Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Another Dog Gone: RIP Chase 4/1/95 - 4/24/10

We lost our dog Chase on Saturday, about 9 months after we lost his life long companion, Sara. Chase was an Australian Shepherd mix that we adopted at the end of the summer in 1995. My son, then 11, had wanted a dog and like the overachieving mom I am, I told him he could get one if he did a research paper for me on what breeds did what so we could make an intelligent decision. He surprised me and did the research paper so when he wanted to go to a pet store to look at a dog his friend had seen I kept my part of the bargain.

We walked into the store and saw a small dog, obviously an older puppy, with grey and white fur and steel blue eyes. It was love at first sight for all of us. The pup had been rescued from living on the streets by a teenage girl who worked at the pet shop. She said that she had named him "Chasen" because he was always chasin' things around. I should have known then but love makes you blind so we piled him into our car and began our 15 year adventure of dog ownership which eventually included two other dogs--Sara and Novella.

We decided to call him Chase for short and took him home to begin the task of training a high energy dog. One of the first things Chase did was bound through the house, jump on my bed and pee all over it. So we moved him outdoors and got a kennel to work on house training him. I also signed him up for dog training classes and wound up doing two sessions to work on his boundless enthusiasm for running wherever he wanted.

Chase was a very smart dog. He was great at doing tricks we learned at the dog classes and even greater in ignoring me when he did not want to do what I wanted. After all he was the alpha dog and no amount of persuasion was going to change that.

My son and daughter were convinced that Chase was part wolf because he howled at us from time to time. He was clearly a  shepherd (we thought part German and part Australian) because he took pleasure in herding people and small animals. In particular, he saw it as his duty to chase any small animal he came across, including our cats. One time he got one of our cats who was a bit slow and started to shake her while holding her by the neck. Luckily I was able to get him to drop her and the vet was able to repair her. She did not venture in the yard again when Chase was there.

We took Chase to the dog park once and Chase somehow got a large group of dogs to start fighting with each other. The owners of the other dogs got hysterical and ran into the fighting pack to pull out their dogs. I whistled for Chase and, for once, he came immediately (after all, his instigation work was done) and we all hightailed it out of there.

Chase went hiking in Palos Verdes for several years off leash with a pack run by a young man named Paul. Paul sent us a Christmas card one year with a picture of Chase running on the hiking path. You have never seen a happier dog. Unfortunately Chase developed a problem with his hip which affected the movement of his rear legs. The vet recommended that we not let Chase hike anymore. At the end, Chase was clearly having a lot of pain from that hip problem and his hind legs. He stopped moving, eating and drinking. And he was the equivalent of 100 human years old.

My son had to take Chase to the vet for that sad, last trip while my husband and I were away this past weekend. I am sorry that I did not get a chance to say goodbye. Chase, I will miss you. You were a good dog.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Four Questions (not the Passover kind)

I realize I have not posted for over a month.  I got to the point in the past month that I really had nothing to say other than to whine about how sick I was.  Cycle 4 was particularly bad.  My doctor took pity on me and changed the protocol.  Instead of 6 infusions per cycle, I now only have one and it is by IV only.  I am half way through cycle 5 under this new protocol and feel significantly better although still not well.  I am physically weak--fatigued and easily out of breath with the smallest activity. (Think walking up the stairs, or lifting up the comforter).  I am 30 pounds lighter but with very little muscle.  I still have nausea but not anywhere as severe as the earlier cycles.  Next month is my last cycle and then a recovery period to try to build up my strength before I return to work in mid-June.  Then my life begins again, although with this pesky problem of not knowing if and when the cancer will come back.

So what have I been doing?  Watching TV, reading magazines and generally, as my friend Carol said about herself, whimpering a lot.  I spend a lot of time just in quietude trying to live in the moment.  And some of the TV and reading I have done looks at psychological process for addressing negative thoughts which, of course, tend to fly around when you have cancer.

One show I watched on PBS was Daniel Amen's Magnificent Mind At Any Age.  In the show, Amen talks about his idea that you can defeat automatic negatives thoughts (cutely called ANTS) by addressing four questions.  A blog by Walter Reade lays out these questions:

Here’s a technique that Dr. Amen gives to help you decide whether or not you should believe these thoughts. Ask yourself these four questions:
  1. Is the thought true?
  2. Can I absolutely know that it’s true?
  3. How do I react when I believe that thought?
  4. Who would I be without the thought? Or how would I feel if I didn’t have the thought?
Once you answer the four questions, take the original thought and completely turn it around to its opposite (for example, “I’ll never be successful” becomes “I will be successful”) and ask yourself the same four questions!

Yesterday I was reading an article in Oprah Magazine by a woman with stage 4 breast cancer who interviewed a woman named Byron Katie.  Interestingly Byron Katie also has four questions to address negative thoughts.  From her website :

The Four Questions

In its most basic form, The Work consists of four questions and a turnaround. For example, the first thought that you might question on the above Worksheet is "Paul doesn't listen to me." Find someone in your life about whom you have had that thought, and let's do The Work. "[Name] doesn't listen to me":
 Is it true?
 Can you absolutely know that it's true?
 How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
 Who would you be without the thought?
Then turn it around (the concept you are questioning), and don't forget to find three genuine, specific examples of each turnaround.

Look familiar?  Interestingly,  Katie claims to have created these four questions, which she calls "The Work" in 1986.  She also claims to have discovered The Work all at once as a revelation which transformed her.  Amen on the other hand seems to have come more recently to these 4 questions.  I am not aware whether he credits Katie for the questions in his books.  He does not in his lectures for PBS.  And it would appear from his CV  that he was studying hypnosis in 1986.  

Leaving aside the origins of the 4 questions,  it would seem that both of these people are part of the positive thinking movement that Barbara Ehrenreich disdains. (See my December 6 blog entry )  I am a bit more sympathetic to positive thinking these days since negativity does not help when you have cancer.  I just think you need to be realistic.  Positive thoughts may not stop my cancer (notwithstanding what the Wellness Community believes) but it will make my life more in the present, no matter how much time I have left.  Under the circumstances, I am not sure I can do anything else.