Cancer, Coronavirus and Canines

Cancer, Coronavirus and Canines

The corona crisis came, and just when I didn’t think I could take any more gut punches, the cancer diagnosis came.  

Dogs live in the present.  So should you.

Dogs don’t dwell in the past or worry about the future.  Neither should you.

Getting prepped for my bilateral mastectomy, my life quickly flashed before me and solidified what I knew all along in the depth of my soul:   I wasn’t afraid to die.  I never have been, BUT I have always been scared to death about not living.

Flashbacks of my childhood came rushing back, lots of laughter and love. My daughters’ faces from all different ages. The faces of all the people who had made my business thrive once I took the leap, trusting what God had given me for as long as I can remember…a desire to understand animals.   The animals’ faces, especially their soft, wet noses for some reason.  And then there were the faces of  family and friends who would have taken this bullet for me, ten times over.  I had never gone under anesthesia before, but if I didn’t wake up,  I had lived a good life full of the best kind of radical, reckless, no-holding back love.

For the last few years, I had intentionally chosen an unconventional life filled with at least a dash of adventure each day.  One where I was totally free to be me, as weird as that can be.   I didn’t realize how contagious it would be for so many people, but I guess the American Dream of success, appearances (especially now on social media), and the every-man-for-himself mentality, was robbing many of a sense of community, meaningful relationships and experiences.

My youngest daughter was working the covid-19 wing the day of my surgery, while at the same time a friend’s son was studying for his STEP 1 medical exam.  Between him and my daughter,  I got to see the grueling hours nurses and doctors put in behind-the-scenes to even get to where they are going.  They make lots of sacrifices to serve the sick.

So now, lying in the hands of doctors and nurses, I made a point to tell them how grateful I was for all that they went through in order to be able to help me.  Some held  my hand, others prayed with me and one begged,  “Please don’t forget about us.”

While they were busting their butts, risking their lives to save mine and many others, there was a war about wearing a face mask going on outside due to the coronavirus.  We are mainly hearing from conspiracy theorists and political parties on social media because the medical community who is actually in the trenches, and likely the most educated on this newest strain, collapse from exhaustion when they get home.

Meanwhile Todd, on instagram, is complaining about a mandatory hand sanitizer squirt upon entering a store to get a toaster.  And I quote, “The country as we know it has been destroyed.  And I still don’t have a toaster.”

I loved this reply:   “John McCain couldn’t get a toaster at the Hanoi Hilton either.  Totally the same.”

People are gasping for their last breath.

Doctors are committing suicide.

My daughter just worked 12 hours in the covid wing with no food, water or bathroom break.

I am about to lose my boobs.

Todd can’t buy a toaster without a hand sanitizer squirt.

Other than worrying about Todd’s tragedy,  I was planning my future or lack of.  If it had spread to the lymph nodes, I was going to call it.  I was not going to put any more  on my family and friends who have been an army of angels around me, especially the last few years.

My best friend knew this and insisted it was God’s divine plan to have me there with her when I got the cancer call, and said she would be honored to hold my hair (while it lasted) if I had to throw up from chemo.  Another selfless server.

I texted my daughters one last time before the sleep IV:

“Live now.  Life IS about stopping at every Dairy Queen along the way.”

To which they texted back, “Truth.”

Life is in the journey as they say.  You can’t make it all about the destination because you may never get there.

Pandemics may pound you, your well-thought out retirement plan may plummet, your body will eventually fail you.

I made it out.

Now mind you,  the day before I was doing leg lifts, poolside, in a bikini.

The next day, I’m walking around that same pool in a robe and crocs,  with tubes hanging out from all over my body.

From fit to Frankenstein….in one day.

Live now.

I’m not saying to be irresponsible, but make each day count.  And most importantly, make sure you count to someone.

A missionary (Scott Dannemiller) said it best:

“If I asked you to name the last five winners of the Academy Award for best actor, could you do it?  How about the last Nobel Prize winners?  I’d venture to guess most could not do it.  And these are examples of people who have achieved the pinnacle of their profession.  Known the world over.

And we forget them.

But what if I were to ask you to list the five people who have meant the most to you in your life?  The ones who taught you what it means to be a true friend.  A person of integrity.  I know without a doubt that 100 percent of us could do it in a heartbeat.  And the list would be filled with people who never had a highway or high school named after them.  People who never had their name carved on a ceremonial trophy.

But here’s the kicker:  The mere thought of their faces make your heart swell.  Might even bring a tear to your eye.

And that should be the goal:  To be on someone’s list. ”

While I was lying there, faces were flashing before my eyes.  I could hear voices of some and laughters of others.

I want to be one of the faces people see before they go under.   I want to make soemone’s list.

One of the hardest parts of a veterinarian’s job is when they have to put an animal down.  I heard that about  90% of owners don’t actually want to be in the room for the injection, so the animal’s last moments are usually spent frantically looking around for their owners.  That just broke me.

I made it out.  Someday I won’t.  Neither will you.

Live now.

There is a eulogy poem that I give to clients once their pets have passed, because they always teach us best how to:

Live in the moment more 

Wag your tail often.  Be excited for the very moment, happy just to be alive.

Love passionately

Go hard for those who love you.  Run for the door and kiss them when they get home.

Persevere

Dogs never feel sorry for themselves.  Whether they lose an eye or a leg, they adapt and overcome.

Forgive

Grudges hold us prisoner.

Play every day

Hang your head out the window every once in a while and enjoy the ride of life.

I dedicate this blog to all the nurses and my doctors:  Dr. Liz Lee, Dr. Rafi Bidros, Dr. Jeffcoat, Dr. Cairo and the family and friends who continue to rally for me.  This list would go on and on.  You know who you are.   And I just got the good news:  They got it ALL!  So for those of you who know me best:  YES, we will be playing the dorkiest games for the holidays.  Bite me.

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Comments

  1. Way to rally and live life to the fullest. Stay safe!!!

  2. STEVEN SYKES : May 22, 2020 at 9:19 pm

    Thank you Sheila for sharing!!!! Love your family and so thankful for you.

  3. BeLinda York : May 23, 2020 at 1:54 pm

    Was wondering how you were doing with all this. So glad surgery is over and they got it all! Stay strong, as I know you will, and keep us posted on your progress. Hannah says Hi!

  4. Barbara Newsom : May 29, 2020 at 5:49 pm

    Wow. Seriously good stuff here!Thanks for sharing.

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