Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, Doctor's Visits, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness

What I Continue To Learn From My Dog About Living With Illness

I have a black lab mix, adopted from the shelter at 9 weeks old. Her name is Tashi, from Alice Walker’s book The Color Purple.   We’ve shared many amazing times together and continue to do so even though she’s slowing down a bit at the age of thirteen. About seven years ago she contracted MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), a staph infection that is often drug resistant. In the past, we would tame the infection and get at least a few months of remission. Currently, we’ve been fighting a never-ending infection that keeps mutating eluding our efforts for remission.

I can tell you about the long list of doctors and tests she had endured, but I want to focus on the appointment we had yesterday. It was time for a new culture because the antibiotic we’ve been giving her the past six weeks stopped working. The progress stalled and that just means without further intervention we would start moving backwards.

The doctor came into the examination room and we had our usual conversation about treatment possibilities and then he took Tashi to the back to secure the culture. The culture entails giving her lidocaine (a numbing agent) to minimize her discomfort. The doctor then takes samples the size of a pencil eraser from her foot. He then closes the puncture site with sutures that she’ll have in for the next three weeks.

When the doctor walked her out to the lobby he told me when to expect the results. He then said, “This is the best she’s ever done, I guess we become accustomed to things that we never thought we’d have to endure.” It was an odd thing to hear, but I got it; she’s a trooper.

Every time we got to the vet I’m amazed that she doesn’t fight me upon entering the building. The staff adores her and gives her love. The doctor, the perpetrator of what some might call medical intrusion, adores her and treats her with the utmost respect. She has an innate understanding that even though these people inflict pain, no one is out to harm her in any way. Her level of trust and “go with the flow” mentality seems to diminish the trauma and pain of the procedures she so effortlessly endures.

Healing environments have to be built on a foundation of trust. Trust that the medical team is on your side and that anything they’re doing is to help, not hurt. They need to find ways to provide a level of comfort because procedures can be painful and are often scary. Tashi is always surrounded by a loving energy that seems to shield her from the trauma of the procedure.

Tashi is a role model for what it takes to keep on going with a potentially life-threatening illness. She is able to endure procedures, endless rounds of medications causing side effects like loss of hearing and yet she’s loving, playful, and trusting. Trust is something so crucial on the health and healing journey and I continue to learn how it manifests by watching what Tashi endures on a daily basis. She’s my teacher.

Diagnosed with a chronic or life-threatening illness? Looking for support, education, and inspiration? Visit www.survivingstrong.com

Interested in Art and Healing? Visit www.timetolivecreatively.com

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