Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Thundercloud Returns

My sister's first text today was about going to my next melanoma check up. She offered to go with me if I needed her to. The hospital usually sends me a proposed time, but they have not yet. I wasn't sure if that was because I had moved, or that I need to schedule with them from now on. I was going to text her back, but the vet was coming this morning to check out a couple of things with the horses.

I headed to the barn. The vet came and gave Tucker some vaccines to protect him from the nasties here that aren't prevalent in VT. No problem. Next,she checked out Gil, who had been lame for about two weeks. Diagnosis? He has a bruise or abcess. Oh, and he's a whimpy freak. Long story, which I will write about later.

On to Cosmo, my good doober. About two years ago, he had a large lump removed from his tail. It came off easily and when my vet sliced into it, she knew without a doubt that it was melanoma; it was black as tar. After my own experience with skin cancer, it was facinating to see what this disease looked like; its appearance is as evil as the disease. With horses, there aren't many treatment options beyond excision. Cosmo and I went on our merry ways. His tail looked funny, but otherwise he was fine.

About a month ago, I was washing his tail and felt a lump. This one was different from the first; rather than bubbling off the skin, this one was embedded within the muscle of his tail. As I ran my hands up toward the base, I felt another. And another.
There were about four that day. A week later I noticed the one near the top of his tail had grown. Over the next few days, another growth appeared beneath the skin of his haunch.

Then they stopped. For the past few weeks, there have been no changes in the existing growths and no new tumors have appeared. I wanted them looked at when the vet came today, but I almost didn't.

Ignorance is bliss.

Without biopsies, but with some certainty, Cosmo has malignant melanoma. Now, if Cosmo had been a grey horse, the worry would be lessened. Grey horses get melanomas more frequently than horses of other colors. And they are usually benign. In horses of other shades, melanoma is almost always metestatic. Cosmo is chestnut.

Rationally, I know there is nothing I could have done to prevent this; there is nothing I can do to stop it. We cannot predict the progression of the disease. He could be fine for three years or he could be gone in months.

I can't help but think of the horrible irony.

When I was recovering from my melanoma surgery, my horse died of colic. I remember looking out at his body, covered by a horse blanket, laying out in the riding ring where we had him euthanized. I was waiting for a call from the surgeon. They had done a sentinal node biopsy, the results of which would indicate the extent to which my melanoma had spread, if it had at all.

The phone rang. The results were back. My lymph nodes were clear; the melanoma had not spread.

I called my mother and told her the good news, though I was still heartbroken about the loss of Cecil (his show name was "Wonders Never Cease." Hmmm...) Her reply stung. "He saved you. I don't know how else to say it, but he died so you could live."

I was so angry with her; what she had said sounded so religious, but also uncharacteristically hokie coming from my medically clinical mother. So I called my best friend, Melissa, who was suffering from her own form of cancer. I told her my biopsy was clean and that Cecil had died. I hadn't vented about my mom, yet.

"Wow," she said, "he took it for you. I love my dog, but I wish she loved me enough to do that for me."

My sister repeated the sentiments of my mom and Melissa when I texted her about Cosmo.

"These horses keep taking it for you."

I am left wondering. I am five years clean. Any examinations and tests I have in the future are strictly voluntary. And my life is a fairy tale right now.

Without giving into the doom and gloom mentality I used to have- about nothing good happening in my life without horrific consequential echoes-I will accept that these things happen. Cosmo is happy right now. I can still ride him and treat him normally, though I will have to watch for signs that the tumors have spread to vital organs. Who knows? They may slow down or stop. There are no guarantees. And you can't just sit and wait for trouble.

Realistically and rationally, Cosmo's disease has no relation to the good things in my life; I'm not sure karma works that way.

But I will be calling to make an appointment with my oncologist, just in case.

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