Saturday, August 29, 2015

Life Is Hard, but God Is Good.

It's been a week.

This was us last night - totally exhausted.  No surprise we were both asleep by 5pm.  (We did wake up and party later, but we were both "slanky" (sleepy = cranky!) and definitely needed a nap!).

Mikayla and I returned from Hawaii on Monday night and the next morning had us dropping off Sydney at 8am to get the large fat mass attached to her rib cage removed.

It was a transitional Tuesday- tiring, but made easier by the company of Christi and Mikayla to keep Whitley entertained. 

Around 2pm, I got a phone call from the vet.  "Good news and bad news", he said.  The good news was that she had gotten through the surgery successfully and was recovering well.  The bad news, was indeed very bad.  Underneath the large fat mass causing the protrusion, was an even larger mass of very aggressive cancer.  Our vet is probably in his young 60's - having been in practice a long time, and he said this was the biggest, most aggressive cancer mass he'd ever seen.  Not the "title" you want to have.  He did his best to get the biggest chunk of it out, but he'd have had to remove ribs and disfigure her if he were to try to get it all out, and that's only what was visible.  He said it was highly likely it had already metastasized into other areas of her body.  (Later verified by the biopsy - most deadly kind of cancer and yes, it's in her blood stream).  He does not recommend chemo, knowing it would buy us only a short amount of additional time, and that it would just leave her sick and "not herself" in the remainder of days.  At most, he predicted up to a year - but that's a long shot.


Sydney just turned 10, so we know she's getting up there in age.  But, to have a clear limit to the days she'll be with us is awful.  Our whole family grieved hard that night.  We were able to bring her home, but she was so drugged up and uncomfortable from the surgery, she looked like she was already dying and on her last day.  It just made it all that more real.  Brayden was kind of stoic, taking to Instagram to let everyone know what a rough day it was.

John worked at holding together, as did I.  However, when John and Mikayla took off for a coffee run after bringing her home, I laid down next to Sydney and just cried and weeped.  10 years of memories and thankful reflections for this sweet buddy of mine came flooding to mind (who was my companion when I suddenly found myself a "stay at home Mom with kids both at school").   Later, in bed with me (John slept in the bonus room to keep an eye on her), Mikayla totally broke down, claiming the day to be the worst of her life so far.  I shared with her the dam breaking for Michele and I in the summer before our senior year of high school when we lost our dog, Jake - who died at the peak of his life after being hit by a car.  We had lived our lives up until that point as "tough girls" who shied away from crying over anything - and then, that loss just broke us.  To this day, I still have yet to grieve to the same level that I did over that dog.  So, I understood.

However, I made it clear to Mikayla that Syd is not gone yet - and we can not sustain this kind of mourning over the months we have with her - nor do we want her to feel that from us.  We need to celebrate her while we have her and not take a moment for granted.

And the next morning, as if knowing of our conclusion, Sydney returned to her normal self.  Her tail wagged constantly.  She wanted to be everywhere we are - even on top of the trampoline with us.  (Are you kidding, dog?  You have a 10 inch incision trying to heal....settle down!!!).  She gave us dirty looks when the bean bags (her domain in the living room) were turned on end so she couldn't jump up on them (she's not supposed to jump).  We finally relented by Friday.  I've concluded that this dog will end up dying from a heart attack due to obesity before she dies from cancer from all the extra treats she'll get from us all.  "You want to lick from my plate, or from the dishwasher, or have my last bite?"  "Okay, Syd - you'll get it".  =)

So, that's what we told the vet on our return appointment on Friday, as he even teared up (for the second time) in talking about her dire prognosis.  (We only began seeing him in May - this guy is a gem....)  We are going to just savor the time we have left with her - and pray that when the time comes, it will be quick and it will be obvious to us if we need to intervene to prevent any pain.   I don't want to dive into a theology debate, but it is my belief that God will honor the connections we have with our animal companions, and Heaven will not be too small to bring them there to add to the glory of God.  If it's about an animal that has been treasured, then there's no doubt she'll be there waiting for us, tail wagging, jumping up to greet us when she really ought not too.

And, in the meantime, we'll savor every day we have of her doing just that here in our home. 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Celebrating Whitley's Almost Birthday

Knowing Whitley would get to spend her actual birthday with her mommy, on Thursday, I tried to treat it as if it were the actual day she turned three.  First up, was to figure out where she wanted to go or what she wanted to do.

Her choice, "I want to go to your mom's house".  "I want to play with Mackie and see the horsies".  

Oh.  Well, that's great.  I was thinking she'd ask to go swimming, or to the trampoline place, or something along those lines (that I didn't really have to energy or desire to follow through with), but this, I think we could make this work!!!  With a call to Mom, and arrangements made with Christi (who planned to celebrate the day with us), we loaded all three girls and carseats into the car and headed out to Mom's.

First up in the adventures was heading to the back yard and garden to take in all of the fresh berries (Elsie's face was stained in these pics from devouring the raspberries and blackberries) and even pick out a pumpkin that Mom wanted to etch the girls' names on while still on the vine so that it would scar the name upon picking.    There was also a lot of play with Mackie - frisbee, apple throwing, racing.  Elsie's come a long way in her interest and desire to be around dogs!

Next up, a visit with Mom's horses.  Whitley was the one who wanted it, but again, once she saw this big, beautiful animal, she said, "I'll stay with Mackie on this side of the gate!".  

Ah c'mom....this horsie being scary?  Nope.  River is a big ol' softie.

But, Elsie was a bit concerned too.  She wasn't ready to touch her either.  Emery (tucked into Christi's Ergo) wasn't scared a bit!

Even at this point, Whitley was still not enthusiastic....

I love that cuddle moment with River and Mom in the background...

And, this one as well...obviously, Mom knows exactly where River's sweet spot is to scratch.

Safe behind the gate.

Since we were out there, and since I'd never had the chance to meet them, I thought it might be worth it to take a walk through the fields to see the neighbor's alpacas.

I was super impressed with how friendly they were.  This guy - this face - just cracks me up every time!
What a sweet scene, huh?  I love how friendly the alpacas are - SOOO CURIOUS!  And, since they are used to Mackie and Mom coming out for walks frequently, these extra guests we brought were worthy of even more attention.

This is a copy of what I wrote on Instagram about this guy:

"My mom said that among the herd of four alpacas her neighbors have, the black one is the most stand-offish.  He actually was the one that came closest to me, and upon further inspection, we think it might not be that he's a snob, it's just he's so embarrassed by that bottom snaggle-tooth! =)  Glad he felt like I'd love him despite it!  #animalmagnetism #passedonfrommom #knowagoodalpacadentist?"

As I suspected, the walk back involved tired girls - so we took turns hoisting them on our backs (and in Emery's case, fronts) to get them back to the house.

Then it was "show and tell" of all the fun stuff inside the house - the fish tank, the mini tramp, a balance disk, and the very special rocking horse my dad made for us when we were kids.  

And then, a priceless tickle fest with Grandma... =)

Since we were already out that direction, I thought the next destination ought to be Shotgun Creek Park - another 12 minutes further north.

We grew up playing out here and I was hopeful the wading area/creek would still be a draw for our girls - and the playground would still be functional.

Yes, and yes.  (For the record, I didn't warn Christi about this potential activity, so Elsie was caught unaware without a swimsuit.  As she loves to be a "nakey-baby" - it wasn't a problem at all).

The water was just as cold as I remembered it, so the girls warmed up rolling in the sand.

We were thankful for the outside showers and baby powder I had in my car to thoroughly rid the girls of the sand before we moved to the other side of the BLM recreational area to the playground.  Whitley was thrilled they had swings and Elsie was thrilled they had slides.  We were all by ourselves at this gorgeous place - definitely a great choice to come here!
Both girls were asleep by the time we passed Mom's house on the way back to Eugene (a rare nap for Whitley these days).  Knowing we wouldn't be able to transfer the girls without waking them up, I drove Christi through every location of our history in Springfield - where I worked, where we'd lived, etc.  Certainly worth it if it meant a longer nap.  

Sure enough, the girls did wake up upon arriving home, but we continued to all hang out and celebrate Whitley's birthday with the fun company.  =)