family, life

McDonald’s has its pink slime, I have purple.

I was just awakening from sleep when I heard a whisper.

“Follow the diet and exercise and you will beat cancer.”

I didn’t have cancer, my sister did.

Aware that I had no control over my sister’s diet and exercise, and aware that God often whispers things well in advance, I made a pot of my nutritious, delicious chicken, kale, carrot, onion and white bean soup – garnished with really good parmigiano reggianno – and took it over to her.

I suggested we walk the two or three blocks from her beautiful house into her darling down town.

Just in case.

If you’ve been following this blog for awhile you know that my sister did not beat cancer.

Actually, she did, because she didn’t let it wreck her life.

Then Bebe was diagnosed with cancer in October and I thought maybe the whisper was for her.  I could control her diet and exercise so I took her for long walks, cooked balanced meals and carefully administered Chinese herb blends and supplements.

She died, as you know, in January.

So we adopted Dixie.

And almost immediately upon her adoption she was diagnosed with colon cancer. Unusual in dogs.

So now I’m cooking like her little life depends on it.

Because it just might.

She had her first chemo treatment yesterday – an injection of Carboplatin.

She seemed to handle it just fine until nausea kept interrupting her sleep and mine.

When she turned her nose up at her usual breakfast this morning, I made her some healthy snacks.

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I love the color combo.

1 cup organic wild blueberries
2 tsp. turmeric
2 Tbsp. dried basil – 4 Tbs. fresh basil is better but I’m out
2 Tbsp. coconut flour

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all whirled together

Add a pound of organic ground turkey.

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McDonald’s has its pink slime, I have purple.

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Plop the purple slime on a cookie sheet.

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Flatten it with a fork.

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Bake for 25 minutes at 350.

Normally she’ll gobble down as many of these as I’m willing to give her. Today she stopped at 2.

So I gave the food processor a quick wipe and made a batch of her other favorite.

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Whirl together a can of sardines,  1/2 tsp. turmeric, 1 egg, 3 Tbsp. almond flour and 3 Tbsp. hemp protein powder and plop it on the same cookie sheet. Why dirty another one?

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Flatten them with a fork and bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

Oh, yes, she was interested in these – ate 3 of them, I think.

Next up I made meatloaf: 2 pounds ground turkey, 6 Tbsp. ground hemp seeds, 4 oz. can of sardines, 1 tsp. ground ginger, 2 eggs, 2 ounces beef liver, 2 ounces fresh broccoli, 2 ounces fresh baby spinach, 2 ounces fresh red bell pepper.

Whirl it all together, spread it in a 13×9 pan and bake at 325 for an hour.

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The juices soak back in as it cools.

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Portioned out for dinner – Dixie gets 6 ounces, Maxy gets 12.

She gobbled a good bit of the meatloaf down.

I hope Dixie is the one who beats cancer.

But of course the whisper could have been for me.

This week I had two more pre-cancerous lesions removed from my legs – from my shins, which were flung over the edge of an inner tube exposed to the hot sun all day as I floated down the Verde River in Arizona while visiting my cousins in my youth. Sans sunscreen.

I don’t think they even had sunscreen way back then. Just tanning oils – shudder to think.

I remember putting cool washcloths on my badly burnt flesh that night. And I remember the steam rising from my legs as I did.

So if the whisper was for my future, what diet?

I trust I’ll know when the time comes.

Corrie ten Boom’s father didn’t give her the ticket until the train pulled into the station.

That’s probably when my Father will give me mine.

#symptom

P.S. No one wants to see a photo of a pile of dishes, but after all that cooking this morning, I’ve got a big one. Plus a million other things to do.

Serving God one beagle at a time.

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the friends

Is this my new calling? ‘Cuz I’m gonna’ need superhuman strength.

One minute you’re getting your face bit off and the next minute you’re living in Hintzville.

One day you’re living in Hintzville, going for a warm, sunny walk and a week later you’re under the knife.

Last post I told you what I know about Dixie’s history. What I didn’t tell you is that she has had varying amounts of blood in her stool since the day we adopted her. Every stool, every day.

Finally, after multiple trips to the vet and two rounds of blood and stool tests to rule out parasites and infections, we were referred to a specialist for an ultrasound.

The ultrasound revealed a mass in her colon. And an enlarged lymph node. And a small spot on her spleen.

So at 8:00 this morning I dropped her off at the hospital for a colonoscopy – to give the internal medicine specialist and the surgeon a look at what they’re dealing with from the inside.

While she’s still under anesthesia she’ll go directly into surgery.  To remove the mass and resection her bowel.   And, if she hasn’t been under too long at that point, the surgeon will remove the lymph node and her spleen, too.

Just got a call from the hospital. They are about to begin.  It will be about two hours. The surgeon will call when he’s finished.

I hung up the phone, got on my knees and asked God to fill the operating room. I asked Him to give the specialist and the surgeon insight and knowledge and skill beyond what they have. I asked Him to give the surgeon creativity in approaching the mass – since it is partially behind her pubis and difficult to access.  I’m praying he’ll get clean margins without having to split her pelvis.

I’m praying the mass is not malignant.  I’m praying it isn’t any kind of cancer at all.  It’s possible that it’s a stricture. I sure hope so.

I’m praying for no complications.

I’m praying that the resection will not come apart one day and dump feces into her abdomen.

I’m praying she will heal quickly and live another happy, healthy five years.  At least.

If it is a malignant cancer, the surgeon said worst case scenario she’ll have  3-4 months, best case she’ll have 1-2 years.

I’m praying it isn’t cancer.

I’m praying I don’t have to muster the strength, beg God for the strength, to walk another friend down this road again so soon.

I’ve already fallen in love with Dixie.

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And I’m still missing Bebe.

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And Lucy.

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I told you last week that Dixie had been bounced around a lot this last year after her “mom” moved into a nursing home.  And that made it really heartbreaking to leave her this morning.

So I’m asking God to hold her close, to whisper in her soft, floppy little beagle ear that she hasn’t been abandoned.  That she is deeply loved and she will be going home to Hintzville.

Just got a call from the surgeon.  The colonoscopy showed that it is a mass, not a stricture.

Dixie’s being prepped for surgery and he’s heading into the OR.

Praying he gets it all.

Praying it’s benign.

Praying she heals well.

Praying, praying, praying.

And feeling sick.

 

 

 

 

 

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faith, love, the friends

Barely Breathing

Be’s ashes arrived about an hour ago.  The young man who delivered them to my front door was very kind. As soon as he left, I hugged the little wooden box to my heart and sobbed. I told Be all the things I’ve said to her many times since her diagnosis but also things I wished I had said yesterday.  I wished I had looked her in her bright little eyes and said that I was so sorry to have to say goodbye, that I didn’t want to say goodbye.

The emergency room ultrasound showed a lung had collapsed on one side and fluid was building in her chest cavity on the other side.  Eight days earlier another emergency doc had tapped 600 ml of fluid from her chest.  For six days we marveled at how well she was doing. But Monday she started showing signs that the fluid was building again.

But she never lost her appetite. Yesterday she jumped and twirled when I set down her breakfast bowl. She enthusiastically gobbled it down and then stood at the kitchen island watching me separate meat from bones to make broth.  She stood there as she did whenever I made her bone broth, confident that I would hand her a morsel or two.

I put the bones back into the crock pot, covered them with water, ground the meat and started to load the dishwasher.

That’s when she started panting. That’s when she came back into the kitchen to get me.  She often lead me into the family room to sit with her.  But this time she lead me to the door that leads to the garage. She just stood there as though she was asking to go to the hospital. I called the hub. I called emergency to let them know we were coming.  They were ready with oxygen when we arrived.

The doc said she could tap the fluid again but that it would probably fill up quicker this time – in 2 days rather than 8.  That’s typically the way it goes.

And before I could say anything, my husband said, “No, it’s time to let her go.”

And that made me cry.  And it made me a little deep down mad.

A tech brought Be into the examining room, catheter already in her arm, laid her gently on the table and plugged an oxygen tube into the wall in front of it. She said she’d give us a few minutes to say goodbye. Be’s breathing was labored, even holding oxygen to her nose, and I didn’t want her to be uncomfortable one second longer than necessary. So we had the doc come in right away.

I wish I had taken just a moment though.

I wish I had turned her gently around or slid her a little back so I was in front of her – so she could see me – instead of being behind her.   I was right there hovering over her, stroking her head. My husband was behind me stroking her back. I wish I had been where she could see me.  I wish I had scooped her up and held her after she was gone. I wish I had driven her to the crematorium myself – one last labor of love.  So many regrets. It all happened so quickly.  I wish I had prayed when she was on the table and not just in the car on the way to emergency. I wish I had blessed her one last time, asked God into the room.  I wish I had asked to hold her on my lap while she was getting the injections…

She laid her head down on the table and was asleep before the doc finished pushing the propofol into the cath. Her breathing stopped midway through the injection of the second drug – the euthanasia drug. No twitching, no nothing, just asleep and then quietly gone in less than a minute.

So I hugged the box containing her ashes and sobbed and told her all those things and it was cathartic.  I’m still sobbing and it still hurts and it is pouring rain again.

It hurts so much I can barely breathe.

The turkey bone broth is still simmering in the crock pot, its heartbreaking aroma permeating the house.

Someday, when I step into heaven, Lucybee, the beloved friend I lost three years ago, will run full speed to greet me.  But the little Be will come quietly: she’ll tiptoe up, peek her head around the gate, look up at me with her sweet little face, cock her head and then wag, wag, wag her happy little tail.

Some glorious day.

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#someday

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family, love, the friends

Sacrificial Gifts

A few weeks before Christmas my daughter texted me a picture of Sorel Slimpack II Waterproof Boots – in case I needed a gift idea.

I had already bought her gifts but I was tempted to buy just one more.  Except the hub said we needed to scale back this year due to all the vet bills.  So I resisted.

The Monday before Christmas I stood at the pharmacy counter with a prescription for a colonoscopy prep kit – the same kind my husband used back in October when he had his colonoscopy.  The kind that is a lot easier to take than the Golytely jug I’ve used in the past.

“Your insurance doesn’t cover this one,” the pharmacist said, “it will be $100.”

“What?” “Is that how much my husband paid back in October?”

She checked her computer.

“He paid $86, he had a coupon. I’ll try applying that same coupon code to yours.”

With the coupon it would be $91.  The price must have gone up she said.

“Is there another kind that my insurance will cover?”

She advised me to call the doc’s office and ask them to authorize a switch.

Golytely. The dreaded 4 litre jug.

Dreaded but 100% covered.

I texted the hub.  He said go ahead and pay the $91.

But then I remembered the boots. I was willing to suffer for the boots.

So I took home the jug.

The day after the colonoscopy I went to Nordstrom to purchase the boots – for $145.

“I thought I saw them on sale on your website for $114,” I said, as the clerk rang them up.

Apparently not.

As I was leaving the mall I spotted the same boots at another store – on sale for $109.

Back to Nordstrom to return, then back to Journeys to buy.

Those 8 hours of gut-wrenching misery – literally – plus the return and repurchase paid for all but $18 of them.  The hub could live with that.

Sacrificial Giving

As we were heading to the theater to see the matinee showing of La La Land the day after Christmas, I told my daughter the story of the boots – my own small version of the Gift of the Magi.  Not because I wanted a medal or anything, but because I wanted her to know the depth of my love. And because giving a sacrificial gift felt so good, I thought receiving one might feel good, too.  Judging by the expression on her face at the end of my story, I think it did.

Same Love, Different Scenario

That evening, after dinner, I said, “Time for family goodness.” (“Family goodness” = all of us taking the friends for a walk.  One of us takes the hound, another takes the beagle and the third is on bag duty…”)

“It’s almost dark,” the hub said, sitting comfortably on the sofa watching some sort of sport on tv.

“Bring a flashlight,” I replied.

My daughter didn’t say anything, but the look she flashed revealed that she wasn’t thrilled either.

It was a rare 50 degree day in December and I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to walk the little beagle. She cannot tolerate the cold anymore and getting oxygen to her lungs is so important.  I had been waiting all day for the rain to stop so we could take her.  It was still drizzling when I made my announcement, but it was getting dark and the window was closing.

“Come on,” I said.

As my daughter put on her coat she said, “You’re never going to be satisfied with the manner in which I parent your granddogs.”

“I just won’t come over,” I replied.

She continued, “Because I’m going to treat my dogs just like the rest of the country does.”

It snowed 8 inches the weekend before Christmas.  I bundled the beagle up and took her for a walk a few days later when the temp rose to 32 degrees.  She begged to romp through the woods.  “Sorry, little Be,” I said, “but your legs are too short, your belly will drag through the snow and you’ll get too cold.” I promised her that once the snow diminished enough we would take a walk through the woods.

And on that rainy, 50 degree day after Christmas when the snow was just about gone, we did.

The five of us took a walk through the woods, the hub carrying a flashlight and me using the flashlight on my iPhone.

It felt good to keep a promise.

It felt good to take my friends for a damp, drizzly, sacrificial walk in the woods.

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It’s all the same.

I thought about my daughter’s comments as I was unloading the dishwasher the next morning.

It’s all the same love, baby girl, I thought.  The same quality of love that bought your boots kept its promise to the Be.

It’s that way with God, too.  The quality of His love is always the same  – whether He is extending it to the saint or the sinner.

It isn’t about how lovable we are, it’s about how able to love He is.

And I so love Him. ❤

#nomoping

 

 

 

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faith, Jesus, the friends

Calm, Bright, Holy Beagle

It was not my usual week-before-Christmas.

Monday, instead of baking and sampling, I was fasting and prepping for Tuesday’s colonoscopy.  It’s not ideal to schedule a colonoscopy the week before Christmas, but it had already been rescheduled twice… The good news is I passed with flying colors. Doc says I don’t have to “Golytely” again for another ten years. Misnomer that.

All is Calm, All is Bright

Wednesday, instead of shopping, I was sitting on a folded quilt on the floor of the veterinary oncologist’s exam room with my back against the wall.  The little beagle lay on her side beside me, head on my lap. A mild, pleasantly soothing incense wafted through the air, mingled with the gentle music playing beside it. I stroked her soft little head and spoke quietly to her as she lay still for the twenty minutes the acupuncture needles needed to do their thing.

“It’s worth it little Be,” I whispered, as I stroked the side of her face, “they are stimulating your immune system and helping to clear the lung congestion.”

She lay perfectly still. Completely calm. Not a single needle fell out this time. What a sweet little love.

Acupuncture needles in place of pine needles.

She has been doing so well – her eyes clear and bright, her energy high – that I was starting to imagine her a medical miracle.

And then Thursday she started coughing. Really coughing. She coughed up a hunk of tissue and what looked like a blood clot.

Silent Night, Holy Night.

So Friday she went back on an antibiotic.

She’s sleeping a lot now, her little body battling pneumonia. So last night, while she slept, I broiled filet Mignon, mashed sweet potatoes and sauteed Brussels sprouts. And then my daughter and the hub went to the 10 pm Candlelight Service while I stayed home with our friends.

I was going to have our own little silent night, holy night – just me, the hound and the beagle. I was going to read them the Christmas story. I was going to tell them what Jesus said about not a single sparrow falling from the sky apart from the Father’s care. I was going to read them the story Nathan told David and explain that God considers pets members of the family, too.

“but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.”

God had no problem with the way the poor man lovingly cared for his lamb, but He certainly had a problem with the way the rich man treated her as property.

I was going to say, “God loves and cares for all of the creatures He created, guys, and He loves you even more than I do.”

We were going to have our own holy moment while the rest of the family was at church.

But the night turned out to be more silent than holy. The beagle’s breathing was labored as she slept on the sofa beside me. I didn’t want to disturb her by reading aloud. I knew she’d try to respond to the sound of my voice and she needed rest more than anything else.

So I scrolled silently and came upon this from Muddy Boots Manor:

A precious telling of the Christmas story. I think the hound was listening as he lay awake on the floor nearby. The beagle slept through most of it – awaking only briefly and raising her head to see who was talking. Then she drifted back off to sleep.

Now it’s Sunday. Christmas Day.

When my daughter wakes up I’ll make pancakes. I’ll embellish the maple syrup with minced figs, dates and walnuts because on Tuesday the recovery nurse handed me a brochure with a list of high fiber foods and dried figs was at the top.

We’ll open gifts and then I’ll make stuffed mushrooms and a mushroom pate for the hub and the daughter to take with them to the family gathering.

I’ll miss out on some amazing food, but Christmas, it turns out, is not about beautifully set tables and skillfully prepared feasts.

It’s about giving presence to a sick little friend.

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The hound – 96 in dog years – wants extra presence himself these days.

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I did take time to do some fancy wrapping this week.

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Merry Christmas everyone!

#anewkindoffestive

 

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the friends

‘Tisn’t it the Season to be Jolly?

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The beagle and I have not missed a single walk since she was diagnosed. Because walks are medicine. They stimulate her immune system, they help the flow of her lymphatic system and they get oxygen to any anaerobic infections that may be present in her lungs.

Yesterday I smiled and said hello to a couple we encountered. They were on a (dog-less) walk of their own.

The woman responded, “I hope you are as warm as the dog.”

I chuckled and nodded.

Maybe she couldn’t think of anything else to say, I thought. Maybe what she meant to say was, “I like your dog’s coat.” or “Your dog looks nice and warm.”

Maybe she meant to say it with a smile.

But her tone and her look were disapproving.

I was wearing a hooded sweatshirt under a very downy down jacket. The hood was pulled up unto my head, my hands were mittened and my feet booted.

Clearly I was as warm as “the dog.” As my sweet dog.

Did she think my dog was too warm in her coat? Did she think I was cruel to put it on her? Did she hope I was as too warm as the dog?

I wanted to tell her that my friend’s little belly was shaved for a CT scan and the fur hasn’t fully grown back yet. It needs protection from the cold.

I wanted to tell her that senior dogs have difficulty regulating their body temperature. Just like cardigan-clad senior people.

I wanted to tell her that my friend was shivering by the end of the previous day’s cold, damp walk.

I wanted to tell her that my friend has LUNG CANCER.

So quit judging.

But we just kept walking.

We saw them approach a second time as we rounded the final bend.

The beagle stopped to wait for them, tail wagging.

She’s a greeter.

But the couple did not acknowledge her.

Clearly not dog lovers. Clearly her earlier comment was not out of concern for “the dog.”

Clearly she doesn’t deem dogs worthy of warmth.

“Come on little Be. Let’s go home.”

The Be didn’t move.

“Are you worn out little friend? Have you had all you can take today?”

I kinda’ hoped Mrs. Crabby Appleton heard my questions. I kinda’ hoped she realized that there was more to the story.

On today’s walk the Be is going to wear her silver “American Beagle” puffy jacket. Because it’s cold and windy and the jacket is warm and adorable.

Fa-la-la-la-la  La-la  La-la.

#treasuringourtime

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family, the friends

Gratitude

I am not hosting my large family for Thanksgiving dinner this year and I am grateful.

Grateful to relax, drink coffee, watch the parade and eat cinnamon rolls. The parade – which I’ve been too busy in the kitchen to watch for the last several years – and the cinnamon rolls are Thanksgiving traditions.

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Grateful that I only have to bake my sweet potato rolls – made the dough yesterday – and roast a turkey breast – just in case.

Just in case because my 86 year old mother is a spaz. (No offense, mom.) And after 65 adult years of preparing, planning and eating Thanksgiving dinner she still worries that there won’t be enough.

As a result there is always waay too much.

We’ll call that another Thanksgiving tradition. And I’ll be grateful for the abundance. And for my mom – who is baking pies, making stuffing and roasting yet another extra (8 pound) breast in her own kitchen this morning. God love her.

In addition to the 26 pound bird my sister, the hostess, is roasting.

Like I said, abundance.

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But the thing for which I am giving the most thanks this morning is the good report the beagle and I received.

I took her to the oncologist yesterday afternoon for an acupuncture treatment and a six week follow-up x-ray.

After the x-ray the doc came in with Good News: The tumor has not grown! It is exactly the same size.

That’s a good start. Praying her next x-ray, in 3 months, shows shrinkage.

Considering she was only given 1 – 2 months to live 6 weeks ago, I’m grateful for the hope a 3-month follow-up appointment gives.

Hug your beagle and have a very Happy Thanksgiving all you Americans.

And just a plain great day everyone else.

#foroncemyThanksgivingmorningisnotchaotic

 

 

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