Denial – it’s lovely here, come visit.

Sorry for the lack of updates. I was opting to live in some denial, which is difficult to do on the blog.

For example, when anyone asks me how long Jake has, I say six months. I still say six months, even though it’s been a few months since we got that prognosis. February 13th to be exact. Since Melvin’s cancer prognosis was in days, being able to say and hold onto months feels like such a long, short time. And since it is really anyone’s guess, six months is not a lie.

Then, we saw the oncologist again. Jake’s cancer leg is now not working, at all.  In fact, that leg is making his hind right leg look like it could go to the Olympics.  His cancer leg is in the back on the left, yet it drags sideways to the right, so his stronger-weak right leg has to ‘jump’ over it with every step.

Why universe? Why?

When discussing this with the oncologist, that clearly his cancer leg is his weak link, she shared concerns that perhaps the radiation did not benefit Jake as much as they hoped.

Wait. Stop. Pretend like you didn’t hear her.

Is that even a thing? That radiation wouldn’t work. I mean I guess it could be, she’s saying it but I just sort of thought it was a given.

She said if the radiation helped him, his cancer leg should not be weaker, it should in fact be a bit stronger. (I had thought radiation would just do its magic internally and slow the cancer down, his leg being better was not something I expected so this was a surprise to me). If nothing else, she said it should have stayed the same.

Pretend like you never came today.  Go home and continue saying six months. 

I asked what that did to our timeline, if perhaps the stupid radiation did not do its freakin job. She said, let’s wait and see.  That in some humans who have his form of radiation, there is residual swelling of the tumor for as long as 8 weeks (which in theory could make his leg weaker and then it could bounce back).  I sensed she leapt into denial-land when she said that but I was happy to have company and we decided to wait and see.  We are currently at just over six weeks since radiation.

The important thing is that his pain is under control.  He is comfortable, he is still moving around (with the new back leg drag/hop), he is still eating, he still has joy in his eye (hamburger eye does not really show that much emotion!). Those are my metrics.

We could do another scan to see what’s going on but I don’t plan to do that. I don’t need to see his cancer.  Knowing it’s there is enough. We are still resting our fate on love and joy and he is doing just fine in that area, so our infinite six months still stands.

Here is my little monkey, and his wonky, crazy legs.

Taking a break on his way out back. IMG_8291

Sitting pretty in pink. IMG_8283

Notice my expert wrapping job of cancer legs foot.  That paw stays scraped up and bloody.  We have tried every sock and baby booty known to man.  I kid you not, we have hundreds of socks, shoes and booties.  Nothing stays on him. Gauze, vet tape and Animax are our best friends. IMG_8280

Keeping watch from the shade. IMG_8331

 

Update on Jake.

At Jake’s Oncology appointment, the oncologist was deciding how our future visits should go. She suggested that we be seen every three weeks, but alternate between oncology and neurology. Every three weeks took me by surprise, to see either of them. I was extra confused about why we would go to see neurology (at all). They had pretty much said ‘good luck’ (in the best possible way), as there are no treatment options for Jake’s spinal condition. We do laser therapy and electroacupuncture to help his good parts, but from a neuro standpoint, their work is done. So I asked: ‘I was told there was nothing they can do, why would we see them’. Her reason for suggesting we switch off between oncology and neurology is that they (the medical team) might not know for sure what is the cancer spreading and what is his spine when in comes to decline. So I challenged: “his spinal condition is not painful, in fact it helps some with pain since he has limited feeling in some parts. But his cancer is known to be painful, often very painful. So won’t pain be an indication”. She said, it should be.

I then did what I often do when it comes to making hard decisions for the boys, I took the lead: ‘I’m not going to be looking to you or neurology for guidance on when it is the right time to let Jake go. I will know.’ I said it so matter-of-factly, it caused her pause. And then I think it caused (her) relief.

Our regular vet and I have a system. She tells me when we have done all we can medically, and I take that knowledge and add it to what I know. For me, once we have done all that we can, the question is no longer medical. The decision is based on the science of love and joy. From the day I took all three dogs in I made them a promise to do right with the power to make decisions for them. We do this daily for our dogs, but when it comes to this last decision, well nothing feels so insurmountable.

So pain will be an indicator.  Also, Jake’s cancer is at the bottom of his spine and extends down his left hind leg.  So deterioration in that leg only will be a sign.  Also, since it’s a soft tissue cancer, it may invade his bladder or colon so if he stops being able to go potty, that will be a sign.

No one wants to think about these things but for us, in order to not dwell on it 24/7, we have to outline the medical parameters so we can get on with the joyful task of living. It’s definitely a challenge to not mourn them while they are still alive, but with Jake, I’m trying to save all that for later (or at least until the middle of the night once he’s asleep).

The only thing we dwell on right now is how much peanut butter we have left.

Woman, put peanut butter in my belly right now! IMG_8221

Hey, brother.

Dear Melvin…I miss you. I mean like, I really miss you, not just your butt. She said it was a year ago that we said goodbye, I don’t understand the concept of time but it feels more like seven years, am I right?

I looked for you, for weeks.  I would howl in case you were lost and needed to hear my sweet Barry White voice to find your way back.  She and I were really sad.  I couldn’t even be around her because she reminded me of you.  I think she felt the same way about me. Eventually I had to stop being alone and start being there for her, just like you told me I would need to be. I try to love her as much as you love her, I think it’s working. She laughs a lot more now.

Lately, she has started saying, ‘you can’t go see your brother yet…’.  Wait, what? Is going to see you an option?  Truth is, I see you all the time. Like every time a sunspot shows up.  Or when I’m outside and the breeze blows my beautiful hairs around, it’s you.

She tried to bring me other brothers. She is funny.  I sent them packing.  I know, I know, you believe in ‘give peace a chance’ and no one appreciates that about you more than me. It’s why I am still alive.  But you know me, I shoot first and ask one question later: “Are you Melvin? No? Then GET OUT!”. I pledge allegiance to the brotherhood of Melvin and Jake.

You are my true love. You made me feel like Super Jake. You always loved me just as a I was. Losing you hurt real bad. I’m going to try to stay with her for a little while longer, she needs to soak in some more Jake awesomeness, but something tells me I may see you soon.  It’s going to be the most epic reunion ever! When I see you, I will run so fast with all my legs and I will jump straight into you! You might want to get protective padding.

It’s you and me and her. She says she wouldn’t change a single thing and I agree. We love you and miss you but are way more better for having had you here with us.  We will always be, three. Well, maybe four if you include your delicious butt.

I will take care of her and you know she will take care of me.

Be on the lookout for me.

I love you.

Jake

PS: We decided to only show the last part of the video, the part about all the love.  There is music so be sure you have sound, music makes everything better!  

Song credit is State of Grace by Taylor Swift, we hope she does not sue us!   

 

 

 

 

 

One year.

Tomorrow marks the one year anniversary of losing Melvin.  One time around the sun without him, which is poetic way of measuring it since he still shines so brightly in our lives.

I miss him. The all of me misses the all of him. It’s a permanent ache. There are moments that stop me in my tracks and the weight of the loss sits on me and I cry.  But that does not happen every day anymore.  Not even every week.  It just happens now and then, as I’m sure it will for the remainder of my life.

Losing him was hard but I love him more today than I did a year ago. I love him more than yesterday. The journey of grief is so strange.  Sometimes we forgot to applaud ourselves for the growth that occurs during it.

I have been working on a video, a chronological trip down photo lane of his life.  The video was therapy for me.  I started with the very fist photo I had of him and ended with the very last one taken of him (I’ll try to share it with you tomorrow if WordPress allows the large upload). I looked at every single photo and I reflected on our seven years together and a lot on the last year. A year where there are no photos of Melvin, an acceptance that there will be no more.

Here is what I have come to know…

  • Grief has a terrible job. It shows up the moment you couldn’t need it less and it’s required to stay with you until you are ready to let it go, which sometimes is never. We blame grief for a lot, when the reality is, it’s not griefs fault. Life sends grief in to collect on the debt of love. Life can be a real jerk sometimes.  Grief poured sadness down on me some days and I begged for mercy. Then it shined moments of happiness on me and made me feel more capable. Then sadness, then happiness.  Grief gets stuck on a hurtful loop some days. Grief stayed and guided me and in some ways kept me company. It did its job and a few months ago I felt grief waving goodbye. It left a part of itself with me in the form of sadness I will forever feel for Melvin’s absence. That sadness will always be a part of me, but it no longer rules me. Grief taught me that, life will be a new version of ok if I let it be. And I did and it is.
  • For the first time in my life, I did grief right.  I let it guide me. I let it make me feel whatever it was that it was going to make me feel. I didn’t apologize for it, I just went with it. The only thing I wouldn’t let grief do was to drop anger off (trust me, it tried). From the moment Melvin got cancer to today, anger has not been a part of our journey. I know it’s not that way for everyone, grief is unique, you have to follow your own path. But for me, I cannot associate anger with anything regarding Melvin.  It wasn’t always easy, but we won in life and I am a stronger, kinder, and more understanding of how life goes after losing him. I channel my inner Melvin.
  • When you lose someone, even though they are gone, the relationship continues. After death, love lives on. I can say with absolute certainty that in this past year, my relationship with Melvin has grown. There is a spiritual bond, he is a part of me in the most beautiful ways.
  • I missed spring last year,  I must have been crying.  But this year, warmth and blooms and longer days remind me of Melvin.  This is the first spring he will be completely allergy free. That makes me really happy.
  • I always wanted a bonded pair.  I had no idea how connected they would end up being. In looking at the photos I realize now, that in the beginning, it was actually Melvin who would seek Jake out.  It was Melvin who would inch closer to his brother, even at risk of Jake lunging at his face. It was Melvin who opened up the door for their beautiful love. Jake, having lived a life before of us of having very little love, took a leap of faith with Melvin, and hit jackpot. Years prior, Melvin took the same leap with me.
  • There are very few photos of Melvin and I together.  That doesn’t upset me. As I was going through the photos I realized that in 99.9% of them, I’m the photographer.  That look on his face, is him looking at me.  And that look is what I remember and that look is everything.
  • Jake and I are so alike, it took this year for me to realize it. Jake and I suffered the same great loss, and in our grief, the only thing we wanted was Melvin back.  For a while, that meant that each of us needed space from the other, to be alone. But there came a time that we realized we needed each other more. Our love is forever cemented in the  year we traveled together, learning to live without our best friend.
  • A year can feel like it passed in the blink of an eye at the same time it feels like infinite time and space.
  • You can never predict what will break you.
  • I get why people say ‘I will never get another dog’.  I say it now, just thinking about losing Jake and going through this all over again.  But the truth is, the love is always worth the grief. Always. Love is strong and wild and soul changing. Grief can’t erase it. And I know, eventually, there will be other dogs and I know that Max and Melvin and even Jake expect nothing less of me.
  • Love is why we are here.

Thank you, all of you, for standing with us this past year.  For following along and holding space for us. I love this blog, I love coming here to put my thoughts together, I love that I can share just about anything here and I love the love you give us.

A year later, we are good.  We are happy, we are joy seekers! Melvin is a part of every day and he does now what he has always done, he guides us forward and fills us with love.

We are blessed.

#lovesliveson

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kate_juliet_photography_pets_melvin_022862

Photo credit: Kate Juliet Photography

 

 

Oh, Jake.

I am currently staring at Jake. I don’t know about others but after a cancer diagnosis, staring time picks up. Since Jake doesn’t know he has cancer, he probably just thinks I’m stalking him. He’s so vain, he probably thinks this blog post is about him.

I don’t think about his cancer all the time, he and I have agreed to just exist (ok fine, I decided for him). Every now and then reality knocks and I’m reminded our time is going to be cut short. I’m not counting months, but I know it’s coming. I watch that rear left leg falter and I’m reminded that sadness is looming around the corner.

Losing Jake, feels impossible on its own.  Jake is my  baby, I don’t know if that is because he is little or because he needs me so much or because he wears diapers or because I have to carry him. He is my little, big baby. Jake is also a connection to Melvin. He is the only living creature who loves Melvin as much as I do. There is the difficult reality that both Jake and Melvin will be gone.  I’ve committed to letting Jake be an only dog for the time he has left so there will come a day that I walk into this house and there are no dogs.  And that feels…well it feels a little impossible.

These moments, where all these realities collide, they don’t own the day.  We are in fact, enjoying spring, finding reasons to laugh and living like cancer is not our roommate. I am operating under the assumption that I will be changing his diaper for many, many more months to come.  Joy still owns this joint.

I’ve been working on a project with Melvin photos and videos.  It’s a win, win – I end up with something special and it has helped me so much to go through our lifetime of photo memories. From the moment I got Melvin, I felt we were destined to be together.  In going through the photos I realized that Jake and Melvin, were also meant to be.

Jake continues the completion of my life for me, but I think in order to complete Jake, I just had to get him (in this life) to Melvin. Not that being with me hasn’t been spectacular (doy!), and obviously as Jake’s ONLY CARETAKER I’m needed, but Jake’s greatest joy, was always Melvin. It is so evident in the photographs. Melvin gave him calm, and confidence and purpose and love. Melvin made Jake whole. Even the behaviorist said that, Melvin healed Jake in a way we will never understand.

I was Melvin’s joy. Melvin is Jake’s joy. They are my joy. No matter what happens, we won.

When Jake’s time does come (in hopefully 55 years), it will be so bittersweet.  He’ll be leaving me but at that very moment, he will see Melvin.  And for Jake, that will be everything.

These boys, they give me strength, even when they are breaking me. Love is strange and strong and for us, always worth it.

Lastly, life lessons can occur at any hour of the day. Jake poop’d in the middle of the night last night. I leapt up to clean up and ended stepping barefoot into it. I started laughing hysterically. I don’t know if was insanity or truly a commitment to love, but I realized these moments, even the crap moments, our life is unfolding. Life doesn’t wait for us to live it. You have to march forward, through the poop, and keep giving it all that you have. Hold on tight, cause it might just be glorious!

Happy weekend!

My new cuff bracelet…IMG_8089

Jake’s new outdoor bed (still too cold to go outside) and I think the mat being there (it goes outside too) is poetic.  We say ‘nope’ to cancer! IMG_8058

Melvin’s Project Joy: April 2016

MPJ-Color

Time for more giving! As we come up on the year anniversary of losing Melvin, and as Jake and I move together on his journey, this month we celebrate our cancer dogs.

As a reminder, each month, we do a giveaway that celebrates the unique nature of our furry friends. There are monthly categories (so far we have done: seeing impaired, hearing impaired, less than four legs, anxiety stricken and senior dogs).

Here is how it works…

This goes beyond just a giveaway (but yes, there is of course some loot!). Our goal is to remind each other that we are all in this crazy life together. That through these giveaways, we can all bring empathy into play. As you share stories of your cancer dogs, read the stories of others. You may nod, and realize just how much we all have in common. You can message others and share your experiences and advice. Friendships will form. Support can be shared. Joy will be spread!

Share your cancer dog (or dogs) (their name, a photo. and the story about their awesomeness) on either our Facebook page containing this post, on Sirius Republic’s Facebook page when they share this post. If you are not of the Facebook world, you can email your info to ohmelvinyojake@gmail.com. No matter how you submit your info, you will be entered to win. You can nominate your dog if they are still with you or if you have lost them.

READ ALONG AS OTHERS POST. DON’T FORGET TO REACH OUT.

In celebration of the blog turning five, we will pick five winners at the end of this month! Five dogs will win a Sirius Republic gift cert!

 

Does a blog about dogs age in dog years or calendar years?

April 1st is the blog’s birthday.  No fooling. I have never missed the anniversary, until this year.  In fact, had Facebook not sent me my daily-memory-reminder-for-years-past, I don’t think I would have remembered at all!

Losing Melvin softened some of my Type A’ness. At first it drove me nuts but now I just go with it!

So yay us! Friday marked five years of blogging! Woot woot!

The very first thing I felt when I realized the anniversary was gratitude, for all of you.  I love writing, coming here and sharing our life and having a repository for my thoughts, is my happy place.  You are part of our village!  This past year has been hard and having this blog and having posts to look back on has been a source of great healing and inspiration for me.

So thank you, for you!

I don’t know what this next year and blogging will bring. Jake’s time with me is going to be short. That is a reality. And even though this blog was my outlet for grief this past year, I don’t really want to write about grief…again. Heck, I don’t want to feel grief again but that is a whole different set of emotions! I’m not sure how long of a period there will be when there are no dogs here.  This clearly falls into, ‘we don’t know what we don’t know’.

For now, this blog is five and this blog is incredibly special to me and you, each of you, make my day regularly!

Thank you for following along, for loving my boys and for laughing and crying with us. Thank you for all things you! High-five to five!

In year one, there was just me and Melvin. And his girlfriend, fluffy pillow.IMG_0272

In year two, there was a new house and Melvin clearly hated it. 7 6 12

In year three, Jake joined.  He has always been so comfortable and natural in front of the camera. IMG_2745

In year four, there was so much love, we almost imploded. IMG_0493

And in year five, it was this guy and me. He is still so relaxed when the camera comes out. IMG_6475