Another Train Comin'

Written By Jenny Pavlovic

First here’s an update on Chase. He completed his 21 radiation therapy (RT) treatments for colonic adenocarcinoma on August 23rd. Two weeks later, he breezed through his follow up appointment with flying colors. He lost patches of hair from his back legs, but has been feeling well and doing great. On the outside, except for the hair loss, which is normal with RT, he looks fantastic. His energy and spirit are high, and he has resumed his usual activities. The next step is to do a CT scan in October to determine whether there are still active cancer cells.

On September 24th, Chase returned to the library where kids read to him as part of the Doggone Reading program. We were excited to be there, to see Ginny the librarian and other 'old' friends, and meet new kids and listen to them read. Chase loves going to the library! He got so excited, I had to remind him to use his indoor voice. When he recognized one little girl, he did a few play bows right in front of her, and the girl said, “Look Mom, Chase is bowing!” He did this all on his own; it wasn’t a trained trick. Chase is a pro at this volunteer 'work'.

Just when I was beginning to feel hopeful that we have derailed Chase’s cancer train, we learned that there’s another train comin’. Just a few hours after Chase’s follow up appointment, the dog sitter texted me to tell me that Bandit didn’t seem well. Urinary problems, including foamy urine and excessive thirst and urination, that we had observed over the summer had become much worse. The onset seemed much more dramatic than a normal change accompanying aging, yet test results had been normal. Bandit seemed to be feeling well that evening, but the following morning when I took him out to go tracking, for the first time in his life he did not want to work! Something was terribly wrong.

I took Bandit to the vet that Saturday morning. His blood work and urinalysis showed some values outside of the normal range for the first time. Yet the results didn’t seem to point to any known disease. Diabetes, Cushings Disease, and other conditions had been ruled out. Eventually, more test results and sleuthing by our vet indicated that Bandit most likely has multiple myeloma. We were referred to an oncology vet (cancer vet).

Multiple myeloma is a different kind of cancer than the colonic adenocarcinoma diagnosed in Chase. Myeloma is systemic, found in the blood and bones, not localized in one part of the body. With Chase, we have been lucky so far, that the tumor in his colorectal area does not appear to have metastasized. So his tumor could be targeted with local radiation therapy. But for Bandit, systemic treatment is needed, and the recommended treatment is chemotherapy pills. So in mid-September, Bandit started his daily chemo pills, which he will probably need indefinitely. Most dogs do well on these pills, and the mean quoted survival time is 18 months, more than what I was first told about Chase. Still, I’m hoping for more for Bandit.

Ironically Bandit passed the Pet Partners test in August so he could substitute for Chase at the library if needed. But now Chase is feeling better and is back at the library. When the vet was checking Bandit at different times during the summer, I remember saying several times, “Just as long as it isn’t a tumor…I don’t think I could take more than one dog having cancer.” Well, here we are, trying to make the best of it. I took off my “Everyday Holds the Possibility of a Miracle” pendant that I wore every day while Chase was in RT treatment and put it on Bandit’s collar. So now these two canine brothers, related by fate and heart, but not birth, are both wearing these pendants and are sharing our hope for a miracle.

One gorgeous September afternoon when I was enjoying some time with the dogs in the yard, a butterfly appeared. It flew around us several times and landed on a maple branch hanging over the fence. The butterfly seemed to want my attention, so I walked over and looked at it closely. It was beautiful, yellow and brown with double sets of wings, with silver blue spots on the underside. I didn’t remember ever seeing a butterfly like that before. Later I learned that it was a Great Spangled Fritillary.

The wind was blowing the branches around and I wanted to get a better look at the butterfly. I held the branch still and even touched the butterfly gently. It seemed fine with my touch and didn’t try to leave. After a few minutes, it flew down and landed on the ground among us, and I got a better look from a different angle. The butterfly seemed to be trying to communicate something, but I wasn’t sure of its message. I just knew that the butterfly felt magical, and that it was important to enjoy that time with my dogs on such a beautiful afternoon, when we were all feeling well and having a good day.

A few days later, still puzzling over the butterfly’s message, I looked up the butterfly totem. Here are some messages from the butterfly, compiled from several sources.

The butterfly is a colorful, delightful symbol of transition and growth. Butterflies bring color and joy to life, and teach us that change is positive and should be embraced. Growth and transformation does not have to traumatic; it can occur gently, sweetly, and joyfully. Butterflies remind us that life is a dance, to not take things quite so seriously, and prompt us to notice the joy in our lives. They remind us to get up and move, because dance brings the sweetness of life. They are associated with aliveness and brightness.

Butterflies are born after a period of struggle. Without the struggle the wings would not be strong enough to allow the butterfly to take wing. Butterflies prompt us to embrace change with optimism and joy for the experience, and to go through important changes and different life cycles with grace and lightness. They are symbolic of lightness of being and elevation from the heaviness of tensions. The butterfly is a powerful creature to call on when you need support in times of transition.

The main lesson when the butterfly comes to us as a totem is that our life is about to go through a transformation of some kind. The butterfly asks us to accept the changes in our lives as casually as she does. The butterfly unquestioningly embraces the changes of her environment and her body. This unwavering acceptance of her metamorphosis is also symbolic of faith. The butterfly beckons us to keep our faith as we undergo transitions in our lives. She understands that our toiling, fretting and anger are useless against the turning tides of nature - she asks us to recognize the same. At our journey's end we are inevitably changed - not at all the same as when we started on the path. We are to make our way in faith, accept the change that comes, and emerge from our transitions as brilliantly as the butterfly.

Lately, a solitary doe has been hanging around in the woods behind our house. The dogs, especially Chase, look for her every time they go out in the yard. Most often, she is there. So I also looked up the deer totem to understand her message.
The deer combines soft, gentle qualities with heart energy, strength and determination. She symbolizes gentleness, the abilities to move through life and obstacles with grace, to feel the inner child, to be sensitive and intuitive, and to be vigilant and change directions quickly. She also has a magical ability to regenerate.

The deer helps us to know life’s mysteries, and to bring gentleness and grace into every aspect of life, even in the most challenging moments. The deer inspires us to live from the heart, and handle difficult situations smoothly with a touch of gentleness and grace.

I have often been exhausted and frustrated from managing the logistics of caring for two dogs with cancer. So the messages of the butterfly and the deer are very pertinent. I can learn a great deal from both. One of the most difficult things about dealing with cancer is not knowing where you stand. The cancers that my dogs have been diagnosed with are inside, not easily seen. While the dogs seem to be doing great on the outside, we also need to know what’s going on inside. In October, both dogs are scheduled to have CT scans, to find out the status of the cancer. Until then, I will try to take the messages of the butterfly and the deer to heart.

Like the butterfly and the deer, my dogs encourage me to not take the situation so seriously, to get out and play and enjoy each day, because the present moment is all that we really have. Bandit and Chase are both doing well. They leap out of bed each morning, eager to run around the yard, play ball, and enjoy this present moment. On a recent gorgeous fall afternoon here, with not a cloud in the sky, we enjoyed our daily walk on the hill. All three dogs felt great and played hard, and every time I inhaled, I felt like I was breathing in hope!

It feels so much better to live in hope than in fear. Although our life now isn’t what I expected, my fellow creatures have taught me that we can still dance and play our way along on this journey. So I try to be less of a frustrated, worried human and dance along with them, cherishing this day.

Great nutrition has been an essential part of Bandit’s and Chase’s cancer treatments. Both dogs look great, are energetic, and have healthy coats and skin. The traditional and holistic vets agree that Omega Nuggets and Canine Shine are great supplements for Bandit as well as for Chase. Use the code JPavlovic for 20% off your first online order at www.OmegaFields.com.

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