How To Enjoy A 50K — Step 12: Prepare for Sudden Death
A few days ago, out of nowhere, my bubbie Tobi got suddenly very sick. I took him to the emergency room and was given one of the worst possible diagnoses, hemangiosarcoma, a bleeding tumor (Tobi’s is at the base of his heart—his heartbeat accelerated to 170 beats per minute and his lungs were filled w/ blood), which always comes on suddenly and always equals certain death. Could be today, could be sometime in the next few months.
They tapped his lungs to remove the blood but there is no further course of treatment, nothing else to be done. Yesterday morning my vet told me sudden death is the most common outcome for this wretched cancer. As in, the dog seems fine. The dog gets up to walk over to his water bowl. The dog collapses and dies. (Her words, not mine.)
A few days prior we had been running in the woods, like we always do, excited for spring flowers and warmer weather. And now he may only have a few days to live and I’m apparently supposed to figure out how to be ready for him to die at any moment.
This begs the question then, how does one prepare for sudden death? So far, all I’ve managed is banshee wailing and getting really pissed at the puppy for innocently doing the totally normal puppy things she has done every other day with little concern.
And then yesterday afternoon—because if this year has taught us anything it’s that things can always get worse—group text messages started coming in from all my friends in Boulder. Where are you? Check in! Is everyone OK?
An active shooter was on a rampage at the grocery store on Table Mesa down the street from my friend Tracy’s house. Five people were dead. Six were dead. Now maybe ten.
Sudden death without the preparation.
Everything negative in the world feels like too much. Not a little too much, just flat out A LOT too much. The dictionary definition of too: to an excessive extent or degree; beyond what is desirable, fitting, or right.
Too much hate.
Too much fear.
Too much anger.
Too much divisiveness.
Too much suffering and dying and death.
Has the world really flipped to more bad than good? It can’t be. I won’t believe it. But sometimes it feels overwhelmingly close.
My sister and my friends in Boulder are safe, and today Tobi is basically back to normal, save for his new and very disturbing full bodied coughing fits. We are all alive even if so close to death.
The truth is I have no plan to prepare for sudden death. I steady my dog when he coughs. I pet him, love him, rest my forehead on his, force feed him Chinese herbs and Host Defense mushrooms, and otherwise treat him the way I’ve done every other day that we’ve been together these past dozen years.
The only decision I plan to make is for Tobi to spend the rest of his life doing the things he loves to do. After work I canceled my appointments and took him for a gentle hike in the woods. We didn’t run like we normally do. We took our time. We ambled. And for the first time in my life, I didn’t feel happy in the woods with my dogs. I was absolutely stricken with sadness and grief.
Because how in the world do you walk peacefully through the woods knowing your dog has a good chance of dropping dead at any moment? How do you reconcile this happening mere days after you wrote about how much bliss you feel when you’re doing just that? How do you relax when the grocery store you used to frequent becomes the site of a mass shooting a few weeks after you leave town? You don’t. You just don’t.
Tobi hasn’t dropped dead. He’s curled up next to me on the sofa as I type. So tomorrow we will walk in the woods again. And the next day. And the next. We will be that girl in the woods and her dog until we don’t get to anymore.
Sending love 💛 and light 💡 to my friends and family in Boulder and especially to those directly affected by yesterday’s horrific tragedy. My thoughts are with you.