Saying goodbye is always a painful thing. Since my diagnosis, one of the most difficult things I was faced with was saying “goodbye” to the life I once knew.
Almost three years ago today, I was confronted with my most heartbreaking, most beautiful, and most life-changing goodbye. After a courageous battle with cancer, my 13-year-old dog Kenya grew tired and was ready to go. I struggled with my decision but I knew it was the one last thing I could do for her.
Some of what I write now are things I have never shared with anyone. I’m dedicating this blog to Kenny. In life, and in her time of passing I was her healing hand. Thanks to the courage she left me, she will forever be mine.
Photo: Me, Kenya and my main man, Caesar
I held her close and when she took her last breath I only whispered my usual nighttime message to her: “goodnight baby girl, I’ll miss you and I love you. I can’t wait to see you in the morning.” I looked forward to seeing her happy face each morning when I opened my eyes and knew she would still always be my first thought as I woke. I wouldn’t say goodbye.
Letting her go caused an unexpected reaction. All that happened in the five years since I was diagnosed with MS came crashing down on me.
In the weekend I learned I had MS, I received a phone call, a message, from the doctor’s office, saying: “Your test results came back positive. You have Multiple Sclerosis. Have a good weekend.” This was merciless and left me angered and fearing doctors.
Only two days after this, DJ, my 11-year-old black Lab/Shepherd mix relapsed and died of cancer. His passing left me in a state of shock — for the next five years.
In that time, I started working from home, as an editor, writing infrequently. I had given up my dreams.
I wasn’t depressed — but I was disconnected and disengaged. Until April 2010 when I learned Kenya had oral melanoma.
That’s when I started feeling again. The moment the vet told me she had cancer, I felt like I swallowed a soccer ball. But, I knew if I allowed my emotions to rule, I would relapse, so instead I turned into vigilante doggy-mom in the five months I cared for Kenya. Controlling my MS in this time was critical and I ruled with an iron fist. She was what mattered.
It all came out seconds after I stroked her head with her last breath. The past five years of emotions flooded out of me the moment they went to take her off her bed and out of our home. Reminiscent of a child throwing a tantrum, I started screaming and crying hysterically — I’m not sure what else I did, I only remember the vet asking my then-boyfriend to take me into the other room.
I had never behaved like that. Not as a child. Not when I was diagnosed. Not when DJ died. Not with my career. I finally felt pain and it was so intense. I needed it.
I have MS, I’ve lost two dogs, and I let go of my dreams. What’s happening?
I said “goodbye” in that moment to “what” I had become in the five years prior. I had to change.
Something Will Grow…it will be Me
I was always terrified of living on my own — so many “what if’s?” But I also knew I was being unfair and could no longer depend on someone as I had for so long.
Soon after, I moved out on my own and started fighting for my dreams again. It took me two years of many health ups and downs — mostly downs — and recognizing I had unintentionally redefined MS: Moderately Spineless, I changed my attitude.
Today, I’m almost there. I’m writing frequently for a national paper, I’ve acquired some additional writing contracts, I’m making some incredible friends, I’m more active than I’ve ever been, I’m confident, I’m happy, I’m single, I love everything again and I’m living in a great apartment with the best boy ever — my 17-year-old Siamese, Caesar.
The greatest thing? I only say “goodbye” to things in life I no longer want. Everything else, I know I only have to really open my eyes — as I did with Kenya each morning — and continue on a path toward an incredible day.