It’s not much of a life you’re living
It’s not just something you take, it’s given
Round and around and around and around we go
Ohhh now tell me now tell me now tell me now you know
Not really sure how to feel about it
Something in the way you move
Makes me feel like I can’t live without you
It takes me all the way
I want you to stay
-Lyrics from “Stay” by Rihanna
When I compare my life to a song by a battered and abused pop star, I know I’m in trouble. For the past few weeks, any time this song has come on the radio, it’s struck a nerve, a painful and excruciating nerve. I’ve always been addicted to music and while a beat is catchy, it’s the words that always get to me. This particular song hasn’t come on without leaving me with tears. A sad love song that I dedicate to my damn dog. Pathetic? Possibly.
What I thought was a sign that things were getting better has again turned into that throbbing emotion called sadness. Our “good days” were short-lived, only two if I want to be exact. It’s amazing how 48 hours of positivity can disappear so quickly and so completely, almost like it never existed at all. Was I imagining it all along?
Bowser is back to regurgitating whatever he eats and he’s tired, so very tired. His eyes say he’s miserable yet his heart still remains full of love and the need to console me, his best friend. His eyes bore into my soul and it feels like my heart is being ripped out. I can’t breathe and I can’t see through the stupid tears. It’s just a damn dog.
While the signs of Bowser’s failing health may be insignificant to some, they radiate to my very core. Walking in the door and seeing his toy box is still full and that he hasn’t touched any of them since I picked them up last night, hell… I may as well walk in and find him dead on the floor. No matter how sick he’s ever been, he’s still had to have his toys out and by his side. Even when he doesn’t feel up to playing, he’ll still lay his head on his furry little animals. To see them sitting neatly in his toy box, slobber free, it knocks the wind out of me. Even the cat knows something is up. I can’t count how many times I’ve seen her walk over to Bowser and lick the end of his nose. Then she stands and looks at him a moment before she walks away. I wonder if the cat will mourn when the damn dog is gone?
I talked to the vet tonight and he’s really concerned and he wants me to bring Bowser in and drop him off for a day of x-rays. His words, “I don’t know that there is much else that I can do.” replay over and over in my head. I asked him to explain this, to make me understand how we can go from a seemingly normal life to this, all within a few weeks. He told me that he doesn’t know and that it’s “definitely interesting”. I asked him again about the scope of Bowser’s esophagus and if he thought that it was a good idea given Bowser’s age, current condition and the fact that he had surgery a few weeks ago. The vet said, “It’s not good but I don’t know that we can do anything else.” The signs still point to the probability that the cancer has spread to his esophagus, which will eventually, close up completely. There’s a slim chance that these latest symptoms are unrelated to the cancer but then what?
So again I plea with the forces that be… please let him stay. I just want him to stay with me… I’m not ready to say “good-bye” to the damn dog, my best damn friend.
Since Bowser was diagnosed with cancer 8 days ago, I told myself that I was going to have to live in “the moment” and that every second of our remaining days together had to be perfect. Unfortunately, life and fate has other plans and I must say, I don’t like the interference one bit. Was it not enough that fate had to invade my life and give my best friend cancer? Bitter? Who me?
I promised that I would track Bowser’s progress so here is our update…
Bowser hasn’t been able to hold food down for days. His last regular meal was Thursday night. On Friday, he started vomiting any time he was given anything. And it didn’t take but a minute for the food to come right back up. He would eat and walk from our kitchen to the living room and immediately lose what he had eaten. By Sunday, I was at my wit’s end. I pulled out the Pepto and I gave him one pill, rolled up in a piece of turkey. When that stayed down, I followed it up with one saltine cracker. Yes, I gave my dog a cracker because he had an upset stomach. I didn’t know what else to do. After the cracker stayed down for at least 30 minutes, I gave him another one. Feeling a little hopeful, I sent Larry a text message and I asked him to bring home a rotisserie chicken for my boy. That evening, I pulled off enough chicken to make about one breast and I gave it to Bowser very slowly, piece by tiny piece, over the course of a few hours. Success! The chicken stayed down!
On Monday, I had meetings but I was planning on calling the vet as soon as I was done. When I walked out of my meeting and I picked up my phone to call them, I saw that I missed a call from their office. I called back to give them an update and to tell them what was happening. A short time later, the vet called me back and we discussed what was happening with Bowser. Based on my description, Dr. H thought of 2 possibilities. One was that Bowser just had an upset stomach and the last, was the suspicion that the cancer may have spread to Bowser’s esophagus or intestinal tract. Dr. H said that he wanted me to continue doing what I was and to follow-up with him the next morning.
Last night when I got home, I warmed up some more chicken and I slowly gave it to him over about an hour and a half. At one point, I thought that he was going to lose it but somehow, it managed to stay down. Another small success! He managed to eat about a cup of meat.
This morning, I was trying to get myself and the kids ready for school so I warmed up some chicken and I tore it in small pieces and placed it on a paper plate. Because I didn’t have the extra time to sit and feed him by hand, I held the plate while he took bites. When I thought that he was getting too much too quickly, I pulled the plate away. When it was all gone, I sat the plate down and I walked away. I made it to the bathroom before I heard the familiar sound of Bowser getting sick.
I called the vet this morning and Dr. H said that today’s description sounds a lot like his suspicion of yesterday, that Bowser’s cancer could have spread to his esophagus and that he could have a partial blockage. Water gets by okay and very small quantities of food can get by. When I feed small pieces or when Bowser drinks, it can slide by. When a larger amount or big bites are consumed, they are blocked and sent back out. So now we have 2 options. The first is to treat Bowser with Prednisone to see if inflammation may be causing the disruption and if so, hopefully we can get it under control. The second step is to send Bowser to Blue Pearl for his second surgical procedure in a few weeks. Dr. H recommends a scope and biopsy of the esophagus so we can see what is causing the problem.
No matter which route we go, we are still faced with the ultimate decision on how to handle the cancer. Bowser is 13 and he’s lived a full, long and happy life. Will he survive treatment? What will happen to his quality of life? Will he still be “Bowser”? Sadly, no one knows. That would be far too easy and life is never about “easy”.
I’ve received great support from my friends and the rescue community all over. Many have asked if I would set up a fundraising account because they would like to donate to help cover treatment. At this time, I’ve turned down the offers because I don’t want to take anyone’s money when I can’t even decide what I’m supposed to do. I keep looking to Bowser for answers but I haven’t gotten any, yet. He’s keeping quiet. As the sun sets on each day, I look to the stars and seek what I hope will be written there. By the time dawn comes, I’m exhausted and no closer to knowing anything. My heart aches, my eyes are raw from the tears and my hand reaches to scratch the ear of the brown mutt beside me. Right now, the only comfort I have is knowing he’s right here next to me, if even for the moment.
How hard it is to live in the moment when everything in life is screaming to run back to yesterday.
Lastly, I’m sending a big hug to my friend Allie who lost her beloved Gobo to cancer today. I know Gobo will be running and playing at The Bridge until his best friend Allie is ready to meet him some day far from now. My thoughts are with you Allie, Joe and Gobo.