Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The ever shifting ground

Ahnung - Dec. 26, 2012
Ahnung's follow-up appointment with her oncologist was at 9 am this morning. It's been exactly one month since we confirmed from her chest x-rays that her cancer has metastasized to her lungs. She has been on supplements and low-dose chemo and today we went in for a follow-up x-ray. Visually, her x-rays show her tumors have not grown, but nor have they shrunk. Her oncologist will take precise measurements by comparing today's x-rays with last month's x-rays by using some software and will call me tomorrow. Today, he said from visually comparing the x-rays, the one larger nodule that she had (about the size of a nickel which is right by her rib cage) a month ago appears to be holding steady at the same size. She has other nodules which are smaller and he will be able to tell me tomorrow whether they have changed at all. From what he is able to tell from comparing the x-rays today, we are in the 'stable' phase. He admits he was hoping they would shrink but the fact that they are holding steady is also great news. Her oncologist admits he can only give me averages ... so on average, once cancer has metastasized to the lungs, he says, the dog will have 3 months. With treatment we hope to double the amount of time. I fire off questions ... 'so how long can we remain at the 'stable' phase where the tumor doesn't grow? and once the tumors start to grow and multiply, how quickly do they grow and/or multiply?, .... in nutshell, I want to know, how much more time do I have? He can't give me any definite answers. The spectrum is huge. Cancer is unpredictable and can spread like wildfire or at a very slow pace. Part of me wants to celebrate the fact that they haven't grown. A part of me wants to cry because I want the cancer to just go away.

We go back in a month for a follow-up unless Ahnung starts to show symptoms. For now, she has been feeling great. She also gained a pound and has had no side effects from the chemo. Her oncologist said she looks great! So why is there this unsettling feeling in my stomach? This feeling of now knowing how I really feel, or how I'm 'supposed' to feel, or how I'm supposed to handle this not knowing ...
Ahnung, patiently waiting at the vet.

"As human beings we share a tendency to scramble for certainty whenever we realize that everything around us is in flux. In difficult times the stress of trying to find solid ground - something predictable and safe to stand on - seems to intensify ..." [Pema Chodron]. I've been watching my sweet girl romp around in the snow with her little brother Legacy for about 15 minutes now.She's happy. She's content. And unlike her mama, she doesn't have a care in the world. I know this journey of walking alongside Ahnung will be the most beautiful experience for me, but it will also be the most painful journey. I have promised my sweet Ahnung, and I have made that same promise to myself, that I will keep my heart as open to the full experience of what is yet to come. Through that promise, I acknowledge, the intensity of what I am choosing to embrace. All I know is that I am choosing to embrace Ahnung, and I will take whatever comes along with it. I realize this morning as i've had some time to reflect after returning home from the appointment with her oncologist, that there's a large part of me that is petrified, absolutely petrified of losing my soul companion, and that fear is desperately looking for solid ground to walk on. The fear is grasping for solid news .. yes, the certainty that the cancer has gone and I can resume my life with the carefree and comforting knowing of being able to watch and walk by Ahnung's side as she grows old, and to have at least 6 more years with her, and not to hear that we will be fortunate to have another 6 months. Selfish as it is, I do want certainty when it comes to Ahnung.

I can wish and I can hope and I can pray. Nothing in life is certain ... except for change. I wish I could say I'm ecstatic about the news today. I wish I wanted to celebrate the news her cancer is 'stable.' So why does my heart still ache? Why is all this uncertainty causing me so much distress? Was I expecting a miracle? Was I expecting to simply melt into miraculous news? Was I expecting this cloud of uncertainty to dissipate? Would I have been upset with any news other than the tumors have disappeared?

I will move past these feelings. I know I will. For now, I need to simply honor exactly where I am right now. Afraid. Faltering. And incredibly sad ... yet hopeful and grateful at the same time.

Dear sweet Ahnung ... you are loved, deeply, by so many.

If ever my soul felt intertwined with any being, it is your soul sweet girl that has become one with mine.

Ahnung, waiting for a treat after we get home!

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