Thursday, July 21, 2011

The things we do for our children

I will warn you now that while this is a story of just how far a mother will go for a child, it's also a very disgusting  tale, so for the squeamish at heart, I'm  warning you this might not be the story for you.  You might want to think twice before reading.

There, now that I've warned you,  I won't feel guilty getting into the gory details a little later on.

Our lovely little tale begins this past Monday morning.  I go to clean our pet rats cage and so I hand each of the kids their pet rat.  Instantly the athlete calls me back in to see something on "Flash's" back.  I go in thinking I'm gonna see a couple of scratches or something.  (Flash is a hairless rat and more prone to scratches.)  This is him in the pic below with his cage mate  "Baby".  He's the one on top.

***Warning, Warning***   Beginning to enter gross territory!

I pick him up and see what appears to be a big infected abscess on his back leg and another smaller, hard bump with a black center on his back.  I explained to the athlete it looked like he had an infection but I made sure to tell him that I didn't really know what they were or where they came from.  I told him it might not be anything but there was a chance it could be something serious.  I wasn't about to lie to him and tell him everything would be alright because I had no idea what we were dealing with.  I did feel confident though that it wasn't anything to worry about.

I made a vet appointment for later in the day and went on about my business.  (We are leaving for vacation on Saturday and as if I didn't have enough to do already, now I have a sick rat on my hands!)

The athlete however brewed and worried all day.  (He inherited this from me.)  He thought worse case scenario and was already talking about burying the poor thing in the back yard!  I calmed him down several times throughout the day and at 5:00pm we headed to the vets.  He insisted on coming but I wasn't too keen on the idea.  On the off chance something was seriously wrong I didn't want him breaking down in the middle of the exam room.

Long story short, (or sort of!!), I'm told he has some form of tumors and more than likely they are cancerous. The larger of the too is infected.  My options?  Ready for this?  I can have a biopsy taken and sent to a pathologist and then have him operated on to remove the tumors all to the tune of $375 -$475.  Or I can bring him home, treat the infection with antibiotics and when it's his time put him down.

Since the average lifespan of a hairless rat is 2 to 3 years and Flash is approaching 2, the biopsy and surgery wasn't even an option for me.  I packed him up and joined the athlete out in the waiting room.  During the exam I didn't like the look on the vet's face so I wisely sent him to wait for me out there.  (Thank God!) I was able to wait until we got in the car to break the sad news to my son.

He cried instantly and went through all kinds of different emotions.  He was angry, sad, in denial.  You name it, he felt it.  He cried out through sobs that he would never get another pet again because they all die.  He yelled at me, he yelled at everything.  He vowed to give Flash the best life possible for however many days he had left.  I fought back tears driving home and felt an ache in my heart for my sensitive, sweet little man.

That night I sat with him in his bead, dried more tears, and soothed him to sleep.  I was grateful to see him finally sleeping but it hurt watching his little body still shaking in his sleep from all the crying he had done.

The next day I decided to do some research on the web because his diagnosis just wasn't sitting right with me.   I had a hard time believing they were tumors.  I know I'm not a veterinarian, but I just had a gut feeling and as a mom, you learn to trust your gut over everything else.

After 45 minutes of web searching, while I should have been preparing for vacation mind you, I stumbled upon a rat breeder website.  This woman went into great detail, providing pictures and descriptions of common problems with pet rats.  The three topics that caught my eye were:  tumors, abscesses, and subcutaneous cysts.

***Warning  Warning***  Now were at the really nasty part!!!!

I read and looked at all the pics of tumors, nothing on there looked anything like what Flash had.  Same thing with the abscesses.

Then I get to subcutaneous cysts and I see a picture of a hairless rat with something that  looks exactly like what Flash has on his back, the one with the black center.  She describes how male hairless rats are very prone to these because they secrete a lot of oil and have no hair to absorb it.  The black center is dirt that is trapped in the middle.  (Basically it's like a giant blackhead, the epitome of nasty!)

To get rid of it,    can you guess?  

You squeeze it just like a zit.   (She provided photos of this as well, sick I know, but very useful!)  As I'm reading all this and soaking it in,  my heart is beginning to lighten and I start to get excited!
Not about what I'm thinking about doing, but at the fact that I might just be able to take my son's sorrow away and end up saving the day.

As luck would have it, she also provided a picture of an infected cysts and what to do about that.  Basically the same thing you do to the first, but you need to make sure the rat is on antibiotics as well.  Flash was on antibiotics so I had that part covered too!

I took a deep breath and thought it over.  I didn't have any other option.  I had to at least give it a whirl.  Worse case scenario, I was wrong, best case, I save my son from the suffering of having his pet die of cancer.

I grabbed my supplies:  some tissues, paper towel, bacitracin, Q-tips, and a hand towel.  I retrieved Flash from his cage, set him on my lap in the towel, and took a really deep breath.  I started with the one that wasn't infected, tissues in hand I applied a gently squeezing pressure on both sides and instantly thick, squiggly stuff shot straight out of it like I was squeezing a tube of toothpaste.  (I am laughing as I type this, remembering just how flipping nasty it all was!  I have never been so happy to see shit squeeze out of something in all my life!)

I was more nervous about the bigger, infected one, but managed to repeat the procedure.  The second time was a little more than I could handle and after finishing, I quickly handed the rat off to the athlete and had to put my head between my knees and take a few deep breaths.  The sheer grossness of what I had just done, had sunk in and I was super close to fainting.

When I felt it was safe to sit back up I excitedly informed the athlete that I was 99% sure that Flash did not have cancer and what it actually was were cysts.  I even showed him the website where I found all the information.  I told him that I thought Flash was going to be just fine.

The look on his face was worth squeezing a thousand of those suckers!   He leaped up grabbed me and hugged me tight, saying "thank you mom, thank you so much!", over and over.  He told me I was a hero and it was the best day of his life.  And that right there, was exactly why I put the effort in, and did what I did.  It was all worth that smile and look in his eyes.


  1. First of all the fact that you have rats is disgusting!

    Second of all the fact that you popped his infected pimples is beyond words!

    you are my hero - I could never do that!

  2. Hurrah. My hairless has developed the same issue. Were back at vets soon so will be asking them to pop it as i vomit easy :) i have 7 rats and love them all so much it upsets me when one is ill

  3. Hurrah. My hairless has developed the same issue. Were back at vets soon so will be asking them to pop it as i vomit easy :) i have 7 rats and love them all so much it upsets me when one is ill


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