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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Quality of Life



That's the question that the vet told us we have to keep foremost in our minds.  What is Ellie's quality of life?  We had promised ourselves back in December when they told us that her tumor was a malignant cancer called hemangiosarcoma, that we would do what we felt was best for her when the time came.  They said that time might be, at the earliest one month, and at the latest three months.  Here we are, two months later and, as if on cue, the ugly cancer rears its head.  The splenectomy saved her life and gave us time, at least, to know we were going to have to say goodbye soon.  We hoped that would not be the case.  That some miracle would come to pass and save our girl from this fate.  But, as has been the constant case in our world, no miracle would come, and last Tuesday, we found ourselves back at the vet getting the news that it would be soon.  Very soon.

Once the doctor confirmed that her symptoms were indeed indicative of the cancer spreading to other parts, most likely her liver, the question then became; what now?  She asked me if I wanted to leave Ellie, go home, talk to my family and then return.  I honestly didn't hear anything after that.  I just wanted to know that they would watch her, make sure she wasn't in pain, and I needed to hear Charlie's voice.  I needed to reach out.  I needed to know, as I walked away from that hospital that I was doing the right thing.  The day was gutwrenchingly lonely.  I worried about Ellie alone in the hospital, scared, wondering why I'd left her there.  I agonized over whether she just might expire without us there and I fell apart.  Most times, during times of stress, I can find the strength to hold my shit together.  But when it comes to my pets, it is nearly an impossibility.  How much easier things would be if they could just pat your hand with their paw, look into your eyes, and say; "Thank you, Mom.  You've been awesome.  I've had a great life.  But stuff hurts now and I really don't want to live this way."  Unfortunately, we don't get that luxury.  Neither do they.

Charlie came home early.  We talked and decided to bring her home.  If she was going to leave this earth, then she was going to do it at home, surrounded by love.  The kids gathered.  We all stayed close.  Charlie brought her home.  Surprisingly, she had stabilized, looked much better, wagged her tail happily and greeted us all warmly.  She was, by all accounts, thrilled to be home.  We felt we made the right decision.  They gave us pain meds for her in case it seemed she needed them, told us what we might expect in the days to come, and gave us their blessing with the caveat that as we watch her and monitor her, that we should keep asking ourselves about her quality of life.

Here we are, five days later.  Three days past when we thought she would no longer grace our lives with her love.  She is still wanting to eat, she is still drinking, she is still able to go outside and on short walks.  Yes, she sleeps a lot, and yes, she gets tired quickly.  But she doesn't appear to be in any pain.  The only indication we had that things were progressing, is that her tummy is a bit bloaty and she has loose stools.  They told us to expect this.  Other than that, she is loving, and sweet, and appreciates our company.  She can't really get up on the beds anymore without lots of help, but she still gets a gleam in her eye when you ask if she wants to go for a walk or a ride. 

You can tell things are moving to that place we don't want to think about.  But for now, though she has slowed down significantly, she isn't in pain, and she still has good quality of life.  No, she can't run and play, but neither can Charlie and I.  So we're good there.  We know every day that it's getting closer and closer.  It is a weird, almost creepy feeling.  Like you're all safe inside and you look out the window and you can see the Grim Reaper standing out there on your doorstep...just waiting.  The one thing the vet said to me yesterday is that this weird time is harder on us than it is on Ellie.  It would be easy for us to just make the call and intervene so that we don't have to watch the daily progression of her disease.  She hugged me.  A sweet Great Dane in the lobby gave me puppy kisses.  I needed both. 

The way I figure it, every single day that she's still here is a gift.  As long as she has quality of life.  So, I am living every day, every hour, every minute, to give her as much quality of life that I can.  It is the absolute least I can do for someone who gave her utmost to give us all the quality she has to give.

6 Comments:

Blogger bonnie said...

Oh no. I'm sorry.

I didn't ask if Ellie was ok after the pelican post because I was afraid of the answer. I wish I'd been wrong.

2:15 PM  
Blogger Mike Wallerstein said...

We are at a very similar juncture with Dakota. I go from feeling sick about it to feeling glad when he has a good day. He's a happy boy, and seems comfortable, but for how long? We've made our plans, and now we just try to not think about it. He wants us to act normal, so we do our best. Hugs and love!

--Mikey

2:38 PM  
Blogger Jess said...

Every day any of us is here is a gift. We just try not to think about that, unless life shoves it in our faces (as we've all had happen way too often in the past year), because it's upsetting to have to think of mortality all the time.

You're doing the right thing for Ellie. A friend of ours from Atlanta recently lost her Boxer at about the same age as Ellie. Also cancer. She brought her home and took care of her, and she left this earth peacefully, in her sleep. I hope Ellie surprises you with the amount of time she has left, and I hope the days are comfortable. Really, whether we have 2 days left or 20,000, isn't that the main thing? As you said here, quality of life is what counts.

See how it goes, and if you have to intervene, you will. But maybe you won't. Either way, what matters--and always will matter--is that Ellie is and has been surrounded by love. That's as good as it gets!

2:41 PM  
Blogger Jess said...

Funny how this works--or how my strange head works--but I got through reading this just fine the first time. Then Marc, who hasn't seen this yet, said, "what did Pua write?" Reading it out loud to him without choking up and crying was more than I could do. What's that about?

Anyhow, a thought occurred to me. You may know this already, but IF you have to help bring things to an end--if the pain meds don't work and she's suffering--there are vets who will come to your home for exactly that purpose. It's what we did for Bernice and Mandy, so they got to leave this earth in the peace and comfort of their home, surrounded by our love. I'll still hope she surprises you with her longevity, quality of life and by leaving in her own time and on her own terms. But sometimes that's not an option--so I wanted to make sure you had that other option in mind, just in case.

*HUG*

2:52 PM  
Blogger Pua; Bakin' and Tendin' Bar said...

Bon: Thank you. Talking to you about what you were experiencing with your furry baby helped. At least we knew we'd have a little time.

Mikey: Thank you for thinking of us. Hugs to you, Jeffy, Dakota, and Anya.

Jess: *nodding* Yes. I take everything you've written to heart. Every single day, I have told Charlie (and tried very hard to cling to it) that I am only living on the positives. All the good things that are happening. If she feels good, if she has a sparkle, if she flops her tail at me, if she comes into the kitchen looking for a treat, if she comes close for a snuggle, if she walks to the door and wants out...all of these things and more, I am considering good, positive things. That she is home with us, that she is surrounded by love, etc. etc.

As for reading to Bokey and losing it...well, that's the giant heart in you that I love so much. That's what's up with that.

To the information; yes, we've got it all and our vet provides the same services. However it proceeds from this point, we're ready to do what's best for her. Until then, I am treasuring every blessed warm, sweet kiss.

xoxoxloveyouguys.

5:32 PM  
Blogger Jeffrey Ricker said...

Fuck.

Just, fuck.

5:57 PM  

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