by Mark Miles
Recently I found a lump on one of Bella’s breasts. She turned nine years old in July, so I wasn’t terribly surprised by this; she is after all reaching an age at which medical issues frequently begin to emerge. Still it was an unpleasant reminder of mortality, of how limited her time on this planet is. I look at her, and I see such energy and youth. In my mind, Bella will always be an eternal puppy. The way she whines when she wants something, snuggles up to me when I need a hug, and broadcasts her every thought without hesitation reminds me of nothing so much as a hot-headed, sweet, indomitable child. I speak only from observation on this point, since I have no biological children of my own, but the point remains. She’s my kid, and she may have cancer.
In response to this, I’ve done my best to remain level-headed. Sometimes I think I’m too level-headed in these kinds of situations, since a casual observer could easily assume that I don’t care. On the contrary, I care so much that if I allow my feelings to get carried away I’ll probably become useless, terrified and inert. On the other hand, if I keep my emotions to a minimum, I can maintain some clarity of thought and pursue a rational course of action. Faced with this dilemma, I choose the latter option, even though some people may draw erroneous conclusions from it.
So I’ve kept my cool and made a plan to do what I can without resorting to potentially lethal treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation-therapy. I’m making sure that Bella eats as much organic nonprocessed food as possible, that she drinks filtered water, that she gets a daily walk, that she has plenty of fresh air and sunshine, that she avoids environmental toxins, and that she has a good life for as much of it as remains. I know there are medical treatments available, but each of those entails a risk which is, in all probability, greater than the risk of letting her live a healthy life without medical intervention.
There’s one part I haven’t mentioned. Her sister Abby (a mixed German shepherd and my first canine companion) died of lung cancer in 2013 after developing a similar lump on one of her breasts. The length of time between when the mass developed and when she died was approximately four years. For the record, I hope Bella lives another twenty years–which I’m fairly certain is biologically impossible. But I have to face the fact that she may live for a much shorter length of time. It’s not a pleasant thought, but it’s reality. And in the face of that, the best I can do is to love her and make sure she has a good life for as long as she has left.