Of Pets and PETS
It is sometimes hard to explain to someone who is not an animal lover, or one who doesn’t have a pet, or has never lost one, what losing that pet means. It is even harder to explain when the person who feels the greatest loss is facing a difficult future herself as the result of a life threatening disease.
It was a quiet weekend at 1205 N. Mandan Street. Losing Muffin when we did was hard on Joanie. She was already missing her, and when she took up her place on the couch on Saturday morning, it was evident. I had fixed her a cup of coffee, she had a book, the TV was on, but she wasn’t saying much that morning. She spent a good deal of time staring out the window, not paying attention to either the book or the TV. It wasn’t the least bit strange to me that when one loses a pet, especially one that has been such a constant companion and source of comfort, that the mourning is very real. I think this is more so in a situation like Joanie was going through. It was a hard reality for her to deal with at the same time she was dealing with her own reality.
At one point that weekend, she told me she wanted Muffin buried in the back yard. I had told Tim, the vet, on Friday, to hold Muffin’s remains until we had decided what she wanted to do. Now I would call him on Monday and pick Muffin up and do what Joanie wanted me to do. The one thing that had changed in our house was the ambience. There was a silence that came with Muffin not being there that was palpable. Nothing was said those first days, but I knew in my heart, it wouldn’t be long before Joanie would start looking for some new furry friends to welcome into our home.
The episode with Muffin, for a brief time, had taken our minds off what Joanie was facing. By Sunday, our thoughts began slowly to shift to the upcoming chemotherapy treatment that she would be receiving in a couple of days. We weren’t worried that much about it, since they were going to reduce the dosage by 25 percent for the next three treatments, and we assumed that would reduce the negative side effects. As to whether or not they would be as productive as the first three treatments were, that would remain to be seen.
Our confidence was also raised because they would do a urinalysis and a urine culture to check for any possible infection prior to the start of the chemo, and they would give her a shot of Neulasta afterwards to help stimulate her white cell production.
They were also adding something new for these three cycles.They would call her in a couple of days after the chemo treatment and give her a shot of Aranesp, a drug that would help stimulate her red cell production, and help ward off anemia.
It struck us both at the time they were, in effect, giving her poison in the form of the chemotherapy drugs to kill cancer cells, with the side effect that those drugs also killed normal cells. Then afterwards, they would give her more drugs to stimulate the production of the cells that had been killed by the poison they were using to help control the disease. I also found out the shots of Neulasta and Aranesp were not cheap, each running around $3,000 or more per dose.
The treatment went off without a hitch on Wednesday, and the side effects were minimal. She still had to spend the night in the hospital for the infusion, something she really didn’t care for, but she accepted that as part of the treatment. She had little problem with nausea, and outside of being tired, handled it really well. So well, that in a couple of days she was going back to her office in the afternoons, and going on afternoon walks with Betsy Dalrymple, who was the wife of then Lt. Governor, Jack Dalrymple. Betsy was working at the Republican headquarters in the same building that housed the Hoeven Committee office. She had become a good friend of Joanie’s over time, and Joanie looked forward to her walks with her.
The treatment on July 5th was a repeat of the June treatment, and the August 2nd treatment was also the same. They went off without a hitch, and Joanie continued to tolerate them well. She was doing really well, and was spending more time at her office, and was as busy as she could tolerate being. In fact, by August, her calendar was busier than it had been in a long time.
What loomed on the horizon for us now was PET scan scheduled for the 22nd of August. That would be followed by a meeting with Dr. Carson in Minneapolis on the 25th. Until then, we would have to wait…again. Neither one of us tried to think about it, or talk about what it might show following the last three chemo treatments she had gone through, but it wasn’t far from our minds either.
My hope was that there would be some progress, and Joanie would get a break. With what she had gone through earlier this year, and the loss of Muffin, she deserved one. It had been a tough seven months.