This is going to be a long one, but here it goes.
There was a point in time not too long ago, where I was absolutely crushing the whole “getting ready for this race in Las Vegas”. With my mind set on running well there, my softball season going really well, sliding season was around the corner and most everything else rocking and rolling.
I may have made the mistake of getting a little comfortable with life, and it’s amazing how sometimes once you get comfortable, that’s when life sneaks up and kicks you in the taint.
The last weekend of September was going pretty well, but I noticed that Deacon looked a little bloaty after Camp Bow Wow. By Saturday afternoon, his belly was pretty big, and I made an appointment with the vet for Monday morning to get it checked out. We did some measurements and stayed on it to make sure that it wasn’t actual “bloat”, which it wasn’t. Sunday night/Monday morning at 2:00 AM, I woke up to Deacon panting pretty hard, and we made the trip to the emergency vet. This is where things get brutal, and likely it’s going to take me a bit to type this all out.
The vet is about to let us go, telling me Deacon is otherwise healthy. She stops herself, asks if she can go check one other thing, and came back telling me that it’s fluid in his abdomen. After minimal sleep, we made the return trip for additional testing. A ultrasound found a mass on Deacon’s heart, and the followup cardio work found it to run from his aorta most of the way up. The mass was likely cancerous, and was causing fluid to fill the sac around the heart, which was overflowing into his abdomen. This had all happened (at least the fluid part) over the course of a couple of days.
The first option we had were to drain all the fluid, but at the rate that it had happened it would have only led to everything re-happening over the course of a couple days. The second was high-risk surgery to try to remove as much of the mass as possible, and hope that it doesn’t re-form. Of course, that kind of surgery that close to his aorta and heart is entirely high risk, with a very good chance he wouldn’t make it through surgery. The third option was chemo and radiation therapy, which we were told would maybe help for a few months.
So, at just around noon on September 26th, I had to make the decision that I was going to have to put Deacon down. This should have been the hardest decision I’ve ever made, but it sadly was one of the easiest. A few months of chemo, with Deacon feeling terrible every day and not understanding why I keep taking him to get hurt, surgery where there was a good chance he’d die on a steel table surrounded by strangers, or a very short patch just to keep him around a couple extra days? Which one of those is fair to Deacon? None of them.
So we came home. I cried, a lot. Deacon, of course, just hung out. He was exhausted from a really long day, and you could tell. I made us hot dogs (his favorite) for dinner. We watched TV, cuddled a lot, and went to bed. I think the lack of sleep kind of helped, because both Deacon and I crashed pretty hard.
Tuesday, September 27, just about 24 hours after we found out that Deacon was far sicker than he ever let on, I had to say goodbye to my best friend. Deacon, for the most part, was pretty active. Finally having rested enough (the little guy always loved his sleep), we played for a little bit until he got tired. We tried to have some more hot dogs, but Deacon’s breathing had gotten to the point that eating was difficult. At right around 11:30, the vet and my friend Hannah (who is also a vet tech) showed up at the house to help me say goodbye.
I’m fortunate that we got to do everything at my house. Deacon went to sleep on my lap, in his favorite blanket. As the vet injected him, he looked up at me. I like to think he was telling me goodbye. And that was that.
The hardest week ever went by far slower than I would have appreciated, but by Saturday I had personal work to do. I went on an eight mile run, and it went far better than I’d expected. Needless to say, I had a lot to run off, but it was a 9:45 average mile run. That’s the fastest I’ve ever knocked out eight miles, so I was thrilled. I figured I’ll just keep pushing along and be REALLY ready for the Vegas race.
Then I broke my face.
The softball league I play in is about as “rec league” as it gets. My favorite part about it, though, is that we pitch to our own teams. It leads to the ball being in play and not many pitches being taken. A side-part of that rule is that if the pitcher touches the ball while it’s in play, the batter is out. I’m one of my team’s pitchers.
Our game was Sunday (as they all are), so just five days after all of the Deacon stuff, and it was nice to get back to something kind of normal. Pitching to one of our hardest hitters, I noticed the girl playing right field for the other team was playing him REALLY shallow. I toss one outside, and my teammate went right up the middle with it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get out of the way quick enough and took the line drive off the face.
Fast forward to me sitting in the emergency room at Duke, and super-longer story short, my zygomatic arch was broken in three places. The funny thing about this break, is that it will basically fuse itself back together if you just let it go. That said, the bone was five millimeters indented in the wrong direction, meaning I’d have a HUGE hole looking thing on my face (sort of near my ear/sideburns). So after a checkup on that Wednesday, the decision was made that I was going to have surgery to fix the bone.
The next week of waiting for surgery was long, but the swelling went down every day, and I could start eating more solid foods (but with some pain).
Now I’ve never really had any kind of surgery, nor have I broken anything other than a toe, so I was pretty nervous. Thankfully, Duke Hospital is a hell of a facility with some of the best anesthesiologists and otolaryngologists in the world. I was knocked out, and woke up about three hours later with a rather re-swollen face. Once again, I couldn’t eat solid foods, or really open my mouth for the better part of another week.
To fix the bone, they went up through my mouth (under the lip, outside of the teeth), got to the bone, and put it back in place. Somehow it’s just going to stay in place like that while it heals itself. How does that happen? As best as I can tell, magic. Either way, it’s there now and short of me getting hit again it should be in place for some time to come.
So that leads me to today. I’ve gotten a couple of runs in, my face isn’t throbbing when I do anything, and I can eat normal people food. The Rock & Roll Las Vegas race is about three weeks away, and I’m now well behind in my training, but it’s nice to be back to somewhat of a routine. I’ll hang out with my softball team for a few Sundays (no contact sports for another month), and with any luck things will start being whatever “normal” is now.
So with that said, here goes nothing. Let’s do this.