Cancer Sucks.

Need I say more?

I think I’ve talked about this before, how when you’re diagnosed with cancer, you seem to realize how many people around you have or have had cancer. It’s a horrible, horrible number, which is why I will probably volunteer and raise funds for cancer organizations for the rest of my life. We seriously NEED a world without cancer, and if I can put even the tiniest dent in that goal, I will.

In recent months, I’ve had two friends diagnosed with cancer. In the past year, another one of my friends joined the ranks, and prior to my diagnosis, another friend had started his fight with cancer. These are people who are my age…mid to late 30s. There have been other people I’ve been acquainted with or told about over the last couple years who have been diagnosed, too, varying ages. It’s just crazy how widespread this disease is. It’s crazy and so damn frustrating.

It makes me mad that cancer doesn’t care that these people have friends and family who love them. That they are good people just trying to make it through life and do the best they can. Between the four people I mentioned, there are nine kids who have to watch their parent struggle in one way or another. Two of those friends are in the hospital, one is home recovering from surgery, and the other one is going for radiation this week. I’m sure every single one of them has shouted at the top of their lungs, “Give me a break!!!” I know I did at least once during my fight.

Sometimes when I hear of the struggles others with cancer are going through, I feel guilty. I feel like I got off easy, you know? Deep down, I know that’s not true. I know my body fought hard through chemo and recovery from my bazillion surgeries. I know my body was so weak and I had to rebuild my strength. I know it wasn’t easy when everything was happening, that I looked and felt like shit, but it’s so easy to look back and say, “What I went through wasn’t so bad,” when I see my friends being hospitalized because their bodies are being beaten down by their diseases. When I see them going through it longer than I went through it. My treatment was short. I was never hospitalized. My side effects were always pretty manageable with medications.

My fight is over and I feel great. And sometimes I feel guilty for that, and I think that’s an OK think to feel. I think that’s normal. Survivor’s guilt, in a sense?

Anyway…Barkley is absolutely fantastic and if you have Instagram, you should follow his shenanigans at @sirbarkleyelkins It’s mostly pictures of him sleeping because he’s a pup and that’s what he does, but he’s ADORABLE! And tomorrow he is 7 weeks!

Our family grew by four feet!

First, thanks to the friends who reached out on Friday. I was feeling pretty blue, and you all made me feel better. We all have those days when we feel terrible about everything, and that was me on Friday. Everything sucked. I napped, exercised, and had dinner at Cici’s Pizza. It was perfect.

But now, drumroll please…

This is Sir Barkley “the Trash Panda” Elkins. What’s with the name? Lemme break it down for you.

Sir Barkley is for Charles Barkley because this little guy is our rebound dog and Charles Barkley was a rebound dude. And Trash Panda is a Guardians of the Galaxy thing…Drax calls Rocket (raccoon) a trash panda. Our Barkley has a mask over his eyes, like a raccoon or a panda.

Barkley is a chihuahua blue heeler mix. He’s 5 weeks old. His mom stopped nursing, which is why he was released earlier than puppies usually are. He is a little ball of energy who goes bananas for 30 minutes to an hour, then crashes for 30 minutes to two hours.

We are feeding him powdered puppy milk and he was getting some watered down dry puppy food. He prefers the puppy milk, though. We’re going to keep trying the puppy food every now and then.

He’s playful and handsome and stealing the hearts of everyone he meets. He fits in the palm our hand. He’s also very smart. He loves his toys and hates his crate.

He’s a momma’s boy. When he hears my voice or sees me, he takes off after me. It’s the absolute sweetest thing, if I do say so myself. Daisy was a daddy’s girl, so it fits that this little man is a momma’s girl.

I’ve been calling him a Puppy McNugget since he’s so small. His mom was typical chihuahua size and his dad was about knee-high, so he’ll be somewhere between, which was about Daisy’s size, too, which is perfect.

We’re happy to have him, and we see things in him that make us think Daisy would approve. We fully intend on spoiling him rotten and capturing every moment. Brad joked that we should start an Instagram for him. I guess we’ll see. I have one I barely remember to use, so maybe we’ll just use that. He goes for his vaccinations in a week. Wish him luck!

As for me…I’m getting some teeth yanked on Friday, so wish me luck! We’re supposed to go to see Old Dominion, but I’ll have had IV anesthesia so we’ll see if I can join. Talk about crappy timing…

Today isn’t a good day, and that’s OK.

I put on a brave face and a smile 90% of the time. Then there’s that 10% of time when I perseverate on everything that has ever gone wrong in my life. I’m not alone in this, I’m sure. I think everyone has one of those days when everything sucks and they just want to crawl back into bed and stay there.

Today is that day for me. I felt it coming on yesterday, but couldn’t do much about it. I tried to exercise it off, but that didn’t help. Now I’m going to try to write it out.

Before Brad and I got married, we talked about wanting to have lots of kids. We both have a few siblings and we wanted our kids to have siblings, too. Unfortunately for us, we struggled with infertility. We found the bright side, though. We saw it as a sign that we were meant to adopt kids. We’d enjoy just being us for a few years (and we did enjoy it!) and then we’d look into adoption. But that was still a huge emotional hit. The one thing we wanted and planned for was crushed, no matter the silver lining.

Life was good, but for whatever reason, we kept taking hits. All three of our cats passed within a year of each other from unrelated illnesses. Loco, Buster, then Phantom. It was horrible. We were so sad. We reasoned it out because they were older and it was “their time,” but that didn’t take the suck out of it. With each passing fur-kid, we said “we still have X,” and so on.

Then I got cancer. I mean seriously, who did we piss off? I don’t really think I need to expand on that, this blog has said enough.

I took a step back from work because I was so sick and then I had my surgeries, and we took a huge financial hit. Our savings account was empty and we couldn’t find any assistance. We couldn’t self-sustain any longer. We had to move out of our home and in with my parents. We were lucky to have that opportunity, but imagine being 36 and having to move in with your parents. Also, imagine losing almost all of your autonomy while you’re at it?

The hits just keep on coming. 2019 started off with a bang by us losing Daisy. It was horrible. It still is. Every day it sucks a little more, but we’re managing. We still see her everywhere, look for her everywhere. It sucks.

Brad and I have talked about this and, some days, it feels like we have lost everything. These have been some of the worst years of our lives. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve had good times…we’ve been blessed by so many things…(I’m alive, yay!!)…but things have also sucked a lot.

So I’m not having a good day.
And that’s OK.

We’re getting ready for a new beginning.

It’s the little things

I think I’ve used this title on a post before, but it still apples! It always applies. Sometimes the littlest things mean so much.

The polish on my toes had faded pretty badly, it was also Christmas themed, so ta-da! I went with something bright and sparkly, something happy that would remind me that spring is coming.

It also reminded me that I am badly in need of a pedicure. Chemo dried out my skin so horribly and I swear my feet suffered the brunt of that. They’ve also become super sensitive and ticklish, so having someone touch them is going to be interesting. In the meantime, I’m gonna get my foot bath out of storage and soak in some Epsom salts.

Phrase of the year

I’ve seen a lot of my friends post on their blogs or on social media that they have discovered their word of the year. It’s a word they’ve chosen (or a word that has chosen them) that will guide them throughout the year.

Well, I’m not sure about a word, but I’ve found a phrase that I’m pretty sure defines me.

“She believed she could, so she did.”

What does this mean to me? Exactly what it says. If I believe I can do something, I do it. I’m not wishy washy about it, I’m confident. If it fails then it fails, but at least I tried.

  • I believed I could write, so I did.
  • I believed I could raise money for a cause, so I did.
  • I believed I could become a BCBA, so I did (in process).
  • I believed I could organize a major fundraising event, so I did.

I’m not sure if this phrase could equate to just one word. I keep thinking something like “determination” or “unstoppable” or “fearless.” But those words can mean so many different things, and I feel like this phrase leaves no room for interpretation. It’s straightforward, and I like that about it because I’m also straightforward.

Anyway, do you have a word or phrase of the year? Or if your life? Do share.

Parting is such sweet sorrow…

It may be cliché to say that, but I honestly can’t think of a better way to describe how I felt letting Daisy go yesterday. People said she’d let us know when she was ready, and she sure did. She was a dog with so much spirit, and it was just gone.

This is how we will forever remember our girl…

I can’t say enough good things about Charleston Veterinary Referral Center. From when we took Daisy for a late night ER visit, to the oncology department who helped evaluate her and keep her comfortable and deal with my incessant canine cancer questions, and finally to the evening ER visit last night…they were absolutely wonderful. I honestly don’t think Brad and I would have made it through last night if it wasn’t for them. It was different from any other veterinary experience I’ve ever had with her or any other pet. Hell, they were better than a lot of human doctors I’ve met. They are compassion, plain and simple.

Brad and I got to hold her and rock her, and she fell asleep in our arms. We were the last thing she saw before she closed her eyes. She was snoring peacefully and looked like the little snoozing baby dog we remembered. The doctor took her to the back to put her fully at rest; we weren’t sure we could handle that. I mean we’re pretty strong people, but we’re not that strong.

As difficult as it was to make that decision, we knew it’s what she needed and, among the emptiness in our hearts, we feel an odd sense of peace, too, because we know she’s at rest. She’s probably playing with her friends and fur-siblings on the other side. She was always a happy dog, and she always bounced back, and I have no doubt she’s causing some trouble as we speak.

She was the best girl and she’ll forever be in our hearts, and the hearts of those who knew her and loved her. Thanks for all the kind words. ❤

Daisy Update

I realize I sort of left everyone hanging about Daisy, and for that I apologize. It was a busy week dealing with the start of a new semester at work and an ailing dog.

So we’re doing supportive care and she’s hanging in there. She has meds similar to what I had when I had cancer: steroid, pain killer, anti-nausea, and anti-diarrheal.

She hasn’t been eating voluntarily, so we’ve been using our NutriBullet to grind up some food and vitamins into mush that we can put in a small medicine syringe and squirt in her mouth. She’s been drinking a lot of water, and when she’s a bit doped up, we use the syringe for that as well. She mostly sleeps and chills out, checking things out.

We had a ultrasound guided aspirate done (biopsy) and the pathology came back with her tumors most likely being hemangiosarcoma. It’s not what we wanted to hear as we were hoping for a lymphoma that could be quickly treated with chemotherapy.

Hemangiosarcoma can be a hit or miss with chemotherapy as sometimes it responds well and quickly, and sometimes it does not. The other difficult part is that the fine needle aspirate is only able to sample a small part of her liver, so it’s not representative of the entire thing.

We’ve decided to try one round of chemotherapy to see if there are any positive changes. Her oncologist said we would definitely be able to tell after one round of chemotherapy, maybe two weeks time, if the chemotherapy is helping. She’ll be going in on Wednesday morning, so please keep her (and us) in your thoughts.

Chemotherapy for dogs is much different than chemotherapy for humans. According to the vet, dogs handle the drugs much better than humans do, and the side effects are usually just nausea and diarrhea, which we are already treating her for. So hopefully she’ll feel minimal changes/ discomfort there. She also may have metabolites in her feces, so for the first few days following chemotherapy, we will need to use gloves when cleaning up after her number twos.

This is sort of our “Hail Mary,” last ditch effort to see if she can be treated before we make the decision to rely solely on supportive care. Every day she shows a little bit of the feisty personality we know and love, so we want to give her a chance to kick this, even if that chance is small.

Daisy: Bad to Worse

You know, they don’t tell you about this part of being a pet parent. You may be well-versed in the concept of life and death, but when you spot that tiny black and white blob of fur and ears, you don’t think about how she’s gonna go.

I’ll skip the details and just share the specifics.

We took her back to the emergency vet last night, this time a different one. Her abdomen was still distended and hard, and she hadn’t had a bowel movement in over 24 hours.

Diagnosis: she has a 6cm mass on her spleen and an 8cm mass on her liver, as well as multiple other masses throughout all lobes of her liver.

The options suck.

Surgery is no good because while they can remove the spleen, they can’t do anything with the liver since it’s all over the liver. I even asked about liver transplants, but that’s not an option for dogs.

Chemotherapy may not improve her quality of life since she’s already feeling bad and side effects can be miserable. It would also depend on the type of mass as some are not responsive to chemo, including the type they suspect she has.

So supportive care is the best option in terms of doing something…and that’s basically like hospice for dogs. The other option, of course, is putting her down, which is in unfathomable right now.

I hate this so much. I wasn’t this emotionally wrecked at any point during my cancer diagnosis and treatment. No lie. I dove into all that head first, but this? I want to run away to a land where cancer in dogs doesn’t exist.

I don’t know what to do. Logically, I know what the most humane thing to do is. Illogically, I’m wondering if she’d want the opportunity to kick cancer’s ass like her momma did. I’m wanting to selfishly eke out more time with her because I’m not ready for this.

Some may be thinking, “She’s just a dog!” Then stop reading. She may be a dog, but to two people who can’t have children, she’s their child. We’ve raised her for more than 12 years. She’s our baby.

Having to make a choice regarding the life or death of a loved one is absolutely agonizing. I would rather go through everything I went through with breast cancer again than have to go through this. I’m not even kidding. This is so hard.

Anyway, she’s pretty lethargic from the comfort meds. She’s not the same Daisy right now, and she probably won’t be again, I know that. Brad’s been at work all day, so he hasn’t seen her yet today. Just keep us in your thoughts as we make literally the most awful decision of our lives.

Happy New Year!

2019. It’s gonna be a great year. Lots of good things.

However, it’s off to a rough start.

First of all, Merry Christmas! I hope you had a wonderful holiday, I did. Brad and I spent the holiday with his family, and we went to the Festival of Lights, too. Here’s one of my faves this year.

After Christmas, I ended up with a stomach bug that lasted straight through Friday. It was glorious.

We went to the South Carolina Gamecocks bowl game in Charlotte over the weekend. Our seats were in the sky and the team lost miserably, but it was an experience I can cross off our 101 list, so that was pretty cool.

See that concrete wall a few rows behind us, behind that girl? That’s the back of the stadium. That’s how high up we were. I had about 15 minutes of vertigo/anxiety when we first arrived because I felt like I was going to fall the heck down.

Also, there was a little excitement in the nosebleeds. I didn’t see all of it, but from what I heard, some UVA fans were celebrating an interception and spilled some beer on some people in front of them, including some kids, and the father said something, and the UVA fan lady dumped her drink over his head. That I did see. Needless to say, security came and threw the UVA fans out.

On the way back from Charlotte, I ended up with a sore throat and fever. Body aches were insane. Being stuck in the car three hours was pure torture.

The sore throat stuck with me through New Year’s Eve, which was really fun since I had some great drinking games planned. I sat sober on the couch while everyone else partied, which is fine but it still sucked. For me anyway.

And guess what? I still have a fever. And guess what else? I’m pretty sure it might possibly be strep due to the white spots on my tonsils. Hooray!

Oh, and I can’t forget the other New Year doozy. We had to take Daisy to the emergency vet because she has had diarrhea and a distended stomach and was also very lethargic. Turns out it’s nothing serious, thank God, and she’ll be on some antibiotics and a special diet for a few days.

So tomorrow I’ll be heading to the doc. I should have figured it was more than a cold when days passed and I still had a fever a horrible sore throat. I mean, I can barely swallow solid food and it’s not getting any better. Boo!

So that was the end of my 2018 and the beginning of my 2019. It can only get better!

Right?!?!