Ups and Downs

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve posted, and it’s because school had been taking up all my time.  I’m finished now, and things are slowing down a bit, which is nice.  Some of the big things on our plates have dropped off.  Today is a day of ups and downs and as this blog is my means for getting some of this stuff out of my system, here goes.

Ups:  Dieter is done with chemo, and his first chest x-rays post chemo are clear.  Confirmation will come from the radiologist later this afternoon, but his primary oncologist said everything looked great.  He can go back on salmon oil and glucosamine chondroitin for his joints.  He is doing so well.  He can still only take short walks, but he loves those walks and going out and about.  I took him to Lowe’s with me a couple of weeks ago and he loved it.  They also loved him, of course.  He plays hard and has fun with his buddies in Phoenix more often now, as I’m able to go up more often.  For him, life is good.

Downs:  There’s really only one down.  And it’s really not for him, it’s for me, and for that I’m thankful.  I asked his oncologist today what to expect in terms of average life expectancy at this point, given that his lungs are clear now.  She said that on average, the lungs start to show the cancer about a year after the initial diagnosis, and then with low-dose chemo, to only expect another 6 months.  Now, I know there are other things I can do, and as a researcher, I will look into stuff pretty thoroughly, but it’s still a sobering conversation.  I’m not sure I was prepared for it, to be honest.  There are still so many other things going on (moving, graduating, a conference coming up) and he’s just so normal and happy, that it’s hard to take in.

I’m glad we’re moving somewhere where D can experience some fun stuff.  He’ll have his own backyard, with grass (we’re all ready to leave rocky, sandy AZ), snow to play in, lakes to swim in.  I’m hoping to be able to bring him into work with me some days, and if I can’t, it’s ok, I’m just a 2 minute drive from campus.  Until then, the answer is no, you can’t have too many bones.  Haha.


Need a cathartic shot in the arm? Watch Derek.

I’m a big fan of movies and TV, and I have certain movies and shows in particular that help me to get out the feels that are hard to get out sometimes because I have to be the strong one, pretty much all the time (“tough girl” personality, two dogs, too much going on, not many friends to really lean hard on, and I live away from a small family).  If you’re in my position, or just want to experience something that really mirrors the emotional experience of these forums and the experiences of so many here in order to help you get those feels out, you need to watch Derek.

Derek is a show created by Ricky Gervais, and if you’re a fan, you may be a little disappointed at the concept but you need to give it a try.  If you’re not a fan, you need to give it a try.  It’s not typical Ricky Gervais.  Gervais plays a mentally challenged man who works in a nursing home.  He has friends who work there (Karl Pilkington plays the handyman) and he participates with the residents in their activities, hangs out with them, and generally just lives life.  He has a crush on the nursing home manager.  He likes frogs.  Gervais plays Derek with an amazing amount of deftness and respect for the character he’s playing, this is not a make-fun-of-the-slow-guy show in any way, shape or form.

The show is about kindness.  In the show, people come and go, they live and they die.  Life in the nursing home is not sugar coated in this show.  Their entertainment is decidedly home-made.  Money is tight.  The challenges that the nursing home manager has are all laid out before you.  There are some outright hilarious scenes, there are scenes that will make you cheer, and there are some scenes that will make you bawl your eyes out.  There is an abundance of hope and and an abundance of sadness, but the theme of kindness flows through it all.  This is the secret of the show.

Every time I come on this website, I feel like I’m watching Derek.  The parallels are apparent.  You see the same hopes and sadnesses, the same struggles with everyday life that is changed and has in many ways become limiting.  Derek himself is limited, yet he lives his life to the fullest, and this is another theme you see over and over on this website (Cora, I’m talkin’ to you, girl).  You also see kindness.  Everywhere.  And it’s glorious.

I’m too embedded in life with Dieter sometimes for me to see the big picture.  This website helps, and so does watching Derek.  I highly recommend you give it a try.  It’s on Netflix, there is only one season, and there are only 7 half-hour shows, so it’s easy to get a sample or binge watch the whole season in 3-1/2 hours if you want.

If you watch it and it helps you or you just like it, leave a comment; I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Rhythms of daily life

Well, Dieter is almost 3 weeks post-op, and has started chemo.  His stitches are out and the incision site looks amazing.  Totally closed up.  He seems to be taking chemo well, although he has had some nausea.  Our vet is wonderful and she sent us home with some medications that have helped.  Today I was able to coax him onto the bed (I took it off the frame so it would be lower for him) and I’m hoping he got the message.  Before all this started, he was my sleeping buddy every night.  He’d jump up on the bed and sleep right next to me.  I have really been missing that (seemingly) little thing, and I know he has been, too.  We’ve slept together on the sofa a couple of times, and also on the floor a couple of times since this all started, and each time he’s snuggled up real close.

Now that all my travel is done for the semester, and class is winding down, I am turning my thoughts to the rhythms of our lives and how this has all disrupted that.  This has been so much for everyone to take in, and it’s hit my little family hard.  Otto is struggling as well, I can tell, and he’s put on some weight since he hasn’t been on his daily walks for about a month.  Remember my post on nicknames?  Well, now I have a new double nickname for the two of them.   Jabba and Luke.  Get it?

I feel like all three of us are at the point where it’s time to re-establish routines.  They will have to be different, so more change is in store.  Otto is a sniffer on walks.  I call walks with him “sniff-peditions.”  He has to sniff every last leaf, needle, rock, etc. along the way, so Dieter was always pushing the pace.  Well, now that he walks even faster (I have to jog sometimes), there’s no way I’m going to be able to walk them together.  At least for now.  Dieter needs to be pushed to exercise on multiple shorter trips, so he can build up his strength and balance, and Otto needs lots of long walks to burn off the fat.  So, more changes, more changes.

Being essentially a social psychologist, I know that the effects of change on people accumulate, and I think it’s no different for dogs.  Hopefully new rhythms to our days will give us all a sense of security and continuity.

Until then, we’ll just chill…


The good, the bad, the ugly, and being true to yourself

Well, the title says it all.  The good — Dieter received his bandana in the mail today!  Thanks Rene; the yellow color looks awesome against his black fur.  Here is the best shot I could get of him.  It shows the best part, I *heart*  The nice thing is that he doesn’t mind wearing it!  So, on it stays until it needs washing.  🙂


Dieter tri rule

He’s been a little listless today; the neighbor’s comings and goings got him up and barking, though, which is a good sign.  He is healing really well; I’m continuously amazed.  Although he did open up a couple of stitches night before last.  I’m not sure if it was from sitting on them, or licking, but he had to go in for replacements yesterday.  He’s doing well, though.  It’s his one-week ampuversary and he has no more bruising.  He can move all around the house without a problem and even goes through the dog door without a hitch.  I think he’s experiencing some itchiness and some phantom pain, but I’ve talked to the vet about both of those.  They are so nice, they don’t care how many times a day I call with questions.

The bad — In the course of balancing some bank accounts, I discovered just how much all this has cost so far.  That’s the bad part.  Ouch!  I never did, nor will I ever, ask how much it costs for whatever treatment he needs.  As a grad student, it’s tough to see my savings account drain, but so be it.  By this time next year, I’ll be making plenty and can carry debt until then.

The ugly — along with his one-week ampuversary came a call from the oncologist.  Osteosarcoma, and how quickly can I get him in for chemo.  Although I knew that’s what it likely was, it still hit hard to hear it.  So, I immediately made myself some hot chocolate and turned on some soothing music.  And got to thinking.

There are many phrases that you hear in life for which you really only have a cursory understanding of their meanings, until some life experience teaches you the meaning.  I remember absolutely *hating* the phrase, “you choose to be happy” until I got it.  Then many years later, I learned what it meant to say “you can’t love someone else until you love yourself”.   Really, that one is kind of like when the airline steward(ess) tells you to put your oxygen mask on before your child’s.  You’re no good to someone else if you can’t breathe yourself.

Now, I feel a dawning understanding of the phrase “make every day count”.  I used to think that meant accomplishing all that you had to do for that day, or at least doing some good for the day.  Or, make sure you were moving in the right direction for yourself.  Or something else…I’m pretty sure I had no clue.  Ha.

There are a lot of ways that one can “make every day count”.  I posted somewhere else that I was going to start a gratitude jar.  I never was good at gratitude.  It’s not that I’m bitter, I just have tried to practice gratitude and it never stuck.  I fell off the gratitude wagon several times after just a few weeks at it each time.  It doesn’t feel like enough to just be grateful that Dieter is around and reasonably healthy.  So I’m taking back what I said about a gratitude jar.  Screw it.

I’m more of a hands-on person.  That’s a big part of who I am, and I know that about myself.  I do much better if I can roll my sleeves up and get in the muck.  Dieter’s got about a week until he can really start to move around, so until then, I’m gonna do what I do best, and some other things.  Research, research, research.  I was told the median life span, with chemo, was about a year.  What’s the mean?  Mode?  The closer these three numbers, the less can be done to change them.  If they’re farther apart, then there are factors that make some dogs last longer than others.  What are the differences between dogs that last the median vs. the mode or mean?  I sure hope the oncologist knows the difference between median, mean and mode, or it’s gonna get embarrassing (for her).

And tonight, I’m gonna read to Dieter.  Tomorrow I’ll be sitting on the floor next to wherever he is when I have a couple of Skype meetings.  We’re spending Thanksgiving by ourselves, so he gets to share the meal with me.  Chicken (too lazy to run to the store and get turkey at this point, plus I’ve been sick myself), and a couple of family specialties.  Then, I’m not sure.  We’ll see.  But, I’ll make it count for him.

Dieter relax

Aloha, friends, aloha.