Thursday, January 17, 2008

Mel V. Cancer

The day after Christmas, Jamie noticed Mel had a pretty substantial growth in his mouth. As Mel's gotten older, he's grown these weird little lumps under his skin. We got the first few removed over two surgeries (three?). Essentially the growth in his mouth was a similar lump, only in his gums.

They had scraped a similar lump in April and had it sent off for testing. It came back benign, and we didn't really think too much about it any more.

On Friday, the results from Mel's December surgery came back. Our vet called me on my cell about 3:00. After a lot of explanation of words that really didn't mean a whole lot to me, the bottom line was that they'd found cancer cells in the growth. Mel, my pal, has cancer.

As hard as it was to hear, I also knew it was now my responsibility to share the information with Jamie. And so I asked about our options. Mel is not yet 10, and he's still as frisky as he's really ever been, so letting him just be an old dog and try to just keep comfortable until it gets bad isn't an option.

Apparently there's now dog radiation and dog chemo. For people, who understand what's going on, that's the path you go. For dogs who only know you're taking them to get sick over and over every time they get in the car. There's also a dog oncologist in Round Rock (of course), and so we had options, anyway.

I did my bit of steeling myself on the way home. We were headed out to dinner with Steven and Lauren, and while I wanted Jamie to know, I also didn't want to tell her over the phone. So while Jamie was getting dressed and made-up to go out, I had to drop the bomb.

Jamie is, despite outward appearances, the toughest person I know. She's never given up on anyone or anything, and certainly knows that before you shed too many tears about bad medical news, you grit your teeth and start figuring out your options.

What made it easier to share, of course, was seeing Mel when I walked in the door. As usual, he was sitting on the couch, ears pitched forward, tail spinning wildly and happy as a clam.

"You aren't sick."
"Look at you."
"We've got a long way to go before we write you off, pal."

And so on the way to dinner we discussed our options, and talked about the fact that Mel was okay right now. So what we have to do, we decided, is just make sure he's a happy boy.

Saturday we took Mel and Lucy to the dog park, where Mel ran around just as happy as ever, playing king of the dog park while keeping that nice safety zone close by, with Lucy playing the little tag-along sister.

He is not sick. He is fine. He can play and chase the ball and goof with other dogs, and when he comes back to check in with you, his eyes are still that same bright brown, his tongue still pink, his ears still perked and eager.

On Monday Jamie went to see the vet and got the name of the Oncologist and Surgeon team. Yesterday Mel went to the oncologist for a CAT scan and to get checked out.

They think they can get it with surgery. He's going in next week for a consultation. He has no idea what's going on, but he's still Mel.

"Do you have any idea what's going on?"
"They say you're sick. You've got the cancer, pal."
"The heck you say."
"Yeah. On your gum."
"Oh. Yeah. That figures."
"It's not supposed to metastasize. They think they can get it with some surgery."
"So it's gonna get cleared up. But it's going to take some tough days ahead."
"Okay. Jamie will take care of me?"
"You know she will."
"Okay, then."
"We're gonna have you around for a long while yet."
"And then where will I go?"
"A place full of couches and tennis balls, other dogs to play with and an endless sea of Milk Bones."
"Will you be there?"
"I'll catch up sooner or later."


Jill said...

Mel's lucky to have y'all.

D said...

Mel sounds like the best dog. Sorry to hear this news. Keep us posted on how things go.

J.S. said...

Mel's doing okay. Mel has no knowledge of cancer or sickness or even death. He knows that some people in white coats occasionally poke and prod him, and that's annoying, but that's about it. I think he'll probably be ok (at least for awhile), but I have a feeling Ryan and Jamie will undoubtedly suffer the most if (and, indeed, when) something happens to Mel. Mel has been about as well loved and well cared for as a dog can get, and that's all you can really ask for in life (come to think of it, that's true for people, too). Mel's life has mostly been a story of good fortune, love, and happiness. May his happiness continue until the story ends.

lalaruff said...

Dude, you totally made me tear up sitting at my desk eating my turkey sandwich. Give Mel a pat on the head for me.

Steven said...

Gee, I wish I knew that you were having to harbour such weights during our dinner.

I hope your steak and our general silliness was a good distraction.

The League said...

Indeed it was. Anticipating good company as a great distraction was why we did not cancel.

I want to thank everyone on Mel's behalf for the warm well wishes here and via e-mail. Thanks so much.

As I wanted to stress, Mel looks good and feels good, so we have a ways to go before we start really worrying.

Laura said...

I'm glad Mel is a happy dog and I will be wishing for many happy ball chasing days to come!