Five Hundred Twenty Five Thousand Six Hundred Minutes
Election day was not an easy one for me.
Around 11 am I got a phone call. My little girl, my firstborn, has lymphoma. No, not that one. The FIRST little girl we welcomed into our home.
Charlotte is my little poochie soul mate. We were fated to be together (it's a long story, I'll share it one day). When Ian and I adopted Charlotte, we decided it was time we start living together to take care of her. We both agree that Charlotte was what made us a family and not just a couple of kids who happened to have been dating a while.
About a month ago we noticed some lumps. Charlotte had just been in for her annual in July, and had some fatty cysts that the doctor checked and found to be harmless. These new lumps? One was on her pooper, and one on her vulva. Then one popped up on her ear and her foot. At first we just thought she'd gotten into an ant pile or something outside (not unusual for her) and was having a negative reaction to the bites. When the lump on her tush just kept getting bigger, we decided to take her to the vet.
Comprehensive blood work showed no signs of raised calcium levels (a sign that her body is fighting something serious) but when we brought Charlotte in to have the lumps drained, the doc just didn't think she felt right about the tissue, so we sent off a biopsy.
That was a week and half ago, and I'd honestly forgotten about it. Ian and I had been laughing at Charlotte's neck cone antics (you haven't lived until you've seen a dog with a cone around her neck trying to drink from the toilet). The doctor called me Tuesday morning and asked how Charlotte was doing. I mentioned how well Charlotte was responding to the prednazone, how the lumps were shrinking and she was acting normal. I laughed and told her about the toilet incident. Then...
"Well, the lab work finally came back from the biopsy, and I'm afraid it's bad news. It looks like Charlotte has lymphoma..."
She went on to talk about how it looked like we'd caught it really early and chemo and blah blah but I don't think I really heard any of it. It just hadn't entered into my head that it was remotely possible that my little girl, still as spry as a puppy at 9 years old, could have cancer. I agreed to bring Charlotte in as soon as possible to discuss our next steps and hung up the phone.
I went home and held her, cone and all. All I could think of was my pregnancy breakdown, when I was upset that Daphne wouldn't ever really get to know Charlotte and Fiona. Still, I thought I had at LEAST five years left, especially with Charlotte. Then I did the thing that any parent knows very well you should NEVER do... I googled. Cue dogmommy breakdown.
I'll spare you the gory details. We've removed the biggest tumor and we're going to start chemo. Dogs respond very well to chemo, and Charlotte has a 60-80% chance of remission this first time, especially considering how early it is and the blood work shows it hasn't reached any of her organs yet. Ian and I are adamant about quality of life; we don't want to drag out her life if she's miserable, putting band-aids on a bigger problem. So what's the bottom line?
I probably have a year left with her. Maybe a little more. One good year.
I get choked up again thinking about it, but Ian has pointed out how we have to approach this. I'm going to do my best to be pragmatic. I'm already on my way.
Not everyone knows when they have a year left with a loved one. Not everybody gets the chance to know and prepare themselves. I get the chance to give Charlotte the absolute best year of her life. I promised her all the tennis balls she can chew, and I'll give her treats at every meal. She can get fat if she wants (she won't, she's too active). She will get hugs every day, but I know that she'll really want us to throw the ball instead. So we will throw those damn tennis balls. And go for walks. And go to the dog park. And take a million pictures of her. Especially with Daphne.
I know she'll always be with me (literally, her face is tattooed on my left ankle). So F*** Cancer. Here's to giving my little girl the best five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes we can.