Nobody wants to be here. Yes, we are all grateful this place exists. But, truly, nobody wants to be here. As I log into Facebook, it’s one of the first posts that pops up:
“It’s Monday. How are you and your sweet doggie today?” Always followed by three purple hearts.
That’s when I start reading all the replies about which of the members are on their third round of chemo for their dog, what meds are working, what side effects are increasing or decreasing, whose dog is nearing the end, and what decisions need to be made by the humans who would do anything for a little more time.
Earlier this year, on my birthday, we found out that our ten-pound ruler of the house, Moose, was diagnosed with High Grade B-Cell lymphoma. Not knowing anything about this particular disease in dogs, I thought, “Well, we will fight it with everything we can and get her cured.”
But there is no “cured” from canine lymphoma. Without treatment, most dogs live a few months. With treatment, a year.
It is overwhelming to get a diagnosis like that for anyone, including a three-year-old spicy squirrel like our Moose. You feel like you need to become an expert overnight: knowing treatment options, what food and supplements might make a difference, where to get the best treatment, and a million other questions that no one in your life has dealt with, but you have to figure out.
And so that’s why I joined a group of strangers on the internet called Fighting Canine Lymphoma, where we support each other, ask for advice, share hope when something is going well, and cry together when things are not.
Nobody wants to be a part of this group because it has only one criteria — your dog is sick and is going to be taken from you way too soon.
Nobody wants to leave this group because that would mean you’ve lost your dog to lymphoma. But everyone who is a part of this group? Is so grateful it’s there.
As someone who is in this most hopeless of battles, I have found one of the most hope-filled groups of humans I have ever been a part of.
While I know some of the people in this group follow Christ, this isn’t a Christian group. But these people have been the hands and feet of Christ to me, and to others who are going through this battle.
- They share hope. When things are going well for their dog, they share that part of their journey to give others hope. We learn to cherish the good days.
- They share comfort. The love shown in this group, from hurting person to hurting person, is remarkable. We begin our own healing by helping others heal.
- They are patient with one another. When a member is venting against a doctor, a spouse, or this terrible disease, other members patiently listen and “get” why there is so much anger in ways that someone who hasn’t been through this would have a hard time understanding.
- They give what they can. So often, someone is offering to ship their dog’s food, supplements, and even, when appropriate, medications to a family that is still fighting this battle.
- They mourn together. When someone is grieving (as is almost a daily occurrence in this group) others come alongside them, speak words of comfort, and ask them about the one they lost.
Without even realizing it, this group is living out Romans 12:15: “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”
No one knows anyone’s religious background, financial status, or who they voted for in the last election. What we do know is that we are all going through something terrible, but it’s made a little less terrible because we are going through it together.
I am learning to be a better, kinder follower of Christ, and, well, just a better human being by being a member of this group.
Some things in this life we can’t control, but love and support from others can take a little bit of the sting out of hardship. And on the other side, loving and supporting others who are going through what you’ve gone through gives value to an experience that you would never want or wish on anyone.
We are designed to be in community with each other. Our hearts long for community, not just in celebration, but in mourning. Community helps us fulfill the purpose God created us for.
Are you overcommitted, overstressed, or just plain overwhelmed? Kathi Lipp and Cheri Gregory have been there. Their devotional, An Abundant Place will give you greater peace and perspective, and a plan for managing your busy life.