Coloring all my days

Stop counting crayons, just drawYesterday we got the news we were dreading. Last week, I waited anxiously by the phone for the call that would give me the “all clear”, that our Sammy Beagle had pulled through surgery and was OK. I was supposed to hear from the vet at noon, maybe 1 at the latest, but I hung my hopes on noon. Noon passed. I checked my phones, both the cell and the home line. Ringers were at full volume. 12:30… 12:45… 1:00… 1:15…

I received a couple of Facebook messages from concerned friends, “Had I heard? No, but I’d share the news as soon as I heard.”

1:30…1:45… There is a very distinct sound a clock makes when you’re waiting for time to pass. The second-hand drags and the minute hand seems to moan as it is pulled from one minute into the next. I now understand the appeal for digital clocks, but my home is filled with good old-fashioned analog clocks, each of which seemed to mock me last week.

Finally, just as I was preparing to call, the phone rang at 2 minutes to 2. He was out of surgery and doing as well as could be expected. I was told they pulled 7 teeth (at which point I buckled with doggy mom guilt but was reassured there was nothing I could have done or missed), and I was warned the incision to remove the tumor was large. It had grown in the 30 days since we began this journey, but the doctor took wide margins as a precaution. She said something about knowing more when the pathology report came back in a week, but knowing our old man had pulled through surgery left me grateful for that day, that moment, and the future call would be a worry for another day.

Because Sammy needed to recover a bit longer, my husband stopped on his way home from work to bring him home. I pulled into the driveway just as they arrived. Carefully, he was placed in the living room, and I examined his incision and looked into his pleading eyes. He was confused and in pain, but he was home. My daughter graciously agreed to be the one who slept on our (miserably uncomfortable) couch for the night. With Sammy situated on the Aerobed, she would give him his late night pain meds. She repeated the routine the following night and aside from his occasional potty breaks, Sammy did too.

On the third day, Sammy seemed far more alert. His appetite had returned, though we were still splitting his two meals into four. He allowed us to carry him up the stairs to sleep in his usual bed in my bedroom. By the 5th day, his tail was wagging and he returned to his sentry post (the window by the front door) to survey his domain. Life with Sammy Beagle was returning to normal in less than a week, and I began to let my breath out.

Yesterday was day 6 post-op. Though not completely back to being his “Old Man” self, everyday we see more of our Sammy, by whom you could set the clock at mealtimes and looks at you with love in his eyes when you walk into the room. And yesterday, I received the call I thought I had prepared myself for, but realized I was playing a fool’s game as the word “malignant” echoed through my ears and stabbed my heart.

I don’t have all the information to know his prognosis, only enough to know we have only 2 options as a “next step”: do nothing or put our 13 year-old through another surgery, the margins weren’t clean.

I don’t like either choice, and last night I went to bed with eyes puffy from tears and resentment towards adulthood and the decisions that come with it.

Cancer sucks. Plain and simple. No one goes untouched by cancer. No one. I lost my father to lung cancer 13 years ago. He left behind a wife, 9 adult children, a sister, and many more who loved him. I lost my best friend to colon cancer 11 years ago. She left behind 3 children, 9, 7, and 5, her husband (my brother), her parents, and her siblings. My husband lost his mother and I my mother-in-law to liver cancer roughly a year later. And, each time, from the moment I heard the diagnosis and prognosis, I worried about the days.

How many years left? Months? Days?

None of them lived a year past diagnosis. And, still, with each, I spent too much time worrying about counting the days, not living the days I had with them. Yes, there were memories created up until the last moments with each, memories I cherish; the touch of my father’s hand in mine and the brightness in his eyes, free from the fog of morphine,  as he called me his Little Mary Sunshine one last time; sharing our girls’ chat about the small joys of matching bras and panties and manicures on the night my sister-in-law passed; and a soft whisper of thanks from my mother-in-law, for loving her son well. Each memory etched into my heart but shrouded in regret.

I regret the moments I saw the illness before the face of the person I loved. I regret not living every one of the days we had together and instead worried about the next day or the day after that. I didn’t color all of our days, I worried about stretching them out, wrongly thinking counting them might extend them.

Breaking crayons doesn’t create more crayons, it only gives you broken crayons. Crayons were made for coloring and life for living. I don’t know the number of days we have left with our Sammy Beagle, and I won’t count, for I will be too busy living them with him.

 

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28 thoughts on “Coloring all my days”

  1. I’m so sorry for your family and poor Sammy Beagle. I know that y’all will show him so much love and make his days as happy and comfortable as they can possibly be. Love your broken crayon analogy and how we put counting the days in front of living them. Very meaningful post. I tweeted it as well.

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  2. That is the hardest part of loving. The pain that goes with loss. So sorry for dear Sammy. My dog is my healer. He comes to comfort me when no one else knows I’m hurting. Know you are giving all the love he needs through this time of life.

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  3. Oh Mary. As the other commenters have said, my eyes filled with tears reading this. I pray that Sammy can live out his days, however many there are, wrapped in your warm embrace and spoiled with treats and romps outside. Our sweet pets are part of our family and it is so painful when they start to fail. My thoughts are with you and sweet Sammy.

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  4. Oh Mary, my heart breaks for you. We knew our Toby was sick for a year before we lost him. And we did love him up…I took tons and tons of pictures of him, and never regretted it. And I took weird pictures too…of his paw, or ear, or the way his fur curled over his collar. I spent many, many hours, just sitting with him. And at the end, I was buying him steaks. You won’t regret all the time you spend loving him up.

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  5. Oh, so sorry, Mary, for the diagnosis and for your poor pup to have to go through it and you with him. I just put my last dog down about a month ago, and it was very hard. He was my little shadow, my boy. But, I love your outlook and decision to live the life you have with him and not focus on the number of days remaining. With my boy, Percy, he had cushings, and from all I was told, advised, and all I had researched I knew there would come “the day”, but I didn’t care. I loved him, played ball with him every chance I could, and enjoyed him regardless, and he lasted much, much longer than would’ve been expected. 🙂 Hugs to you and your family and to Sammy. 🙂 XXOO-Kasey

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  6. Such a heartbreaking post. I think anyone who’s been a long-time animal owner knows the pain and grief that comes at the end…sometimes suddenly, sometimes more slowly. I hope you and your pup have good time together while he’s able.

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  7. Oh, Mary, my heart is breaking for you and I’m typing with tears in my eyes because we had to make the decision to put down our beloved Newfoundland two years ago and, although I know it was the right thing to do, it was the decision I never wanted to be forced to make. Just hug Sammy, love him and enjoy every precious minute. He knows he is loved, and I hope you know you are too. xo

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  8. I can hardly type for the tears in my eyes Mary… This is one of the most beautiful posts I have read in ages. I am so sorry for the anguish you are all feeling about sweet Sammy. Please know I send you love and strength as you continue to color your days. Go way outside the lines my friend…way outside the lines. xo

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  9. I’m so sad for you, Mary. The pain and heartache infuses every word here. I wish I could give you a huge hug that would stop the hurt. Instead, I’ll send you prayers for peace and comfort somewhere, somehow in this sad time. And the same prayers for Sammy, too.

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  10. Blessings to you for being such a great dog mom and to him at this time. We faced a similar situation a year ago, almost, with our 17 yr old, who went in for dental cleaning and they found a huge palate cancer. The prognosis was awful, it was already in his brain (with clear symptoms that had been diagnosed as something else earlier) and we decided to let him have peace. He is now running free and healthy on the other side, in all his sweetness, and he WAS a sweet soul, pure love. I dream of him more than anyone or anything else and he appeared to me the night he crossed over and the following week. The bond between dog mom and dog is clearly maternal and so beautiful. You are doing all the best for Sammy and all your decisions will be made in love, I can tell. God bless.

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  11. I HATE CANCER. I HATE CANCER. I HATE CANCER. I HATE CANCER.
    Tears rolling down my face for Sammy, for you, for the family. Whatever you decide, if you consider looking alternatively I can put you in touch with my cousin who does rescue for dogs and is considerably knowledgeable about the subject. She’s nursed her dogs after diagnoses from vets because she turned a blind eye to them and sought help elsewhere.

    I love you for sharing this very personal story, Mary. I’m sure it was more than hard to write.

    Tell Sammy I love him.

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    1. I told Sammy you love him, Cathy, and though you two haven’t met IRL, I believe he knows you and feels your love.

      Thank you for the resource. I will likely get in touch when we have more details so I can pursue the next step with compassion and information.
      xoxo

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