Playing the odds...
I have never been a gambler. Preparing for baby, I looked up so many product reviews and cross-referenced that with the products out of which I would get the most long term use. I am a researcher. The thought of being unprepared for anything is not an option for me. The problem with being a researcher when it comes to babies, you can get confronted with some scary numbers. 6: percentage of babies born with genetic disorders. 2,226: number of babies that died of SIDS in 2009. The more you read, the more scared you get. It's a vicious cycle. So you start developing a filter in your brain, when the numbers are (relatively) small, you dismiss them.
I should have seen the signs when I was one of the 10% of women that develop gestational diabetes that this kid was not going to be one for paying attention to statistics. I glossed over the baby book chapters on reflux and colic because 20%? Please, that's a drop in the statistical bucket. On my 10th pediatrician visit in 6 weeks, you can bet I'd revisited those chapters in my books, and any other book that could tell me what to do and how to make my kid happy.
Friend and fellow blogger, Katy, recently wrote a very clever blog about how becoming a mom demands that we overcome this researching brain lest we lose our minds. She's absolutely correct. When it comes to my kid, I keep Baby 411 (my "tough love" book) in the bathroom for the occasional reference and let the rest gather dust on my bedside table.
Putting aside my research brain for my kid was a challenge I managed to overcome, however it doesn't apply to, well, ANY other facet of my life apparently. Probably in the market for a new car in the next year, I'm pouring over consumer reports and dealerships websites. I still research all the PRODUCTS I buy for my kid exhaustively. A few months ago, taking my first furbaby in to the doctor, I heard a couple of scary words: LYMPHOMA, CANCER. Research brain to the rescue! Don't be scared of these things until you really understand them, I told myself. So I poured over the web and comforted myself with some statistics. More than 60% of dogs achieve remission with chemo, respond well to chemo, etc etc. With my research in my mental pocket, I wrote my thoughts down on what looked to be the final year I'd have with my furbaby. Since then, I've been wrapping my head around what I was looking at as her final year and scheduling my doggy bucket list with that in mind. My husband and I looked down at our strong, sassy little Charlotte and told ourself she would beat even those odds. She would stick it out long enough for Daphne to have maybe a few memories with her. Look how spry she is! I bet she kicks cancer's ass, it disappears without a trace, and she lives to the ripe old age of 20.
Just like with our daughter, it would appear our furbaby has no respect for numbers or statistics. Although she appears to be dealing fine with the chemo, Charlotte's skin cancer tumors have been multiplying at a staggering rate. Her vet called it "the most aggressive case they've seen in 20 years." I stopped counting the lumps and bumps that I could see, let alone the ones I know are hiding under her thick and shiny fur. If you flip up either ear, you'll see they are mostly lumps of varying sizes. "Ground Zero" for the tumors, her tush and vulva, are now almost unrecognizable. We painfully refer to what used to be her vulva as her "testicles" now because they are so swollen from the tumors there. The mind blowing thing is how unaffected Charlotte seems to be by it all. Sure, she licks down there, but she's still peeing, pooping, eating, playing, humping her sister, doing all the things she ever did before she became covered in lumps.
I guess I was still clinging to Charlotte's positive attitude rather than look at what I knew was the inevitable truth that would come from our most recent check up. We go in every few weeks to check her blood (to see how her immune system is doing with the chemo and to see if the cancer has moved in to her organs yet). The doctor confirmed that the chemo doesn't appear to be doing anything for her. We can finish out our last couple of doses, but she didn't even see a need for us to come back for the bloodwork before the next one. Although Charlotte, internally, is fine (actually, her organs are functioning even better than when this started), it is only a matter of time until the cancer finally starts invading other organs or one of these tumors just becomes too much for her. The doctor finally brought up the "E" word and tossed out "the next few months."
A Life in Pictures
So it would appear Charlotte's bucket list schedule has been shortened a bit. Daphne will probably not get to use her as an alley-oop to pull herself up to stand. It's just "wait and watch" at this point. We are so determined not to prolong a suffering life, but it's so hard to know when the time has come when, other than these lumps, she's still the same dog that has no idea why mommy is crying into her fur.
I'm letting go of statistics and numbers; they've been no friend to me this past year. Each day could be her last, so we're going to have fun whenever we can, and, of course, take lots of pictures.