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.
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.
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.
Oh my…what a beautifully written, heartbreaking post. I know we’ve never met, but I’ve loved following your adventures on your blog and on facebook. As I sit at my desk with tears streaming down my face, I’m in awe of your strength and determination to do what’s best for you boy and show him the most love possible in his days to come. Sending all three of you big hugs from Tucker, Ollie, and myself. You’ll continue to be in my thoughts and prayers.
Dearest Ashley, Tucker and Ollie – your reaching out and saying such lovely words means the world to us! Thank you!
While I don’t think I can “like” this post, I do love you and your crew. You have a legion behind you to lend strength and support.
We have 100%, always felt your love. Thank you!!!
I amazed at your strength and focus. What a phenomenal, loving life you’ve given to both Melvin and Jake. Although I do not know you personally, I am just certain that you’ll get through this with grace and composure, as you have all along. The love you all share is so evident. Keeping you in my prayers.
Thank you Wendy! For reaching out and for the prayers. It means so much!
I am lost for words that could come even close to relieving your pain. But, your words and this post is a beautiful expression of your love for Melvin. Clearly you will do the right thing at the right time for a painless and dignified exit. As my vet told me when I had to put down my first Golden, “the last give we can give our pets is to let them go with dignity”.
Hang in there.
What wise words from your vet. I really do think that the end (with humans or dogs) is the truest form of unconditional love. Thank you so much for reaching out and following along.
I have no words. Just sending you hugs. <3
Hugs are good, real good!
So devastating. I still vividly remember when my brother’s dog got the same diagnosis. You’re showing great grace and perspective under terrible circumstances.
I remember reading your brother’s story and thinking….how devestating. Please tell him that there is sea of empathy in my heart for him.
I love you Melvin….this has broken my heart you see two weeks ago my little dashhound just died with no warning and I still have not healed from this. I have a very strong love for animals especially dogs and I’m so so sorry that you have to go through this but Melvin know you love him and with you and jake by his side he will be ok. He will know that it is ok to go when the time comes. You are such an amazing person for loving them so much and so unconditionally,. May God stand at your side and hold your hand through it. God Bless you. Please kiss and hug Melvin and Jake for me.
Awwwww, my heart is breaking for you. I’m so sorry you lost your sweet little fur baby. Know that we will hold space for you in our prayers. Thank you so much for reaching out, even during such a sad time in your own life.
No words, I have no words except I adore you, I am sending you tons of hugs and love.
We feel it, always!!!
all. the. feels. Sending lots of love and hugs through the virtual world to you and your boys. Enjoy today. And marinate in the love.
Marinate in the love. Yes!!! That is exactly what we will do. Thank you!
No words from here as well. Just much love and lots of slurp for you and Melvin – and even Jake.
Thank you sweet friends!
It took me several attempts to make it through this post. Your pain is tangible and oh do I understand it. It took me back to the days when I lost my girl to cancer as well. I had to make the decision to let her go before I was ready, because in her case, she could break her leg at any moment (bone cancer), and I didn’t want that to be her last moments on earth. We had to let her go before that happened and it sucked. Big time. Having the appt scheduled and knowing exactly what time and date we were going to lose our baby ripped our hearts out. There are not enough “I’m sorrys” in this world. I just wanted to let you know you are not alone and so many people are holding you and your family in our hearts. Now I’m off to cry more for you.
You are so sweet. First off, I’m so sorry you had to lose your girl to cancer or to such incomprehensible decisions. I was with my dear friend when she got the same diagnosis for her dog, that she could trip and her bone(s) could shatter. Those are the impossible moments when only true love can guide you through.
Thank you for reaching out and for thinking of us. We have much empathy for you.
Sending hugs and lots of love for all of you.
Thank you so, so much!
I have no words, just know that I’m sending you all the love I can.
We feel it!!!! Thank you for always being there for us!
Don’t forget the nub. Never forget the nub.
How could I leave out the nub?!!!! Yes people, the nub indeed!!!!
I wish I had words to provide comfort, but more than that I wish I had something that could take this all away and restore Melvin’s health. We’re thinking of you – all three of you, and sending prayers for strength your way.
Thank you!!! Those would be some awesome super powers. Prayers mean so much to us..
Love you soul brother <3 Love you soul momma <3 More love.
Corbin & Jenn
Thank you my soul sister!
Sigh. How I wish I knew something to say, something to do, that would ease the pain of this awful diagnosis. But there’s nothing. I have all sorts of angry swear words built up inside me, and to say “cancer sucks” just isn’t enough. I think all of your readers have grown to “know” Melvin and Jake through your writing, and we can’t thank you enough for bringing them into our lives. Please know that we all adore Melvin, and we are thinking of you all and sending warm thoughts your way.
You reaching out means everything! But we are also accepting curse words if you promise to raise your fist in the air when you yell them! Thank you, for being you.
you said “it” real well for all of us. we go thru’ that (tho’ nowhere near as eloquently)periodically. sometimes i try to summarize (e.g., homage to dool) — but we hang on to what and whom we have and periodically have room for another …
Aww, thank you. Homage to drool, I just nodded.
Here I sit on the other side of the world, reading and crying through your post. I have been searching in my email feeds daily for a post, as I was to scared to come here directly if you had lost your beautiful soul mate pup. This morning, I read your post on my mobile phone, and then again online on my PC, and more tears. Tears for Melvin, tears for Jake, and tears for you – you who have done EVERYTHING you possibly can to help Melvin live the joyous life he deserves, to help him enjoy this last few weeks to the max ………. tears for you, struggling, but knowing you are not alone, and have US, us in the digital world giving you a virtual (((HUG))), and letting you know we are HERE, we can listen, and cry, and support you the best we can.
(((((hugs)))) to you all …………. Michelle
Michelle, thank you. THANK YOU! If you can feel my love for Melvin through my words, I can feel your support of our love through yours.
And just like that, Jack was allowed on the couch tonight. Thank you for sharing your story, and Melvin is so lucky to have you and Jake as family.
Tell Jack that Melvin says ‘you’re welcome buddy!’. We are lucky indeed.
You are in my thoughts.
Thank you so much.
I have been thinking of you and the boys and wondering how Melvin’s been doing. What beautiful words and what strength. Sending love and hugs your way, <3
Thank you! How are things going over there?? We have been thinking of you too.
I think what you have written is the most any of us could hope for….being in a joyful state until it is our time to go. Thank goodness you both found each other….you are blessed.
We are blessed, indeed.
I’m so sorry for you and your family! As difficult as it will be to say “good-bye” when the time comes, there is still time to say “I love you” and those are the words and actions that matter the most. Sending you love and positive energy as you face such a difficult time. Best wishes.
Yes, I agree. Having this time to shower him with love has been such a blessing.
So beautifully written and such heartfelt emotion, you brought tears to my eyes. Love and licks, hugs and snuggles to you, Melvin and Jake from me and my two black doggies xox
Thank you! We send love back to you!
For once, I’m at a loss for words…just know that I’m here if you need anything! Sending you tons of hugs and kisses and prayers.
Thanks Becky. Love you!
I am so sorry you’re going through this T! My heart is sad for all of you but I’m happy you have one another to make the most of this time. Praying for the impossible. So, so many hugs to you and lots of snuggles for Melvin and Jake!
Thank you Mariel! You are so sweet to reach out.
Hugs and positive vibes to all of you – we’ve never met, but I have read your blog for years and been thinking about you and your pack since Melvin’s diagnosis. Stay strong, much love!
Thank you Angela! Thank you for reaching out and for following along.