Maia was diagnosed with Lymphoma on March 31st, 2015. I do remember the date because this is the day where I went to sign the lease for the store. I thought she had an ear infection because she was shaking her head so much. I will remember that morning forever. I took her out of my truck and went back for Sophie who was limping. I had one step inside my vet’s office with Sophie and I knew right away something was dead wrong. Maia’s lymph nodes were swollen and he thought it was Lymphoma. I do not want to give Lymphoma a capital L but my auto speller doesn’t want to hear about it. It doesn’t deserve a capital L that’s the least I can say.
From the minute I got her, I loved her. She was 8 weeks old and she was perfect from the beginning. Taking her out of a pretty cold garage a day before a snow storm, she never ever did anything wrong in her life. NEVER. She never chewed anything which was inappropriate (right Zeke?). She never had an accident in the house. Maia has just been my perfect pup from 8 weeks old until that March 31 of 2015 where cancer had the bad taste of invading her body.
If I had done nothing she would have been gone within 6 weeks. So we did something. I learned a lot about Lymphoma. There are two types: B cells and T cells. The B cells respond the best to chemotherapy. So 2 days later, we started chemotherapy. When I said we, she was the one to take the crap, but going every week for six months takes a toll on the parent too. This is when we developed that bond. I knew her so well. Maia is a very sensitive girl, and when she felt crappy, at one point, she stopped eating. Yes, she became anorexic. The oncologist I was seeing at the first place told me: “Put a bowl of kibbles on the floor and she will eat when she will be hungry.” All wrong. I knew my girl. I knew how sensitive she was, and that’s one of the messages I want to send tonight: Trust your feelings about your dog. The vet or oncologist or any other specialist doesn’t know your pup like you do.
We left fast that place where they were treating every single dog with Lymphoma the same way, and as a matter of fact, they almost killed my girl after giving her a sulfa antibiotics which made her temperature rise to 105 and became totally lethargic. Who would not be when you have such a colossal fever? I was the one, not the vet, to figure it out. That was the week where I took her away from that place, and found Dr. Beck, an oncologist at the Hope Center in Vienna, Va.
She got us right away. Right away she treated Maia as Maia and not as a dog with Lymphoma. She saved my girl. And after six long months of chemotherapy, Maia went into remission. It was in October of 2015. Cancer came back in July of 2016 and I do believe that it came back because of me. Maia and I are like two peas in a pod. I have to stay Zen for her or she starts worrying about me as much as I worry about her. In June 2016, one my other girls, Lola died of liver cancer a month after being diagnosed, and it took my Zen thing kind of away from me.
So we started chemotherapy again for six months every single week…. And in January of this year, she was in remission again, and sue me, but 5% of the dogs with Lymphoma get into remission like forever, and that was the plan. Why would not she be in those 5%? She was my mighty girl, and we had such a streak of bad luck between the Lymphoma, a torn cruciate and then the Vestibular Disease, my girl deserved a break…. and we got that break until yesterday.
At her last monthly oncology recheck, they found a swollen Lymph node, but Maia had allergies, an ear infection, so it had to be that, right? They gave her antibiotics but at one point when I went to my regular vet, he decided to do an aspiration to see what was in that swollen node. I was not worried. She had an ear infection and those lymph nodes are supposed to do their jobs when there is an infection lingering around right? Then it was Labor Day weekend (Reminder for me, and only me: don’t trust anything happening on Labor Day weekend!), and I noticed the node was getting smaller, so I was totally at ease when my vet called me yesterday to break the news. The pathologist was 100% sure that cancer came back with a vengeance: “high grade Lymphoma”. It took me a second to google it to see that it was the most aggressive form of Lymphoma striking as many internal organs that it could. Lymphoma is like a snake. You never see it coming. It goes so slow…. But then it attacks and you don’t even realize where it was coming from.
The thing is my girl is happy. She eats pretty well, goes for walk, swims (it just took her ten years to enjoy it), barks at me if I stay too long in the pool area while another dog is swimming. So tomorrow, we are going to see the oncologist, not Dr. Beck who is unfortunately on vacation this week, but the other one. I know one thing, and one thing only: I want her to stay happy. I want her to leave on a good day. So I have no clue what is going to be said tomorrow. I just know that I do not, it’s not I do not, it’s just that I cannot make her miserable to have her a few more weeks with me. It would be so unfair to her. And at the end of the journey, it’s all that matters. A very wise friend told me some time ago “Dogs are not afraid of death.” Today is a no man’s land since I don’t know what tomorrow will be made of. I just know one thing: my girl is going to leave after having a very good day because that’s what she deserves, and I will not cry because I just don’t want her to worry about me. It breaks my heart. For a year and half, every day, she went to the pool with me. She is so paranoid that I could forget her (how could I? Seriously?) that by 7;30am she is by the front door, making sure that I will not go anywhere without her. How do you go on after that?
I have no clue…. The ironic thing is that I stopped writing a year ago after Jackson died. It was like my brain was frozen as well as my fingers. How ironic that I start writing again when another death is going to hit me. A year ago, I had an animal communicator come to my house because you see I was worried about Maia. She was refusing to drink except if I were giving her a glass with fresh water. The first thing that animal communicator told me when I said I was worried about her, she smiled, and she told me “that’s the first thing Maia told me: that she was so worried about you.” Life after Maia? I have no clue how it will be. I have no clue how many times a heart can be broken. The only thing I now for sure is that I will deal with myself after she is gone, because for the time being, it’s all about Maia.