Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Learning to find peace in uncertainty

Ahnung waiting patiently to meet
with her oncologist

It's been 10 days since Ahnung had surgery to remove the tumor in her neck. The pathology report came back indicating an aggressive and rare cancer, "invasive adenosquamous carcinoma." We've struggled to keep her stitches in and she had to go back a few times to get stitched back up. This last go around involved being under completely and having her stitches completely re-done, and she ended up with a major wrap around her neck to keep it still. She has done amazingly well. 

This week is an interesting week for both of us as we continue to walk parallel paths in our health journey. Yesterday I met with my heart doctor for my routine 6 month check up. Last May I was told I had a very rare heart disease - Left Ventricular Non Compaction/LVNC ... it was an 'incidental' finding as a result of dealing with electrical rhythm problems in my heart. The electrical problems they were able to take care of with a heart ablation procedure. The LVNC unfortunately is something I have to live with and to keep monitoring closely. Because it is such a rare disease (only .01% of the population has it) there isn't much information on it and conversations regarding treatment and prognosis contain lots of uncertainty ... i'm told, it could be a year, two years, maybe 10 years before noticeable symptoms start showing up. I'm told the best thing I can do right now is aspirin therapy and being monitored closely. It's been an interesting journey for me physically, spiritually and emotionally to come to terms with a serious heart condition (one that in the past has only often been discovered after heart failure and during autopsies) and my own mortality and how fragile and short life is.

Ahnung leaving Lake Harriet Vet
last Friday, 4/20
And last July my sweet  Ahnung got diagnosed with breast cancer. She went through a lumpectomy and because they had good margins we were advised to simply monitor her closely. We were hopeful the cancer had all been removed. Well, a new cancer developed. The oncologist does not believe this cancer is related to the breast cancer. We met with the oncologist this morning. Ahnung has a very rare cancer. My oncologist hasn't even seen this type of cancer before ... according to medical journals there have been 15 cases seen (and they were in Canada). Of these cases, if the cancer has spread to the lymphatic system then prognosis was a couple months; if the cancer had not spread to the lymphatic system prognosis was 30 months. In Ahnung's case, the pathology report indicates it has not spread to the lymphatic system, however, the cancer cells are very aggressive and multiplying rapidly (mitoses is 10 per high power field). The oncologist was honest in that he doesn't really know. It's unusual for another cancer to show up in less than a year; she's also got a very rare cancer. He indicated that if it were his dog he would simply continue to monitor closely. I asked about recurrence ... "hard to say" ... at this point, we can just hope and pray that all the cancer was removed. Even with all this uncertainty I am grateful that Ahnung does not need to go through chemo or radiation. Our biggest hurdle right now is to get her incision to heal so we can remove her wrap and she can romp around freely and play like a puppy with her brother Legacy who desperately misses his play buddy. 

On Thursday I go in for a breast MRI. I'm a little overdue. I've had 3 lumpectomies over the past 2 years. Pathology reports confirm atypical ductal hyperplasia and some say DCIS. It's not in any particular location so radiation isn't an option. I haven't been told anything definitive and have been told that close surveillance continues to be a viable option so I've continued down that path for a couple years. It's a gamble I know. I've been hearing a lot of 'you're high risk' over the past couple years and 'we haven't seen this before' or 'you have a rare disease' or 'we can't explain what caused your stomach erosions or why your kidneys are leaking' ... and 'we can't explain why your pancreas stopped producing lipase and why you weren't able to digest fats' ... just seems like the past two years have been this journey of doctor after doctor, procedure after procedure and a whole lot of unknowns and uncertainty. And now, my sweet, sweet Ahnung is joining me in this crazy health journey.

I have wondered if she is trying to take some of my health issues ... I have asked her not to. I have asked her to let me deal with my own health issues. But i know that we are so bonded and so connected. My spirit and soul are so connected with her ... often I feel like we are one.

I know there is a lesson and a reason for why we are having to walk this journey together. We were blessed to be able to have a party for Ahnung this past Sunday, a Celebration of Life party. It was an incredibly touching and moving party and she was surrounded by friends who love her dearly. A special thanks to Merry Sawdey for leading the healing/prayer circle for Ahnung ... Ahnung will be posting about her party on her blog in the not too distant future :)

So for today, I am simply grateful to have my sweet girl with me. I am grateful she feels good and continues to wag her tail like crazy. And I am grateful for all the love and support we continue to get from so many in the community.

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