Getting Old Overnight

I am stunned by how fast Robertina’s cancer seems to be spreading and taking over her body. There are good days and not-so-good days still, but on the bleaker days, it seems like her ‘real’ age has snuck up on her and beaten her up badly. Seeing her so weak, uncoordinated, and disoriented feels like a sucker punch to our guts, too. We’re all pretty raw.

The results from the pathology lab came in about 3 or 4 days ago, and the lump that was removed from Robertine’s neck was officially diagnosed as liposarcoma (cancer of the fatty tissue). However, the vets and the surgeons all feel certain that the lump in her skin is a totally different entity from whatever is in her lungs. Of course, they can’t know for sure what’s in the lungs without doing a battery of tests there, too, but this would involve more stress, more invasive techniques, and also– in this case– a trip to Vancouver where all of these tests would be performed. And for what?

We have been very clear that Robertina will not be undergoing any more diagnostics and will not be hopping on the next plane or ferry to Vancouver, so we’ll just have to take care of Robertina based on the vet’s hunches about what exactly is taking over Robertina’s lungs.

We have learned from the vet in the most layman of terms that there are two basic types of cancers in the lungs. One develops relatively slowly and benignly (for a cancer). The other is more devastating and progresses rapidly and aggressively. Seeing our puppy struggling as she is, all of us have the sinking sensation that we know which type of cancer afflicts our dear Robertine…

We went to visit our girl on Friday evening. As usual, she was very excited to see us and was nearly beside herself when she heard the magic W-A-L-K word. A wave of relief washed over me to see this familiar exuberance, but when we were on the actual walk on the beach, she lagged behind and stumbled a number of times (on nothing, really). Her legs seemed overly stiff and we had to stop every few minutes for a drink out of a water dish we had brought along (which is really unusual for her). The beach is about a block from where Robertine lives, and the whole walk could have taken us about 10 minutes if we had clipped along at our usual ‘fit’ pace. However, with all of the stops for water, resting, and recovery from stumbles, just walking to the beach and back took about a half hour. It reminded me of walking beside my Baba in her later years, when her joints were ravaged by arthritis. On Friday, this was totally not the ever-youthful dog we ascended Maple Mountain with a few months ago. Things have definitely changed.

Anyway. There are two new lumps on Robertina’s body: one in her neck folds (just below the one that was removed), and one on the back of her leg, which makes it difficult for her to walk without limping. (Liposarcomas are known to metastatisize extensively around the body.) She is having difficulty breathing when she exerts herself, and even sometimes when she is at rest. The vet has given her the proverbial ‘2-6 months to live’ spiel, so now we just love and accept her the way she is until she is no more…

Being the total overthinker that I am, I’ve worried that Robertina is trying to put on a show of health and fitness for the sole benefit of our aching hearts. (You know how some people cannot pass away in the presence of certain others– others who might inadvertently exhaust and smother them with their overattentive care and concern? It’s like that.) So every night before I go to bed, I’ve been experimenting with puppy telepathy and just telling our girl that it’s OK. It’s OK for her to get older and to finally act her age (77 in human years!). It’s OK for her to be sick and to need more rest than she used to need. It’s OK if we can no longer take her up her favourite ascents or even take her in the car anymore (because her carsickness is acting up). It’s OK for all of this to happen, and we love her just the same.

(Of course– knowing me– I end up showering myself in tears every time I do this. Even typing these words starts the tears flowing again. It’s all a process, right? <not sure which emoticon to use here– I need a happy/sad/confused face!> I’m just so thankful to have found that first lump. It’s like Robertina needed us to know what was going on and that lump is how she was able to tell us. She is so dear to us.)

5 responses

  1. Okay, I’m seriously crying right now. That’s exactly what my mom had to do with my Grandpa – tell him over and over that we would be okay if he went.
    You’re doing the right thing, damn if it isn’t the hardest thing. I’m thinking of you guys.

    • Thanks, Jabba. I definitely expected (hoped?) for more of a recovery after the surgery, but I’m learning that it’s way harder to fight against ‘what is’ than it is to try to accept it. It’s still tough, though! 😦

  2. It is beautiful that you love Robertina so much.
    Hope she doesn’t suffer too much.
    She has enriched your’s and Marty’s lives and we have been enriched by your sharing her story.

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