The Warmest Cup Of Kindness

Recently part of my world came crashing down. Literally. A ceiling collapsed. I am grateful no one was hurt or killed. Pieces of insulation continue to waft down and bigger chucks of the ceiling continue to drop occasionally so that part of the house is off limits now.

20161017_083501-1It has changed the way I move in my home and disrupted my routine. It can be cold in the house.

When I left this morning for coffee, I was wearing layers like I might be heading for a hike in the Cascades. I didn’t feel good about my morning or engaging with anyone.

Uncharacteristically sitting in a back corner, I didn’t think it would be an issue. My personal neon “closed” sign was up.zqa3wt2cl9_stop

That changed in an instant. A gentleman I often see in the shop, left his table and came over. We don’t know each other except we go to the same place for coffee. We’ve said good morning to each other before or remarked about the weather, but never anything more than one or two words.

I fired a verbal warning volley as he walked toward my table, making apologies for my insulated layers, casually up-swept hair and bare face explaining it wasn’t the best morning. I was cold in more than ways than one. He did something so kind and so unexpected, it left me speechless.rzcqtq4uny_coffee_hand

He told me he had to come over to tell me he had grown accustomed to seeing my face and had been disappointed when he came in and I had not been there. I sat there speechless.  He quickly said he’d flubbed his line, but was glad to see me and turned to walk away.

I found the words to thank him for his kindness and explain I had been in a bad mood because I was cold. I only realize now in writing this, I didn’t invite him to sit down. He stood there and told me he understood. He often has chills because of the drugs he takes to fight inoperable cancer in several areas of his body.

I hadn’t known this. I had noticed before he sometimes used a walking stick or cane. A younger man with an athletic build I had just assumed it was some kind of sports injury. I told him I had noticed today he was walking unaccompanied. He then shared how even this accomplishment was frustrating. Just the day before his diagnosis, he had skated 14 miles!

I regret I never asked him to sit down. I did find out what the next phase of his treatment is and when it will happen. I will be praying for him.

How kind he is. Seeing I was obviously not my ‘normal’ self and reaching out to me today. If you found out you were dying would you be kinder?  Live life more?  Well, we all are. 

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My Pet’s Cancer Diagnosis

541030_10200807370730847_356137719_nIt was frightening. I knew what the words meant, but couldn’t comprehend how they could possibly apply to us. I heard our veterinarian gently explain one of my beloved Maltese needed to see another veterinarian to explore our options. I was shocked. I forced myself to take a breath. My hands were shaking as a hundred questions raced through my mind. I was too afraid to ask some of those questions.

My sweet sixteen year old had slowed down, was a bit pickier about her food and didn’t like to get up before the sun, but she never seemed in pain as far as I had noticed. My best friend still had puppy moments; bark battles with the dog next door and always seemed to lead the way for her younger pack mate. I prayed our veterinarian was mistaken and there was another explanation.

Our long time veterinarian wasn’t wrong on her diagnosis. My dog was suffering from lymphoma.

Navigating a cancer diagnosis can be a frightening time for a pet owner. It is important to have access to information if you should ever face the issue with your pet. That is why May, 2016, is the seventh annual “Pet Cancer Awareness Month.”

Cancer is the leading cause of death in dogs over the age of 10. Cancer in cats is less common than cancer in dogs but it tends to be a more aggressive form. If caught early, about half of all cancers are curable.

“Cancer in pets is painfully common, frequently treatable, and among the most manageable chronic diseases of old age” explains Jeffrey N. Bryan, DVM, MS, PhD, DACVIM. The Director of the Scott Endowed Program in Veterinary Oncology and Comparative Oncology and Epigenetics Laboratory at the University Of Missouri College Of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Bryan has front line experience in amazing advances in pet cancer treatment.

Many cats and dogs diagnosed with cancer can be treated by their veterinarian. Some cancers can be removed surgically and the pet is cured. For others, there are many of the same options available to human cancer patients; radiation, chemotherapy and immunotherapy.

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Cancer therapies in pets are very effective if the cancer is caught early enough.

“Cancer treatment involves a lot of communication between what we refer to as the ‘triad of care’ – the pet parent, the primary care veterinarian, and the specialist,” says Gerald Post, DVM, MEM, DACVIM (Oncology), practice owner of The Veterinary Cancer Center located in Connecticut which is one of the organizations that sponsors Pet Cancer Awareness Month. “For example, the pet parent needs to be aware of any unusual lumps or bumps a pet may have, the primary care veterinarian will aspirate those bumps to find out if they are cancerous or benign, and the specialist will develop a tailored treatment plan for that individual pet patient.”

The warning signs of cancer in pets can be similar to those in people. If an animal is not feeling quite right, a swelling or lameness can be a sign to check with your veterinarian explains Dr. Bryan, “Clients should report new lumps or changes in health to their veterinarians immediately. The vets should investigate promptly.”

Unfortunately, sometimes there are few or no warning signs of cancer, at least early on. The point of Pet Cancer Awareness Month is to empower pet parents with knowledge, so that they realize that cancer is not automatically a death sentence for pets.

Pet parents can find specialists across the country through location searches on the VetSpecialists.com directory. VetSpecialists.com was developed in 2015 as a partnership between the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine and the American College of Veterinary Surgeons to provide education about diseases and conditions affecting animals and to increase awareness of veterinary specialty medicine.

If you are interested in learning more about pet cancer check out the University of Missouri’s Veterinary Oncology website. There are a number of resources on cancer and animals on their website.

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Cancer in dogs is often treatable.