Dear Dog Cancer, Screw You.

I took Jazzmin in for a routine lump check earlier this week. I do monthly body checks on my dogs. After my experiences with Lucy and her mast cell disease, I just kept the habit going, even though there was no reason to suspect that my current dogs would have cancer, it’s always smart to check, sort of like doing self checks for breast cancer make a difference. The earlier you catch any cancer, the better off you are.

Jazzmin has been diagnosed with lymphosarcoma. It is a very aggressive cancer of the lymph system. The lump I found, was an enlarged lymph node that’s now about the size of a walnut. Most folks don’t notice enlarged lymph nodes until they are three times that size, so I may have bought Jazzmin a little time with my habit of checking my dogs every month.

Jazzmin is already 12 years old and she has lived a very full life. Her life here with us was supposed to be a wonderful retirement community type existence. We were supposed to take long walks down the street, wait on her hand and foot, bring her cheese, give her bi-weekly pedicures, a regular massage and when she was in the mood, break out a bumper and play a nice, not so quiet game of fetch.

It wasn’t supposed to end with cancer.

Jazzmin’s diagnosis has brought back all of the memories of Lucy that I’d put out of my mind. The radiation burn that kept trying to get infected. Her upset stomach after IV administered vinblastine. Sleeping with her in the floor with my arms around her because it was the only comfort I could give her. The red to purple bruises all over her belly after Kinavet tanked her platelets. I remember it all now, bright and clear as though it happened yesterday and I miss her, but it was always about her, about her quality of life, about the good days that outweighed the bad, until her final moments.  It wasn’t about what I wanted from Lucy’s life. It was about what she wanted from it and she wanted to go for as long as she could.

I’m not the wreck I was when Lucy was fighting cancer. Part of me feels numb, like I’m used to it now, not that you ever really get used to it, but you do learn and collate data. The other part of me is just broken inside, because I know that chemotherapy is not a choice that I will make for Jazzmin. She can’t handle it, but then there’s the knowledge that it gave us another year with Lucy that’s causing my logical brain to dive in and say that it’s worth a shot, but I can’t ask Jazzmin to do that. She freaks out at the vet, bad. Chemo means vet visits at least once a week. I want the last days of her life to be happy and warm. I want them to be filled with fun and love. I do not want her to spend them afraid. Asking her to tolerate weekly visits to the one place she fears most in the world is asking too much. I won’t do it.

I’m more than just sad. I’m heartbroken and I’m even angry too, but this is what I signed up for with Jazzmin. I knew when we adopted her just over a year ago that we would have 2 or 3 years with her, max. I knew that she just wasn’t quite finished having fun yet and over the last few months, I’ve seen her get to the place where she has come to accept that her time is coming. I wondered why and now I know. Even though she may never experience pain from this cancer, she’s had a very full life and has been loved the whole time and while I would love to keep her with me forever, that was never part of the plan.

In the mean time, try not to be sad for us. We have given Jazzmin a wonderful retirement. I refuse to let the amount of loss we have experienced in the last 14 months have anything to do with what is happening to her, even though it’s difficult to keep it separated. This isn’t about me, or my family and what we’ve been through. This is about her. This is what we are here for to make sure that she could live and die on her own terms and in her own time and not just because she was homeless, black or old. We have played with her every day. We love her with all of our hearts. We are devoted to making her the happiest old Labrador the world has ever known, and I think we’ve managed to accomplish that.

I know that Jazzmin is ready to go to the bridge. Not like, today, but when the day comes, she is prepared to meet it. I may not want her to go, but that’s not my call and this is part of the job description when you agree to become the parent of a senior dog. You always know, from the moment you adopt them, that this day is going to come and that it will be sooner than you would ever want it to be. I could never have had enough time with Jazzmin, but she has had enough time for her. Unlike Lucy, Jazzmin IS choosing her time, even if cancer is the cause, she’s not being taken from us too soon, at least, not by her standards.

So right now, I just want to ask everyone that can read this to send up some prayers, positive energies, good thoughts into the universe. If you feel that you want to do something for us, please donate to the Veterinary School at WSU, which is where Lucy was treated for her cancer, or to the Spokane Humane Society. These are my two favorite, local charities. WSU’s program gave us a wonderful year and gives time to so many families. They also do research there and research matters. The SHS gave me Jet and provides free dog food to needy families so that they don’t have to part with their pets, because they can’t afford to feed them as well as low cost spay/neuter.

Donate to WSU’s Veterinary Oncology Program here: http://www.vetmed.wsu.edu/deptsOncology/giving.aspx

Donate to the Spokane Humane Society here:

http://www.spokanehumanesociety.org/donate/ways-to-give/