Stay connected.

Earlier posts by category

« So glad to be back! | Main | Ah, chère, don't be embarrassed... »

Why is your dog wearing panties on her head?

It's a fair question, and I'm afraid I don't have a good answer for it, only a bad one. Three weeks ago I was diagnosed with an invasive ductal carcinoma - breast cancer - and it turns out to be a rather nasty variety, a high-grade (not good in this context), so-called "triple negative" malignancy. These tend to be aggressive and are invulnerable to some of the best modern treatments (e.g. hormone blockers like Tamoxifen). The good news that arrived this last week courtesy of a PET scan is that my cancer appears not to have metastasized to any significant degree and may remain confined to the breast. This means that my doctors and I have reason to hope we can knock it out completely. The bad news is that this will require some rather brutal treatment over the next five months or so. Because I have a strong family history of aggressive cancers (my mom survived melanoma at age thirty-five and died of inflammatory breast cancer at forty-eight), a genetic predisposition is pretty much a given; my doctors' consensus is that a double mastectomy will be the best course for my peace of mind, followed by a chemo regimen that will seriously deplete my energy and my ability to fight off infection.

Needless to say, but dog training is not a low-energy endeavor! I'm very sad to say that I'll need to take a long hiatus from the work I love and from the company of the people and dogs whose intelligence, warmth, and humor I so value. But I'm going to do my best to marshall my resources for healing and get back to this delightful business as soon as I can. Laughter plays a big role in that... and thus the embarrassing photo. A wonderful, silly friend of mine told me that, when there's serious illness in her family, they wear their underwear on their heads to keep their spirits up. As she says, "If you pull your hair through the leg holes, you can secure the look as you go about your daily chores." She then sent a photo of her lovely self, and a comforting bit of silliness was born. Sincere apologies to Barley. And Kili. And Pazzo. And to Jen M's guinea pigs - but you really do look smashing in doll lingerie!

As you can gather from this post, I've decided to be as open about this as I can manage emotionally. I learned from being on the sidelines of my mom's long struggles how isolating silence can be, and how needless that isolation is when illness and hardship are so common. I know (if only as a statistical certainty) that many of you have been touched by cancer or by some other version of "full catastrophe" living, and beyond this it's good to be reminded even in perfect health how precious this life is and you in it.

If you'd like to follow one cancer pilgrim's progress, and you don't mind some salty language, you can find me at www [dot] mouthofthewolf [dot] com. You'll also find the Overpantsed! gallery there, if you feel compelled to see guinea pigs be-hatted with doll bloomers. Please accept my apologies in advance if I'm unable to respond in a timely way to any/all correspondence - I am a little undone!

I hope to be back teaching in the summer. In the meantime, take good care of yourselves and your loved ones (furry and otherwise), and celebrate for all you're worth.

All best wishes for merriment and light!


p.s. Biggie Smalls, who may be (with apologies to countless other gratuitously charming pups) the most adorable student ever to ignore my instruction, sends her own enthusiastic Christmas greetings.

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>