THE MATTER OF MOMENTS
Statistic: 1 out of every 2 men and 1 out of 3 women will develop cancer in their lifetime...
It is estimated that between one and two million dogs are diagnosed every year with cancer...
Everyone who has been or had a loved one diagnosed with this scourge of a disease has spoken these two words in some variation or another.
Cancer is like the sound of silence when you're underwater. Like when you're submerged in your bathtub holding your nose.
After I got Malcolm's diagnosis, I was stuck there until I couldn't breathe and had to resurface.
Scientists say that it takes about 10 milliseconds for your brain to register pain. They also say the average person can hold their breath for a minute, maybe. I cannot recall when the next words I spoke fell within that range but just as innate the desire to live is, so is the immediate instinct to save the life of a loved one.
"Do whatever you can to save him."
In many life and death situations, you're not given a great many moments to think about things. Maybe my mind was pre-wired when the diagnosis came down as Osteosarcoma and learned that it meant taking a bone saw to my boy.
As medieval as it seemed to me at the time, I didn't hesitate in my first consultation with the orthopedic surgeon. "Take it", I said.
But I asked him if we could have one more week with Malcolm being four-legged. Given the advancement of his cancer the surgeon strongly recommended against it since there was a possibility that his right front leg could fracture or break at any moment.
But I was resolute and we scheduled the surgery for the following week.
Knowing the risk, I took Malcolm and Murphy camping at Harold Parker State Park in North Andover, MA, pictured nearby, and we had us a helluva time. But in the tent that night I couldn't help but being haunted about why Malcolm didn't show me earlier he was suffering and in pain.
If his cancer was that advanced, it must've been growing in his humerus for months and that thought hurt me the most. As I would later discover from a biopsy, his bone was spongy with little support and structure left, and as the Orthopede related to me once the biopsy came in, he couldn't even believe Malcolm was still walking.
They cut off his leg the following Monday, a procedure that really is quite short and simple.
We all too often think about time as a continuum but it's a compression really. We live lifetimes in moments and lives last for only a moment. And I realized that Malcolm didn't have many left.
YBD's Notes 1: On my travels, I have since learned about and in some cases met dogs with bone cancer that never evidenced a single symptom until their legs split apart. It's unfathomable yet fascinating to me their threshold of pain and how it plays into their natural survival instinct. Pain Management is a new area of veterinary medicine that is trying to understand this.
YBD's Notes 2: Given that, I should have entitled this Chapter, 'People Are Pussies'. In the wake of all of the recent tragedies, I mean no disrespect to anyone but I mean this as maybe dogs are a greater model for us all to learn how to live and survive.