Let love win.

Since Melvin’s diagnosis, I feel a little like I’m living a version of the movie Groundhog Day. In this version, I’m reliving the day before a known pending apocalypse (a bit dramatic but you get the point). Every morning when I wake up I wonder if today will be our last day and each night I go to bed I say a worthy goodnight to my boy, in the event that night is the night. It’s an unfortunate reality.

Each day, I move forward a little bit , I gain clarity and strength while still maintaining the sadness and fear.  It’s odd how that is possible, to still be as frightened as day one but to feel as if I can absolutely see him through this. And then I realize, that is what love is.  It can break you, in the same moment that it lifts you up.

I’ve been thinking about where I’d like to donate to, once Melvin leaves us. Melvin has a little bank account that I set up in the case something happened to me. I mean he’s an awesome love-bug and people were in line to take him but dude has some pretty pricey medical issues and I always wanted him to have the best care, even if I wasn’t around to get it for him. My first impulse was to donate the money to cancer research, specifically hemagiosarcoma. But that hasn’t felt right (not that we don’t want a cure, TRUST ME, we want a cure). Here is our truth… cancer will only be a label in Melvin’s life for a few weeks. It took his nubbin longer to heal from the amputation than cancer will be a part of him. For that, I’m thankful. I’d obviously rather he live a long life, but in terms of how devastating cancer can be to the body, Melvin will avoid most of that. And even though cancer will be the reason he’s gone, it is not what defines the time he was here.

Love defines his life. Love and perseverance. He has faced seemingly insurmountable health issues, all the while wagging and bounding into the day with happiness.  Each and every setback, his joy multiplied. So in terms of donating in his memory, Jake and I will donate in the name of joy.  That is how we will carry on Melvin’s legacy, by paying happiness forward.

Where his life is concerned, we’ve already won. He almost didn’t live past age three and since then, he has had the most remarkable seven years.  He has been loved more than some experience in 70 years.  He inhales happiness and he exhales joy.  Cancer can’t ever change that.  And despite this new reality where I am faced with the knowledge, well he just wiggles and wags. I get the opportunity to do his last days right.  To give him even more love than he could have ever imagined. To not let frustration or annoyance steal any moments from us. To give him the best day, everyday that we have left.  That opportunity is rare. I am thankful we know.  It’s so much more than others with this cancer get.

I also get to plan ahead a little for Jake.  Jake has never been an only dog.  He was the second dog in his first life, the first dog was a yellow lab.  He was a foster-brother, to another yellow lab.  And well, he is now the yin to a yellow lab’s yang. So even though there are no more yellow lab brothers in his future (there could never be another), for Jake, I have taken a few of our favorite t-shirts and I have had Melvin lay on them.  I have wiped Melvin’s drool with those shirts, I have violated Melvin’s parts with those shirts, all for Jake.  So Jake will have Melvin’s scent and it will fade slowly, even when the visual of Melvin disappears more quickly than we’d like.  And one day, I have to believe, Jake will be a sidekick again. It’s a role he is born to play. IMG_3201

We’ve already won.

I’m still terrified, I’m still so sad (the messy, ugly sad where you give up on eye make-up and you let the tissue just hang out of your nose) — but our love always wins.  And these days with him, the love is palpable. The love is pure and endless and full of more love.

So at some point today, walk away from the interwebs, put the phone down, put the music on and dance. Let your dogs dance with you (or chase you like the crazy person you are)! And then, walk into the pantry, get the peanut butter out, smear some on your face and neck and lay on the floor with them.  I PROMISE you, happiness will ensue and love will win!

On that note, we are going to take a little break. In the meantime, I’ll keep you posted on our Facebook page. As always, thanks for following along!

With much love, Tracey, Melvin & Jake.

 

Monday with Jake.

Yo.  It’s Jake, remember me?  With all that is going on with Melvin I was worried you may have forgotten the ‘yo Jake’ part of this blog.

So my brother smells sad, and I guess she can smell it now too cause it makes her eyes drip.  Normally if she gets on the floor with us I’m charging her so I can get a good spot on her lap, but lately I have been giving her and my brother time alone.  It seems important to her and that makes it important to me.  In return, she has been letting me come up on the big bed at night so I have some time with my brother too.  It’s been awesome to fall asleep next to him!  Although oddly, each morning I wake up in my own bed.  Maybe it’s a dream.

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It’s not all sad.  Apparently Melvin needs to eat more so that means I get to eat more too! She says there is a diet in my future!  What is a diet? Is it delicious?  I can’t wait!

I’ve been training as a gymnast lately.  I can do full splits with my back legs! Sometimes I do a jazz split to mix up my routine. I still have not mastered getting out of the splits though, must need to work my core more.  I hope I get a leotard, I’d look so hot in a leotard.

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Anyway, just wanted you to know that I’m holding down the fort over here.  And she still carves out time for me each day.  I’ve been going on my own walks in my stroller, I rule this hood like a boss.  She says just wait til I take to streets on my other wheels, I think she got me a motorcycle!  I am such a badass.

Over and out, Jake (the best little bro ever. modest too.)

IMG_1709 PS.  She said to mention that she is working the Pet Expo this weekend in Chantilly, VA.  If any of you are local, stop by the French Bulldog Rescue booth, she might be there.  I apparently will not be there since I am a menace to other dogs. Whatever.

The kindness of many.

The outpouring of support for Melvin and I has been humbling.  From the comments on Facebook and the blog, to the private messages and emails, the texts and phones calls. We are truly blessed.  It is impossible to feel alone in this, we are surrounded by the best of all the people.

A few shout outs..

  • Chick’s person reaching out with complete empathy having gone several weeks thinking they had the same diagnosis.  I felt better knowing someone knew what I was feeling and she had great insight on dietary changes to implement.
  • Turk’s person, who is still dealing with her own grief, checking in daily.
  • Moby’s person, who knows all too well how hard a cancer diagnosis is, always reaching out at just the right moment
  • Kate, who when I asked if she could come snap some photos of Melvin and I, didn’t waste one minute, she showed up only days later
  • Another ‘Oh’ blog mom who is facing cancer with two of her dog reaching out to let me know she is here for me, so now we are here and there for each other.
  • Jenn, our soul blog/dog/mama being there, always.
  • Morgan, who doesn’t know it but her messages come in the exact moment i need a ‘ding’
  • Deb, who doesn’t pray, but prayed for us.
  • Jen, for sending support from the farthest away and always making it seem like she is right here.
  • For Mazzie’s person, giving me pep talks at midnight
  • and Kelly, for strategizing how she could help from three hours away.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.  I can never, ever, thank you enough.

There are so many more, if I neglected to mention you, know that it’s due to my brain not functioning properly, not because I don’t feel you holding me up.  I most certainly do.

Our story of kindness of today: The vet called in a prescription to a local pharmacy and I went in the next day to pick it up. For some reason it didn’t get filled and they were all trying to find out why.  Finally a woman came up to me, and in a low voice said, “the prescription costs $320 and since it’s for a dog, we didn’t fill it because we didn’t know if you wanted to pay that much”.

I paused and thought HOLD THE TEARS IN, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD JUST TALK NORMAL.  I said, “he’s nearing the end, so there is really no amount I won’t pay to make him comfortable“.  My voice cracked, tears filled my eyes.  She smiled, whispered she was sorry and said they’d fill it right away.  I stepped aside and about five minutes later the head pharmacist came out.  I now the head pharmacist because when you have migraines and a strange blood clotting disorder, you stand in line at the pharmacy A LOT.

She said, ‘every week you are here, smiling, asking us how we are doing.  It breaks our heart to hear about Melvin and to see you so sad.  We are going to pray for Melvin and for you.  And in the meantime, we had a coupon for the medication’.  She then handed me the bottle and sent me on my way.

No words.  Just deep gratitude for you all.

From this guy too. IMG_0882

And this guy, who just finished his shift at the meatball factory.  IMG_1918

Sorry for the radio silence, we needed a moment.

One of the first questions the vet asked me when I brought newly adopted (hairless, itchy, allergic to earth, infection riddled) Melvin in was (and this was to gauge the medicinal road we would travel), do you want his life to be measured in quality of life or quantity of days. 

My response was, I want his life to measured in joy.

The past (not even) two weeks have been a nightmare. We wished him a happy birthday and the next day we were getting an ultrasound and I heard the term hemangiosarcoma for the very first time. As I was gasping for air, in utter shock, I somehow asked, how long does he have?

Could be days, maybe a month or two.

We got that CT 40 minutes from our house. I have no idea how we got home. I immediately googled it. I joined a support group for parents with dogs that have hemangiosarcoma. All of the words I read were terrible. Grave prognosis. My healthy dog collapsed suddenly and died. My dog lived one week post diagnosis. There were some dogs who lived a little longer, if it was found in their spleen.  Melvin’s started in his liver.

Please God, do not let this be happening.

The next week, I barely slept. I cried more in that week then I have in the last five years. I could barely take my eyes off of him. I was so terrified he’d…disappear. I would wait until he was tucked into bed and take the fastest shower. I would run out of the bathroom dripping wet to make sure he was still alive. I refused to leave the house. So many of the stories were ‘collapsed and then gone‘.

Hold onto him.

The vets said in all ways but one, this is the worst of the cancers. (In my opinion, they all suck the same). This one just happens to be the most aggressive, and unrelenting. There is no cure. There are barely any symptoms so by the time you catch it (if you catch it before death), your prognosis is short. The culprit, the tumors grow rapidly, they fill with blood. The tumors bleed and the cancer spreads. Eventually, the tumors grow so big, they burst. And the dog dies. The one thing that doesn’t make it the worst is that it’s not terribly painful, probably until it hits the lungs.

Why is this happening?

Eventually I had to leave the house. It was horrible. Not just being gone and terrified but coming home and having him wiggle with delight only for him to see me burst into more tears. The depth of emotion has been relentless. He’s lost ten pounds, despite getting a lot of extra food.  He tires easily and the tumor is pretty big so it takes a while for him to get comfortable laying down. But other than that, he’s pretty normal. It’s impossible for me to believe he could go at any time.

He still feels joy.

It took a week to get in to see the oncologist. In the meantime we had a chest X-ray done to check for metastasis. The lungs looked clear. The oncologist found two things to seem positive. One, aside from his liver values, his blood work was great. Two, his liver tumor was so big that if it was hemangiosarcima, they would have thought it would have ruptured by now.

I had hope. I felt capable again. There was finally something we could do. A CT scan to see if surgery could buy us more than days.

Hope is hope.

I got the phone call this past Thursday evening. I knew it was bad when she asked how we were enjoying the weather. She said the cancer had spread. Despite the X-ray saying otherwise, the CT showed it is in his lungs. And there are more, large tumors in his liver. There was nothing they could do. Melvin has terminal cancer. I felt as if all the air was gone. While she didn’t expect him to die this past weekend, there were no guarantees. That large tumor, the one they thought was too big to be this cancer, well it is this cancer, so… it will rupture. In the meantime, the lung part will eventually start to cause discomfort.

We don’t have much time. We have crisis pills on hand should he collapse, they could slow the bleeding down to buy us a little time to get him to the vet. Typing that does not make it more real. Our holistic vet got us some herbs for us to give him the best general well-being that we can, like energy and balance.  And we are continuing the daily doses of Yunnan Baiyao – the Chinese herb that promotes clotting.  The very first thing they tell you when you get this diagnosis is to stock up on that.

In the meantime, the support group fills up with stories all day of dogs that lost their battle. No one seems to win this war. I want to post on all those how sorry I am. But the truth is, I don’t want to be part of this group. But that is not who I am, I don’t run away.  So I post, and I feel their sorrow and shock and it’s heartbreaking.

The hardest part (aside from the thought of losing him) is that since day one with Melvin, we have been handed health issues and we have strategized and researched and fixed those issues. Time after time after time. We went to the vet 700 times to end up with a cancer with no treatment options. That hurts in a way I can’t put into words. But I know this, we didn’t go through all that to have his life end in crises. To have him collapse and watch as I panic and lose control and freak out. And I would never let him suffer. I just have to find a place between then and now to let him go.

This is my little family.

We chose joy.

For today, well for today both Melvin and I have to ‘live’.  I am trying to not worry so much about what I am supposed to do.  The only protocol right now is love. I have lifted all household rules.  Barking, bring it!  Stopping to turn back to see that I’m behind you and making me fall down, yes please! Regurgitating on my lap, thank you sir may I have another!  It’s actually amazing all the things I found frustrating and annoying when I thought time was on our side.

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I’m happy that I have the opportunity to shower him with (even more) love and adoration and I’m certain that even if I didn’t say it, he feels it. It surrounds him like a cocoon.

And then there is Jake. Jake’s truest love in life is Melvin. I have to get them both through this. 

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There are moments that Melvin looks at me and I know he knows.  I whisper to him that I’m here.  That is the best thing you can do in life, show up and be present. 

Here is the thing that you guys should know, hemangiosarcoma is not the end of our story.  Cancer is just a chapter towards the end of this book.  And although we didn’t get to choose this chapter, we sure as hell can pen the poetry.  Love lives on, and as sure as I am that Melvin and I will find our way forward through this, I also have deep and true faith we will find our way back to each another one day. And Jake and I will find a way to pay our love for Melvin forward. One day, probably not today though. Today we snuggle

Thank you to all who have prayed, sent good vibes, reached out and showed up. I am so honored that you save space for our story. I’m stronger for all of you. I’m better because of each of you. Melvin thanks you.  

We’ll keep you posted. And while it’s easier to focus on what’s to come, let’s instead remember what has led us to this day.  His beautiful life, his soulful existence, his delicious jowls, his giant block head and the love.  All of the incredible love.  Cancer can never rupture the love. Love always lives on. 

 He is my love. 

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The simple moments.

Because our oncologist appointment got cancelled due to snow, we don’t go until Tuesday. One week post diagnosis of a cancer who’s prognosis is given in days. Eternity.  So as worry and overwhelming thoughts take over and lack of sleep combined with so many answerless questions…well just insert lots of crying here.

Then yesterday I watched the boys hunker down for a nap together.  And I although I could have been sad that those moments are going to be few, I was actually filled with happiness and joy.  Because them snuggling up, we did that. We work at being a loving and happy family and not only was this moment I watched perfection, I had my phone with me, I pushed record and no one woke up. It was lovely.

Then all of sudden, Melvin lifts his arm up over Jake, I swoooooooooon!! PS: if you turn your volume up, Jake’s snoring should make you laugh (or at least smile!).

Who knew.

After the initial few minutes of shock, I asked the vet what caused the cancer. Was it something I did, how long had he had it, did I miss a sign. (In hindsight, I now know that some of the things I saw were not just him turning ten). She assured me that he was almost certainly genetically predisposed, he was likely always going to get it and it comes on so fast that most owners don’t even know the dog has it until they are gone. The dogs remain happy, bouncy and energetic, only showing some lethargy when the bleeds start. It’s almost impossible to ‘know’. If it’s possible to feel better at a moment like that, it did help.

But last night at 4 am, I realized the fact is, someone did know.IMG_2467 IMG_1738 IMG_2075 IMG_2273 IMG_0474 IMG_9784 IMG_2445 IMG_2449 IMG_2077 IMG_2209 IMG_2276 IMG_1943

All of these photos that I joked were Jake stalking Melvin, were taken in the last month or so.  Before that, although he loved on Melvin every chance he got, the photos were different, more of him snuggling with Melvin. These are much more Jake watching over Melvin. This is one of those moments I find happiness in.  Having lived a life where I am so in tune with Melvin, I’m so happy that the one time I didn’t get obvious early warnings, Jake stepped in.  Dogs don’t speak human, but I have no doubt that the two of them were leaning on each other, patiently waiting until the moment I caught up.

Brotherhood is spectacular! Do not see sadness in this post, see family at it’s finest.

PS. As for yesterday’s post…Thank You. For every comment, for every text, phone call, email and chat. Many of you who reached out have suffered unimaginable loss… mothers, fathers, spouses, children; I appreciate you taking the time to let this moment of mine stand for a minute with all the sad realities in life. I read each comment, paused and felt so incredibly grateful.

Melvin is doing well this morning and Jake is snoring.  It’s snowing like crazy outside so we are forced into a day of snuggling. Can’t ask for more in this moment.

Life is short, but sweet for certain.

Despite my inability to accept it, it appears that Melvin’s time with us will be cut short. I am caught between heartbroken and ridiculously grateful that he is mine.  Heartbroken wins out most moments but when I look at him, I’m so proud of our life together.  And I’m honored to love him and I’ll be honored to be there for him at his end.

But mostly, I am just crying.

Melvin has been diagnosed with Hemangiosarcoma.  It’s in his liver. He has one large tumor and several smaller ones.  It is a very aggressive cancer.  Most owners do not know their dog has this type of cancer until the dog dies, suddenly.  I’m glad we know.   I was in the room when they were doing the ultrasound. It was the day after his birthday.  The Dr. said: I’m so sorry, I have terrible news.

‘Terrible’ was not a strong enough word. After all we have been through, this is just not how I saw our end playing out.

We have spoken to two vets and from what I understand, eventually the large tumor will rupture.  There will be a few warning signs but apparently it will happen rather quickly, and it could happen at any time. Surgery and chemo do not look to be options but we are still seeking all doctors who may know otherwise. Right now I just stare at him non-stop. And since he is always aware of me, he stares back.  Jake stares at us both, at the same time.

So to sum it up, it sucks.

Please know that this community of readers, and bloggers and virtual friends gives me strength and I’m super thankful and stronger knowing you are here, there, wherever you are.  We are going to live in the now, have as many moments together as we can.  Jake will love it, Melvin will tolerate and I will soak in every moment, every touch, every glance. I could not love him more, but in the coming days, I will certainly try. It’s sad, but this is life.  And all we can do is make the most of it.  The good news, yes shockingly there is good news, is that this type of cancer is not known to be painful.  He most certainly does not feel good, but he is not in pain. And when the time comes, I’ve been told it will be quick and he should be relatively comfortable.

I would never let him suffer.

We are accepting prayers for miracles, always!  Keep those coming.  Since finding out yesterday, I have spent a great amount of time crying and trying to make sense of it all. But this afternoon I am taking deep breaths and thinking that miracles happen all the time.  I mean a miracle sent me Melvin, so you really never know! We see a specialist on Tuesday. Third opinion could always be the charm!

With love, us.