It’s love your pet day today, so I have to share this story with you about my fur babies.
When I was in the hospital, after being diagnosed with leukemia at 29 weeks pregnant with Beckham, I was told I wasn’t going to be going home any time soon.
I’d went to labor and delivery on November 13, 2014 because of some lower back spasms I’d been having the night before; and I wanted to make sure it wasn’t premature labor.
The next day, I knew I needed to call the doctor and tell her what was going on, especially since we were experiencing many issues with this pregnancy and I was barely 29 weeks along.
My dogs—Stretch and Billie—were my first babies. We adopted them in Alaska and we became a family of four—Klay, me, Billie and Stretchie Man Jones.
The day after those terrible back spasms, I was sitting on the couch. Stretch is usually on me somewhere–he’s like a leach, parrot, or any other animal that clings to you. Stretch was in my lap, I was sitting indian style on the couch and Billie was also in my lap. They were sort of laying on each other on top of me, just staring at me. And, there was something in their eyes as they looked at me that was unsettling.
They normally won’t sit that close to each other at the same time while next to me or Klay, but that day, they were. They kept their eyes locked on me, as if they knew I was contemplating on calling my OBGYN or not. I knew I needed to, but if it weren’t for their worried eyes gazing at me, I may not have called that day.
So, when I was told I was staying overnight at the hospital, I was surprised a little, but assumed I’d be home soon. It was the next day, I was told I had Acute Myeloid Leukemia.
There were so many discussions to be had—what to do with Beckham, when to start my treatment (with or without Beckham in my womb), how bad the leukemia was, my prognosis and the next steps, etc.
“You’ll probably be in here for more than a month,” they told me.
I felt as though my life had been taken from me. I had to deliver my baby and start chemo right away. I no control over my body, my future, and I couldn’t go home—because I’d be neutropenic (high-risk to develop any infection).
I immediately thought of the dogs. When would I see them again? When I would lie in my bed again? When would I be home with Brody again?
All of these things saturated my mind.
I missed my dogs—they are my source of comfort. They snuggle against me when I sleep at night. They find a little nook and cranny and bundle up next to me—always ensuring they are touching me as we try to sleep.
Once the doctors decided it was best to induce me right away—I was whisked off to have Beckham—and thoughts of worry about if I’d succeed in a vaginal delivery (which is what the doctors wanted because the recovery time is shorter than a C-section) filled my spirit with anxiety.
And, I’d have to do it all without an epidural. There wasn’t an anesthesiologist that wanted to stick a needle in my back and risk spreading the leukemia that floated in my blood and migrating into my spinal fluid and furthermore, my brain. Well, there was one anesthesiologist who said he would—but the rest said “hell no.”
I felt as though I was taking enough risks already and adding an epidural in the mix (just so I wouldn’t experience the pain of natural childbirth) seemed selfish. I wasn’t going to do it. I was going to it alone—no meds and all natural.
My first attempt to have Beckham I wasn’t emotionally ready to deal. I felt defeated. All I could think about was the cancer running through my body—and feeling as my body betrayed me–and I couldn’t focus on having Bex. It was all too much. I was telling Klay and my mom how much I missed the dogs and I wanted to go home.
Luckily, it happened to be a day at the hospital when volunteers would bring their pets to the hospital to visit patients. They brought this sweet little poodle in and I fed her Cheerios. It was such a comfort spending time with her, petting her, and brought a peace inside of me that I needed to push forward with the delivery of Beckham.
“You’re whole attitude changed after being with that dog,” Klay said. He saw how the love I had for animals lifted by spirits and made me happy.
It’d brought me back down to reality again because for days I was in an unfamiliar place—a world that felt like a dream, like all of this wasn’t happening—and I was surrounded by the unknown. The uncertainty of my future and the unfamiliarity of hospital beds, beeping machines, and living in a hospital had taken its toll on me. All of my comforts of my life were stripped away, and I was thrust in to this nightmare of a future I could no longer see and swallowed by foreign surroundings.
Spending time with that dog in the labor and delivery room made me feel safe and secure.
I didn’t have Beckham that night.
After laboring for more than 24 hours and only dilating to a 2 and 50% effaced, I was wiped out. My OBGYN said she was going to stop the induction, let my body rest and then we’d go back to it again the following day—and come hell or high water, we were going to have a baby.
I was moved back to my room—on the high-risk pregnancy floor—and after telling the nurses about what happened that day and how the dog came to visit me, they said that I could bring my dogs up to the hospital. Apparently people do it all the time.
The next day, Mom brought Billie, Stretch and Brody up to the hospital for a visit. Klay and I took them outside (well, Klay pushed me in a wheelchair) and the dogs were just elated to see me. It was absolutely the best day. I was so worried about them, because I didn’t get to say goodbye to the. I didn’t know that when I went into the hospital for a checkup, I wasn’t coming back for 34 days.
Their sweet kisses and love made my heart warm again.
I’ve always loved animals—dogs especially—and I think that because dogs were such a huge part of my childhood, my house would never feel like a home without a pet. And, so that day, the love from my furry sons refreshed my spirit–pushing it forward to have a safe delivery and kick this thing called cancer’s ass.
It might sound dumb in the scheme of things, that my dogs affect me that much. But the truth is dogs want to give you love and comfort you when you’re lonely, sad, sick or upset.
Stretch, especially, is very aware of the atmosphere of the room and the people in it. When I’d be hunched over there toilet, due to morning sickness, Stretch would put his paws on the toilet bowl and whine a little, but never leaving my side. He knows when somethings is wrong and he tells me he knows. I can see the fear in his eyes, his concern for me, as he’s watched me so many times get sick, get upset, have a meltdown, yell, holler, bawl, and cry. He watches me. He wants to take care of me.
He loves me.
It’s funny because we got Billie first—and had him nearly a year before we got Stretch—so Billie’s always been “the favorite,” I guess you could say. But Billie is very territorial and lately he’s been a complete DICK. The older he gets, the more he growls, and gets pissed when you try to move him. He’s a cranky old man now. But I love that dog so much. He’s funny in so many ways.
But he’s the dog that if he thinks something is wrong, he goes the other direction (because he thinks that if he’s not watching it, then it’s not happening). Don’t get me wrong; he comforts me when I’m sad or sick, just not like Stretch does.
Stretch is the one I missed all those days and nights spent in the hospital over the past two years. He’s the one nestled next to my legs right now as I type this.
They will never know the strength they gave me to focus on having Beckham the day he was born. I wouldn’t of had the strength if weren’t for the comfort of seeing my dogs and them giving me a renewed look at where I stood in life.
Because before that I was thinking only of all of the terrible things that my future held and how incredibly unlucky I was. I could think of nothing but that I was in a nightmare—a world that was unfamiliar—a world that involved hospital beds, nurses, doctors, cancer, and having a premature baby.
My dogs were able to bring me back to the sense of home that I so desperately needed. I didn’t know when or if I’d return home, but seeing them made me realize that I would get back home one day. I’d be back with them again and with all of my boys by my side—Klay, Bro, Billie, Stretch and Beckham. They reminded me that they were at home waiting for me—all of them—my family.
And so I fought.