On November 17th 2014 I stood in a church and denounced God and Christianity for good. Five days later I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Make of that what you will.
About six weeks ago our black lab, Sally, was also diagnosed with cancer. The vet (far too young to be a vet in my opinion but maybe vets are like police officers in that respect) read carefully from the sheet she was holding and carefully explained words like sarcoma and malignant and surgery and I didn’t have the heart to tell her she didn’t need to explain. She might have got upset.
Sally’s prognosis wasn’t great. The vet explained that because of the position of the sarcoma, surgery would be extremely difficult and that we would just have to wait until the pain became too great for her to bear. Then it would be the one-way trip to the vet. Sally’s only three. Bless her.
I returned home in a fug, worrying about how to relay the information to Dave, who has a bit of a reputation as a softy when it comes to dogs. When Moz, our mongrel, was hit by a mini metro (driven by a crazy Polish youth who then attempted to extort money from us but that’s another story) Dave lay next to Moz’s bed for 48 hours almost without moving, apart from the silent tears running down his ruddy cheeks. I have been joking since my diagnosis that his stoicism in the face of my cancer must be because I am not a dog. No jokes, thanks.
Surprisingly, Dave was phlegmatic in his response and if he did cry, well I didn’t see it. We decided to be totally honest with the boys (although we had no choice really as youngest had been with me at the doom meeting) but gave them the party line - Sally will get better – just like Mummy.
The problem with that party line is that as individuals and as a family we have been touched horribly by cancer. We have loved and lost too many people (and dogs and cats) already. We have discussed it openly, we have raised money, we have talked about funerals and why cancer kills and how we can help to get rid of it and I have run the Race For Life with names on my back and I have cried for the people who are no longer here; we all have.
And now the dog. Please, not the dog.
It was a funny one for me though because that’s when I started to think that I could make deals to get myself out of my own situation. OK, so Dave and the boys might be a bit upset for a while (and me too of course but I’m not allowed to be too upset because the deal works in my favour after all) but Sally is, when all is said and done, canine. Now I know that this could cause serious controversy in our dog loving nation and I’m taking a risk putting it out there (probably more of a risk than condemning Christianity) but my back’s against the wall here; if the dog gets it, I don’t. Simple.
I’ve made other deals too. I’m happy(ish) to lose every hair on my body if it means all the cancer cells are killed. I’m happy to have one of my breasts removed in extremely painful surgery if it means the two lumps of cancer in it don’t come back. I’m prepared not to go to work at a job I love (and realise this more than ever now) if it means I don’t get a cold or scarlet fever or any sort of infection which means my treatment is delayed. I’m prepared not to take my boys to school or pick them up every day at the moment if it means I can still be around for their eighteenth birthdays. I’ll do pretty much anything if I can just live.
So in the greater scheme of things, how important is the dog? Really?
Funnily though, we took her to a different vet (older, wiser, not wearing Crocs) and the prognosis was much less dismal. In fact, Sally had surgery on Monday and came home yesterday (thank goodness for insurance). The lump was removed along with four of her teeth and a chunk of her jaw and we won’t even know if it was cancer at all for another two months. That first vet got ahead of herself. There are no decisions to be made yet.
But I guess there are always deals to be made, I make them all the time with the boys too. How much computer time, this sweet for that vegetable, that TV film with a 12 certificate, this homework, that tidying, bathing, cleaning, helping, clearing, the list is endless. Usually they work, usually.
Sally NOT being given the death sentence was a curve ball; maybe she’s been making deals of her own, let’s hope I’m not part of them…