Monday, November 26, 2007

Max has had the Fentanyl patch on him for three days now. You could say he's acting either like an angsty teenage stoner (staring out the window, sighing and whimpering) or a love-sick hero trying to snap out of it (staring out the window, then vigorously shaking himself and whimpering).

This had been so, so hard for us. One thing that helped immediately was a suggestion from Max's teacher Judi. "Don't talk to him in a 'Sympathy Voice,'" she said. "He'll hear the distress in your voice and that will compound his own distress."

Honestly, I'd been talking to him in Baby Talk the whole time and I just stopped and he was a little better. Well, I know I was. I keep saying in an optimistic tone, "Well, Max, we'll get through this. And then you can tell the story of how you survived the pit bull attack!" It's doesn't erase the pain (either physical or emotional) but it proves to me once again, that's it all about on what we choose to focus.

I can't very well pretend this is no big deal as I apply hot compresses to his oozing, bloody wounds. I've been forced to think hard about forgiveness in regards to Max's attacker, or more correctly, the attacker's owners. So I'm forced to take my own advice: "Feel your feelings, give them a voice and then move on."

Max seems to be processing this whole thing pretty well in spite of the fact that he is on major narcotics and wearing that hideous plastic Cone on his head. I give him a break from The Cone when I can be around to make sure he doesn't lick and pull out the stitches.

Yesterday was the first time we left him alone (with Cone on) because I officiated at a funeral. It was a bright, crisp, achingly gorgeous day. The burial was at a small cemetery in Mt. Vernon and the memorial service at a beautiful little church in Conway. In my homily I talked about how when all is said and done, the most important things in life are not things at all, but the quality of your relationships. Who loves you, who have you loved and more importantly, who have you forgiven?

After the burial service we walked back to the car through the cemetery. I looked at all the different gravestones. Did any of these people take their anger or bitterness to their graves? If they did, it didn't matter now.

Just then a sharp wind cut through the trees and blew leaves and sticks across the gravestones. And at that moment I let the wind take all my anger and fear around Max's attack. I didn't want to carry those feelings to my car, let alone my grave.

Saturday, November 24, 2007


A terrible thing happened last Sunday night. Max and I were out for our usual evening walk and he was attacked by a pit bull terrier.

We have walked past that house hundreds of times and I have never seen this dog.
I found out today that he was in the garage and his owner opened the garage door and he shot out. He didn't growl or bark, but I heard him coming, turned around and he attacked. It happened in a heartbeat.

The next thing I know, he has got Max in his mouth and OFF THE GROUND. Of course scrappy little Max is fighting like crazy. I did not know what to do. Honestly, I'm great in an emergency. I can do CPR. I took life saving and could probably rescue someone from drowning. But Sunday night was different. And I remembered what Max's teacher Judi said about how terriers will fight to the death. (Max and Wes and I are in a class for him to be a Therapy Dog.)

It was like two Tasmanian devils and all I could do was scream. And I screamed and screamed and screamed. I was afraid to let go of the leash because I thought then he could run and I wouldn't be able to find him. After a while I couldn't even watch any more. I was sure Max was being killed. This was one of the most horrible and violent experiences I have ever had.

I screamed so loud and so long that a couple on the next block leaped in their
car and drove over. Finally a young woman came out of the house, pulled her dog
off Max and punched her dog in the face and shouted, "What are you doing?!"

I have NEVER in my life been hysterical. Until Sunday night. I picked up Max and was sobbing uncontrollably. All I could say was, "Oh, my God. Oh, my God," over and over again.

By that time lots of neighbors came out and one of them screamed at the woman
about the dog. The dog owner said, "This dog is going to the pound tomorrow!"

One of the neighbors said, "That's what you've said before!"

I walked under a street light and put Max on the ground. He could walk and everyone said, "Oh, he's okay." But then we saw all the blood. Janet and David, the nice couple from the next street over took us to the emergency vet on Lake City Way. The pit bull owner never even came out to see if we were okay. She just disappeared.

I called the police and they came took a statement from me. They went to the dog's house and talked to the owner. Gulp.

Max spent the night in the hospital. Poor Wes arrived around midnight to all this craziness. But I had a sexy hoarse voice from all that screaming! So you know what we did? No, no, we were way too upset and exhausted for that. We opened a box of chocolate truffles and began eating them one by one!!! So therapeutic. Life saving, actually.

When they brought Max out to me the next afternoon I almost fainted. Thank God Judi was with me. He was shaved from the shoulders down and had five Penrose drains in him. I had no idea how many lacerations he had. He looks like someone took a knife to him.

He is such a little trooper. He never made sound, not a whimper. I'm happy to tell you that today is he is doing well. Well, right at this moment he is okay because he is sitting in Wes's lap. Yesterday was another story.

He was shaking and shivering and crying and we thought he was septic. We went back to the emergency vet and they thought his wounds looked fine but that his pain was out of control despite the meds I gave him. So they put on a Fentanyl patch and now he is totally stoned, but feeling no pain. I'm still applying the hot compresses every three hours to let the wounds drain.

Animal Control came over today and had me write down what happened. While I was doing that they went and took the dog. Then came back here and I had to go out to the truck to identify him.

Oh, my God, I had no idea how upsetting that would be! First of all, it was creepy to see the dog, but then I felt so bad for him because he was scared and whimpering and pooped in his cage and had bad owners who didn't train him.

But you know what? They told me that both this dog and their other pit bull already have one report on them. They got out and attacked a dog in it's yard. That is so sad!!!! The owners would not voluntarily let this dog be put down, so I asked Animal Control to issue a citation. I'll go to court to keep this from happening to anyone again. My guess is that once owners realize that they have to pay kennel fees to animal control while we wait for a trial, they will agree to euthanasia.

So we have LOTS for which to be thankful. If Max hadn't fought back, he'd be dead. If I had let go of the leash, the pit bull would have carried Max off and killed him. He had puncture wound right under his eye, but not in his eye.

And, oh, yeah--the next day I went to see my oncologist and found out that my MRI was clear, my osteoporosis is a teeny-weeny bit better and that my Amazing Boss was incredibly understanding about me taking the week off to stay home with Max.

We are blessed.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Well, all this book stuff is great fun and I love walking into bookstores and putting a stack of my books on the counter.

The salesperson asks, "Would you like to pay for those?"

And then I say, "No, I'd like to sign them!" Hee-hee! I wish I could be more dignified about this, but I tell you I'm practically wagging.

I'm also having fun speaking everywhere which I usually do for free, just travel and lodging. I said to my friend Carla, "I feel like such a whore because I'm saying, 'Yes!' to anyone who asks me to speak."

She said, "Whores get paid. You're more of a slut."

So there you have it, I'm a Speaker Slut--but only until the end of 2007. That will end the first trimester of my book's existence, which as many of you know, is the most important time period for the growth and development of a book.

After that I must cut down on the speaking because I do have a job I love at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. And I will have to be professional and ask for money.Wednesday I leave for Houston to speak at M.D. Anderson. I love looking at all these other cancer centers and see how they compare to the SCCA.

I went to a big cancer center in central New York. They had a gorgeous lobby with a pianist playing a grand piano. The gift shop was huge. Beautiful art everywhere.

The infusion suite was small, dark, cramped and strung with cheesy Halloween decorations. There were no windows. I don't remember seeing any beds. How could you fit a supportive friend or family member in these little cubicles, let alone a chaplain?

One last word about my central New York speaking tour: here is actual quote from the organizer of one of these luncheons: "Many felt that the subject of death and dying was not appropriate for a group of survivors and supporters."

Then who is the appropriate group? I must tell you that I'm not a downer cow when I talk about death. It's actually pretty funny and entertaining. And when you get a cancer diagnosis you always think about death. I gave a similar talk here in Seattle and they loved it. Go figure.

In other news, my MRI last week was clear. Woo-hoo! However I still have osteoporosis in my hips, but in my spine it's been downgraded to osteopenia.

No sky diving for at least another life time.