Journeying Past Disease

   Wow, it’s been a long time since the last post. Olive and I have been spending a lot of time living this miraculous life. 

   Nearly every morning Olive’s little furry body is curled into the free spot between my chest and my arms. She lays there, often staring intently at my eyes, waiting for my smiling recognition to begin our day. We work together to coax eachother out of our warm bed and into the brisk air. 

               Isn’t life just like that?

   Our comfort zones are warm, fuzzy, and hypnotic. They call to us like the whisper of the breeze on a scorching summers day, consoling us and reminding us of safety. Olive and I have spent the last few months exploring the uncomfortable briskness that occurs when you decide to step into the less known. 

   Olive knows freedom; we granted eachother that. I practiced providing Olive space knowing I can’t prevent a relapse if that’s in her future and Olive practiced independence. She frolics and runs, chases other dogs, and smiles from ear to ear. 

Together we practiced trusting, knowing that what happens is intended and that for just right now it isn’t too cold outside of those sheets.  
 

Remembering a Dream

“You are, and always have been, my dream.” -Nicholas Sparks

I am so incredibly lucky to know such a marvelous soul. Every time I look at Olive I am astonishingly aware of how precious every moment is, every moment. There are so many things I want etched in my mind, carved like stone into my memory so at any recall, days from now, years from now, a decade from now, I can remember it like today. 

I want to remember the way she looks into my soul and traces my every move with ever-present  eyes. 

I want to remember the feeling of her velvety tongue swiping over my hand and face in a frantic effort to show me affection. 

I want to remember the rythmic base tone of her snoring, louder than any alarm clock currently on the market and deep enough to cause earthquake worthy tremors throughout the bed and couch. 

I want to remember the dry sandpaper-like texture of her nose and her get-away-from-me squirm as I tried to rub coconut oil on it. 

I want to remember the way her small and chubby paws smell like stale cornflakes. 

I want to remember the way her belly shifts from hairy to hair-bare 2/3 the way down her stomach. 

I want to remember the way that she so enthusiastically does everything in her life from sleeping to eating, it’s never sub par. 

I want to remember the way that around 2 am every night she curls her warm chubby body into the curves of my stomach and lays her blocky head on my pillow breathing semi-sweet breath in my ear. 

I want to remember it all. And that’s unrealistic. 

But I can learn from my dreams and hopes. I can be ever-present in every moment with my sweet girl. I can feel the emotion, see the detail, and feel the physicality within each individual minute. I am present, and if I’m present it just might be easier to recall those moments.  One thing is for sure, no one can take the memories we are present for and it is up to us to build them.  

   
 

Moving Forward

“Can a man still be brave if he’s afraid?  That is the only time a man can be brave” -George RR Martin

Olive had a repeat MRI and her scans show no evidence of active disease

I felt so relieved, and so concerned. I will never treat Olive the same. I will always wonder “what if” and will always watch her from her camera while I’m away, focusing on the in-out motions of her chest and the calmness of her face. I will always be her personal little stalker. 

And I think she is okay with that. 

Olive has always been my furry little stalker, now I share her enthusiastic burden. The restless and chaotic motions of watching a being’s every movement and following their daily journey. And I am so blessed to be here. It’s that unorganized swirl of emotions reminding me that my fear of recurrence is a blessing, because currently, at this present-wonderful-heartwarming moment, Olive is curled in my lap in remission. 

I am so incredibly blessed. 

While life’s blessings change us, we just might change life.  Every second, every moment, that I follow Olive is a moment I’m blessed to have.  

  
 
  

The Rosebush of Love

Love is chaotic, tricky, magical, enchanting, and addicting. Most of us seek love, desire love, hope for love, and give love. We need it like air, to breathe, to expell, and sometimes to be taken away. 

I found myself in an emotional landslide after the loss of Olive’s cousin Poppi. I was saddened by Poppi’s loss and frightened by the fragility of life. Terrified by how something we love so completely can be taken so quickly. It is just not fair. 

I made a tearful call to my mother and asked her one question, “How can you love something so entirely knowing that eventually you will lose that very thing?” Silence. And then the discussion of mindfulness, being fully present, completely involved in the beauty of every moment as it is; a single beautiful moment. I’m not sure we ever directly answered the question, but perhaps indirectly we did. Does it really matter that we might lose something we cherish so completely if we are ever present in the moment of love? If we are mindful of the joy, happiness, excitement, the love, then will we really be worried for the loss?

I know I will miss Olive when she is no longer around, I know I miss Poppi and that Poppi’s passing has been difficult for her mom. We all know these things. Loss is hard, death is painful. We must not forget that love is joyful, amazing, and to be cherished. Even better, love can truly be forever because love itself is not tangible by definition, it can be felt even without physicality. Love exceeds the physical limits, love continues for as long as memories live on. 

Love reminds me of a Rosebush; beautiful, magical, symbolic, and sometimes it hurts to hold. 

   

  

April Showers

April was hard. It was full of success and obstacles, and one huge emotional loss. 

Success

Olive turned TWO! My goal after Olive’s diagnoses was to get her to her second birthday so she could experience what every dog should on their birthday: fun, love, snuggles, and more fun. We did it. April 1, 2015 Olive turned two glorious years. I was elated. I had procrastinated getting gifts so that I didn’t jinx myself so I ran out and bought her heaps of toys the day of. It was impulse buying at its finest. We played, snuggled, watched TV, and celebrated life

  
Obstacles

Olive’s vomiting continued, in fact, by the end of March and going into April she was on Cerenia (anti nausea and vomiting medication) almost daily. She had lost two pounds in two weeks and went from 29 pounds to 25.5 over the past month. I had started keeping a vomiting diary.  

“3/19 Fed 6:50 held down. Fed 1/4 cup at 8:20 with meds. Vomited at 8:36  all food easily came up. Vomited at 10:30″

Olive went through some more tests and a food trial. She is currently diagnosed with Inflammatory  Bowel Disease, yet another autoimmune condition. She is on hydrolyzed protein foods and medication therapy and is managing much better, back to 29 pounds. 

Loss
April 28, 2015, Olive’s cousin Poppi began seizing. Poppi had no known siezure condition and woke up having an active siezure. She was rushed to a veterinarian who stabilized her for transport to an Emergency Veterinarian. The veterinarians were at a loss as to what the cause was, although our personal veterinarian believes it was inter-cranial. Poppi never fully stopped seizing despite numerous drugs and supportive care. She passed away the same day. 

Seizures are scary, they are serious, and they are maddening. Poppi taught us about acceptance, patience, kindness, and friendship. Seizures can’t take that from us; the memories.  

 

“Goodbyes are only for those who love with their eyes. Because for those who love with heart and soul there is no such thing as separation.” -Rumi 

  

The Minds Armor

Sometimes after we have been in a car accident we become hypervigilent, constantly surveying for danger and planning every move tactfully in advanced. As time goes on normalcy returns and we become less tense, more relaxed, at ease. And then, sometimes, we get rear ended, just a little bump, and everything comes rushing back.

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About three weeks ago Olive started vomiting bile. It generally occurred every few days initially. I researched causes and consulted with her amazing veterinarian. We tried adding famotidine, increasing feeding times from twice to four times daily, and switching to a new food. Olive progressively became worse to vomiting almost daily and then, one night, not keeping food down.

We scheduled an ultrasound for the next day and when I woke up to take Olive to her appointment I was back at square one managing every fearful emotion from a year ago all over again. I held it together until I got Olive situated in her car seat for the ride to the vet, and then I broke down. I vividly recalled all my emotions on April 1, the fear, despair, helplessness, the dwindling of hope. My mind was playing tricks with me, I feared the worst. By the time I arrived at the clinic I was taking pictures with Olive. I had literally reverted emotionally back to April 1 2014. Realistically what was occurring was nothing like what happened that day, but I couldn’t even go there, I couldn’t rationalize that. I was lost, traveling the wrong path, missing the road.

Olive and I walked into the clinic and our amazing veterinarian who I am blessed to call my friend came out and cuddled Olive. She saw my face and knew what to do, she swept Olive up in her arms and the two of them acted like old friends who hadn’t seen each other in months. I felt a sense of relief. “Today is just a bump, it isn’t a crash, we are still in control.”

Olive had her ultrasound which revealed nothing abnormal with her GI tract but did show some bladder abnormalities so we conducted additional tests and are awaiting results. She has returned to eating and has not vomited today.

Our mind is a wild and oddly intimidating masterpiece. It can help us learn, love, grieve, and it can attempt to protect something that doesn’t need protecting. It sometimes grasps wildly at strands of past concerns and ends up leading to a series of catastrophizing concerns, we become irrational. We hit a bump and end up back at an accident, but unlike before we have been here before and if we stop to think, we can remember the way back home.

It’s Always Something

Well, it’s been awhile since we posted. You’ll have to forgive me, I have been living in complete and utter craziness. I have been sick three, yes three, times in the last month and a half. Anyways, onto the important stuff.

Olive started her fourth set of Cytarabine treatments today. Chemotherapy is chaotic to say the least. So much goes into this crazy operation. Olive’s blood cell levels have to be right, her temperature has to be up to par, she can’t have any infections, and her liver enzymes have to be within normal ranges. As life would have it, last night Olive started limping. Great.

So, I took my neurotically paranoid self to the computer and googled “dog limping.” When that turned up with a gajillion results I looked up “how to find out why your dog is limping” and then I sat down with my furkid, on the ground, armed with a flashlight. Olive was looking at me like I lost my mind, and she very well knew I had, so she just sat there and cocked her head as I examined her paw millimeter by millimeter. I found nothing. Not good. All I could think was “now we will have to delay chemo, I’ll have to get another day off of work, and my dog is in pain.” It’s funny, for someone who for a living aids people In reframing and identifyig the positives I was pretty intent with being negative. That is, until Olive ran up the stairs and started playing with her sister, no limp in sight.

Of course, her limp still existed the next morning prior to chemo. That was okay, because I woke up refreshed and okay with whatever plan was developed. The neurologist ended up OK-ing her chemo and we set up an appointment later in the day before her next dose to have her paw looked at. Guess what the vet found? Nothing. They think she stepped on a small thorn and her paw is irritated. Of-freaking-course. So chemo continues. Additionally Olive’s meds are being reduced to 125mg Keppra 2x daily. I could literally see Olive smile when she heard that.

My sweet girl is sometimes chaotic. I think at times she tests my sanity, and I know that at all times she loves me. What a wonderful chaotic mess. I could not imagine it any other way.  Our little journey together is amazing, frightening, and most importantly, a blessing.

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