Last summer as the days began to shorten, one of my best friends had to walk her Beagle boy to the Bridge. He’d staved it off for eighteen months, but the time arrived. Even though the day was warm, I still felt chilled after she called to tell me that he was running free.
That chill has turned into a familiar but unwanted companion of late. One of my dearest and closest friends through dog rescue circles and Facebook found out a week ago that her senior Brittany boy has inoperable cancer. She’s weighing treatment options to keep him as comfortable as possible for as long as possible.
The owner of the pet store where I get Oakley’s prepared food is weighing options, too. Despite support from a holistic vet, an anti-cancer diet, and five radiation treatments, her cattle dog girl’s brain tumor came back. They are taking everything an hour at a time.
Three years ago this month, lymphoma sent Orion over the Rainbow Bridge. Between his age (13 -1/2) and his heart condition, nothing could be done except keep him comfortable and share many bags of potato chips with him.
There was also the news of the passage of a Facebook friend’s wife who had fought back with everything she had against ovarian cancer for eight years. His deep grief emerges in the details of small acts such as removing her jewelry when the time came to let her remains go to the funeral home for cremation.
Last year, another dear and close Facebook friend had a cousin, now by an act of grace seven, who had to be treated for a form of cancer usually seen in elderly men who smoked cigars. For the second time.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a human or a companion. If there had been clearer diagnostics back in the day, Dante would have added a tenth circle representing cancer to his vision of hell. Weighing treatment options and their side effects; diet changes; lifestyle modifications are complex enough for a two-legged person who can more or less comprehend what it’s all about and why. Making them on behalf of someone who may or may not understand what’s going on or why is excruciating.
There are natural treatments out there, certainly. But the question needs to be reframed: how do we prevent it in the first place? The usual advice is to eat a lot of fruits and veggies; some debate meat and dairy; others the role of carbs. Others feel that it’s caused by built-up resentments. All good advice in the microsphere, but how does one avoid it in the wider world?
I don’t know. The world has grown more toxic despite the environmental consciousness that sprouted in the ’60’s when people started to realize that better living through chemistry was a short term solution at best. There are some legislators who have as much as admitted that they believe we live in the end times and that it doesn’t matter because they and others of their religious ilk will be swept up into heaven and tough for the rest of us. The companies that produce the problematic chemicals have pretty much bought and paid for the federal government. So we have to find ways to get around the dilemma.
Things I’m choosing to do in my world: buying a lot more organically produced food and looking at joining a CSA for fruit and veg this summer. I get most of my meat and fish from a local merchant who brings it to my door. I use nontoxic cleaning supplies.
For Oakley, I make a lot of his food. I’m keeping his vaccines to a minimum. He’s not a big outdoors guy, so I don’t have to worry so much about exposure to chemical run off from the farm next door.
I know intellectually that I did my best for Orion with the information that I had at the time. Still, when I wake up at 3:30 AM, the questions start. Why did I listen to the old vet about vaccinating? Should I have hosed him off more when he was digging? Was it the steroids he took for allergy relief? The family who farmed the adjoining field all developed unusual illnesses in their adult years, and they used the chemicals linked to cancer, autism, and neurological problems; is that was made Orion sick?
Then Oakley starts to snore, and I am lead to dreaming my way into a world where these questions will never be relevant.