BOOKWORM: A tale of love, pain and endurance
Your dog gets the best of care.
Before you give him toys, you make sure the squeaker isn’t a choking danger. You read the labels on his food, and you’re equally cautious about his treats. He’s walked on a schedule, bathed and pampered, spoiled, and loved to pieces.
Author Teresa J. Rhyne knows what it’s like: she sometimes took better care of her dog than she did herself. But in her new book “The Dog Lived (and So Will I),” that lopsided treatment couldn’t last long.
It was a slam to the psyche that nobody should endure: in the space of six months, Teresa Rhyne lost her marriage, her home, and both her elderly dogs, one after the other. She knew it was all coming, but it was painful nonetheless and because of that, she wasn’t looking for another dog or another man.
Both landed in her heart anyhow.
Chris was afraid of dogs. Seamus won him over with beagle charm. And life would’ve been smooth from there on, except that it doesn’t work that way.
Chris’s family started putting pressure on him to break up with Rhyne because of their age difference. He was 29. She was in her 40s, which wasn’t what they wanted for their Ivy-League-educated son, even though Rhyne was a lawyer. Harsh words were exchanged, and Chris severed ties with his family. Then Seamus’s groomer found a suspicious mark on the dog’s behind. Rhyne whisked her boy to the vet, where Seamus was diagnosed with cancer.
Treatment wasn’t cheap, but Rhyne decided that she’d so anything to keep her dog alive and healthy. She fretted during Seamus’ surgery. She followed computer-generated charts for his medicines. And just when it looked like Seamus’s cancer-watch was over, she received another shock.
She noticed it in the shower: a thickness that wasn’t there four months before, just to the one side of her right breast. The first doctor she saw “didn’t like” the lump and neither did Rhyne because, in a case of near-déjà vu, her diagnosis was cancer, too.
Anyone who’s experienced chemotherapy knows that getting through it is a challenge. Chemo can sap your energy, zap your appearance and – in the case of “The Dog Lived (and So Will I)” – it can tap into your funny bone.
Author Teresa J. Rhyne had plenty of reason to whine throughout her cancer months; in fact, considering what she endured, readers could be forgiven for wondering how much one woman can handle. The good news is, Rhyne bears it with a grin that’s infectious. Her book is filled with have-to-laugh-or-you’d-cry moments and is refreshingly lacking in Poor-Me. That makes it readable, enjoyable, and surprisingly supportive to cancer patients, both two-legged and four-legged.
Though there are parts of this book that might make the newly-diagnosed squirm, I think breast cancer survivors will surely appreciate the humor and strength found in this story. If you’ve beaten the Big C, then “The Dog Lived (and So Will I)” is definitely a book you’ll care to read.
“The Dog Lived (and So Will I)” by Teresa J. Rhyne, c.2012, Sourcebooks $14.99, 288 pages
Terri Schlichenmeyer is a book lover who has been reviewing books professionally for more than a decade. She lives in Wisconsin.