Have you seen the TV commercial where a child comes running to his mother, so excited because their dog has learned a new trick? The mother is horrified, as she realizes the trick is the dog scooting across their carpet on its behind. Most people would probably find that very funny. I can’t watch it. You see, a little scoot across the floor was the very first sign that our dog, Noah, had cancer.
At first, we were so nonchalant about this incident. I saw him do it one night and my husband said, “Oh, I saw him do the same thing a few days ago.” Anticipating something minor, but always the overly cautious mother, I took him to our vet. Never in my wildest dreams did I think he would say, “I feel a lump in his anal gland.” What?! Thus began what has now become a year-long nightmare.

After crying my eyes out for the first of what would be many times, I got angry. There was no way this could happen to my “Poppy” (no, it’s not a typo). Hadn’t he had enough pain in his life…homeless on the streets of a Los Angeles ghetto, used as target practice by derelicts with a bee bee gun, and now this is how it would end? And, in spite of those difficult beginnings, my doggie is a beautiful sweet spirit, who I’ve snuggled with every night on my bed for 10 years before we go to sleep…who we call the “con artist” because his communication techniques are hysterical when he wants treats or a walk…who taught himself to “get a bear” (which is the name we use for all of his stuffed animals) to calm himself down because he gets so excited when someone comes to the door. So he runs it out, back and forth, until he can greet without jumping. And, at 10 years old, he still has the energy of a two year old pup.

As I’ve said in past posts, these horrific personal experiences are exactly what drives me to make our "I'm Tired of..." bracelets campaign a raving success, to raise money to find cures for insidious diseases, like cancer, whether it impacts humans or animals. It helps give some purpose to my ordeal and, I hope, ultimately bring hope and answers for others. It also gives me the ability to impart what I’ve learned, so that maybe I can help another doggie get diagnosed earlier or get the right kind of treatment. I wear both "I'm Tired of Animal Cruelty" and "I'm Tired of Cancer" bracelets in honor of my Poppy.

We were sent to a surgeon for what would be two surgeries, the first to remove the actual tumor and then a second to remove a lymph node where it had spread. Then it was on to a cancer veterinarian group to figure out the next steps. Yes, canine cancer is so prevalent today that there are veterinary groups that specialize in the field…so widespread that the Los Angeles Times recently ran a story on the very cancer practice, called Veterinary Cancer Group that would take care of Noah. I’ve also learned that the course of treatment is very similar to cancer treatment for humans.

We were told that he needed radiation treatments to kill anything left at the tumor site every day for about a month and then chemotherapy to catch and kill any cells that got away once a week for another month. After that, he would require checkups with chest x-rays, ultrasounds and exams every three months for life and pills to slow any progression of what might still be there every day for life.

As you might imagine, this was not an inexpensive proposition. We’re talking a year of college tuition type of expensive if you include the surgeries. But, we were told that, without these treatments, Noah would be gone in less than a year. With them, he might live two or three more years. In my mind, there was just no choice. People told me I was out of my mind. How could I spend that kind of money on a “DOG?” Time to just let him go, they said. We could always get another one, they said. Seriously?! How could they think that I had any choice in this matter? How could they be so callous? He was not just a “possession” to be tossed out because he was now “defective.” He was my precious Noah and I, quite frankly, didn’t care how much it would cost. We’d figure it out.

As we went through the process, I learned that there were a lot of people who felt the same way, as I sat with them, day in, day out, in the waiting room. Each of us had our own sad story, which we discussed like a support group as we waited for our dogs to come out from radiation, each of us praying this would work. Then there were the dogs…their fur shaved off at the cancer site and marked in blue ink like a checkerboard, showing the world where radiation was being administered, some with raw, red skin. But through it all, each was a little trooper and my Noah always came out bouncy and wagging his tail, always making sure the technicians gave him lots of biscuits. Finally, we got the word that Noah was cancer free.

That celebration went on for a year, as each checkup showed no signs of cancer. At our one-year anniversary, which was to be a major milestone, it all fell apart. The doctor found a new “nodule” where the original cancer had been. I felt like I’d been hit with a baseball bat. We had done everything right. How could this happen? We were told that he needed yet another surgery to remove it. Numbly, I agreed. That surgery was done at the beginning of January of this year.

This past week, we went back for our first post-surgical checkup and, as unbelievable as this is, the chest x-ray turned up two little “nodules” in his lungs. It was then that the reality hit me: we are going to lose this war. It was a stunning blow, from which I’m having a hard time recovering.

So here we are. More pills to try to slow the cancer with no idea if it will work or how long he has to live…Regular checkups to watch the progression…Me, sick to my stomach in anticipation of what’s to come and just so completely sad…beaten up…devastated.

The experience actually inspired me to create a short slide show with the help of Best Friends Animal Society, called "Smile." You are probably asking yourselves how I could smile about any of this. Actually, the slide show makes me smile because each photo is of dogs (and cats) who are “smiling.”

I’ve decided that now, I’m going to focus on Noah’s quality of his life for however long I have left with him. Tonight, I’ll go to the market to buy him a roasted chicken…his favorite.

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