Yesterday 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.