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When Cancer Comes Calling: The Canine Kind

Kelley Mitchell

I'm not sure I really "battled" breast cancer back in 2002, as much as it battled me. But after a year of two chemotherapies, radiation and surgery, cancer and I agreed to a draw. We went back to our respective corners, both tired of this fight.

You always wonder when cancer will come back. And for me, so far -- and knock on wood or formica or perhaps a granite kitchen countertop -- it hasn't.

Yet, in a way I never expected, it has.

The news comes during October, the month that has NFL players wearing pink receiver gloves to draw attention to breast cancer. A disease that has become so prevalent among our mothers, our wives, our sisters, our daughters and ourselves, that our men are no longer worried about showing their public support.

I was a bit late for work ​one morning ​this ​week​. I let everyone know early. "Doctor's appointment -- 9AM Fort Lauderdale," the email read. What I didn't say is that it was for the oncologist. 

Not for me this time. For my dog, my Love Bucket, my Oscar.

My Oscar. My finder of a stick where there isn't one, of avocados on the ground ​we're sure we've cleared, of a coconut that takes seven days to drag to the door. 

T​his day​, he was my finder of the door stop in the cancer doctor's office. He presented that door stop to the doc with such an enormous amount of pride. ​Because h​e still doesn't know he​ is ​sick.

It started perhaps five weeks ago, with a swelling around his left elbow.

Then, I did what we all do -- I hit the internet. A search found hygromas, a swelling around a callus of sorts developed over years of lying on hard floors. "Ah ha!" I say, "That's it!"

Oscar and his life-long buddy Felix (the Odd Couple, to be explained later) were due for their regular shots. His veterinarian agreed. "Hygromas. Softer bedding should do the trick," he says. "But let me draw some fluid, just in case."

Except, it ​was​ the case -- cancer cells.

So​,​ here we are at the oncologist. For a dog. But I'm finding that it's quite common in canines -- felines, too.

If we're lucky, there will be radiation. If we're not so lucky, chemotherapy, too. If unluckier still, well, I can't bring myself to say. We'll know more soon.

I head in to work. On the way​ what hits me in the solar plexus is this: I had asked the very same questions of Oscar's oncologist that I had asked of my own oncologist 12 years ago. A time I have tried so hard to bury away. And, yet, there it is all over again.

"So, the tests will show if it's spread?" Yes is the answer.

"And if it has?" I ask. "There may not be much that treatment can do."

We're waiting for Oscar's tests to show if it has spread. He's waiting to see if another avocado has fallen from the tree.

And now​, while I'm writing this, I'm listening to him snore so peacefully. ​An occasional yippy yap​ from a doggie dream.

It's a sound I don't ever want to lose.

​We will fight once again, Oscar. And we will win.​ Mommy says so.