With her cone, Suzy looked like a sunflowerI don’t know if you noticed, but WUL started up at the beginning of this week after a fairly brief hiatus. I didn’t announce the hiatus, as I’ve done in the past, nor did I announce its return. We just kinda… went away… and came back.

The reason we went away was the reason most blogs go away, either temporarily or permanently. Other things take priority over the time one spends blogging, tweaking, editing, linking… and when there is a team of bloggers to manage, that is a lot of time, even if one has help.

The story

This time around, it was literally a matter of life or death. One of our dogs, Suzy Q. – who basically imprinted on me from the first time she walked into our home and with whom, as a result, I have an extraordinary bond – had a tumor in her mouth. It came up very suddenly; it seemed to grow overnight.

And what started out in late March as, “WTF is that big piece of bubblegum in Suzy’s mouth?” (that’s what it looked like), quickly snowballed into what felt like never-ending rounds of vet visits, surgery, biopsies and, ultimately, the dreaded “C” word. Unfortunately her tumor was an aggressive oral melanoma””and of the myriad cancers out there, that’s one of the worst anyone, canine or human, can get.

Thanks to the relative flexibility of running my own business and incredibly understanding partners and clients, I was able to reduce business travel to the bare minimum to focus on finding the best treatment options””and venue””for Suzy.

The cancer stuff

Suzy with her mouth openSuzy underwent a second surgery fairly quickly (the first was done less than a week after we first saw the tumor, to excise it from her mouth)””this second one was a “partial mandibulectomy,” which means part of her jaw was removed to ensure there were no local cancer cells left. One of her lymph nodes was also removed, as that is one of the first places the cancer could migrate.

She was simultaneously started on a fairly new melanoma vaccine therapy, the idea being that the surgery takes care of the local cancer, and the vaccine builds up her immune system to fight off any microscopic cancer cells that may show up elsewhere. So basically they’re the Batman and Robin of canine oral melanoma treatment.

All of this – from detection to treatment – happened in about three and a half weeks, while I was still undergoing my own physical therapy for my injured arm (it’s till not 100%, soft tissue injuries are a bear). So the past few months have been, to put it mildly, traumatic, not to mention incredibly expensive (even with pet insurance). While I love my work and the people I work with, most of the time all I want to do is sleep.

The good news is that as of now, Suzy’s radiographs, etc., are clear, and she’s bounced back – even with part of her left jaw missing (but you can barely tell, the surgeon did an amazing job) like a basketball. Spring seems to be settling in, the flowers are out, and I’m grateful for the sunrise every day.

Why should you care?

I tell you all this not to make excuses for being away, but because part of being in a community means we share what’s going on. I cannot tell you how much comfort I (and we, as my husband saw the posts as well) received from people all across the world.

There is an entire #teamsuzy brigade on Facebook (that’s where I tend to spend the little “social media” time I have these days) that has been rooting for her, and continues to cheer her on… and many of you are a part of it. I met up with a friend from high school this past Monday – for the first time since high school – and one of the first things she did was ask about Suzy.

I’ve also seen several friends lose dearly beloved pets in the last couple of weeks””some are still suffering””and it’s heartbreaking. And how did I learn of their losses, and commiserate with them? Through Facebook.

This is not an ode to Facebook. It’s an acknowledgement of the ties social networks help us build, if we show our humanity and use them for what they truly are – ways to bridge the gaps between us… to really build, and be a part of, a community.

my dogs have their own communityWe are a community

My time “away” made me realize how strong these ties can be. And as I was agonizing over publishing WUL in such a hit-and-miss way recently, I realized we have something quite extraordinary here… a real community.

We haven’t been very active recently – here at WUL – and that is because I, as “chief community manager” haven’t been around much. But many of us have connected on other networks and platforms, which is how I know the community is alive and kicking. And it is far too valuable for me to give up on, which thought has crossed my mind now and again… as I imagine it has for any of you who have been in a similar situation.

Funny it took a dog’s cancer to make me realize that.

WUL is back and while we may go through ups and downs, we’re not going away. Thank you for hanging in there with us. You’re awesome.

***

I need to give props to VCA Veterinary Referral Associates in Gaithersburg and, in particular, Dr. Eileen Snakard (who performed Suzy’s surgery) and Dr. Joanna Intile (Suzy’s vet oncologist). They’re incredible. VCA’s front desk can be a bit hit and miss, but still not rude. It is one of the best specialty hospitals for animals in the country, so if ever you (unfortunately) need one, please consider it.

Also, I am out all next week, first in Key West (yay!) speaking (keynoting!) at Counselors Academy, and then teaching a workshop at Harvard Medical School (I kid you not. Totally cool).

However, #measurePR, which is scheduled for May 6, 12-1 pm ET, will absolutely take place, thanks to Jennifer Zingsheim who will host it, and Richard Bagnall, who’ll be the guest. So please mark your calendars, this is not a chat to miss!

Shonali Burke
Founder and publisher of Waxing UnLyrical, Shonali Burke helps smart businesses make bank by taking their communications from corporate codswallop to community cool™. She is also the founder of The Social PR Virtuoso®, which provides online, on-demand training that helps you unleash your inner Social PR superhero. Shonali is mad about ABBA, bacon, cooking, dogs, and Elvis, though not necessarily in that order. Wouldn't you like to be in her kitchen?
Shonali Burke