Just when things are going well; going as you might think they are planned, the other shoe drops, and it is not always the right size. It is important to take pleasure in the moments that are good; the moments that at the time, seem insignificant, silly or mundane. Our lives happen fast and it is important to slow down and take it all in; enjoying the good but learning from the bad. I was reminded again of this fact shortly after posting this same title, but part one. If you haven’t read that, you may want to read it before this: here.
Buddy is happy; Buddy is snoring. Ginger is waking us up. Saturday morning started out as usual – Ginger begins scratching her ear wildly after her snarfing, growling and jumping from the bed failed to wake me. Then came the flipping, wildly, on the floor like a “floppy fish”; our cue to wake up. Outside, check. Treats, check. Back to bed, sort of. 15 minutes later, the routine replays. Then coffee, more horseplay and breakfast ensues. The phone rang. A call we were expecting. Expecting the usual news; but it was not (the news we expected).
On that not-so-distant Saturday, the blood results that were taken for Buddy at his previous visit to the Doc, came back shaded, and with a cloud of uncertainty. From there, more tests ensued and then an ultrasound uncovered several lumps. Two, on opposite sides of the liver, some in the spleen as well as the pancreas. I had gone to this appointment for the ultrasound with my eyes wide shut. It blind-sided me, but must have been something I was akin to expect. Yet deep down, I was not willing to believe it was time for him to leave us quite yet.
Again, Ginger sat by his side, offering comfort (or, at least, the best she could do). I listened to the results and had so many questions but I was just fishing for the answer I wanted to hear. This was something they were unable to deliver. Had it been one organ, one side of the liver, or a million other things, hope might have been there. I felt cold inside even though the sun was out, heating the air around us. I remember once sitting in a room at my Doctor’s office being delivered news about myself that filled me with the same feeling of desperation, despair and disbelief. It could not be happening – again. I knew, that it was not going to happen without a fight. Buffy, our first dog (read about her here) suffered from cancer of the liver; she died 2 weeks after diagnosis. This was an event that changed our lives forever (a story still untold here).
We were prepared to do what was needed to make this be better, whatever “better” might be. They took aspirations from the liver and the spleen and now we had to wait three days for the results. I spent three days researching about cancer of the liver, cancer in canines, chemotherapy, holistic healing, acupuncture, and… you name it. I found a particularly useful site that, if the need should unwontedly arise, you can visit here.
I was amazed at what all I had discovered in the ways of holistic medicine and healing. It opened my eyes to things I wish I had known all along for both ourselves and our dogs. For instance, milk thistle is a powerful helper in promoting liver health; as the Doc put it, “With all the environmental contaminants we are exposed to, this should be in our drinking water”. Arteminisin, an extract of the herb sweet wormwood, is a potential new discovery for helping cancer cells to kill themselves; it is currently under study by Dr. Henry Lia at the University of Washington. It is also the second most used herb in cancer treatment by Lena McCullough, DVM (author of Path with Paws) at her practice in West Seattle. Acupuncture is also one of the most widely accepted treatments among holistic practitioners (and not disputed by Western medicine doctors alike) for everything from cancer to joint pain. There are so many things we can do (and should be doing) for not only ourselves, but also our pets, to lead longer, healthier lives.
After extensive reading over the weekend, I decided to be proactive on a game plan; I ordered artemisinin, bought milk thistle and booked an acupuncture session for Buddy for that Monday (I had already started him on acupuncture for his back pain the week before). I also went to the market and loaded up on broccoli, kale, sweet potatoes, shiitake mushrooms, liver, chicken hearts and bison. I bought fish for dinner that night and bought cod liver oil formulated for pets, as well as mushroom powder. Buddy and Ginger already had a pretty nutritional diet of Darwin’s raw bison and raw duck. They ate this in the morning and evening but had access to dry duck and potato prescription diet during the day and a bit of what we ate during our dinner (unseasoned). They also ate a lot of bread (which I didn’t realize was bad) but most of their “treats” contained grain. This would need to be altered; we needed to starve the cancer cells and feed Buddy his nutrients; grains are not good to feed dogs with cancer. There would need to be careful proportioning of proteins to fats to vegetables to carbohydrates. One of the most important things we could do to improve and extend his chance of survival would be to feed him a cancer fighting diet. The cod liver oil would help boost the omegas he needs, the milk thistle would help provide anti-inflammatory and antioxidants, mushrooms would boost the immune system and the artemisinin would (potentially) attack the cancer cells.
I felt slightly better knowing I had the start of a plan and was armed with questions for the oncologist and our holistic Doc (we were lucky that Dr. Rice, their normal veterinarian at Issaquah Veterinary Hospital also practiced holistic medicine and acupuncture). I was less on top of things when it had been my own life that hung in the balance.
There was no time for tears and no room for delusions and wishful thinking. The odds of a non-malignant prognosis was slim to none. It was what we were going to do about it that mattered now. As I sat outside in the sunshine reading as much as I could, I looked over at Buddy and Ginger sitting side-by-side on the porch, air lovingly bringing them delicious outdoor smells that activated the movement of their wet little noses. They were sitting as closely as I had ever seen them sit outside before and could almost picture them sitting in a little porch swing like Mr. Bartles and Mr. Jaymes. I wanted to wiggle my nose and make this terrible disease go away. I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs, grab hold of Buddy and escape from the sadness, the inevitable pain. Instead, I snapped out of it and went over to lay next to them and we all fell asleep in the sun.
On Monday, we went to his acupuncture appointment. This was his second session but I had not been there for his first and didn’t know what to expect. I kept trying to imagine him laying still with needles sticking out of him, un-moving. This seemed absurd since he won’t even let me brush his hair without fussing. Dr. Rice came into the room and we discussed the results of his ultra sound. She had not seen the biopsy results yet but agreed that I was right in being pro-active in ordering the artemisinin and starting the milk thistle.
After explaining a few things about holistic medicine and her diagnosis of a stagnant chi (in Buddy’s liver), she began inserting the needles, swiftly and confidently. Buddy let out a few minor yelps (and then we were left alone to sit quietly for 15 minutes. I put Buddy, carefully like a porcupine, into my lap and Ginger laid fidgeting alongside.
See, the needles are quite small. He hardly knew they were there.
Five minutes later, Dr. Rice came back in, door swinging open and a chart in her hand. It turned out the results had come in from the biopsy. The next few moments were surreal. I was not sure I fully heard things correctly as I listened to her words… “the tumors were all benign…”!!!! B E N I G N (no cancer!!!)!
Life is not always easy and the news is not always good but I now realize that there are those things in life that matter and those that matter notably less. The ones that matter most are the ones worth our worry. The other stuff is all just part of the noise and should be tuned out.
It is the big wins that make the small losses seem insignificant and although It is unlikely we will ever win the lottery, with Buddy, we already did; he won’t be leaving us yet. There is just something about Buddy… and that something will always make us smile.