Dealing with a chronic illness : a lesson from my dog

If you ever ask me questions about my illness, or dealing with chronic pain… I will always tell you that the hardest part is “finding balance”
Living in bubble wrap & pain killers isn’t really all that fun. But having fun leads to more pain, and more downtime. So… how do you find that balance?! How do you protect yourself AND live your damn life?

I really struggle with this. Always asking myself which I preferred – a healthier (and longer) future, or a more enjoyable right now?

So, hold that thought.


Last week I took Zevon to his surgeon for a check up. He’d been limping a little extra the past few days, and it made me nervous. They did some new xrays and poked and prodded him. Afterwards, I was chatting with the surgeon. He was showing me again the incredible extent of the damage to Z’s bones when he was a puppy. At this point, his right knee is barely attached. His left hip is just a weird mess of bone fragments not at all in the shape of a hip.


{{look at this teeny baby Z! gah, my heart!}}

His arthritis is so advanced in every joint. He’s a mess. So what now? The Dr. said to me “We could do up to 7 surgeries right now if we were set on fixing everything that is broken. But even then, he wouldn’t be fully fixed, he wouldn’t be fully comfortable. Also, having and recovering from those surgeries would last him the rest of his life! We could do that, or, we can let him enjoy his life. Treat the pain as it comes, prevent it when we can, and just let him be him. He doesn’t even know any differently, he’s always been this way”

I thought maybe he was talking about me.

I asked him for what specifically I should do, and he told me “if he shows sign of distress, rest him, love him, and know that he’ll have good days and bad days. Just look for signs of something more serious, and we’ll address those as they arise.”

Again, dude? you talkin’ to me?

It all sounded so simple.

Just make him as comfortable as possible, make him happy, give him love, and treat the issues as they come.

Duh. And so I realized… I just need to treat myself as I do Zevon. With care and caution, but not by putting a bubble around him. Not by jumping on him with surgeries and trying to cure everything. We both only have this one life. This short, flying-by-way-too-fast life. I don’t want to waste it being too careful, but I also don’t want to put myself in dangerous situations.

It’s not as hard of a balance as I’d once thought. I simply needed to be put in the situation of looking at it as treating someone else. A new application for the old golden rule.

Thanks little buddy. We’re in this together!

Zevon, eating Ben & Jerry's

4 Responses to “Dealing with a chronic illness : a lesson from my dog”

  1. Melissa

    Definitely a “find the right balance” issue, but I think I agree with the doc (at least with regard to Z!). If there’s a surgery to fix something for you and not result in you having surgeries forever and ever, I say, you should strongly consider it. Z’s life is (hopefully) much, much shorter than yours. So while a few surgeries means the rest of HIS life…it doesn’t mean a few surgeries would be the rest of YOURS. I get the point, and in some ways I agree with you, but I don’t think you can one for one relate an animal’s life to a human’s.

    • SweatyGirl

      Oh I agree! And I definitely didn’t intend to leave the impression that I meant surgeries specifically. I meant more of the not dwelling on the things I “shouldn’t be doing”. Like Z shouldn’t be running in the backyard, or jumping onto the couch. And I’ll prevent that when he’s clearly having a bad day. But he’s SO happy when he runs! I can’t stop him from doing that forever because it might give him a painful day the next day.
      Which is where I run into trouble… not pushing myself at the gym or at home in fear of making things worse, when it would really make me happy to do so every once in a while.
      So, if I let Z run sometimes, I’ll let me run sometimes, too! :-)

      • Melissa

        Oh yeah definitely. Don’t avoid doing something you love, just enjoy yourself! If a good workout feels good every once in awhile, just go enjoy it, and then, maybe you take a bunch of Aleve and vegg on the couch the next day :)

  2. Mom

    There you go! No need to “fix” something just because you know it’s broken. But when it gets to the point where your pain/mobility are seriously affected or the issue is clearly causing more damage….. then you do what you need to do.


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