haru had such a hard time remembering her routines, my wife insisted that she get passed up, and spend another year in Clover, but neither Haru nor I were please over this decision, because although Haru tended to struggle during practice, she was always able to bring it together during the shows, which at the end of the day, is what really counts.

Most of Haru’s Clover teammates were promoted to Ace last April, leaving Haru behind to have to work with the newly promoted Peach members, of which many where still in either kindergarten or first grade.   At first, I thought this would demotivate her, but this put in her in somewhat of a leadership role, and was often placed in front and center during the shows.   Additionally, she was given some small solo tumbling routines during Cheer Fest and Summer Fest  which kind of boosted her ego a bit.  But despite all of this, there was some degree of noticeable dissatisfaction, and she often talked about wanting to move up to Ace to be with her former teammates again.

I discussed this with my wife and told her that Haru should be free to make mistakes so that she can learn from them and improve herself.  Holding her back will only serve to demotivate her and in turn, make her want to quite, especially when her friends are being promoted around her.  So after much deliberation, we all agreed that if given the opportunity sometime within the year to be promoted, we would not hold Haru back.

It was only a few weeks after our discussion, we learned that there would be four slots opening up in the Elite group, hence four slots opening up in the Ace group, once the four lucky Ace members are promoted to Elite.  Haru desperately wanted to move up.  So much so, that she literally talked about it for days.  Every time I drove her to tumbling or gymnastics practice, she would ask me, do you think I will be able to move up to Ace? to which I would respond, You can do ANYTHING if you want it bad enough and you put your mind to it.  However, moving up to Ace would not be as simple as volunteering this time, as Haru’s cheer coach announced that there would be auditions for the Ace slots.

Apparently, there were more people up for promotion than there were slots available, so Haru’s cheer coach announced that the candidates would need to audition for it.   Normally, when there are slots open in the cheer groups, the cheer coach would simply ask who’s interested in moving up.  And as long as they were slots available, and the cheerleader wasn’t too horribly bad, they would get promoted without having to jump through hoops (or in this cause, go through an audition).  Normally, only the Elite group would require an audition to get in.  But since there were more cheerleaders than spaces available, the coach wanted to select only the best of the volunteer.

For the audition, the girls were judged on five different categories: dance ability, tumbling ability, high kicks, concentration skills, and facial expression (smiles).  The cheer coach rated the ability to be able smile while doing the routines as being utmost highest priority, so much so, that it has been rumored that a couple of cheerleaders who had extremely good all around mechanical skills could not move up to Elite, because they had a hard time smiling while doing the routines.

We were very confident in Haru’s tumbling abilities, but her other skills were somewhat questionable at times.  Her dance skills were good for a Clover, but the Ace’s dance routines were much more complicated so I wasn’t too sure if she was ready for it.  But the one thing she lacked the most is the ability to concentrate.  Haru is EASILY distracted, to say the very least.   If she were able to hold her concentration better, I think she could be so much better at everything.  As it stands, she has small burst of instances when she does concentrate well.  For her, its like an switch (or more like a broken switch) -either its on or its off.  And when its on, it doesn’t stay on for too long.  But during that short period she is able to stay very focused, almost to the point where she is unaware of anything that’s going on around her.  I only wish that she could apply this to everything she does.

Fortunately for me, I had a business trip on the day of the audition that allowed me to come home a bit early, so I was able to catch the audition.  As usual, the coaches didn’t allow parents to be in the room during practice, so we stared in through the glass window.  Haru looked very serious.  She really wanted to get promoted into Ace.  But I noticed that she looked too serious and was not smiling, which means that she could marked down for it  So I waved frantically through the glass to get her attention so that I signal to her to smile more.  After a few attempts, she got the message and her facial expression lightened up a bit.

The coach made it very clear that they were being tested, so that they can perform their best.  Haru was tested on cartwheels (easy), jumps, kicks, dance, and ability to smile while doing it all.  From my point of view, Haru was doing well, but I wasn’t too sure exactly what the coach was looking for.The audition ended without mishap, and all we could do is hope for the best.

Haru was antsy during the whole trip home.  She kept saying “I didn’t do well.  I kept forgetting to smile., but I reassured her that she did very well, and no matter what the result is, if she did her best, that’s all that counts.

I initially thought that the decision would be made the same day, so I kept telling my wife to check her email.  But my wife told me that it would probably be about a week before hear back, so both Haru and I were antsy for the whole entire week.  Towards the end of week, Haru was beginning to accept the idea of not being promoted.  “It’s okay”, she would say,”being in Clover is not that bad.”   Or she would say, “Being in Ace would be too much pressure.  Clover is easier, but I am going to miss my friends”-referring to the girls who would get promoted.

The week went by, and we still hadn’t heard anything.  Haru and I weren’t the only antsy ones at this point.  I overheard other mothers asking each other if they have heard any results, but none of them had heard anything.

The following Monday was a holiday.  Haru had tumbling practice in the evening, but since it was a holiday, I figured that there still wouldn’t be any word from her cheer leading coach. I slept in for most of the morning, and went down into the living room at around 10:30.  Haru and my wife had already been up, and they were both watching TV.  As I sat down on the sofa, my wife told me that Haru’s cheerleading coach called with the results.  Haru is now officially an Ace!  Good Job!






Tough Competition

It’s July and the weather has been getting quite warm lately.  Funny enough, until last week it rained practically everyday so the temperatures were quite cool.  Since it was already July, I was beginning to think (and hope) that it would be a cool summer like back in 2003, when the raining season lasted until almost mid-August, and the summer heat only lasted like two weeks.  This is suppose to be the last day of the intense heat and the temperatures should be significantly cooler again tomorrow, partially due to a typhoon scheduled to hit Japan.

Haru has been doing cheerleading for nearly two and half years now and she seems to be really enjoying it a lot.  I remember when she first started, I wasn’t particularly thrilled with the idea, nor was I against it.  My only condition is that it cannot interfere with her gymnastics practice.  Interestingly enough however, cheerleading has not only enhanced her gymnastics skills, it’s literally put her at the top of her gymnastics class.  There is no one in her gym class who is even comes close to equaling her, which is why I get a bit irritated and frustrated that she was not promoted to advanced gymnastics last April.  As a matter of fact, there were three kids who were promoted ahead of her, who are not that good.  Never mind the fact that Haru is better than them, one of the three kids absolutely SUCKS at gymnastics and was still promoted.  I have a feeling that she was promoted only because her twin sister who is pretty good, got promoted, and they didn’t want to break up the set (which of course is a stupid reason for getting promoted.)  Although Haru felt cheated that she wasn’t able to advance up to the next level, for the most part, she has been in good spirits about it because of her advancements in her tumbling class. Additionally, she is often called upon by her coaches to demonstrate skills that no one else can do, in front of her class.  This seems be a key to keeping her motivation up.

Her tumbling coach is really good, and unlike her gymnastics coaches (with an exception of a few), her tumbling coach will actually physically demonstrate difficult skills like the back flip, and front and back handsprings, instead of just verbalizing it.  Since Haru responds better to visual instructions rather than verbal instructions, she is able to pick up skills faster from her tumbling coach, as opposed to her gymnastic coaches.  And because of this, she has been able to advance to advanced tumbling within six months after starting tumbling, and is quickly catching up (in terms of skills) to the two best girl in the class (who by the way are competition cheerleaders), and earning much respect from her older classmates.

This Thursday, Haru will be up for promotion in her cheerleading class, and will be given a skill assessment by her cheer coach.   Previously, when she had moved up from Peach to Clover class, the only criteria is that she’s able to perform well on the Peach team for one year.  However, to advance up to the next level, which is the “Ace” Team, the conditions are a bit tougher.  She will have to demonstrate superior tumbling skills, concentration skills, dance skills, and do it all with a big happy smile on her face.  Haru will have no problem with the smile and tumbling parts, but I am very concerned over her concentration skills, because Haru is easily distracted.  She does well on stage, but apparently she has a hard time keeping focused during practice.

Another issue is that she has a hard time remembering her dance routines, and often looks over to the person next to her to make sure she’s getting it right.  Again, this seems to be more of an issue during practice than on stage (at least less noticeable on stage).  The standards for being promoted to Ace where never this tough, but there are only four slots available, and a quite a few girls are looking to move up.

Haru’s biggest advantage is her tumbling skills.  Currently, there is only one girl in Ace who can do a back handspring, and it’s a skill that is traditionally performed by the Ace team during the Cheerleading Festival in the spring.  All of the other girls who were in Ace and who were able to do a back handspring have all either quit or moved up to the Elite team, the highest group.  So Ace is in desperate need of a cheerleader who can do a back handspring on stage.  Right now, Haru is able to a round-off back handspring, which is an Elite skill, nearly perfectly, and is working on her round off double back handspring with her tumbling coach, which is a skill that only a few of the top Elite members can perform.

Haru’s biggest disadvantage is her ability to keep focused.   It seems as if her mind is all over the place.  Strangely enough, when she is performing on stage, she is very highly focused, to the point where she often forgets to smile, which is one of the highest criterias for being advanced to Ace.  It was just the other night during Haru’s tumbling practice, I overheard one of the mothers saying that no matter how well the cheerleader can dance and stay focused, is she cannot do it without a smile on her face, she will not make it into Ace or Elite.  This is why the cheerleaders in the Ace and Elite teams always have a big fake looking smile on their faces during the shows.

As much as I want Haru to advance up and succeed, I don’t want this to be a source of stress for her.  Although these teams don’t compete, the internal competition amongst the girls is apparently pretty harsh.  Many of the older girls take it VERY seriously, and although I have never seen bashing or bullying in her cheerleading class, apparently it does happen but in a subtle way.  I have seen Haru become a victim of some very subtle bashing amongst the older kids when she first started in her tumbling class (probably because she was new and one of the youngest), but she has since become so much better than the girls who had bashed her, the respect from the other older kids has completely overwhelmed the bashing, and they have become completely irrelevant.


Last Sunday’s Summer Festival (in the rain)

Fast Tube by Casper