We are going through something as a family right now. I don’t know if this is the right way to share this or not, but sometimes it is all I can think about and not sharing it feels like a lie. Read on…
Gracie had her first mast cell tumor, the most common form of canine cancer, in January 2008. We had it removed and waited and waited for a prognosis and it was 5 years as long as the tumor did not return. That tumor never did so we lived our life enjoying every minute with our little Strudel. This was a factor in us adopting Milo the following year, in June 2009. We wanted to take away as much stress in Gracie’s life as possible, and she is a rescue dog who had been abandoned, thus always had really bad separation anxiety. The two are been best friends and our sweet beagle has brought a lot of joy to all of our lives, and a lot of comfort to Grace.
We have always been all-too-aware that the cancer could come back at any time, and have had that as a reminder to cherish every day with our sweet girl. So very very sadly, this summer it returned. On June 15th of 2012, we had what we thought was just a little growth removed form Gracie’s neck. When removing it, our vet discovered that it was another mast cell tumor. At first they thought there were “clean margins”, basically meaning they took out all the bad stuff, but it turns out there were still some cancer cells on the under-side of her vocal cords. That is not good. That was not what we wanted to hear. So, in June, we spoke with our vet at length, consulted with a renowned oncologist, did a lot of research, and faced our options. The oncologist recommended radiation to kill whatever cancer was left. The good news: that would take our chances of the cancer growing from 50/50 to 80-90% that it would NOT grow back. The bad news: radiation on a 13 pound dog is brutal, and sometimes even worse than the actual cancer. At the time, and still now, Gracie feels amazing. She has endless energy and feels healthy and full of life. We talked to a lot of people, one being my mother-in-law who treats people who have had radiation on the throat, and we discovered that 16 rounds of anesthesia and radiation on our little Gracie’s throat would make us feel better, but would probably just make her sick. The cost was about $8,000 as well, which we do not have. Not only do we not have it, we have spent more than we DO have on this already. Money is nothing though, if I had to hold a fundraiser every week I would have, it was mainly the effect this would have on Gracie that made the decision for us. We opted to treat this holistically and privately.
Less than 2 months later, towards the end of August, I thought I could feel the tumor again. We hoped it was scar tissue from the previous surgery, but the first week of September we returned to the vet to find out what we already knew, the mast cell tumor returned. From our previous experience with Mast Cell Cancer in Gracie, we know this is not good. It is what we feared the first time, and is dismal, uncharted territory. Gracie still FEELS great. She has no idea this is happening, so despite our desire to do anything in our power to keep her longer, we are still treating this holistically. We are going to savor every single second with our precious girl, and give her the richest, most joyful life we possibly can while we have her. Our vet, and the friends and family who know Gracie and us best, have helped counsel us to this decision, and we know in our hearts that it is the right one.
We are choosing to share this with our friends, family, and everyone in our life this time, because we have no idea how much time we have. It is devastating news and quite honestly, we are still trying to digest it all. We have lost a dog before, so sadly we can’t live in the bliss of not knowing how hard it will be. We know. As hard as you think it will be, it is worse. I can’t imagine having to watch the man I love more than anything go through this again. I don’t want to face what it will do to sweet Milo who depends on Gracie for so much. I can not even fathom life without my best friend by my side. All day, every day, we work together, she is the best part of every single aspect of my life. I am trying not to give in to that fear. It takes everything I have to not cave under the pressure of trying to force myself to see that fate to try to prepare for the worse. I want to be in this moment and stay here with Gracie and my family forever.
We don’t have forever, maybe not even a year. I honestly have NO IDEA how much time we will have, and I won’t until we have some more tests done. All those tests will really tell us is if she is dying right now, or if we can hope for more time. I pray and hope and beg for more time every single minute of every single day.
To some, Gracie is just a dog. To Will and I, she is our family. She is everything. Will and I have had our beloved Gracie Strudel Allan Cole for 7 out of her 10-11 years of life, and they have been the most joyful, precious times of my life so far because they have been with her. Her love is endless and our connection is spiritual. I am a better person every day because of our girl, and Will and I will always be blessed because we get this time with her.
I tell you all this now, because honestly, every time I tell someone I break down in a way that is hard to get back up. It is hard to answer questions now, and I imagine it will only get harder, so I want you to know so that when this happens you already know and I won’t have to deal with the grief AND telling everyone all at once. Gracie has become inextricable from me, my career, my entire identity, which terrifies me in a way, and makes me need to tell you. I just need you to know.
The fear and pain reaches deep inside me and breaks me down in a way that takes all of the energy I can muster to focus and motivate back to life. I need to just tell you all at once so I can be in the moment with Gracie, Will, and Milo. My family needs me to be strong and whole and positive and present, and I can’t do that when I am telling each individual person, breaking down, and living in fear. The rest of this year, and however much time we have left needs to be about Gracie. I usually am the nurturer, or the one people call for help. This time, I am asking. I need to give all I have to my family right now, and that might mean blogging less, or missing a video here or there. That is okay.
As the Goonies would say, “this is our time”. The Goonies also say “Goonies never say die.” A silly catch-phrase yes, but I also hold onto it in earnest now, and try to remember that our bodies are just containers and that our souls and our connections live on forever. In that way, I will always walk with Grace.