Friday, August 26, 2011

Jake ... a happy ending and a new beginning

One week ago today I went through quite the emotional roller coaster. I did everything I could to prepare myself for another heart break, another dog we were unable to save .... yes, I know we can't save them all and I remember how my heart broke the day I was with Pepper as she was euthanized, and that Friday morning on July 1st when I held Cass in my arms as he crossed over the bridge. Something in my gut though felt like it was the right decision ... Jake is a 1 year old lab/shepherd mix who was also rescued from Leech Lake reservation ... for Jake, my gut just screamed, it's not his time! To read his story check out the Pet Haven blog:

Suffice to say ... Jake's story has a happy ending. Many thanks to a new doggie daycare partner, Lucky Dog Pet Lodge, we were able to give Jake yet another chance. This boy will soon be up for adoption through Pet Haven Inc of Minnesota. This boy has touched my heart and my soul and he has clearly demonstrated to me what is possible when a community comes together ..  he represents how powerful and healing animals can be and how they can bring connect humans together. Tomorrow I head back up to Leech Lake reservation to transport dogs back to the cities to give them a second chance .... 13 beagle/basset puppies will take temporary residence in my home till next Thursday when I will then take them to the Animal Humane Society as a part of the animal welfare coalition, Minnesota Partnership for Animal Welfare,, where they will be vetted, spayed/neutered and placed up for adoption. Our efforts to save the dogs up at Leech Lake reservation has been an incredibly successful collaborative effort and one that I am truly proud to be a part of .... To learn more about these efforts check out the Leech Lake Legacy blog:

I have been visiting Jake just about every day at Lucky Dog Pet Lodge and taking him on outings. He is the perfect boy in the car and when we go and hang out wherever ... including listening to jazz music in downtown Minneapolis over the lunch hour. He now has two more foster buddies who will be taking turns in hanging out with him and taking him for outings. The staff at Lucky Dog have been pampering him and loving him. We are so fortunate and blessed to have this partnership and that they have been so willing to give Jake all the personal attention and love he so deserves ...

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The best birthday gift of all ...

Ahnung, Missy and Mister
Exactly one month ago (9:35 PM on Thursday, July 7th) I discovered a lump next to one of Ahnung's mammary glands. The next two weeks were one of the hardest in my life as I waited, worried and then learned my precious girl had breast cancer. A month ago I didn't even know if I would have my sweet girl with me to celebrate my birthday. After meeting with the vet oncologist I was given the greatest gift of all ... the gift of hope and more time with Ahnung. I do my best to celebrate and appreciate every day I have on earth ... my own health issues have taught me not to take life for granted. Ahnung's recent cancer scare has taught me to be even more grateful when I wake up in the mornings and look over to see three big black beautiful dogs, sleeping soundly. I hear Ahnung snoring and breathing in a deep, meditative and calming way; i see Mister sprawled on his back; and i see Missy looking earnestly at me with those deep, soulful eyes.

There is no gift greater for me than the gift of my three big black beautiful babies ....

Thank you Ahnung, Missy and Mister for being in my life .... and for all the life lessons you teach me on a daily basis. You are, and will continue to be, my best medicine ....

Breaking in the new couch
when we moved into our new home in January

Ahnung ... my co-pilot

Thursday, August 4, 2011

When will the fog lift?

Photo from Flickr
My surgeon called me yesterday afternoon with the results of the pathology report. "Good news and not so good news," she says. The good news, she says, is that the report is benign and that there is no mention this time of DCIS or borderline DCIS. The not so good news is that we have more of the atypia, the pre cancer cells. She says we have multiple foci and this time we are moving outward in your breast. Previous surgeries removed lumps/tissue from central in my left breast. This past surgery removed a lump/tissue at the outer edges of your breast. My surgeon says these abnormal cells are near the margins ... they are close to the lateral and superior edges ... "we can only infer that it is everywhere." I ask her, "since i've been dealing with atypical ductal hyperplasia now for a little over two years and they haven't become cancer is it possible that my body is just predisposed to having these abnormal cells and they won't become cancer?" She responds, "No, you can't take comfort in that." She goes on to say that there is something going on with the cells in my body, that I am extremely high risk and that she strongly recommends I meet with an oncologist. There are no guarantees, she says. She mentions tamoxifen and bilateral mastectomy. My surgeon, my internal medicine doctor and even the team of doctors I've worked with at Mayo tell me there are no guarantees and that my case is a unique case. There are changes going on in my body at a cellular level; they can't monitor these changes with any of the screening mechanisms available (mammogram, ultrasound, even MRI). Interestingly, it's been me telling my doctors that I feel a lump in my breast; it feels different and it needs to come out. Previously, my doctors challenged me saying that it felt like normal fibrous tissue. They now tell me, 'you know your body best.'

All we know is that the cells in my breast are changing .. they are in essence taking on a life of their own; they are spreading. They don't know how far it's spread. The reality is that there are a lot of unknowns. So this foggy health journey continues. I meet with an oncologist on August 16th. My surgeon, whom I love, knows me so well. She recommends an oncologist whose philosophy is: "I strive to provide hope, encouragement and holistic care to both my patients and their families. I am a strong believer in the power of the human spirit and positive thinking...."  I am looking forward to meeting my oncologist and to exploring what my options are.  I hold in my heart what my primary doctor told me just recently, "You are being diligent about your health. Some times life just isn't fair and there are a lot of things we don't understand in medicine. There are no guarantees. Whatever path you choose is the right path."

To be honest, my bigger issue right now is my heart. I've been having trouble sleeping again. It's not as bad as it used to be, but i'm waking up at night again from the palpitations and my heart feeling like it's going to pop out of my chest. I'm going to give it a little more time as I remain hopeful that it will pass. If it doesn't then I know I need to call my cardiologist. I know that everything in life happens for a reason. There are moments, however, when I just want a little relief, some clarity .... I would be grateful for a week, or two, of not having to deal with health issues or worry about my dog Ahnung. Well ... hope ... sometimes that's all we have to hold onto. I sometimes just have to remind myself when the fog lifts there's an amazing sun that will be shining brightly ...

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Post surgery - resting when i'd rather be running like Mister!

Mister at the dog park!!
So yesterday I went in for surgery ... my fourth left breast excisional biopsy in the past 2+ years: the first was in 5/2009, then 12/2009, then 10/2010 and  finally 8/1/2011. The first 3 surgeries involved removing a lump in the same area of my left breast. A couple weeks ago I noticed a new lump had formed in my left breast again ...  I noticed it shortly after discovering my dog Ahnung's lump in her fourth left mammary gland (which was then diagnosed as breast cancer) ... guess we are more connected than I ever imagined.

The surgery yesterday was to remove this new lump. All went well yesterday and my surgeon said that I could possibly have the results of the pathology report on Wednesday, but definitely by the end of the week. She asked me to followup with her office Wednesday afternoon if I haven't heard from her and she will track it down. She's off on Friday but said she would have them fax it to her house on Friday if it's not ready till then so that I don't have to go through the weekend wondering ... i just love my surgeon. I also recently discovered her shared passion for dogs!! Right before surgery she's showing photos of her new puppy ... and her face is beaming .. a new mom. She said she took 2 weeks off from work when she first got him ... she called it 'maternity leave." :)

For some reason I wasn't nervous at all about this surgery ... maybe because I've gone through this particular surgery so many times and have never had a problem with it. Somehow, the surgical biopsies are much easier for me and I don't have complications like I did with the 2 MRI-guided breast biopsies and my recent heart ablation. So far (knock on wood!) no bleeding episodes. I was given pain pills to take if I needed it but like previous surgeries have never had to take any. Last night what woke me up in the middle of the night wasn't the pain from the surgery but my heart doing the crazy flip-flopping again. I'm just hoping and praying that my electrical heart problems aren't going to become symptomatic already ... i know it's bound to happen but would like for at least a few more weeks of restful sleep!!

So this weekend was a busy weekend in animal rescue as I 'prepared' (actually, distracted myself) for surgery. In early May I became involved in helping the dogs up at Leech Lake reservation (an American Indian reservation about 3 hours north of the Twin Cities). To learn more about efforts to help a very dire situation check out the Leech Lake Legacy blog. On Saturday, I had the good fortune of meeting dogs transported down from Leech Lake reservation to be given a second chance ... a chance all of them so deserve. One of the pups, Hickory, reminded me of my boy Mister when he was a pup.... he was also just as vocal as Mister (who at 4 years of age is still pretty vocal). My boy Mister is such a wonderful reminder to me on a daily basis to live life to the fullest extent and to play hard!!!


For photos of all the pups that arrived on Saturday from Leech Lake reservation check out my flickr site

Then on Sunday I got to welcome Smiley and Brill who came in from Red Lake reservation (about 6 hours north of here). My sweet girl Ahnung was originally rescued by Karen Good up at Red Lake reservation. I had the good fortune of meeting Smiley when I went up to Red Lake in early July and just fell in love with this boy. Ahnung and Smiley got along really well ... there's a very sweet and gentle soul in Smiley. Smiley is being taken into Pet Haven's foster program so i will be able to keep very close tabs on this sweet boy!!! :) Smiley arrived with the pup Brill who has a serious case of mange (probably among other things). He was rescued at a dump in Ponemah (a part of Red Lake reservation) and he has ended up at another rescue, Act V Rescue and Rehabilitation, where my good friend Vicki is a vet and is a part of the rescue. Brill is in wonderful hands now ....

Brill giving Smiley
a kiss :)
Smiley -- will be up for adoption
soon through Pet Haven

Brill ... will be up for adoption through
Act V Rescue & Rehab.

For more photos of Smiley and Brill check out my flickr site.

So these beautiful, innocent creatures who need for us humans to be a voice and an advocate for them will continue to keep my heart full and my mind busy over the next few days .... which in turn, will hopefully take my mind off of waiting for that call back from my surgeon with the pathology report results. I will keep everyone posted ... I have received so much love, support and prayers with all of my health issues (and Ahnung's) ... for that I am extremely grateful.

Have a beautiful Tuesday!!

with love and gratitude,
Marilou, Ahnung, Missy, Mister ... and all the animals rescued and needing rescue up at Leech Lake Reservation, Red Lake reservation, Pet Haven Inc of Minnesota, People for Pets and all other rescues and shelters ....