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Shelby is 6 months post-cancer diagnosis! Take that statistics!

I know what we all say here about prognosis’s BUT Shelby’s getting a shout out today for reaching her 6 month diagnosis. Shelby’s story was a complicated one and I am pretty sure that evil cancer was living w/in her long prior to her spleen distress and thus removal but it was 6 months ago – today that I received the most heart-breaking news of my life.

When Shelby broke her leg in June, I was still working at a prior job.

Shelby’s first (of 3) surgery .. visiting hours are the best!

I was laid off in July and Shelby and I spent the summer together while I searched for a new job. I was scared but I knew I would be OK financially and I would find a new job that was even better than the last one. Late August, I interviewed for my current job and everything seemed to coming together. I was also getting ready to travel out of town for my 11th marathon (one that I had trained hard for all summer and hoped would re-qualify me for Boston). A week before I was to leave, I was trying coordinate Shelby-care with a friend who had a puppy to see how Shelby, even with 4 legs but limited mobility, would react. Monday (5 days prior to my departure for an overnight trip) Shelby got this look in her eyes – she wouldn’t sit down. She started to shake. I told her she was fine. She was not. I rushed her to the ER where she vomited for them. They said her belly was swollen but suspected pancreatitis. The next day, her surgeon called me to say that she suspected it was Shelby’s spleen (where we had seen nodules before but weren’t as concerned). She said it had to come out.  We caught it in time. Shelby was rushed to surgery.

What was I going to do? I was scheduled to start a new job that following Monday, run a marathon that weekend, and now this? I talked to the surgeon – should I cancel my trip? She asked me why I would do that? I was trained, right? Shelby was fine. She could stay at the fancy ER hospital until I returned and I could visit with her daily. She said she wouldn’t know the results from the spleen until early next week. There was no reason for me to miss the race.

So that was that I did. I left  Shelby at Advanced Critical Care where she has many, many friends and they have wonderful visiting hours. I would go and sit with her for hours … she would just sleep next to me and I was comforted by her soft snores, knowing she was getting some great rest next to my side. The day before I was to leave I got a call from ACC telling me that Shelby had snapped at a nurse (not one that she knew but that was definitely out of character for Shelby). I was worried. Did I need to bring her home? Cancel the run? They said she was fine but wanted to let me know that she needed an attitude adjustment. I rushed over there and in our private room, I gave Shelby a talking too. I explained to her that she needed to shape up, that she needed to get it under control and that she needed to remember that she is a sweet/loving dog. Well it worked -she was a princess the rest of her stay. And that I sat w/her on the floor for almost 4 hours and she slept  the whole time – my poor girl was exhausted.

I ran the race. My friend came over and sat with Shelby while I was out of town. She stayed with her for almost 3 hours – above and beyond the call of duty for anyone – and sent me photos and videos of my happy girl.

My race didn’t go well. I didn’t re-qualify for Boston.  My heart wasn’t in it. I wanted to get home to my girl and no matter what I did, I couldn’t enjoy the race. I was in Boston last April when the bombs hit and I desperately wanted to go back to be able to finish the race and not have it end in the same way. But I will get back there. This just wasn’t my year.

I got home, picked up my girl, and went home. As I prepared for work that Monday, I was blissful, praying that no news was good news about that damn spleen. I went to work Monday and was greeted with such friendly enthusiasm! Finally , a job that valued me as a person and professional. I was so happy. Driving home, I was so happy! I got home and the call came that changed my life. I went from laughter to tears. I could tell the surgeon was upset to have to deliver the news; she kept asking me if I understood what she was saying and she said she would recommend an oncologist. She also told me that it was 1 – 3 months w/out chemo and 3- 5 months with chemo. I was in utter shock.

The next day, I woke up with a plan. I was going to take Shelby with me to Santa Barbara for a weekend like we used to  and then we would see the oncologist. What would two more weeks matter? Shelby still had stitches from her surgery and we couldn’t do anything till those came out. Two weeks later we were on our way up north to wine country. I didn’t realize it at the time but Shelby hated riding in the car, probably due to the fact that her 4th leg was still painful for her. She was a good sport and we had a good time but it was bittersweet knowing it was probably our last time together. Shelby’s leg really started to her hurt while we were up there so I rushed us back home. Of course, once we got home, she was fine!

Our mini vacation to wine country!

That following Thursday, almost 2 1/2 weeks after her diagnosis, we had our first appt with the oncologist. I liked Dr. Turner from day one. I try and keep my emotions in check when I am around Shelby but I started to cry when Dr. Turner told me even more dire statistics for Shelby. I told her my dog was a fighter and she would prove them wrong. Dr. Turner told me she would fight for Shelby and that she could see that Shelby was a fighter and that our bond was incredibly strong. She gently encouraged me to try and be strong for Shelby since Shelby can read my emotions – she could see that in the way Shelby would look at me for comfort and reassurance. And off Shelby went for her first of many chemotherapy treatments.

Before her first chemotherapy…

And today marks 6 months … Six months since I first pumped poison into my beloved dog to try and save her life. And while it hasn’t been a bed of roses, Shelby has proved to me, day in and day out, that she is a fighter and that together, as a team, we are fighting against horribly aggressive blood cancer. Like I told Dr. Turner on day one – I will NOT stop until Shelby tells me to stop. I will fight for her until the bitter end and I will always know in my heart that I have done everything possible for my girl. Shelby is not just my dog; she is my child, she is the love of my life. She has always been strong for me and now it is my time to be strong for her.

From our portrait session (pre-amp/post-diagnosis)… safely in mommy’s arms!


  1. jerry Said,

    March 17, 2014@ 2:04 pm      Reply

    Awwww, BRAVO!

    Shelby has quickly become the love of our lives as well. Your enthusiasm, your courage and your optimism are contagious. We need as much as possible here, so thank you for bringing so many of these gifts to us!

    Nine out of ten statistics are WRONG. Shelby is yet more proof of that!

  2. elizabeth Said,

    March 17, 2014@ 2:27 pm      Reply

    You got my tears flowing. Oh Shelby, how we all just love you so! You are such an inspiration around here, a bright light in our rough world. Keep fighting Shelby, we all stand behind you cheering you on!!

  3. bcullom Said,

    March 17, 2014@ 4:11 pm      Reply

    Hurray, Alison and Shelby! As I read this story, it is so hard to believe the similarities in our situations with each other and this damn cancer. I can’t wait till I get my blog started, and hopefully you will read my struggle with this awful disease and the heart-wrenching predicaments, as well.

    I know I mentioned before to you that Polly had fought this crappy cancer for almost 14 months, but I was counting from the actual time I first found the tumor on her leg in early Jan 2013…….her actual diagnosis of cancer was almost a year ago, March 20, 2013 …..she had her first leg surgery a week before on the 12th….so all in all, she still almost lived a complete year from actual diagnosis. However, I wish I had done many things differently now, but……..

    You and sweet Princess Shelby, are always in my thoughts…..keep kicking this ugly cancer in the ass….( notice my much needed adjectives before the sucky “c” word )

    Love and hugs….

    Bonnie & Angel Polly

  4. Michelle Said,

    March 17, 2014@ 4:55 pm      Reply

    Thank you for sharing Shelbies story. You never know this maybe a story that someone who sees similar symptoms and can get their baby to a Dr and save them too. You 2 are great inspirations and Shelby is doing so awesome. Keep it up

    Michelle & Angel Sassy

  5. Angela Said,

    March 17, 2014@ 5:38 pm      Reply

    You’re such a great mommy Alison! Shelby is so lucky to have someone like you who cares so much about her! Keep fighting and showing this awful disease who’s boss!

    Cody and Family

  6. benny55 Said,

    March 17, 2014@ 8:34 pm      Reply

    Very, very informative AND very, very heartwarming and sooooo full of love and devotion!!

    Hey, cnbratulations on your commitment to running! That type of determnation and “running through the pain” s a great “training ground” for this chapter in your life!
    Earthquakes, marathns… have metaphors in the making all around you!!

    I realy enjoyed reading yor journal todayand gazing at the beautiful pictures They are such forever treasures. In that pic of you two at “wine cou try”, I do think she sneakily sipped a little bit of your wine…..jist sayin’..!

    You ARE being strng for your best friend! You have come such a long way on this journey. It’s a joy to watch your soul’s growth and become more and more empowered and in charge ! No, we cannot control the circmsatances in our loves, but we DO have a choice in how we react. And you have selected strength as your “emotion”!

    And snce I now your Mom follows yor blog…this is foryou Mom! Good job! You’ve raised an amazngly compassio ate and loving woman! I’m sure you are her role model for that! Thank you! Well done!

    SHELBYSTRONG, you are magic…pure magic!! Yo make up your own rules! YOU ARE SHELBYSTRNG!! And you jave a perfect partner in ALISONSTRONG!!! Great team!!

    Love always!

    Sally and Happy Hannah

  7. Christine Said,

    March 18, 2014@ 8:47 am      Reply



    Thank you for sharing with us!! We all know exactly how you felt when you got that news.. and I remember just after Shelby’s amputation, how you and her were having such a bit of a ruff time.. and I kept praying to the pets gods and saying.. why do some of our furbabies have to have such a ruff time with this? But it passed… and Shelby did awesome!!

    Adn that is all in the past now… and Shelby has spark.. and attitude back!!!

    (happy dance)

    Christine… with Franklin in her heart♥

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