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April 7, 2000
a year ago
two years ago

Body Blow

Today was a very strange day. The normal day to day routines were there. Work was hard but satisfying for me. I had to fight a small fire, as someone found a bug in the new code I had written. I really hate late changes, and this was no different. John had a really frustrating day and we had to leave early in order to get Fezzik's paw looked at by All Pets in Lafayette.

We were complaining about work on the way home, and got there in plenty of time. Both of us picked Fezzik up and put him into Borax fairly easily, and off we went to the veterinarians. We waited in front, and Fezzik would occasionally stuff his head into my lap to get petted while we waited. I think he's starting to learn what waiting rooms are for. I think we've brought into the veterinarians more often in the last year than we have for his entire life. He never really used to get hurt, or limped for more than a day or two, and having him limp for an entire week was worrying me, but more because I thought he might have pulled something in his shoulder than anything else.

We talked a little bit about this, and knew that the visits weren't going to get any less frequent. We were also fairly happy that we had the finances to support Fezzik easily, and make sure that he was comfortable for the rest of his life. A limp should be easy enough to fix.

Unlike the Boulder facility, the first person to see Fezzik was actually the veterinarian, rather than some assistant. He poked, prodded, and started to check the whole lot of other things, things other than just Fezzik's leg and paw and shoulder. He started muttering about how hard it was to find the lymph nodes in Fezzik's chest because of his fur. Then he said that the paw was likely a small lesion, but that it was the smallest of the problems. The real problem he saw was that all of Fezzik's lymph nodes were swollen and hard, which could indicate lymphoma, or cancer in the lymph nodes system.

John and I reacted the way we usually react, mostly by asking a lot of questions as to what was next, what the other options were, and what steps were available to us next. The vet was good, and after making sure that we weren't going to be confused, he launched into a long set of possibilities that were all contingent on various other things. First, was a simple diagnosis, by taking a small sample from Fezzik's swollen lymph nodes, and sending it to the lap to find out if there really was any cancerous cells. Once that was actually established, a node could be taken out completely and test to find out the exact stage Fezzik was in. Once that was established, the actual treatment could be determined, as the amount of chemotherapy would depend on the stage of the cancer. It is best to use as little as possible, but as much as necessary. The good thing about canine chemotherapy is that it rarely impacts the quality of life for the dog. If the cancer is so virulent, it would be better to just let the dog fail on his own.

We got all the information we could. It seemed obvious that we wanted the quick test to be done as soon as possible, so we would know more. So we scheduled that, and he said he could do it in half an hour. So the three of us went into Borax and drove to find ourselves a Dairy Queen. There was one not too far, and John and I got sundaes and we decided to get Fezzik a very large ice cream cone. We both ate just outside the back door of Borax, and took turns holding the cone for Fezzik. Fezzik, as usual, licked the cone for a few dozen licks before reaching out and just biting it. That, as usual, reduced us to giggles. John started pulling the cone away whenever Fezzik tried to bite it, because John wanted Fezzik to not bite it so much; but Fezzik saw it as his ice cream cone going away, so he just tried biting it faster. Pretty soon there were big teeth flashing after the cone, and I pulled the paper off the cone itself before handing it to him gently. Fezzik crunched it happily and we watched him eat it as we ate our own sundaes.

On the way back to the veterinarian, as I was finishing the last spoonfuls of my ice cream, I just started crying.

For all that, for the last two years, we've known that he has already lived well past the average for Newfoundlands, and we knew that he would die sometime, this was the very first thing that has actually threatened his life. I know that when he was running around the neighborhood that there was the very good chance that he might get hit by automobiles, but that was just remote chance, a possibility. This is also a possibility, and from what the veterinarians said, we caught it really early and might have a good chance of putting the cancer into remission before it gets too far through his system.

Compared to all the other things we were complaining about today, and a possibility that his paw or shoulder was sprained, this was one huge thing to swallow. And it hurt.

So I cried on John shoulder for a little while, and then we got to go into the veterinarian's lab to get the sample. Since Fezzik is so big, they just had him lie in the middle of the floor. John petted his head while I helped the assistant shave the fur away from the skin over the lymph nodes in the back leg. Fezzik was very calm and patient about the whole thing, I think, in part, because John and I were there to hold him and talk to him while things were happening. She did a complete surgical scrub of the skin, and the vet came in after and just stuck a big needle into the node. Fezzik didn't even flinch. The sample then went onto slides, and we waited to make sure he got enough cells. He got plenty, and told us that it was okay to go home. The test results won't be available until Monday or Tuesday. Then we get to see what the next steps are.

Both of us were pretty shaken. John busied himself with a few things, while I called my parents, who weren't there, and Kathy, who also didn't answer the phone. So I called Geoff, and babbled at him for a few moments, which he said was fine. As far as he was concerned that had a perfect excuse for babbling. That helped.

John and I snuggled up, and just talked about a lot of things while Fezzik lay near us for awhile, and then went outside to go bark at things. It was something of a contrast, having him be so content and happy and bounce around so much while we felt so awful. I guess it was for us to know and decided, since we are his keepers.

Eventually I figured out that part of why I felt so bad was because I hadn't had anything real to eat. John wasn't hungry, but also isn't as badly affected as I am by lack of blood sugar. So I made myself a fried egg and toast, and ate it even though I wasn't feeling particularly hungry. I did feel better afterwards, and mom called pretty soon after that.

She is doing well since her surgery, and her eyesight seems to be getting better as things heal. I was really glad to hear about that. It was very nice to get good news. I also talked with her some about Fezzik and then about Kathy going on a cruise with a bunch of the comicbook industry. She leaves this weekend, and I was worried, a little, about calling her back in case she was in the middle of a packing frenzy or something. I really shouldn't have worried.

John and I talked and cuddled a lot more and eventually were so tired from the rest of the week that we started heading to sleep when the phone rang. It was Kathy.

I was so glad.

It was really, really, really nice to just sit and talk and talk and talk with her for a good two or three hours. Talk about death, about life, how to keep living when someone so close dies. Stories about Andy, our cocker spaniel, and how she mourned when he died. Also how she dealt with the time when a very close friend of hers died suddenly and the contrast and comparison of what it's like to know for a while versus having it happen as a surprise. Having the time to make ones peace with it is a better thing. The importance of mourning isn't something that gets a whole lot of emphasis in everyday conversations. This was one time where it was important to talk that through.

It was also interesting to realize that neither of us really thinks that the other has a large part in the others daily life. We're more like the sky or the mountains or the ocean or the rain or the sunshine to the other. Something that is there everyday, but taken for granted and not specifically used or appreciated unless someone or something reminds us.

Sometimes it is good to be reminded.

I made sure I took my melatonin before going to sleep and after a really hyperactive time in bed, with thoughts going in all directions, I could feel my eyelids being dragged down like with lead and I went to sleep. Deep, dreamless sleep.

Brought to you by Dragon System's NaturallySpeaking vertion 4.01.

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