“If you go slowly enough, six or seven months is an eternity—if you let it be—if you forget old things, and learn new ones. Even a week can last forever.”
Rick Bass, Winter

"In the midst of winter, I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer."
Albert Camus

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Day 106: On Kindness

Yesterday Donna and Willow, the vet techs at Alta Vista Animal Hospital in Ottawa, brought Zoe out to me at the end of the day with a bouquet of birthday balloons.  I so wish I had taken a picture of these two vibrant women with the birthday girl and those bright yellow, green, pink and magenta balloons.  I was blown away by this gift, this kindness.

As I wrote yesterday, Zoe probably would not have lived to see her ninth birthday if she hadn't spent the last six months under the care of Dr. Bravo, Donna, and Willow. 

It was summer weather on the first day of spring, which made me feel as though we'd flashed forward in time.  As I drove across the bridge to Canada, a light fog rose from the St. Lawrence River.  It covered the car briefly, and then dispersed, reminding me that I was driving into an uncertain future.

For the last three weeks I was preoccupied with the question of whether Zoe could tolerate the new drugs she is taking orally, palladia and cyclophosphamide.  Some dogs just can't take them because they're so hard on the gut, and then that course of treatment is off the table.  Zoe had no problems at all, and she's been thriving.  Great energy, spirit, and appetite.  But what I didn't expect and didn't prepare myself for--perhaps there is no way to prepare for news like this--is that the drugs wouldn't work.  At least they haven't worked yet: the disease is progressing.  The nodules in her tumors have grown.  Not dramatically.  But in almost every visit we had when she was taking doxorubicin intravaneously, those little guys were shrinking.

Still, there is quite a lot of new research being conducted right now on canine osteosarcoma and other cancers, and a variety of new drugs being tested.  In between every visit, Dr. Bravo finds a brand-new paper that gives her more options and ammunition for treating the disease.  Have you heard about the shortage of chemotherapy drugs in the U.S.?  One of them is doxorubicin, the drug that worked so well on Zoe this winter.  We had to stop after 5 doses because it's toxic on the heart.  But now there's a sister drug that doctors are using in lieu of doxorubicin for patients (including human) who either can't get access to the doxo because of the scary shortages, or who need an alternative that isn't toxic to the heart.  Using this sister drug might be our Plan B.

Also, I haven't used the herbs (artemesinin) I bought yet, and they are thought to shrink lung tumors.

But I don't want to bombard you with medical details in this post.  I want, instead, to say something today about kindness.  It was devastating to get this bad news, of course.  I didn't let it seep in right away, because I was driving home to a happy, festive occasion.  Two human friends with birthdays, their dogs running around, and yes, I did succumb and I bought a dog birthday cake at a bakery for pets on Dalhousie street in Ottawa.  Watching the dogs chomp into this sweet bone-cake (made of spelt, apple sauce, and yogurt) really lifted my spirits.  Being buoyed up by my friends, and also by Donna and Willow and Dr. Bravo, really helped me.

And then I woke up to a really nice e-mail from Donna, who is fed-exing me all of Zoe's records and x-rays so that I can have them on Monday, when I take Zoe to a holistic vet in Vermont who does acupuncture and provides Chinese herbs, and more.

I found out about the Vermont vet indirectly, through a former student.  Before she left for the Peace Corps with her husband, she worked with a man whose dog has the same cancer Zoe does, and who is following the same drug protocols she is on, but is also supplementing the dog's care with the holistic vet's bag of tricks.  The dog is doing incredibly well.  So when I contacted this man and his partner via e-mail and told them Zoe and I were heading to Vermont this Monday to visit their vet, they invited Zoe and me to go on a dog walk with them on Sunday, have dinner at their house, and spend the night.

I can't tell you how touched I was and am by this invitation.  And I will have a lot to post about next week.
I feel a little like Blanche Dubois in A Streetcar Named Desire:  "I have always depended on the kindness of strangers."

Except that in this case, I thought I would have to rely solely on myself, and my husband, and my sister, and my few closest friends.  I'm learning now that the circle of care is always much wider than we ever dreamed.  

Namaste, gentle readers, and thank you again for reading and for your good wishes.  My wish for all of you is that for whatever hard thing you are going through yourselves, you know, as I do now, that there are a lot more people than you think, some of whom you haven't even met in person, some of whom you may never meet, who have your back.


  1. first of all, I love it that the doctor's name is Dr. Bravo! I also love that phrase, "the circle of care is always much wider than we ever dreamed". That one goes on my bulletin board for the day.I also think it's neat that your blog gives the hour you post--often in the wee hours of the night!

  2. Thank you, Anne. And best of luck on your wonderful garden blog!