Me & May

Facing Death With Life

Me & May
Me & Mya

It’s Christmas eve all over the world but i have an additional reason for celebration today. On this day eleven years ago my life was changed but i wouldn’t know about how that change would affect me until about six and a half years ago. Even then in that last week of March of 2005 when my girlfriend and i adopted a four and a half-year old pit-bull named Mya, we both had no idea of much of an impact this dog would make on our lives.

Mya was abused as a puppy by a guy who kept her locked up in an apartment, never walked her or let her out and beat her when she made a mess in his house. She was rescued by a neighbor of the man who was abusing Mya but he couldn’t keep her. My girlfriend got an email about Mya from one of her clients who knew we were looking for a dog. i remember how sweet and how friendly she was with us and how more than anything in the world Mya wanted affection.

There was a lot of work to do with Mya… We were told that she was afraid of other dogs because she wasn’t socialized as a puppy and so she could never be around other dogs. When Mya and i  walked she wanted to attack every dog she would see. It took me a while to learn that she was attacking out of fear and not out of aggression. There’s a difference. It’s easier to deal with aggression that comes from fear. If you deal with the fear you can deal with the aggression. It took me four careful years and the help of my brother and his dog Cheyenne, a pit-bull mix, to finally get Mya socialized around other dogs. Mya and Cheyenne are best friends now and hard to separate.

Cheyenne & Mya
Cheyenne & Mya

A year after we got Mya she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had a successful surgery and was given the all clear. Four years later Mya developed a lump on her right hind leg. We took her to the vet and she was diagnosed with a soft tissue sarcoma, another cancer. A soft tissue sarcoma is a tumor but a more difficult one to remove. Unlike a hard tumor this one was soft and gooey. Imagine a tumor like an egg, if i ask you to pick up an egg off the counter it’s easy. Now imagine trying to pick up the egg if it’s broken… Not as easy to make sure you’ve got it all. Mya went through two surgery’s to make sure it was removed. The she went through six months of chemotherapy, an infusion every three weeks for an hour and a half. She pulled through all that with a grace and an ease that amazed everyone.

Mya enjoys a ride in the Jeep with the top down.
Mya enjoys a ride in the Jeep with the top down.

A year almost to the day that Mya was diagnosed with her soft tissue sarcoma she was out rolling around in the grass of the yard which was something she did when she was happy but this time something didn’t seem right. i looked down where she was rolling and there was foam near her head. Mya was having a seizure. i screamed to my girlfriend and we rushed her to the vet. i didn’t even wait until she was out of the seizure i just scooped her up in my arms as she was convulsing and put her into the car. My girlfriend sat in the backseat and consoled her as best she could. As we drove to the vet she was coming out of the seizure and she looked frightened and confused in a way i had never seen before. It broke our hearts to see her like that. The vet checked her out but didn’t find anything wrong. Seizures in cats, dogs and even humans is not something very well understood. The vet said she it was possible she would never have another. We went home shaken up but happy that Mya seemed ok…

Over the next 24 hours Mya had three more seizures. What is known as a cluster. Something was very wrong. i recorded two of the seizures on video for the doctors to see and haven’t had the strength to watch them since then. We took Mya to a special hospital, the same hospital that dealt so well with her soft tissue sarcoma, to see a neurologist. They gave her an MRI. She was diagnosed with a brain tumor. The doctor told us that without an expensive non-evasive surgery that would cost $8500 she had maybe two to six months to live. Even with the surgery there was no guarantee that she would live any longer. We couldn’t afford the surgery. We still can’t afford it. The neurologist prescribed medications to control her seizures which were brought on by her brain tumor and an oral chemotherapy to try to slow the tumor’s growth and steroids to keep the swelling in her brain caused by the tumor to a minimum. These medications were going to give her a chance, a slim chance but a chance nonetheless…

But Mya is tough, for all her mushy desire as an affection hound, she is as tough as they come. Six months after Mya was supposed to be dead (a full year since her initial brain tumor diagnosis) we took her back to the neurologist and he was shocked to see how well she was doing. Nine months after the six months she was given to live Mya is still snuggling up to us on the couch to watch TV and barking at me to play tug with her and looking forward to her daily walks and demanding i play ball with her in the yard by barking at me to get off the computer. Mya is my new hero. i’m amazed at her will to live. Despite the fact the steroids are ravaging her muscles and have weakened her back legs and slowed her once cheetah like run to an awkward trot, she wants to live! But not just live, but live as she has for the last six and a half years of her life, going on walks and hikes, playing tug with me or Cheyenne or playing ball with me in the yard. Her strength is an inspiration to me.

Her determination to live on her own terms until she dies is a lesson that hasn’t gone unnoticed by me. As she fights to live her life with this brain tumor, i think of the abusive puppy-hood she put behind her, her fear of other dogs that she overcame, her battles with the other two cancers she beat and i’m humbled by the difficult life she’s had and the fact that she’s happy to be here trying to make the most of whatever life she has left. And i realize that that’s the lesson. She’s no different from anyone else. We all have a death sentence we’re going to have to face, and we need to fight for the life we want. It’s just that Mya seems to not care that she has a brain tumor that’s killing her and that her death may be coming sooner than it should… The real lesson may be that Mya’s fighting to live her life as she wants it because that’s the only way to face your death with any real courage… Happy birthday Mya… And many many more…

My girlfriend & Mya 12/24/12
My girlfriend & Mya 12/24/12



3 thoughts on “Facing Death With Life”

  1. This is a truly remarkable story and Mya is a remarkable dog…and lucky to have found you. Although if you are like me (and I suspect you are based on what I have just read), you probably feel luckier to have found her. Dogs are amazing creatures. Happy Birthday, Mya, and Merry Christmas!

    1. Yes… we share that feeling of being lucky to have found our dogs… i have a magnetic bumper sticker on my Jeep that says “Who Rescued Who?” … i also have another that says “Save A Life… Adopt A Homeless Pet” … Much thanx for the kind words…

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