One of the neat things about keeping a journal is the ability to go back in time and check in with how you were feeling at a previous point in time as recorded in your own words. Sometimes I am pleasantly surprised to recall people and happy events that I have forgotten. Sometimes I can’t believe how silly and childish my reactions sound in hindsight. And sometimes I am forced to re-live excruciatingly painful memories of heartbreak, loneliness and despair.
A few weeks ago I was revisiting my life in July of 2015. It was a particularly awful summer full of sadness and broken dreams. One I wish I could forget. I don’t need a journal entry to remember how I was feeling back then. But I wanted to read about those experiences simply to celebrate the fact that I had survived them. I lived through all that bad stuff and made it to the other side. I didn’t do it alone. I had the help of friends and family and through it all my one constant companion, Chuckles.
No sooner had I recorded in my journal my gratefulness and relief at having that terrible summer behind me when….. I learned on July 21st that Chuckles has a brain tumor. The symptoms that led to his diagnosis began suddenly and acutely on the 19th. I went into crisis mode that evening with 3 trips to the vet in 12 hours, including one at midnight, followed by an excruciating 3 hour drive to the NCSU College of Veterinary Medicine the next day.
What began as his moaning in the night escalated into an unrelenting shrill bark that I interpreted as pain. Fearful that he was not stable enough to make it to Raleigh a friend helped me find a veterinary office along Interstate 40 in one of the most rural counties in N.C. where he was examined again. I was told to keep going, but sedation for Chuckles was not possible.
After 2 hours of waiting in admissions where I could still hear Chuckles’s distressing bark coming from the ER, a trauma doctor came out and told me that Chuckles most likely had a neurological problem and they were going to have him examined by a Neurologist. This next consult confirmed the trauma team’s suspicion that the barking, pacing, panting and Chuckles’s “fish eyed” gaze were all stemming from his disorientation, a distortion in his brain. An MRI was scheduled for the next morning.
The imaging revealed a tumor on Chuckles’s pituitary gland, a gland that sits at the base of the brain. For some unknown reason it had begun to bleed which caused the sudden onset of his symptoms. The hematoma around the tumor caused swelling that was putting pressure on his brain. Pressure on the pituitary also created a very rare condition called Diabetes Insipidus. He was treated with steroids for the inflammation and a synthetic hormone for the diabetes. After 4 nights in ICU Chuckles was stable enough to return home with me.
The first few days back home were rough. He was extremely disoriented outside, like an Alzheimer’s patient. Gradually he has become more like himself but still I see the evidence of something wrong. He does not want to go for walks, he has some weakness in his back legs and is losing muscle mass. Overall Chuckles just seems “dull.”
On Monday, I will take him back to the Vet School for a consult with Radiation Oncology to learn their recommendations for treatment. I am told that dogs tolerate radiation well and that the treatment yields good success rates. They will discuss with me the various options for administering radiation, and of course, discuss his prognosis with and without treatment.
Ever since I got home I haven’t been able to concentrate on anything including my cd project. It has been difficult to pick up where I left off on the afternoon of July 19th. Now that the shock and the immediate stress have passed I’m entering into the grief process. But I’m learning to be kind and patient with myself knowing that my enthusiasm for my writing and my music will return given time.
Thanks to everyone who has helped me through this difficult time.