When I first started this post, let’s just say I didn’t get very far. Ill take you back to last week, Thursday 7/28…………….
“Right now I am sitting in a Starbucks in Fort Collins, Colorado and there are two things about this that should strike most as odd. #1- Fort Collins is 1+ hour drive from where I live in Boulder, so why would I be here today? #2- it is a VERY rare and special occasion for my to be up before 10am, so there must be an important reason. So,……why?
Well, last week I had noticed that Hank seemed a little sore on his right hind leg. It went away after a day, so I didn’t worry, but this past Sunday, his lameness returned and persisted. So I took him to work with me (all while having this overwhelming sense of worry for him) early on Tuesday night to take some x-rays because this leg is where he had a previous fracture repair done as a puppy before I got him and I was always concerned about him injuring that leg after his amp….”
That’s when the tears started run so uncontrollably that I needed to excuse myself from Starbucks; I went to my car, drove to a park and sat in my car and cried….for 2 hours. Just two nights before, I found another bone tumor (suspected metastatic lesion from his original OSA) on Hank’s right hind femur where he had had his previous fracture repair. Whats worse is I had taken these films right before my 12-hour overnight emergency shift- you’d think I would have learned my lesson from last time, but instead I spent most of the night running back and forth to the bathroom in between seeing patients to wipe my tears and try to collect myself. And then I had to tell all the clients I saw that my “allergies were flaring up” when I went into the exam rooms with a puffy red face and bloodshot eyes. When I finally made it home in the morning with Hank (who, despite a new and mildly noticeable limp, was thankfully still his wiggly and happy self), I collapsed on the floor and slept with him in his dog bed- yes, I did this….. and it was awesome.
Since then, a lot has happened. First, I have continued to run the gamut of emotions that grief has a tendency to produce- anger that this was happening to my dog despite my being a vet and having followed all the treatment recommendations of some of the best oncologists in the country…..the deepest kind of emptiness and sadness thinking that there was going to be a day in the much nearer future that I was going to have to say good bye to my beloved companion….fatigue from having to go to work and be compassionate and empathetic towards people in the midst of losing their own pets when all I wanted to do was go home and grab and squeeze and cuddle my Hank…..and intense anxiety in trying to determine where we would go from there (Do I do nothing? Limb spare surgery? More chemo?)
The day after I found his new tumor, I called the Cancer Center at CSU to see what, if anything, they could do for us and what they thought would be best for Hank. I needed some kind of plan. I was of course, completely a mess on the phone and am still surprised the oncology nurse I spoke with actually understood what I was saying through my sobs. Over the following hour, I got several phone calls from amazing clinicians and nurses, all of whom were recommending 2 doses of palliative radiation of the new tumor (since obviously I cant take two of his four legs…although I did consider it the first day) to help with his pain and quality of life. If he stayed comfortable and the bone did not fracture at the tumor site, we could have 2-4 months with him. Ill take it. And unexpectedly, they re-arranged their schedules to get Hank in that very next day for his first treatment. So the next day, Hank and Adam and I (thanks to Adam’s dog-loving boss, she gave him the day off so he could be with us) made the trip to FoCo yet again, albeit this trip was much more somber than previous. We dropped him off at the Cancer center, cried over Beignets at Lucille’s, shopped for our new house at Home Depot and then polished off a bottle of wine at 2pm at the Welsh Rabbit over a fab cheese plate. And then we cried some more……Nothing quite like your best friend, fried carbs and lots of alcohol when you need help mending a broken heart.
I was on my own the next day when we returned to the cancer center and I had to have Hank there by 8am. Ugh- I don’t do anything at or before 8am anymore except for maybe get out of bed to pee…and then I go back to bed, so this was a rough morning. It didn’t help that I had worked the two nights prior, had barely slept for 3 days, had to get up early both mornings on my 2 days off to drive, needed to return to work for 5 overnights in a row that Friday night…and, of course, we were in the middle of moving into our new house. So you can image the mess of a person I was at Starbucks that morning while I waited for Hank to receive his second and final dose of radiation. After I cried it out for a while in my car, I napped, got lunch and got the call that Hank was ready to go home at about 1:30pm. I picked him up and he was still really dopey from his anesthesia, which made for some hysterical pictures on the way home…..
Thankfully, this weekend was really busy at work so I was distracted with that and all the unpacking I still have yet to do in our house. This helped my sadness and as of last night, I feel like the acceptance stage is upon me. I have realized that this is the card we have been dealt. And it sucks. And its not fair. And when I think about it I cry. And I was supposed to have Hank until he was 14 and old and it was up to me to make the decision to let him go. But I don’t want to waste all of our time left together being sad….I want to spend it with Hank doing all the things he has always loved. I want to spend it spooning, cuddling, *swimming*, playing, crotch punching strangers and eating cheeseburgers and ice cream from McDonalds (I did this last night when I brought him to work with me and was praying to god that no one saw me, in my scrubs, feeding my dog fast food in the parking lot of the veterinary clinic in which I am a doctor…I am pretty sure when I took my oath I promised I wouldn’t do such things…..but hey, he has cancer 🙂 ). I want to spend it by the creek, taking pictures and getting dirty. And as long as I can keep his pain controlled and keep him happy, this is what we will do. And until I can learn to slow down time, I will enjoy every last minute of it.