In the early fall of 2011, Bob and I drove down to Tampa to pick up our new dog – who raced three whole maiden races (winning one) – and we call now Sheiky. Bob flew home, and (the late, greyt) Myke Stewart and I drove back with Sheiky. I had plans for him. We would be constant companions. He would go everywhere with me. He would even learn to do stairs – something my previous greyhounds had never learned.
Myke went back to Florida, and fall turned to winter. I had a cold…or cough…or something that I just couldn’t shake. Multiple visits to my long-time fancy doctor resulted in assorted antibiotic prescriptions, but no firm diagnosis nor cure.
By spring, not only was I really sick, but I also decided a change in doctors was in order. On my first visit, he took my history, listened to my chest and my cough, and directly admitted me to the hospital for pneumonia treatment. I was in and out a couple of times before a pulmonologist did his favorite test, and came back with a diagnosis of untreatable lung cancer. I was sent home to die.
All I could do was lay on the couch, while Sheiky snuggled with me. The fascinating thing was that his paws were almost always in the same place on my chest. Later CT scans showed that he kept his paws on the places of the largest tumors in my lungs and chest. Almost like a healing minister, laying hands on a supplicant. Actually…exactly like that.
A few weeks later, the pulmonologist called to say biopsies had disproved the lung cancer diagnosis, and that I actually had a rare but treatable form of Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. What followed was a long period of chemo, PETscans, remission, remission failure…rinse…repeat. A stem cell transplant.
Sheiky and I spent a lot of quality couch time together. Actually, the only time he was stand-offish was when I came home from 5 weeks in the transplant center. The meds that they used to keep the stem cells fit for transplant made them smell like tomato soup. That’s what I smelled like when I came home, and it freaked him out. But only for a couple of days. Then, we were back on the couch together.
I worked myself up to walking a 5k in April of 2016. It was a lot of work, and I was afraid I would embarrass myself…but I finished. The. Very. Next. Morning. I saw the unmistakable sign that I had breast cancer. Thinking back then, I realized that Sheiky had been doing the same “laying on of paws” that he had done with the lymphoma. And I realized that he was my Cancer Whisperer.
In early February, We took Sheiky to the vet, to have some swelling checked. The diagnosis was lymphoma. We spent a lot of time talking about options. I asked about chemotherapy, and discovered the regimen for dogs was the same as the regimen I had received, the first time I had lymphoma – CHOP. It was brutal, and there was no possible way I could do that to him. We chose palliative care, and knew we would have about two months.
I began writing this post in late March. We have had some quality time. Sheiky took two trips with us in a new trailer, and he enjoyed them. He has had more enticements to eat than is probably healthy – but what’s it going to do, kill him????
Today it is May 3 – my birthday. Sheiky has told us it’s time. Selfishly, I can’t bear to send him to the Rainbow Bridge on my birthday. We have an appointment for tomorrow at noon. We are in the last few hours of Flying Sheik.
My heart is broken. Godspeed, Sheiky.