“He’s gained a pound!”
Dr. Clifton brought Reggie back into the exam room where I was reading the article they’d given me about how to decide when it’s time to let go.
“He is stable. I don’t think you need to worry about the weekend. I think his breathing is the same as it was on Thursday. He looks the same as he did on Thursday as far as his comfort level. He’s no worse. I think you can bring him in for another recheck, or you can choose a time, you can always call and cancel that morning if he’s not decompensating.”
I did not expect this at all. I felt a huge weight lift off of me, and my stomach settled down for the first time in 2 days – I stopped feeling that grabbing at my chest that made it hard to breathe. I hadn’t slept hardly at all the night before, dreading what she’d say this morning.
I didn’t expect this miracle at all.
She was giving me the green light to wait, if I wanted to.
We had an honest discussion – I was able to share how I felt while also being fair and logical. It was much different than Thursday when I could not keep from feeling the pain.
“He ate a whole can of salmon this morning with blueberries and last night he ate the whole can of tuna. He was wagging his tail and he’s slow, but he follows me around most of the time. He doesn’t get excited, exactly, when I have food or take out his leash, but he wags his tail and jumps off the couch to come get his food or to go in the car. When I ask if he wants to go “bye bye car” he gets up and comes to me. He’s walking around the house, and up and down the stairs. He can still jump on and off the bed, he’s slow, but he can get himself up and down without struggling. The diarrhea is the hardest part, for both of us…But I do not want to wait until he’s suffering.”
Dr. Clifton had told me on Thursday there was nothing they could do, but then she saw him today, and she’d changed her mind. I couldn’t believe it. I asked more and more questions.
“With our dog, Ginger, that we put to sleep four or five months ago, she was 18 and filled with cancer, and when it was time, my husband and I just knew. She couldn’t eat or get up and she looked up at us and we knew, she’s done. With him, he’s not doing that, he had a good day yesterday, most of the day, and he’s eating, he’s not breathing as easily as we want him to, but I don’t think you’re going to have to bring him to an emergency hospital tomorrow. You just need to get through to Monday when we open. But, if he stays stable like this, I think you can wait and see how he does. It’s faster now that it’s in the lungs but you can decide if you want to bring him in for a recheck early next week, we can do that, and then you can decide if you want to book at time, you can always call and cancel. It’s up to you, it’s your decision. We can check him once a week…”
I was so confused. In a good way, but maybe she didn’t mean it literally – to suggest that he could have enough time to come in once a week.
“Dr. Stoppe is here on Tuesday, I’m here on Wednesday, if you want another pair of eyes.”
“Yes, I’d like Dr. Stoppe to take a look at him, too,” I answered.
I told her I didn’t trust my judgment these days, and that I felt that my brain might be telling my eyes what I want to see, not what’s real.
Sometimes the closer you watch something, the harder it is to see what’s there.
“That’s what we’re here for to help you.”
Anna, the technician, who is so kind, and so sweet with Reggie (she was the same with Lizzie, she’s a natural), was with us – I was so glad. Before the doctor came in to see Reggie I showed her photos and videos from our trips this week.
“I do not want to wait until he’s in distress, so how do I know?”
“That’s the thing, sometimes we have dogs come in like this…” She huffs and puffs really hard. “But usually it’s a slower progression where it takes more effort for him to breathe.”
“Lizzie had a bronchial dilator, do you think it would help him breathe?”
“I don’t know, probably not. We could try it. His airways aren’t closed. The lungs have a space like a balloon that fill with air, and the cancer cells are taking up that space with tissue so there’s less room in that space in the balloon for him to take in that air.” (She said it differently, more scientifically than this, but this is my summary in my own words).
“We can try Theophyllin, do you have any more of Lizzie’s, or did you donate it all?”
“I donated all of Lizzie’s medicines.”
“Let me see if we have any.”
Reggie was hanging out on the floor of the room, his back moving up and down, much more relaxed than when we came in – that’s the other thing. He does not like coming here, and the thought of him having to come in, knowing where he was, conscious of where he was, and then putting him to sleep – I could not imagine doing that to him – I realize that’s just my guilt, but I hated the idea of him coming in that door, so conscious and alert and nervous, not knowing he would not be coming home with me, and his trusting me that he would.
She came back in with some Theophyllin that she’d found, for a few days, until I come back on Tuesday.
I’m going to try this for a couple of days, while increasing his other medication for pain and stress management. She suggested that would be the best thing to do and what she would want for herself if she had cancer.
“You can take him somewhere else this weekend. It’s beautiful out.”
It was like night and day. I would not call it a miracle, per se, he is not going to get better. It’s not like it was with Lizzie at the 11th hour last March where I will have 7 more months with him, but if I could have even 7 more days…it would be worth it, for many reasons.
One more day…one more day to take him somewhere beautiful.
You know what, I take back what I said.
It is a miracle.