Life and Death and Cancer

Thoughts swirled in my head as I watched the PBS special on cancer for the second night. I thought of the people in my family who have survived and have been taken by cancer. And the dogs in my family who have survived and have been taken by cancer. And even though we don’t know enough about the cancer that’s killing people, I wish we knew as much about the cancers that are killing our dogs as we know about those that are killing our people. And I wish we knew as much about the canine genome as we do about the human genome.

As I watched, Chase sat by my side and I heard about how cancers that are caught in early stages are often curable, and if caught early enough, surgery alone may be enough. And I’m thankful that we caught Chase’s colon cancer in stage 1 and that (apparently) surgery and radiation therapy have cured him (so far). And I heard about how cancer can destroy people economically as well as physically. And I nodded my head and felt fortunate that we had the resources to treat Chase’s cancer (thank you to those who helped), although I’m still paying the bills. While I was trying to hear the program, Chase barked at the thunderstorm that was moving in on us, the first thunderstorm of the season. And although I wanted to hear the show, I realized that I wanted to hear Chase bark even more and that I’m lucky he’s still here with me, disrupting the show.

Chase and Bandit

Chase and Bandit

As the show continued, I thought about how multiple myeloma took Bandit from us, even though he was on chemotherapy pills. And how there are treatments for people (like bone marrow transplants) that aren’t widely available for dogs, and probably most people couldn’t afford them for their dogs anyway. And I pondered how Bandit lived life so joyfully every single day. Even on his last day here, he played ball and charged up the hill, leading me on our last walk together. I don’t know how he did it, maybe with the will of a cattle dog. He was in so much pain that he couldn’t sleep that last night, and he had so few white blood cells that there weren’t enough to measure. I think dogs are better than most people at getting the most out of life and enjoying it to the fullest, and don’t deny or fear death the way many people do. Maybe that’s why people sometimes decide to quit treatments at the end and try to feel as well as they can and focus on what’s most important to them. Dogs do that more naturally, don’t they? Still, I wish we knew more about the cancers that are killing our dogs, and our people, so we could help them better. I also think of my amazing friend Lynn Cameron and how she has so remarkably lived with cancer for so long. I know it hasn’t been easy. <3


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