About five years ago Brennis and I lost our sweet, lovable dog Abby to cushing's disease. I will be honest: I don't think I was ever so heartbroken in my entire life. I cried and cried and thought I would never stop. We didn't go to work for two days. I have never felt such an overwhelming sadness for anything or anyone before. I told Brennis I didn't want to get another dog because I couldn't stand to go through that kind of pain again.
The thing about being part of a couple is that sometimes you have to compromise. Soon after Abby died Brennis was on the Dog Pound's website looking at pictures of dogs who looked like Abby or dogs that he thought would fit into our home. I was upset because he wasn't honoring my wish not to have another dog though I understood why he was doing what he was doing. I hoped that it was just a stage in his grieving process.
A few weeks later we got an email from friends of ours who volunteer at the pound and also rescue dogs. Attached was a picture of a cream colored Llaso Apso that bore more than a slight resemblance to our deceased black Shih Tzu, Abby. This scruffy unnamed dog was about to be destroyed by the pound because he had not been placed and because he was "overly agressive". He needed to find a home right away or he was not going to live. I hated being pressured like this, especially after I had tried to make myself clear about how I felt about getting another dog but I agreed to go down to the pound and look at him. I somehow knew that I was going to end up coming home with a dog that day but I still tried to keep an open mind.
When we got to the pound we were taken to the cages where "our" dog was being held. Our friend removed him from the cage and placed him on the ground near us. Without hesitation and with absolutely no indication of aggression this sweet boy jumped up onto us as though he knew we were there to save him. It was one of those moments when you realize that there is a magical element to life that you can never plan for. As the workers at the pound stood open-mouthed and watched as our aggressive dog jumped up onto our knees and kissed our hands we told them that we would be taking our dog home. It was obvious to both Brennis and me that this was meant to be and clearly it was obvious to Chance, our new dog, as well.
Earlier this year when I began my medical tests I tried to find some kind of peace and told myself that whatever the outcome might be it was "meant to be". Of course it's not so easy to really convince yourself of that when you're in the midst of it. I was somewhat numb, somewhat terrified, somewhat resigned to whatever might happen. I vacillated generally between panic and calm most of the time for the six weeks it took to get through all of the testing and the results. I knew that there was nothing I could do at this point to alter the results of the tests so I had to just accept the results as I got them. I was hardly ready for really bad news but I knew after what I went through last year with Brennis I (we) would be able to handle whatever life handed us.
I will spare you the details of the tests since they are not particularly interesting and quite frankly both of the major tests are embarrassing and gross. The first was the colonoscopy which was the one I was particularly worried about since I had had some intestinal problems when I was in my 20's. Thankfully, that test came out perfectly. I had nothing wrong that they could see and there wasn't even any need to take any biopsies. That was a huge relief.
The first test down, I had to wait three weeks for the second test. The prostate biopsy was the worst of all the tests and even the best case scenario meant I had to wait two weeks for the results. I was at the end of my rope emotionally. I had been worried now for weeks and I just wanted to know the answer. I wanted to know what I needed to do to make things better....but all I could do was wait.
So I made it through the test. If you can make it thorough your entire life without ever having a prostate biopsy try to do that. If you have to have one it's not the absolute worst thing in the world but I can think of 74 million things I would rather do. As it turned out my biopsy was on Brennis' birthday. I'm sure he was thrilled to spend his special day in a waiting room waiting for me. (If you can manage to schedule your prostate biopsy on a day other than your spouse's birthday do that too......the presents after that just seem insignificant and petty and nobody's really in the mood for cake).
I don't remember that the two weeks after the biopsy seemed to go particularly fast or slow. I did kind of expect someone to call me and tell me the results early but nobody ever did. I have a particularly annoying habit of trying to read things into the behavior of medical professionals (if they call it means.... If they don't call it means......). It turns out that generally you will find things out when they want to tell you. Not surprisingly, I found out my results in two weeks as they had originally told me.
Brennis went with me for the "results" appointment. He wasn't allowed to go back with me but he wanted to be with me just in case. They called me back at the time of my appointment (a rare thing as you know) and I went back to one of the exam rooms and waited. I waited. And waited. And waited. I think it must have been over twenty minutes that I sat in that room waiting for them to tell me the results of my test. I'm not exactly sure what caused the holdup but during that time I thought about everything that they could tell me about my biopsy. I planned for every possible outcome, my reaction, what I was going to tell Brennis, what I was going to tell my family, everything. I processed the moment that hadn't yet happened over and over again in my mind so much that when the doctor finally entered the room I was fairly calm. She could have told me anything and I would have known what to do. I had readied myself for anything.
The results were negative. They took twelve samples from my prostate and none of them had any signs of cancer. I was numb. In the preceding four months I had had blood work, a chest x-ray, a stress test, a colonoscopy and a prostate biopsy. Nothing was wrong. I couldn't imagine anything else that they could have tested for to find that anything could be wrong. Yes, I was still having the original symptoms that brought me to the doctor in the first place but it was clear to me now that there was nothing serious causing them. There was nothing that was so huge or so scary that it was showing up on any test. I could live with that and it was becoming clear to me now that I was indeed going to live.....and quite possibly for a long time.
That was the moment it happened. That was the moment I knew that everything that I had been through had all happened for a reason. It was meant to be and I knew it. I had to go through all of this to appreciate my life....to really appreciate being alive. I had spent so much of my life assuming that I wasn't going to live to a ripe old age and now.....now it was possible that I might just do that. I think I felt a little bit like Chance felt that day at the pound. I knew that I was exactly where I was supposed to be and going through exactly what I was supposed to be going through for a reason. I wasn't sure what the reason was....I just knew that this moment was supposed to happen so I could find peace....just like Chance was able to find peace when he saw us for the first time. What was to happen next I didn't know. What I did know for certain was that every step I took after this day was going to be with a different purpose. I needed to start living and start honoring the life I had been given. It was no longer enough to just be in my life....I needed to be active in creating my life moment by moment.
Just like Chance leaving the pound that day with his new owners, I left the exam room that day uncertain of what future lay before me. I walked out the door into the waiting room to see Brennis' worried face and I was able to mouth to him, "I'm okay." That was my first moment of being alive again. It felt good. I planned on making a lot more moments like that happen in the future.
As it turns out we don't really need to go through some traumatic life event to figure out that we are alive and need to start acting that way. Once I was let out of my cage I ran and jumped and started loving and playing again. I was free and nobody could stop me ever again....not even myself. I didn't care if I lived a week or another hundred years. If I was going to be alive then I was going to live. There was never any reason not to and I had wasted too much time already.