Today before I brought Onni in for another chemo session, I noticed that Janet had packed up most of her belongings to bring home with her for the weekend. I stood outside of her door staring at her bags and boxes, realizing more fully than I have in previous weeks that she really is leaving next week and not just for a few days. All the way to the cancer center, I fought back tears; I needed to stay focused on Onni.
Onni was diagnosed with cancer two months ago. This threat of another loss punctured the serenity I wanted to cultivate with our newborn. No longer could I remain in the lullaby of my beautiful new child, I needed to harness my coping skills and be completely present for my other child--the one who had been my support throughout my pregnancy and motherhood.
In the first weeks following Sasha's birth, Onni curled up beside me for every breastfeed. Janet had the expertise but Onni held an unwavering committment to care for me as well. One morning in the dim light, I believed that Onni's neck appeared swollen and instantly that familiar panic surged in me. I immediately asked Aaron to examine him and was relieved when he said that everything seemed normal. We'd had too many catastrophes one after the other these past years. I yearned for a joyful respite.
A few days after Aaron's birthday, he bent down as usual to give Onni his evening hug and summoned me to feel Onni's neck. The slight distension that I had observed had grown to large lumps along his jaw and down his throat. Onni was at our vet the next day and though the veterinarian told me that it was not definitely cancer, I knew before Aaron examined the fine needle aspirate of the lymph node. I tried to talk myself out of it, deemed it yet another manifestation of a tick borne illness, but deep down inside, I understood I was facing another potential loss.
Within days, we were at a specialty clinic, discussing staging, typing and prognosis. Onni received his first infusion that day. Onni has never shown any signs of illness from this cancer. Because of this and because of how quickly we moved from discovery to initial treatment, sometimes I allow myself to believe that nothing is wrong. That we just happen to be going to a cancer clinic every week, and that Onni just happens to occasionally have a bit of nausea after these visits, easily rectified with a morning pill. I allow myself to believe that despite the fact that I have lost three other lovely dogs to cancer, including a three year old to a lymphoma somewhat similar to Onni's, that Onni will be around to see Sasha grow from a baby to a little boy, and that he will be the companion to Sasha that he has been to me.
And today after I brought Onni home from the clinic and saw Janet's husband loading her suitcases into their car, I allowed myself to believe that she is just going home for the weekend as usual and that all will go on as it has.