Living in the Present
If you read my last blog, then you know that my family is currently dealing with cancer in our 8-year old Golden Retriever, Comet. Two months ago, Comet underwent emergency surgery for internal bleeding, and it turned out he had a highly malignant tumor on his spleen. At that time, we were told that dogs with this disease had an average lifespan post-surgery of 30 days without chemotherapy, and with chemotherapy it would be 4 – 6 months. We opted for chemotherapy, and are now 2 months into this journey.
And quite a journey it has been. When we first got the news, we were devastated. Comet has been part of our family for 8 years, and the thought of losing him seemed unbelievable and unbearable. With time, though, I have begun to process this and have had some amazing realizations around it. For one thing, we could have 4 – 6 months with him left and not even know it. None of us knows what the future will hold, yet we all go along thinking that our lives will always be the way they are today – living in the illusion that life is infinite, even while we know intellectually that it is finite. Why does knowing there is an end in sight change things? I thought deeply about this in the days following his diagnoses. What would I do if I suddenly knew I had just 4 – 6 months to live? What would be on my bucket list?
We don’t have a choice about Comet’s condition. We don’t get a say in how long he will live. But we do have a choice as to how we react to the news. We can go around bemoaning our fate and being depressed and sad about it. Or we can embrace the time we have left and be grateful for it. Since Comet’s diagnosis, I have been cultivating my ability to live in the present at a much deeper level. Every day with him is a gift right now, and I am grateful for this time. I didn’t realize how much I took for granted – and that has actually translated into my whole life. None of us knows what’s in store, and the more we can be present with and grateful for what we have today, the less regrets we will have tomorrow.
Today, Comet went in for his third chemotherapy treatment and I had an interesting conversation with the Vet. He told me that the goal for cancer treatment in dogs is different than for humans. For people, doctors try to eradicate the cancer completely, even if it means that the person is miserable from the treatments. Sometimes that works, and if the person is cancer-free for 5 years they are declared “cured” or a “cancer survivor”, and sometimes it doesn’t. For dogs, however, the goal (at least for this type of cancer) is to find a balance that will give them a prolonged life with good quality.The dosages of the cancer-fighting drugs are lower with the hope that the cancer can be suppressed for a while to enable the dog to have a decent quality of life for whatever amount of time they have left.
That seems to be working for Comet for now. He is content and doesn’t seem to be in any pain. He has had a mild reaction to the chemotherapy drugs, but nothing like what people usually experience. We continue to take life a day at a time with him, and make each day count. I know we will miss him tremendously when he is no longer with us, but nothing can take away the love that he has given us and continues to give us each day he is still here.