Post #12 07/17/2019 Done with Radiation, on to Chemotherapy

 

Back to the practical side after my deep dive into the spiritual side of this adventure, caring for Spirit, my dog, who has cancer.

To review, I had the lump on his leg surgically removed to the degree possible. Because the cancer is enmeshed in his ligaments, tendons and nerves, clear margins are not possible (only amputation of the entire leg offers that option). What the surgery did do is cut down on the size of the mass radiation had to kill, making radiation more effective.

What the radiation treatments did hopefully accomplish is completely kill localized cancer cells in his jaw and leg. This buys us time to continue CBD oil as a possible natural chemotherapy to deal with cancer cells throughout his body, or at least keep them at bay.

Maybe.

There is some early science, but not much, to indicate this may be effective.

I am going to assume this is true and have begun with 45-50 mg/day as the dose he needs to do that, again, with no science to back this up – simply what I concluded after perusing suggested dosages based on vague, anecdotal reports.

I will do this for a year.

If he is doing well, with no new evidence of cancer, will decide then whether to continue at this dose level or shift to a lower, maintenance level of maybe half as much …… probably for as long as he lives – two thirds of all Golden Retrievers eventually die of cancer so why stop if it seems to be working?

 

Post #11 07042019

It was 11 years ago today that I was writing a many page letter to my wife, Dianna, after she died on February 20, 2008 at 7:04 AM.

As recounted in my book, Dianna’s Way, a memoir about our life together, I was deeply immersed in grief over her death and this letter was my way of completing my relationship with her (practice #9 in my second book, Creating a Life that Works/11 Practices, currently being edited).

It has been my experience that when someone we love dies, our grief often includes an element of feeling guilty about something in that relationship. Not surprising. Few of us express Love perfectly in every moment of every day.

However, the beauty of guilt is it invites us to create and experience forgiveness, of self, of others.

This act opens the door wide to completing our relationships.

Simply put, the steps to completing our relationships are to a) notice there is something amiss in the relationship, b) own it (take responsibility for our own feelings, words and actions), c) forgive ourselves, then, if the shoe fits (if they have harmed us) forgive them too, d) share our completeness when appropriate, e) repair any damage we have done as best we can, f) honor their choices about whether to complete with us or not, without being bound by their choices.

 

So that was then and this is now.

I guess I never thought about it this way before but I had to complete my relationship with my dog, Spirit, too. This is an amazing insight for me!

In retrospect, completing is exactly what I did when I recognized I was transmitting negative energy into his psyche and body with my fear-filled thoughts and feelings about him dying of cancer.

Just by noticing my own negative energy, forgiving myself for harboring them, letting them go and creating a positive, constructive energy, both within my heart and mind as well as expressed in action, I could achieve completion with him. Now the way was open to moving forward with a practical, constructive plan of healing.

Of course, in all of this, I will continue to honor his choices in this matter, which may mean him choosing to end his life in a few months or not. I have no say in his choices.

Repairing the damage is simply doing what Love does (practice #5).

In this situation, this means doing whatever I am able to support him in his healing process.

This began with the insight that there was a practical way forward that had some possibility of success: radiation on the two tumor sites to kill the cancer cells in those locations, followed by an experimental CBD oil based chemotherapy for the next year – and, of course, all the associated support he needs in the form of wound healing, good diet, exercise and, in general providing a life he loves living.

Most of all, what Spirit, and any dog we have in our lives, most wants, most keenly requests, most appreciates, is always open and ready for, is that we be present to them in whatever moments we are willing to give (practice #1).

They, themselves, are masters at this practice, so teachers for us whenever we choose to be a willing student.

Doing what Love does also includes shifting my attitude to a positive, constructive frame (practice #7). There is a possible way we can achieve healing. No guarantees, the future is unknown, he may live a year or five. I don’t know. What I do know is, no matter how it turns out, I will have no regrets about everything I am doing now. Whatever happens, I will have done everything I could have done.

So, now we are in the phase of bucking up (practice #10), doing whatever it takes over the long haul.

We also know, given how this reality is designed, all of us are here only for a little while. We all leave this reality one day.

If I live that long, one day, I will experience Spirit dying, whether at age 8 or 15 or anywhere in between. When I held that squirming little puppy in my arms for the first time, I knew I was signing up for this experience too, that I would likely have the opportunity, painful as this always is, to practice letting go. (practice #8).

Life provides us with life, an amazing game to play.

 

So, why am I getting all this practice at care giving?

Life brings us the experience we need to expand our capacity for being and expressing. Nothing in life is an accident, not even “accidents.”

So, why me?

Why now?

I am naturally inclined to lean toward the mental, rational, side of experiencing life. I often love thinking about life rather than living it.

Care giving brings me back into life, into being present; how would I know if someone needs help if I am not paying attention? When present to what is, and what is is someone I love, who is in need, I am drawn into my own emotional nature, my emotional sensitivity, expressed as empathy, compassion.

Keeps me in touch with my heart.

All I need to do is pay attention to what it is saying, moment to moment.

So, care giving offers a perfect venue for practicing not only listening to my heart but to practice all of these practices.

Perfect.

 

 

Post # 10 06252019

A few days ago, I brought Spirit in for a checkup at the Animal Cancer and Imaging Center in Canton, MI.

Mostly, good news.

The only bad news is it could take 6-12 months for his hair to grow back in his radiated tumor locations.

And it might not grow back completely.

What?

I don’t mind the cosmetic aspect of it – who cares – but this means these areas have less protection from cuts and abrasions that could happen out walking, or anywhere for that matter. Not thrilled about this. Also means I will have to continue indefinitely with Aloe sprays, wrapping his leg for walks, and being careful about where we walk – romps through the woods would be not too smart right now.

Otherwise, good news.

The vet could not be absolutely sure but she thought the tumor on his jaw was a soft tissue sarcoma that had begun to penetrate into the bone rather than osteosarcoma (bone cancer, originating in the bone itself and which is incurable and aggressive). She based her opinion on the CT scan – so not the definitive diagnosis one would get from an actual biopsy. As the reader may remember from earlier posts, a needle biopsy did verify a sarcoma but could not distinguish between a soft tissue sarcoma and osteosarcoma. No certainty here but, still, I choose to be optimistic.

And, no more plastic cone around his neck!!!! (By the way, early on, I modified a store bought cone with too many mostly unworkable snaps on it and had a shoemaker sew Velcro strips on it so I could take it off and put it on in a couple of seconds. Still, both Spirit and I hated that cone!)

They also said his wounds are healing nicely. No reason for concern so far.

They had no real advice about how to administer CBD – outside their area of expertise, but they did give me some nice plastic 3 ml syringes I can use to administer it.

They did not disagree with my proposed approach of giving Spirit the entire daily dose at one time.

My strategy is based on watching how nurses administered chemo drugs to Dianna (my deceased wife). Her chemo drugs were not spread out over an entire day (although one was given in a slow drip injection through a port she carried around all day because that one could damage her heart if given all at once. None of this is an issue with CBD as it has no known serious side effects other than possible drowsiness, lethargy, etc.)

So, to allow Spirit to live his normal life as much as possible, I have decided to give him his entire dose at bedtime.

My reasoning is, this approach will:

  1. a) Aid in his sleeping (one common effect of CBD is reduced anxiety and drowsiness).
  2. b) CBD + sleep could be synergistic – both have healing characteristics.
  3. c) The effects will be mostly worn off by morning and he can enjoy being his normal self all day long.

In my next post, I will detour from the practical to the spiritual, investigating why I have found so much of my life devoted to care giving cancer patients, first for my wife, now for Spirit.

.

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.

 

 

 

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.

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.

 

 
 
 And so Chili, my last Golden Retriever, did.
 
As each one who has chosen to be in my life has.
 
Hurts my heart each time they leave. 
 
Why do dogs live such short lives>
 
So we can learn the minutes of life can be counted though we don’t know how many we will have together … and maybe … learn something about making them count.
 
So, we might learn something about Appreciation and Gratitude and Love.
 
So, we might learn something about the meaning of life.
 
They do all this without saying a word.
 
Amazing.