‘Life’s Short Interruption: Part II’
Early November, I came home from a school function, only to have Wolf come up to me, moping – it’s what she did when she was sick. I was tired and she didn’t seem too bad, so I put her to bed, then went to sleep myself. The next morning she was no better. When her condition barely improved over the day, we took her to the vet.
The vet examined her and immediately felt a lump in her belly.
‘Is it something she hasn’t digested?’ I asked. I’d been warned to no longer give Wolf bones because, at her age, she could have trouble digesting them. Of course, Wolf was a dog, and was always bound to find a bone or two.
‘Nooo,’ the vet said in a tone that made me realise how far off the truth I’d been.
That’s when it clicked. ‘You mean cancer?’ Because that’s what lumps meant. Lumps meant cancer.
Wolf had an ultrasound. She had a lump the size of a grapefruit on the ceiling of her stomach, right up in the pit of her pelvis. A biopsy revealed it was malignant. What had happened was the tumour had haemorrhaged, and the blood loss had caused Wolf’s distress, but as she re-absorbed the blood she’d regained her strength.
We saw an oncology specialist, who told us that Wolf had a very aggressive form of cancer called a Hemangiosarcoma. Unfortunately, it was a condition that was usually only discovered after it was too late. Removing the tumour was problematic. Even if the surgery was successful – which required a chain reaction of best-case scenarios – and Wolf responded to chemotherapy, she’d probably get only another two months anyway, and one of those would be spent recovering from the surgery and the chemo.
He also warned if they found the surgery too difficult, there was an option to euthanize Wolf then and there. I knew if we had to put her to sleep we’d do it, but I couldn’t bear the thought of her going alone, on some surgeon’s table, surrounded by strangers.
We ruled out surgery – we wanted whatever time Wolf had remaining to be quality-time – and pursued other alternatives, such as natural supplements (Wolf would take eighteen pills and capsules a day, coated in peanut butter), and radically altering Wolf’s diet, removing anything that contained sugar or salts that might feed the cancer, and instead feeding her lots of boiled chicken. My brother even consulted a psychic healer
Throughout this time, I slept with Wolf in the back room, her on her bed, me on the couch. On weekends, and a few days over the Christmas holidays, my brother relieved me. The oncology specialist’s fear was that Wolf would have another haemorrhage. Then we’d have to rush her to the vet. If it was severe enough, she might have to be euthanized. So one of us was always hovering over her.
Meanwhile, Allie continued to pressure me to reconcile, still promising things would be different. And, for the most part, they were. She was spectacular. But then there were reversions. Over the Christmas period, I had several lunches with friends; she suggested I was socialising too much. One time, after I had drinks with friends for a couple of hours (while she was at her parents), she said maybe I should contact her when my social life wasn’t so busy. I panicked that would be the last I’d see her and got back together with her.
The way I treated Wolf annoyed Allie – that I planned my time around having to babysit Wolf; that even when I spent evenings with Allie I’d go home to watch Wolf. It was funny. For years, unless she was going through one of her positive phases, Allie would want me to go home. Now she wanted me to stay, I couldn’t.
Allie couldn’t understand the lengths my brother and I were going ‘for a dog’. She’d owned dogs and from her stories had babied them outrageously. Later, she got another dog and pampered it. Because that’s what happens. Given long enough, dogs cease being pets and become members of the family.
Wolf wasn’t the only cause of contention, though. Some of the other issues re-emerged. It was the same pattern.
I became the ultimate tiptoer. I tiptoed around Wolf, worrying she’d have another bleed. I tiptoed around Allie, worrying she’d have another reversion. I tiptoed around my parents, who berated me about my relationship to Allie. Through it all, I barely slept, mosquitoes mauled me, I developed hay fever for the first time ever, and my back spasmed from sleeping on the couch which had protrusive struts right under the seams of the cushions. On top of this, I sent out résumés to publishers, but worried about what would happen should one accept me.
I wanted to try and move forward with my life, but instead felt like I was drowning.