Melvin and Jake’s cancers are completely different and my handling of them are also, almost opposite.
Melvin was, except for the cancer, very healthy at his end. We’d beat and cured all his issues. The one thing we struggled with was weight loss. He lost 10 pounds his last month despite him eating a ton. His cancer type must have been hungry. Jake on the other hand has a ton of problems to go along with his cancer. A cancer leg that refuses to move (and is changing color) and a TERRIBLE diaper rash, to name a few. He however, is one of the very few cancer dogs that gains weight — he gained one pound last week. Woohooo!
Then there is me.
With Melvin’s cancer, writing about it kept me grounded. It gave me strength. With Jake’s cancer, I don’t always feel compelled to put the words to web. That might just be a round two issue.
When Melvin got diagnosed I was devastated (that is no different for Jake), but after seeing two radiologists, the oncologist, our regular vet and our holistic vet (all within one week), I knew he was terminal and I knew our time was going to be very short. I went from living mode to survival mode and everyday I focused on getting Melvin to his end with all his joy intact. I have zero doubt or guilt that letting him go when we did, was absolutely the right thing to do. It was the worst day of my life, but it was one of the most right things I ever did for him.
With Jake, sometimes in my head I operate like his decline is just the normal progression of his spine. It is a plight we’d already begrudgingly accepted so my brain thinks it’s normal. And sure, you can argue that some denial is good, but I need to start being truer to Jake’s end. His decline, is due to cancer. My inability to cure this round of diaper rash, is due to his cancer. When strangers see him and say ‘poor little guy’ my response can’t be ‘oh, he’s fine’ all the time. He is not fine. I can say he’s happy, he’s loved, and he has the best care imaginable but truth is, Jake is struggling. I need to become less ‘ok’ with what is happening to him in the sense that this is not our original diagnosis of spinal issues and become more ‘ok’ about the fact that he has spinal cancer. I’m still so desperate to fix him. I still think that this is our normal progression and I still google solutions for everything. Which is the opposite of how I was with Melvin. And that is not to say I give up or I gave up. It’s just a matter of learning where to put your energy. I wanted to save Melvin every minute that he was on this earth but when he got cancer, I understood (not accepted) the end was near. He and I cured his life and although getting a terminal cancer with no options went against everything we were and had been through, it was what it was. With Jake, he has struggled so much these past few years that we now are used to it. We have really, solved nothing with him. We ‘saved’ his eye. We have products that help. But everything he has faced, we just sorta had to seek solutions to make it ok to live with. So when he got cancer, I probably thought the opposites would continue, that with him, we’d have options and maybe for once a cure for him. I have to accept some hard truths. It’s complicated to have a special needs dog and then have them get cancer and have that cancer affect the areas they were already special in. For Jake, It’s almost like I don’t comprehend.
So our vet(s) have suggested switching to a ‘hospice’ mentality. It’s not Jake’s time yet, but the term hospice can sometimes help the human move into the necessary mindset. It helps me process things like ‘the radiation didn’t work as well as we hoped’. My normal response to that is ‘what do we try next’ and I am fairly unable to process the words ‘nothing’.
Thankfully there are still some things we can try to ease the diaper rash. We may not cure it (but watch me try!).
I’ve been laughing about the differences between the boys situations (ahhhh, the ability to find humor in strange places), and I know that most of the reasons there are differences is that they are not the same and neither are/were their cancers. I’m grateful for the most remarkable ‘Team Jake’ vets and I’m grateful for all of you who read these posts and who understand why there might be fewer posts right now.
To conclude, there is always joy to be found. The recipient of Jake’s wheelchair (Oliver) is going on tons of adventures in his new ride and he has gone from uncertain of how to get around to owning that cart like a boss! Heart happy. Heart full. Love lives on, even in wheelchairs!
Whatcha doing woman? When you gonna unroll that new carpet?
Team Jake sounds awesome, and at times like this it’s so critical to have objective perspectives that you trust. Big hugs from us in Boise as you move into the hospice phase. Our hearts are with you every step of this journey.
I know the word hospice must have been hard to hear. You are a ‘fixer’ and it must be so frustrating that you can’t fix this.
Many thoughts, prayers, hugs, and wishes of joy to you and Jake as you continue on your journey.
Hugs and love….
Monty, Harlow and Ramble