It has been a bit over two weeks since radiation treatments ended for Spirit and he is slowly beginning to “come back to himself.”

Today, for the first time in a long time, he picked up a tennis ball and wanted to play ………. until he kind of realized he is not ready to play yet. Looked at me for a moment, dropped the ball and stared at me with a dumb look on his face, like “What the hell am I thinking here!” I almost had to laugh.

The underside of his jaw is still completely hairless and the right side of his lower jaw, where the tumor was located, is still swollen. That is drool hanging down off his jaw in the photo.

A week ago, he wouldn’t let me touch it.

While it must still be tender, he did lay his head on my shoulder the other day as we were driving to our walking place. Before all this happened, his habit was to ride in the car with his front feet on the center console, paw me when he wanted me to pet him, and nuzzling into my neck now and then too – so it is nice to notice he is able to do that a little bit again. A week ago, he was laying on the back seat of my minivan, period.

I still don’t touch his jaw though.

His leg, the other tumor site, is still hairless too but I don’t think there is much, if any, pain there anymore. Looks bad but don’t think it feels bad for him.

 

Because this leg wound is unprotected by a fur layer, each time we go for a walk, I put a Telfa non stick pad on it, hold it in place with Nexcare gentle wrap (sticks to itself), then cover that with a couple of two inch wide self sticking Velcro strips that protect against damage to his skin from brush, etc. Works very well, leaves him free to walk normally and infinitely better than the various medi boots out there, which are clumsy, always coming off and are not water proof anyway.

This routine works well whether it is raining out, or he takes a dip in a creek or whatever. As soon as we get home from our walk, I take all of it off, dry his leg with a paper towel if necessary, save the Velcro for the next time and dispose of the rest of it.

After this is done, I spray his leg (and jaw) with a wonderful Aloe Vera Spray product I found on Amazon (www.sevenminerals.com ). This is a great product for applying healing Aloe Vera without having to touch the area. A godsend for helping Spirit’s jaw, in particular. Now, when I start to spray, he lifts his head up and back so I can apply it – obviously it feels really good to him.

Next time, we will talk about my CBD oil chemotherapy experiment.

Blog post #7 06072019

So far, I have been talking about the day to day nitty gritty of caring for Spirit as we proceed through his healing process.

But, as it always is, it is my healing process too, if we broaden the meaning to include creating a more integrated, conscious self as a “healing process.”

All of us experience being divisible in this reality as “you and me.” However, the underlying reality is we are also and always in life together, indivisible, part of a mysterious whole. Our pathway toward a more fully integrated way of being, expressing, and experiencing this is to practice. (Practice #4 in my upcoming book, currently in editing, tentatively titled, Creating a Life that Works/11 life Practices.

In this book, we explore how this reality is put together and how we might practice playing this game in this more fully conscious way.

I have titled these practices as follows:

Part I Being (Practices in being more fully who we are)

  1. A Beginning Place/Being Now-Here (practice being present to what is)
  2. Our Inner Voice     (practice listening to our inner voice)
  3. Life is Re-creation (practice noticing the stories we are always creating)
  4. Me and We (practice experiencing being one with Infinite Being expressing)

Part II Expressing Being (the practices of playing the game with our words and actions)

  1. Doing What Love Does (this is Love with a capital L, how God expresses Love)
  2. Showing Up
  3. Choosing our Attitude
  4. Letting go
  5. Completing (practice disappearing upsets in our relationships)
  6. Bucking Up (practice fulfilling the promise of any long term commitment)
  7. Lightening Up

What I am discovering is we have the opportunity to practice most of these practices almost every day! It may be true that we could be practicing all of them every day. Perhaps, even in every moment!?

In any event, I am going to report how I experience engaging in these practices as Spirit and I go through our healing process together.

Why?

Reporting helps me to practice. And, who needs to practice more than me?

And, when would be a better time than now?

I am 80 years old. Probably shouldn’t wait much longer! J

 

So, let’s take a look at how these practices appear in one daily life, my own.

 

This particular life adventure began when I noticed what is: a lump on Spirit’s rear leg, then not long after that, another one on his lower jaw. (Practice #1)

What first emerged out of this awareness was noticing my own contribution to his illness. I realized I had long been busy creating a reality about him getting cancer with my fear of him getting cancer. (Practice #3, noticing my own story, reported in an earlier post.)

Next, I chose to let that (debilitating) story go. (Practice #8).

I consciously chose to create a new story. (Practice #3 again): I will treat this as a challenge, as an opportunity for healing. I would chart a new course, sailing toward an unknown shore, to be sure.

I may not know the outcome but am open to whatever Life brings, with love in my heart, grateful for each moment we have together. (Practice #7)

I could have let nature take its course and let him die (in a few months, I was told).

When I looked into his liquid brown eyes, my heart spoke, loud and clear (Practice #2).

I will spend whatever resources I am able to give him a chance at life (Practice #5).

Many, without the money to do anything else would have to make the heartbreaking decision to let him go (practice #8 again, and a much tougher row to hoe). How blessed we are that I have enough energy and money to use help from the veterinary profession for the treatments needed. I feel incredibly grateful.

Doing what Love does, in this situation, asks that I step up to meet the challenge (Practice # 6). I must be willing to provide my daily, even hourly, attention to his well being over the many months, perhaps even years to come. This is not going to be a quick fix but a long journey through surgery, radiation, and whatever other means I can bring to the table. (Practice #10).

One day, as I am looking at him sleeping peacefully, lost to the world, it occurs to me that I am doing this for him …. and for me ………. and what is the difference? What works for him works for me too. We are engaged in a win-win game together. Everything I feel for him I feel for me too. (Practice #4). I feel complete with him in this moment. (Practice # 9)

It also occurs to me one day, things could be so much worse.

His cancer is treatable, appears not to have metastasized, his appetite is good, his poops are good, he sleeps a lot (a key healing activity all by itself), loves being petted and is still excited by deer crossing a field, or a rabbit standing on the road, or when the plumber or a friend comes to the door.

He loves life.

Enough motivation for me.

So, whether he decides to leave in a few months and stays with me for many more years to come, I feel blessed. I feel cheered by this challenge, even joy! (Practice #11)

 

Two practices I have touched on, completing (practice #9) and the practice of being me and we (practice #4) warrant a bit more comment.

Unlike with my human relationships, which are more prone to fall in and out of completion, I am essentially almost always complete with Spirit.

How do I know this?

Whenever I look at him, there is a smile in my heart.

If there is an occasional incompleteness, if something needs repair, it is always within me (my fear based thoughts about losing him being one example). But, day in, day out, being complete with Spirit is our normal state of being together.

 

Robin Wall Kimmerer (Professor, State University of New York and author, Gathering Moss and Braiding Sweetgrass) proposes using the word, Ki as the singular pronoun to use when referring to non human life. This gets rid of “it” as in I ran over “it’ with my car or “it” landed on my birdfeeder or….

 

Naturally, as she notes, the plural of ki is a word we already have, kin! Perfect!

So, Spirit is Ki.

But I am Ki, too.

Each of us is part of the All That Is, Infinite Being expressing. Spirit expresses as Spirit, I as me, each of us, as who we are being in this reality.

We are all kin.

While in this duality reality of light/dark, large/small, good/bad, right/wrong, we mostly experience being me and “other.” But some magical moments, at least, I experience being both me and we. (Practice #4) He has given me so, so many such moments.

And he sleeps here at my feet, healing his body. So far, anyway, he is choosing to stay here, with me in this life.

 

 

 

Past #6 6/6/2019

It has been a week now since Spirit completed the radiation treatments, 18 in all, taking up most of the month of May. He is feeling lousy, the worst since this all began.

I administer anti –inflammatory medicine once per day (in his afternoon meal) along with pain medication three times a day, once with a small morning meal, again with his evening meal and again at bedtime so he can sleep peacefully through the night. Each one pretty much knocks him out, causing him to sleep/doze/in a stupor for hours.

I can see the pain killer does two good things – helps alleviate the pain but also gives him the healing gift of rest, allowing him to sleep more peacefully, day and night.

These are hours he has little interest in aggravating his leg or jaw wounds, locations where the radiation killed not only cancer cells but did significant healthy tissue damage that now has to heal.

Any regrets?

I look at him as I pet him, his eyes closed, and it breaks my heart to see him like this. His normal self is unbounded energy and enthusiasm.

But, no, no regrets.

The radiation did its job of killing off localized cancer tumors that were going to metastasize if left untreated.

So, this will be his pathway to complete healing, to the possibility of having a normal, healthy life.

Radiation treatment is very expensive ($9000 for treating both sites with each treatment), and very time consuming. But what is money and time (if we are lucky enough to have it) for if not to help those we love?

 

I have started giving him CBD oil twice a day; the wild west here, but the natural chemotherapy treatment I have opted for, hopefully helping his own immune system kill off whatever cancer cells still exist in his body.

Does it have any efficacy for this purpose? There is a very thin amount of science out there that suggests CBD oil kills cancer cells. Dosing is still a mystery.

Still, I decided I would not put Spirit through conventional chemotherapy.

I watched my wife deal with it, and she could tell the doctor when and how it hurt, about the multiple and sometimes horrendous side effects. But, dogs can’t talk. And, like any animal, they instinctively hide pain as a defense mechanism, a survival tool. Spirit is, therefore, incredibly stoic.

So, my gut feeling is not to put him through it.

So, I will take the more benign, totally painless, and possibly effective approach of CBD instead. Another benefit that is better known is it tends to reduce anxiety, so a good thing, whatever other benefits it may offer.

If I can spend thousands of dollars on radiation, what is a few hundred more to possibly help with a cure. Only up side, no down side I can see at all.

I will never know of course, no matter how things turn out. Not running a double blind study here with a statistically significant number of patients.

 

I also give him 300 mg of milk thistle with his meals to help his liver get rid of the chemicals I am putting into his body. Does this help? Again, cannot hurt, will never know. I would do it for me is all I know for sure. So I will do it for him.

I apply pure aloe vera to his leg wound four times/day (happen to have a plant and learned how to extract the aloe from the leaves). He seems to appreciate how it feels as I dab it on with a bit of cotton ball. He won’t let me touch his jaw, where most of the pain he is feeling exists.

The tech’s at the radiation center suggested using Aquaphor for this but also liked the idea of aloe. But will have to stop cutting leaves if I am not to kill the plant, so ordered pure aloe vera but may have to use Aquafor while waiting for it to arrive.

I can apply this right now to his leg but he won’t let me touch his jaw. Obviously he is in a lot of pain there. When the pure, organic aloe vera I ordered shows up, am going to whip it up with an immersion mixer, then see if I can put it in a spray bottle so I can spray his mutilated jaw area without having to touch him. Not sure how this is going to work

Spirit, even when he is totally well, is almost miraculously calmed by soothing music, played at a very low volume. I do this as much as I can, filling the house with barely audible (to me) Enya, the more delicate pieces of classical or new age music, almost meditation music. (He gets as far away as he can from loud sounds, TV or radio, as he can – really bothers him.

So, these days we are using the healing power of music as well.

 

Here is my boy:

 

 

 

The role of radiation is not likely to be a cure. Spirit will have to heal his own body, just as we all must do. But the radiation treatments are buying him the time to do exactly that. My job is to support him as best I can in both practical and spiritual ways.

Spiritdog is now deep into the radiation treatment protocol of 18 days of radiation on both his jaw and rear leg. Today he will have completed treatment #10.

So far, I have noticed no ill effects at all – his appetite, bowel movements, energy level are all pretty normal.

However, certainly his experience has changed radically: no treats in the morning (to prevent possible vomiting when he is sedated prior to being irradiated), which he dearly misses, being doped up every morning with trazadone instead (requested by staff; he is a very energetic 90 pound dog who is hard to handle by the diminutive female technicians at the center – they love him but don’t want to be hurt by him either), then coming out of treatment pretty groggy for the rest of the afternoon.

So, all his days are different than they used to be.

Well, mine too. The heart of every weekday is spent going back and forth to Canton, Michigan, a trip I could now almost do in my sleep.

However, all this is about to take yet another turn as the side effects of the radiation itself begin to set in during the second half of the treatment process, and effects that will persist for weeks after the treatment has been completed.

What are these side effects?

I am about to find out.

My now deceased wife endured many courses of radiation (along with surgeries and chemo) during her 17 year battle with cancer so I have some observer background to help me out. But, of course, she never had to be sedated and, after all, she was not a dog (more like a fox! J ) either.

I feel in my heart we are traveling our best path to better health.

To pick up where we left off, the biopsy done by my local vet on spirit’s leg showed it to be a grade I sarcoma. Good news. If it has to be cancer, a sarcoma like this is not as aggressive as other types, so slower to metastasize – and grade I is much better than grade II or III, where the prognosis is not as good.

I take him up to MSU SAC, oncology section (Michigan State University Small Animal Clinic, a 75 minute drive north from where we live).

As to the tumor on his lower jaw, a needle biopsy done at MSU Small Animal Clinic indicates it, too, is a sarcoma but not clear about what kind. We would need to do a biopsy on that to find out.

More scans are done on his lungs and other organs and it appears the cancer has not yet metastasized so, at this moment in time, he seems to have two localized tumors.

I appear to have three choices: a) do nothing and watch him die in a few months or b) they can lop off a chunk of his jaw and remove the entirety of his hind leg (dogs get along just fine with three legs they say) or c) I can opt to do radiation on both tumors and see how it goes.

We are at a crossroad.

Options a) and b) are out of the question for me.

If I just did not have enough money to do anything else, I would have to let him die but, though I can ill afford it, I do have the money to do more.

As to option b), my heart says no.

I would not want to live without a part of my jaw or a missing leg.

Many others, both human and dogs, have lost even more of their body parts and not only survive but thrive, going on to live extraordinary lives. Bless them; I have nothing but admiration for those with that kind of determination, courage and love of life.

But I am not willing to do that to myself. I guess life does not mean that much to me? I can’t say. I just know it is not for me. When I stare into his eyes, in my heart I know it is not for him either.

Sometimes we get to choose which cross we want to carry. This is one of those times.

I choose option c, radiation.

It is going to be very expensive and time consuming, thousands of dollars requiring 18 daily trips on consecutive days to the radiation facility, which for us, is a 75 minute drive to Canton, a western suburb of Detroit (if the traffic is light; who knows how long in rush hour). And he will have to be sedated 18 times, day after day, which worries me.

Any wounds he has must heal before starting radiation or there will not be enough healthy tissue left to ever heal. I decide not to biopsy the jaw tumor, creating another wound that has to heal.

The tumor on his jaw is small but growing. The tumor on his leg is pretty big already. Since the biopsy on his leg left is already an open wound, we agree we might as well remove as much of the leg tumor as possible (no possibility for clear margins though – too many tendons, ligaments and nerves in the way) and leave the tumor on his jaw untouched – what’s to be gained by creating another, even harder wound to heal.

Time is of the essence. No point of in doing radiation once metastasis has occurred.

So, they do the tumor removal on his leg and now it becomes a waiting game.

Will his wound heal soon enough for us to accomplish the radiation protocol before metastasis occurs?

Will just have to bet it works out.

 

Below is a story excerpted from my book (still in editing, tentatively titled 11 Life Practices) to provide the background and context we need for what is happening now with Spirit’s cancer treatment process.

In my next post, we will begin reporting both the nitty gritty and spiritual aspects of the healing, treatment process Spirit and I will be using during this adventure in living.

One day I look down at Spirit’s rear leg and notice a lump, the diameter of maybe a quarter near his paw. Where did that come from?

I call the vet and set up an appointment to biopsy the lump.

It is cancer but appears to be a treatable one.

A few days later Spirit and I are driving to our walking place. He has his front feet firmly planted on the center console, his head right next to mine, mouth open, happy, interested, alert. He loves to see where we’re going and what‘s going on out there. He can also easily paw my arm, telling me to pet him. I begin gently stroking his muzzle. Suddenly, I notice another small lump on his lower jaw. My heart sinks.

This has now become more than my local vet can handle.

We visit Michigan State University Small Animal Clinic, the oncology section. After lots of waiting, multiple tests, I learn the lump in his jaw is cancer too. There is not much more they can do to achieve a possible cure, they tell me, unless I want to cut off his leg and remove a chunk of his jaw, then hope for the best. Otherwise, he has months left to live, they say.

Not doing that to him. Wouldn’t do it to me either.

On the long drive back home, I have plenty of time to think about how three of my last four Golden Retrievers died of cancer. About all that Dianna went through with it.

I stumble through the rest of the day and into the night, feeling like I have already lost him. I stare into the dark empty void of my future with terror, writing furiously in my journal, words pouring out of me as if he has already died, my love for him saturated with dread, grief and sorrow.

Suddenly I notice something important.

This story I am writing is the same story I have been telling myself for the entire time I have owned Spirit. All along, I have been thinking thoughts about the past (my other dogs lost to cancer) and about the future (fearing this dog is going to die of cancer too.)

Every day, in some form, I have been whispering in his ear, “I would be lost without you. My life would be empty, like ashes in my mouth, I could not live without you, my dear friend, blah, blah, blah.”

Once again, I am having my legs kicked out from under me, so I might learn what it is I have still have not learned.

“What we fear we bring to ourselves.”

We create our personal reality with our thoughts and feelings, with the stories we tell ourselves, for good or ill.

I already know this!

Dammit!

The light shines even brighter.

When I speak my fears into him, I am urging him to cooperate with the story I am creating. Does he understand my words? No. But he most certainly understands the feelings my words are communicating; feelings akin to desperation, neediness, dependence, of love gone astray. What else can he do but accept them, like a sponge sucks up water. It is what dogs do.

I feel a shift happening within me.

Of course. All our dogs die before we do, except maybe the last one.

Those of us who love our dogs like our own children take this on as a given when we hug a squirming little puppy in our arms for the first time. Our hearts tell us the pain of certain loss is worth it. Their death is just one of the many miraculous gifts they offer to us, helping us to be more present to the preciousness of life, to appreciate more, to be grateful more, to love unconditionally. They offer us a golden opportunity to practice doing what Love does.

They model all this for us with the way they are with us, and with all that life offers them.

In this moment, I see the shining opportunity being offered to me. I can forgive myself for my unconsciousness, then let go of stories that have been weighing me down. He, on the other hand, has no need for any of this. He has no stories resurrecting old fears or future anxieties. He lives almost entirely in the now-here.

So, now it is time for me to wake up.

The next day, after a long day and into the night of working through my thoughts and feelings, I finally wake up to what is. I smile in my heart as I study this beautiful animal, who is is sitting there in front of me, looking up at me.

How silly he looks, and how disconcerted he obviously feels, wearing this blown up plastic pillow around his neck that prevents him from, once again, chewing off the bandages wrapped around his leg.

“Tough, bozo, this is what you get when you won’t leave it alone,” I say, holding his head gently between my hands, staring into his liquid brown eyes.

He stares back into mine. He gets it and he doesn’t.

Just like me.

As with all stories in this (physical) reality, life goes on, with or without Spirit, with or without me.

Life is.

Spiritdog

Well, just found out my dog, Spirit, has cancer.

If anyone is wondering, I named the blog first.

So, when I picked up this tiny squirming puppy almost seven years ago, I knew before I ever saw him, I was going to name him Spirit.

Well, as often as not, I call him Spiritdog.

I told the breeder, I wanted the pick of the litter and a male. I also knew before I went I was going to let him pick me.

There were five males waiting for me when I arrived, all playing together in an outdoor pen. They were all at one end of the pen so I sat on the grass at the other end and waited. All of them came and went but finally, one came over, laid down between my legs, rolled over on his back with his little legs up in the air and looked up at me. (He still does this). In that moment, I had found, in this entire universe, my new Golden Retriever.

So, now I am going to do whatever I can to give him the opportunity to heal himself.

Our medical system does what it can to treat symptoms. With cancer (whether people or dogs) the process is cut, poison and radiate (new research is slowly changing some of this). My deceased wife went through all of it many times over during 17 of the 20 years we were married before she died of cancer in 2008. Not a bad run. She did it with remarkable grace, so much so I wrote a book about her and our journey together titled Dianna’s Way.

So, I have had some experience with cancer.

Treating symptoms never cured anyone but it does buy us time for the body to heal itself. Sometimes we win, sometimes not. But, we all die one day anyway. The real challenge is to hug life tight, live with joy in our hearts and, when the time is right, let go.

So, here we go.

I am going to use this blog to track the entire treatment process for Spirit as well as what I need to do to support him on a practical day to day level . At the same time, I will also report what we go through on a more spiritual level. using the very practices I wrote about in my book, 11 Life Practices.

No doubt, I will do some things well and likely make mistakes too. I’m prone to doing both.

Will, unflinchingly, report all of it.

Until next time, be well my friends.

 

The Origin of 11 Life Practices

Hi Steve, Mark,

As you know, my wife Dianna died at 7:04 AM on February 20, 2008.

As you also know, while still grieving, I started to write a book. I wanted to tell her story, about the way she lived her life.

We were all moved by how she expressed herself in the world.

That book, Dianna’s Way, was a best seller … well, among her friends and family anyway. 🙂 Thanks for buying a copy, by the way. Did sell a few hundred copies and I enjoyed talking to people about it.

Still, I was nagged by a feeling there was still more to say.

What were these qualities that made her stand out?

In Dianna’s Way, I showed the reader what these qualities look like when embodied in a real human being, but nowhere did I identify them, even for myself. Which was fine – it was a memoir not a self help book.

As I began to write this book I slowly realized I was not talking about qualities, I was talking about practices.

Makes sense now. It’s not like we’re born with a list of qualities we then magically use to master the game of life. Regardless of our raw talent, none of us walks out on a baseball field for the first time, already a Hall of Fame player.

To get good at playing the game, we have to practice, practice, practice… And of course there are guys like you that never get any good at it! 🙂 Sitting around drinking beer or smoking joints does not get it done. Okay. Kidding. I admire both of you or I wouldn’t be writing to you.

Anyway, as you now know (finally – I hesitate to tell you I told you so but I told you so) better than I, we are playing a particular game while we are here messing around in physical reality. Sure, we enter this reality imbued with some genetically based talent for playing the game (physical life) but if we want to excel at our position (our unique expression of Infinite Being), we will have to practice if we are to gain the skills needed to become competent at playing our position (our role in the grand game of life).

In the game of life, from our first breath to our last, not a day or an hour or a minute goes by that we are not practicing. We are always in the game, no time outs, like it or not.

The only question is, practicing what?

Some practices are useful for creating a life we love living, some are enough to get us by and some are counter-productive. Of course, I wanted to focus on the former – we all know how to do the rest without trying.

Hence the origin of my upcoming second book, tentatively titled 11 Life Practices/ Creating a Life that Works.

In my next blog, I will talk about why I saw the practices naturally divided into two distinct groups, hence the reason for Part I and II of the book.

Dear Steve and dear Mark,

You guys should have stuck around awhile longer.

I have nearly completed my second book.

Would have loved sharing it with you, seeing how you reacted to it. Of course, I know neither of you can read but at least you could have held it in your hands and admired my great work. 🙂

My working title is 11 Life Practices/ sub title: Creating a Life that Works.

I split the book into two parts.

Part consists of four practices in being.

Part II consists of seven practices in expressing our being.

The two parts are bridged by a chapter called “The Huddle” where we review what is at stake for us all and why these practices matter.

My goal is to publish it sometime in the fall of this year. Hopefully sooner but we will see how it goes. Better done as well as I can than just done.

Miss you both very much.

Will be seeing you soon enough. But not too soon either.

Love always, dear friends

John

 

IMG_0015

Spirit at Rest

 

Spirit in half light

Spirit in half light

Just came back from a quiet hour walk in the woods with a misty rain falling, Canada geese complaining out on Grassy Lake, Sandhill Cranes echoing their guttural calls across the lake or maybe even one lake over from where we are ….couldn’t see them …. doesn’t matter …. just so good to be there.

Spirit is up to 83 pounds, so strong and overflowing with energy, so much he doesn’t know what to do with it all so he runs and runs and runs. Such joy.

Can this old man keep up with this young dog?

Fun trying anyway.

None of this matters either. Just being is enough for now.

Spirit is the teacher and I just try to pay attention.  🙂

 

Spirit out there

Spirit Out There