Saturday, October 2, 2010

Angels On Earth -- Celebrating Live Strong

My grandmother on my mom's side was one of those people that everyone just flocked to.  I can't recall ever meeting a person who had a single complaint about her.  There was just an air about her that put you at ease and made you want to be near her.

She was born the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter.  In the area where she grew up, many people believed that being born the seventh child of a seventh child and being of the same gender gave you special gifts.  Many times I have heard about how she used to be able to touch people's warts and the next day the warts would be gone.  As a young girl, she was very shy and one day after church, she was just mobbed by people asking her to rub their hands to remove wars and she vowed that she'd never remove another wart.  After that, she never could.

One night, she was walking home with her sister and a friend from church and they saw a ghost.  She told me the story every time I asked her to, and when I went back to Alabama with her, she even took me and showed me the place where she'd seen it.  It was always one of my favorite stories, mainly because of the way she told it.  After they saw it, her sister and friend took off running down the road, but she stood frozen in fear.  The haint drifted past right in front of her and disappeared into a storm cellar.

My grandmother was also known to occasionally have dreams about things that really happened.  She woke up sobbing one night over a plane crash that she'd seen, only to turn on the television the next morning and see it there.  The most famous of her dreams, though, was about me.  When my mom got pregnant with me, she dreamed that I'd be a girl with lots of dark hair and blue eyes.  As soon as the news came that I'd arrived, she and my grandpa hurried to the hospital to see my mom and me.  My grandfather was in a rush to see my mom and see that she was alright and hurried right past the nursery.  Grandma stopped and looked in, and recognized me immediately, even though the cribs weren't marked. 

Honestly, that story really tells so much of the story of my relationship with her that it's hard to describe.  My relationship with my parents wasn't particularly good.  My parents divorced when I was seven and both seemed to be more caught up in themselves than my sister and me.  My grandma was the person who was really there for me.  I credit much of the person I've become to her.  We could be together and "just be" without needing to talk and fill the void with a lot of chatter or words.  That's not to say that we didn't talk, but I remember many comfortable silences together with her on her porch.

After they moved back to Alabama, my sister and I visited there together almost every summer.  Sometimes with one of my parents, but often alone.  We travelled there by bus, by train, and later took an annual road trip together in June as soon as school was out for both of us.  After my grandpa died, we still travelled to see her.  To this day, I can't hear Bluegrass or old time Gospel music and not think about her kitchen.

Every year after I got married, she'd mail me a check.  One of those checks paid the adoption fee for the best present I ever got myself and allowed Treat to come into our lives.  I regret deeply that she never got to meet Treat, because I know she would have adored her.

The last time I saw her, she and my mom were both battling cancer.  I was the only one of the three of us who had hair.  My mom is still a breast cancer survivor.  However, three weeks after our last visit together, my grandmother lost her battle with cancer.  It had started around one of her bronchial tubes, went into remission, and then reappeared in her brain.  She passed away on Mother's Day, and a week later I got the last birthday card I'd ever get from her.  Ironically, Treat passed away near the anniversary of her death from a spinal tumor seven years later. 
Treat was our first Greyhound.  She was a perfect first dog, with an amazing personality and always wanted to be on the go.  She was a therapy dog, a READ dog, an ambassadog for Greyhounds everywhere, an amazing traveling companion and always wanted to be able to go where we were going.  If I'd put a leash on her, she'd walk to the ends of the Earth with me. 

One March afternoon I took the dogs out for turn out.  When we got to the door of the pen, Treat squatted to go to the bathroom and I figured that she had been stubborn in the morning and hadn't gone when she was out.  It took me about thirty seconds to realize that something was wrong after she went into the pen.  She couldn't stand up.  I felt my heart stop right there.  I called my husband, and called the vet to tell them I was bringing her in.  My husband arrived home, and we hurried to the vet.

A few tests at the vet left them baffled, but it was apparent that something was drastically wrong with Treat.  To say that I was heartsick is a huge understatement.  They offered a tenuous hope, to give her steroids overnight and see how she was doing in the morning.  I grasped the straw.  Amazingly, she was up and able to walk with assistance the next morning.  A day later, I brought her home, scared about what the future would hold, but relieved beyond belief that I still had my girl. 

She wasn't supposed to go up stairs or climb onto furniture by herself, so I'd bought her a huge, fancy orthopedic bed.  I carefully carried her into the house and set her on the bed.  She gave me a look of disgust and staggered over to the couch where she put her front feet up there.  I hurried over to pick her up and set her on the couch so she wouldn't hurt herself, and she curled up contentedly. 

We had several ups and downs where she got much better and then got worse.  Finally, five weeks after the onset of the problem, she had a bad weekend and that Monday morning she looked at me and I knew it was over.  She was tired of fighting, even though she'd done it so valiantly.   I called work and the vet and we took our last ride together. 

Cancer is a nasty thief, a crusher of dreams, and a breaker of hearts.  It's something I wouldn't wish on anyone, not for someone to battle themselves, or to have to watch a loved one go through it.  I really hope that in my lifetime we'll see an end to this ugly disease.

Today people are blogging everywhere in the LiveStrong Challenge about loved ones who have battled cancer.  I wanted to write about Treat's battle since this is a dog blog, but I wanted to share and celebrate my grandmother's life today, partly because she helped to lead me to my current love of dogs, and partly because I've talked about Treat's struggle with cancer before.  My grandmother was more than another cancer statistic, she was a person who touched many lives -- probably more than I'll ever know.  So, today I celebrate cancer survivors everywhere and honor those who still fight that battle.  I'd also like to offer a thank you to Dr. Cuoto at Ohio State University for all his work to cure and battle canine cancer.  They do wonderful and amazing work there, as many Greyhound owners know.  Take a minute to hug the people you love today and be glad they're here with you!

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  1. Oh yes....personal memories that were tough to unwrap again but all helped drive home this special day's purpose and intent -

    Thanks for sharing -

    AND how appropriate you've been pink here - it complements the yellow very well -

    Khyra's Mom

  2. What a beautiful post! Your grandmother sounds like an incredible woman. Thanks for sharing.

    Your pal, Pip

  3. Thanks for telling us about your grandmother. she's wonderful!

  4. i love this post! you are very good at keeping the reader engaged! i loved the fact that you mixed treat with your grandmother's story. perfect to me as animals are pretty much equal to humans in my life except my husband who comes first.

  5. You are such a lucky girl! To have had a wonderful relationship with your grandmother, is few and far between these days. My grandmother always said "kids are to be seen and not heard". I was not as lucky as you. Then there are those greys you have rescued! Yes, cancer is a nasty creature, but at least Treat's last days were in your loving care. I am walking in an AIDS walk this morning and our hounds will be starting the race!!!

  6. Awesome post - bravo to you for your love of your grandmother. We too have been deeply affected by cancer, funny it is a pain that never seems to leave us, but we must live strong and carry on. Once again, a very beautiful and touching post.

    Woos ~ Phantom, Thunder, and Ciara

  7. Wonderful post. I was blessed with an awesome Grandmother too, although she died of old age at 98:-) My mother was a very special woman and she was robbed of a long life by cancer, dying at 46 after a 10 year battle. It is a horrific disease. Like everyone I hope a cure for all cancers is found sooner rather than later.

  8. This is an amazing post!

    Livestrong friends,


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