One step at a time.
When I noticed Sugar was getting worse again, I rushed her to the neighborhood vet. I had the receptionist page the doctor and have him come back from his lunch break. I knew in my gut that something was really wrong with Sugar. From his cursory exam, he told me she was bleeding in her abdomen. He called me a few hours later and gave me her cancer diagnosis — There’s a tumor on her spleen. It’s very common for larger breed dogs, he said. It ruptured and she’s bleeding out into her stomach. The obscured mass in her chest from her last x-ray has metastasize, meaning the tumor from her spleen has spread to her lungs. There is nothing they can do.
Nothing they can do. What are our options, I asked anyway. Say goodbye. No. Stabilize her. Yes. See a specialist. I’ll look into it. One step at a time.
One day at a time.
That evening, Sugar was seen by a specialist at another facility. Bottom line is, a dog with this aggressive cancer, even if it’s not as advanced as Sugar’s, would only get another two months even if they were able to successfully remove the tumor from the spleen. That’s because by the time the tumor on the spleen becomes apparent, it would have already spread even if we can not see it yet.
Since Sugar was alert and was not in any pain at the moment, this vet did not object to us taking Sugar home. She warned us that we have maybe hours with her, days at most. The best case scenario she gave us was that Sugar might pass peacefully in her sleep.
When Sugar made it through the night and she was still very alert, I remembered recently reading about some vets practicing eastern medicine. KT and I started researching holistic and hospice care to make her more comfortable. KT found a mobile vet who came to our house a couple days later to provide hospice care and it made a world of difference. This mobile vet also suggested an herbal medicine, yunnan baiyao, to help stop the bleeding. And it did. Her gums were rosy pink again and I cried when she ate her first meal in days.
One hour at a time.
Over the next two weeks, Sugar improved so much that I was starting to be in denial that we’ll actually lose her. She was eating regularly and eagerly. She was moving around. I even came home one morning after drop off to find her barking in the backyard.
But the specialist did warn that even if the bleeding stop, it will start again. And it did. I can’t help but think that maybe if I kept her housebound, or bed-bound, then maybe the tumor wouldn’t start bleeding again. This time around, we couldn’t get the bleeding to stop. Within hours, her gum was pale and her stomach was bloated again. She stopped eating and drinking.
KT and I slept with her in the living room that evening. She couldn’t settle down and sleep. She was grunting and panting. I told KT it was probably time to consider putting her to sleep. I didn’t want her to be in a pain. At three in the morning, she passed away with KT and I by her side.
It’s been exactly a week since she passed away. I worry about how L is dealing with our loss. I keep saying that we have to get back to our routine. L needs routine. I need routine. But things aren’t the same.
Yesterday night, L asked for Sugar and we spent an hour looking at her pictures on my phone. He did not want to look at old pictures of Sugar. He wanted to see current pictures of her. “Same” sugar. He picked out a picture of her to be printed and framed for his room. He was happy that it was a picture of the “same” healthy, happy, goofy Sugar he remembers and loves.
I feel so loss for words. It feels so difficult to find words to express how I feel. It seems like I can only recite facts. Words and feelings are just all jumbo up inside. Some days are hard and some days almost feel normal. Just trying to remember this mantra and take it one step at a time, one day at a time, one hour at a time.