The Unbearable Heaviness of Being Me…

Sometimes I wish I could just turn off my mind… my thoughts. I am sure I am not alone in this wish. These last few days I am plagued with thoughts of sadness… mixed with resolve, hope, despair, and a myriad of other opposing feelings and memories and experiences. I just can’t stop it. And it does not help that every time I look at Cody he is the most adorable and happy and sweet and smart and intuitive creature I have ever known. Bastard! He is not making this last diagnosis any easier.

There is some good news. This morning his nodes seem to be a bit smaller. That is a great sign, but alas, we have been through this before. I know the cancer is there. Lurking. I am not sure where else it is besides the nodes. I lay in bed for hours last night in the twilight edge of sleep, total exhaustion with a turbulent race of thoughts that, like meditation, I try so hard to push them aside and out of reach. Clear the mind…

Ha! there will be none of that! I can’t turn it off. I imagine this dark cluster of evil brown cancer cells searching for more places to hide in his body. I imagine them attacking his liver and his heart, lungs… his nodes get swollen because of the fight that is raging in his body. Does he have any pain that he is not showing? How would I know? And you would never know it if it were not for the nodes. He is his normal happy self. Always. He ALWAYS rallys… he is the quintessential high school football jock always ready for a game, a party, a challenge… LET’S PLAY!  Unwavering in his energy even though I can tell sometimes that he is just putting on his show for Mommy…

It is just heartbreaking.

I grew up with little dogs in my family. I am not a fan. My Grandmother had a chihuahua named Lady that was mean and nasty and very tiny of course. She bit everyone and particularly loved ankles.  My family had a poodle who also bit me,  that was hit by a motorcycle in my neighborhood when I was in grade school. My Mom had a Lhasa Apso named Max who was a strange little creature with a terrible under bite, these strange little black lips and a snorting issue, who would masturbate constantly while grunting so that it was not to be ignored. And then I brought home another Lhasa who was being given away for free at the mall when I was in High School because they said she was deaf, which she was not.  Both of them died of smoke inhalation in a fire in the house where I grew up while I was in college. So I am not unaccustomed to dealing with the death of a pet by any means. But this is different.

I have always loved BIG dogs. I love Great Danes. They remind me of horses and I have always loved horses. I always wanted a horse of my own and spent a lot of time watching them and visiting them at a farm walking distance from my house. I would get fresh made ice cream and eat it with the horses. To this day if I smell cow manure I crave ice cream. Weird I know. My Uncle had a German Shepherd name Kane that I loved. I would lay across his back on the floor and spoon him. I love Saint Bernards and Mastiffs. There is just something about having a large creature for a buddy that gives me great comfort, makes me feel safe. I guess it may also be because I am not quite 5 feet tall myself. Small chick complex?

But I have always dreamed of having a big dog. And once I bought my house and I had the space, and the money to take care of one… I started my research and decided on a Lab. He would keep me active. So Cody is my dream dog. And as you know I spend all my time with him. I put a lot of work into raising him right. He is kind, mild and attentive. He definitely speaks English, he knows at least 200 words if not more. He reads me like a book and I him. He has never been anywhere without me and this whole situation just rips my heart out in so many ways.  I really don’t mean for this to be a wallow fest of a blog but isn’t it my outlet and cathartic for me to write here? That is what it is for… indulge me.

I have been thinking a lot about what I need to be thinking about. I think about how I just need to make sure he is happy and doing ok for as long as he can. I took him running with the ball this morning making sure not to wear him out too much since he had a big dose of chemo yesterday. But it is his favorite thing in the world. He lives for it… how can I deny him? I also gave him some treats at the vet yesterday. He is not supposed to have carbs… but honestly at this point? But then I think… “you should get on the freaking internet and start searching again for more alternative treatments and see if you find something that you had not known prior! STAY THE COURSE!”  I was not sure I was going to even allow more chemo yesterday but my head again was saying “you were supposed to have the last treatments and you skipped them, you planned on them, do it… JUST TRY”. It is vicious to be inside my head. He depends on me entirely for everything. It is my job to take care of him the best I can. I have to make the right decisions. There is no one to tell me what those are. This is what being a parent is and this is the closest I will get to it. I was told last year that I can not have children, so this is it. Here are your dormant parenting skills being put to the test.

I also think about the act of  “putting him down” if he gets too sick. In a way I would like him to simply succumb on his own in his own time… I mean, we do not put our parents down when they get sick or too old right? Why do we feel it is ok to do this with our animal loved ones? Why should we play god? But then there is the argument that it is cruel to let them suffer. But when our loved ones are suffering we medicate them to ease their pain right? We do not inject them with sodium penathol (or whatever it is) and put them out of their misery. Who am I Jack Kevorkian? Lethal Injection. We do that to our pathological criminals, murderers… Casey Anthony. Oh wait… (sorry couldn’t resist… I am in Florida for godsakes)…

I know I know… but this is what goes on in my head all night long. I am torn. Should i just let nature take it’s course? Should I help him along and not allow him to suffer? I guess I cross that bridge over that unwanted road when I get to it…

I have mentioned before the silence of my house. In a prior post I told you about the one time I had to leave him at the vet for the chemo treatment and went back home without him there. It was crazy quiet. I couldn’t handle it, so I went back to the vet and sat in the parking lot in my car and waited. I think about this A LOT. I look around my house at his toys, his bed, his treats and food, the huge painting of him on my wall that I did. He is my screen saver on my laptop, my iPad and my phone. His hair is on and in everything I own. And then there is this little cat Albert who is his best friend. This cat is going to be absolutely lost without him. We all will be.

And then my thoughts inevitably lead to whether I could ever want another dog after all this is over. I guess that is another bridge that I will have to wait for…. but at this point I just can not imagine any other dog comparing to what I have at my feet right now. This boy that when we play in the pool and I yell “Go out for a pass” he runs to the other side and waits for me to throw him a pass of whatever ball we are playing with. The one who every single night gets up on the couch next to me and falls asleep with his big head in my lap…


I know it is not over. I know he is right here still and he is ok for now. But to grasp that all that we have been through for the last ten months has brought us so soon, right back to square one. No real remission. No hope for a “cancer survivor miracle”.  It is pretty freaking devastating. I really have to snap out of it too because this ridiculously smart dog can read me and he knows I am feeling badly…

And so it goes, a small glimpse into The Crazy that is my head. One day at a time… one step at a time… and enjoying every moment even if it is filled with crazy…

~ by Michelle Sammartino-Zeto on August 1, 2011.

4 Responses to “The Unbearable Heaviness of Being Me…”

  1. This is a very powerful post that captured my heart. We’ve been there before . . .

    • I am always so sad to hear that others have and are going through this too. As I have said over and over, I truly hope that this blog can help guide or at least comfort anyone else that is or has gone through this too, knowing that it is a well worn path and that they are not alone in all the “crazy” that goes on. It is a tough road, but Cody is worth it. All of them are…

  2. Michelle, just know you’re not alone, as the person above said, “we’ve been there before” and this road you travel is, unfortunately, a well worn one. Anyone who cares about other creatures and is faced with some of these dilemmas understands your pain, which you’ve expressed so articulately. There’s not always much “social space” for caring deeply about animals, and I think we’re trained to feel guilty about it, which is not helpful. Suffering – whether by another human or a companion animal – is still suffering, and that we are affected when it occurs in our presence by it speaks well of us as empathetic beings. You sound like someone worth knowing, and if Cody was destined to face this battle in the course of his life, his best possible option was going through it with you holding his paw and giving him many moments of love and happiness which he is happy to share with you.

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