Katie Hamsher Firedoglake

Katie likes nice furniture

I started drawing several years ago because no photo could ever capture what I saw when I looked at Katie’s face.  It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.  She just radiates everything that is good and kind and wonderful in the world.

My drawing skills never did justice to her, but Katie continues to grow more beautiful every day.  She just had her 13th birthday and we went to the vet for her senior checkup.  Her chest X-ray shows that she has a spot on her lung the size of a ping-pong ball.  Dr. Rawstrom called this morning to say the radiologist looked at it and it’s most likely cancer.

I called Katie’s long-time veternarian, Dr. Shilito, who works at the Washington Animal Rescue League now.  We were sad when he moved on from private practice and we like Dr. Rawstrom, but she’s new to the area and we needed a recommendation for the best local doggie oncologist we could find.  Dr. Shilito has always been great about giving us advice even after he went to work at WARL and I really trust him.  It helped a lot to talk things through with him this morning.  I feel like we have a good plan now.

He recommended an oncologist in Gaithersburg named Dr. Intile.  From my own cancer experience the primary ongoing relationship you have is with your oncologist, so we’re going to call her and say it’s been recommended that Katie have an ultrasound-guided aspiration of the mass.  The lump is in her thorax, near the chest wall so they think it will probably be possible to do a needle aspiration.

Hopefully that will tell us what we’re dealing with, whether the mass originated in the lungs or has spread from some other place.  We’ve been in and out of the vet’s office for a couple of years now dealing with Katie’s coughing and lameness, which they thought were just due to old age but could also be symptoms of lung cancer.

Our primary goal is Katie’s quality of life.  At 13 she is old for a standard poodle.  We have lived a very good life together.  I don’t even remember who I was before Katie – when I think about it, life before Katie seems like somebody else’s life.  She came into my life at a very dark point, a birthday gift on July 26 1999 from Pam Skaist-Levy.  She loved me throughout, inspired me, gave me hope, taught me how to love myself.  She literally saved my life.

There is nothing that I do or am or have today that I do not owe to Katie.  I hope I can be there for her now like she has always been there for me.  I don’t want to get so tied up in my own fear and anxiety and grief that I upset her or make things worse for her.  I hope that I can take what I learned from Kobe’s passing and use it to be a better mom to Katie.

Regardless of what her diagnosis is right now, it is clear Katie is slowing down and entering the winter of  her life.  But she still has much wisdom to impart.  I hope I can find  the grace and composure to accept her final teachings.