Healthy Family  >  When Life Throws You Curve Balls

When Life Throws You Curve Balls

I can’t believe I’m writing this news.

A couple of months ago, I shared my wonderful dog Willow’s story with you - how her cancer taught me incredible lessons on life, love, and letting go. She’s still with us, showing us her unconditional love...and I’m still learning.

But this isn’t about my girl. It’s about our other furry family member - the kindest, gentlest, most handsome boy you’ll ever meet. (Check out his gorgeous headshot.) His name is Jaxon - but everyone calls him “Bubs”.

Jaxon is the world’s snuggliest 80-pound “lap” dog, also known as the Master Cuddler. He loves green smoothies, ear scratches, and greeting us at the door with a treasure in his mouth (usually a water bottle). His unabashed adoration for everyone he meets has made him a legend in our neighborhood - he’s a spunky sidekick, beaming out positive energy with each wag of his golden retriever tail. He worships Willow, of course, and although she pretends to ignore his playful roughhousing, it’s easy to see she basks in his attention.

Jaxon is the consummate diplomat, making everyone in the family feel like he is their best friend. Our faithful companion has taught all of us, especially my boys, about friendship, loyalty, unconditional love, and how a simple hug can change the tone of your whole day.

He’s still a puppy in my eyes - only seven - and his perky presence has helped ease the sorrow of Willow’s declining health.

But a couple of weeks ago, the vet delivered a piece of news that rocked me to my core.

When bad things happen to good people (and dogs)

It started out as a little limp. We took him to the vet, thinking it was a muscle tear or soft tissue damage from playing too hard... but before long, we learned Jaxon needed a bone biopsy ASAP to rule out an aggressive form of cancer.

In a panic, I brought my puppy in for the painful procedure. Then came the very long wait for the diagnosis...I was an absolute wreck.

Not knowing if we needed to take action (and if so, what) rendered me powerless. I felt stuck in this strange gray area, unable to move forward or backward, blown away by the gravity of this unexpected obstacle, feeling utterly helpless. I cried…a lot.

Then, the call came.

It was cancer - a fast-moving, agonizing form of it permeating his bone. If it went untreated, he would have a month, maybe three. As the vet delivered the news, and went over the “options”, the word “amputation” was mentioned. (I tuned out.) Nothing about this diagnosis was easy, but we were told that we caught it early enough and that Jaxon had a chance to still have quality of life with successful treatment.

So, we made a plan and set it in motion. I felt in control. (But was I really?)

Life’s curve balls and the illusion of control

We like to think we’re in more control than we really are. It’s comforting to assume there’s a sort of balance to the universe, and that we’ll always get what we deserve. But sometimes, a curve ball is thrown right at us and it shakes up that tranquil assumption.

Have you ever thought you had it all planned out and then BOOM -- a curve ball smacks you in the face, and your life suddenly feels out of your control?

It’s true: curve balls pull the rug from underneath us. They interfere with even the best-laid plans. But curve balls are a fact of life that can remind us of our own inability to control destiny, no matter how hard we try. We can either run from that fact, or learn to live courageously within its parameters.

Just yesterday, our family had yet another curve ball thrown at us. Our plan of action to care for our loyal companion crumbled to pieces. As Jaxon was getting ready to receive his treatment, a scan revealed that the cancer had metastasized to his lungs. I fell apart, again.

So here we are presented with our new grim reality. My family has a choice: do we shake our fist at fate and say “why us”? Or do we embrace it, find the deeper meaning, and make every moment count with our sweet & stoic furry family member?

For now, we hope to make Jaxon’s remaining days as pain-free and comfortable as possible cherishing the simple things, like just being together. And our boy, Jaxon, will continue to remind us of the fragility of life. It’s precious…curve balls and all.

Question of the day: What do you do when life throws a curve ball your way?  As always, share your insights & comments below.


  • Pat says:

    Elise, I am sorry to hear about your boy. He sure is a handsome man. I hope and pray for the best.

  • Michelle M. says:

    Im so sorry Elise. I can’t imagine what you are going through. I’ll be keeping you and your family in my thoughts and prayers.

  • Tiffany R says:

    Elise, I am so sorry about your sweet boy. My heart is so heavy for you. From someone who has been thrown countless lifechanging curveballs over the past four years, I understand your message. All I and anyone can do is be thankful for our blessings and they numerous despite sometimes feeling otherwise. That is all anyone can do. Realizing that in the grand scheme of things, there are some who have been dealt infinitely worse hands and I praise God for what then seems so small in comparison.

    • Elise says:

      Tiffany, your comment really resonates with me, and I so agree that we need to count our blessings. Thanks for offering perspective.

  • Setareh says:

    Hi Elise,
    I’m sorry to hear about the news with your precious Jaxon and what it has put you and your family through.
    This certainly is a reminder that if there is one thing that it is certain in life, its that there is ALWAYS change. For everyone we meet, we have to one day say goodbye and although this is a jagged pill to swallow, it reminds us to enjoy each moment.
    I encourage you to do that with Jaxon and am sending prayers and good energy for peace and healing to you and your family.

    • Elise says:

      Setareh, I love your comment, especially the reminder to cherish every moment. We are trying. Thank you for your prayers and positive energy:).

  • I am so sorry Elise for all that you are going through with your cherished and beautiful pets. I just lost my 13 year old chocolate lab and can remember feeling such sadness and wondering ‘why’, even though I knew he was up there in age. As life has thrown me many curve balls, I have come to believe that everything happens for a reason even though, at the moment, we might not comprehend the reason. I lost my son 15 years ago and was devastated–my world was shattered and I thought I would just die. Now, after much learning, I realize that although his life was short, his existence in my life taught me how to live life to the fullest, let go of control and realize that his spirit is with me always and that he has just changed form. It sounds strange, but his death has given me a much more meaningful life which probably wouldn’t have happened if his death had not occurred. Your wonderful pets have taught you and your family about unconditional love and respect and I believe that even in their passing from this physical form that they’ll always be with you, loving you, and reminding you or their very precious lesson. Sending you love and prayers.

    • Elise says:

      Thank you so much for sharing your story. You are so incredibly courageous and insightful, and I admire your strength in being able to find the deeper meaning with your losses. I agree with you that things happen for a reason, but as you know, it is oftentimes hard to realize when everything feels so raw. Sending you a big huge virtual hug. xo

  • Kathy Chelst says:

    So sorry to hear this news. My thoughts and prayers are with all of you. You are fortunate to have 2 dogs that have given you so much unconditional love and that you have been able to be so wonderful to them.

  • Meredith says:

    Dear Elise,
    Curve balls are rough, and Jaxon is lucky to have you. We take our own curve balls breath by breath, and try to relax. There is joy in every day, sometimes you have to dig it out. Thinking of you all-

    • Elise says:

      Meredith~ you always have great advice and wisdom to share. We will try to relax into this, breath by breath. I agree that sometimes it is hard to see the joy in the midst of the pain. Thanks for the reminder to dig it out. xo

  • Leslie says:

    I’m so sorry for you and your family (including Willow). Hopefully Jaxon isn’t enduring much pain, other than the sad eyes that are looking at him these days. I’m not sure who said or wrote it, but a favorite quote of late is “Love, like a river, will cut a new path whenever it meets an obstacle”.
    Stay strong,

  • Dee says:

    My heart is with you. I’ve been in this place several times with my cats. *HUGS*

  • Tricia says:

    I know how powerful the love for a dog can be. I am so sad for you and your family and hope you are able to enjoy every single moment together.

    Thinking of you,
    Tricia Masi

  • Mary says:

    Elise’,I’m sorry’ won’t cover near enough ground to reach where you are. I can say this. you are doing exactly what I would have suggested. Jaxson deserves to keep playing as hard as his body allows and your family deserves to be on the receiving end of the love he gives away. I know you all are already loving him as hard as you can. all I can say is keep up the good work. There is healing in love.

    • Elise says:

      Mary! Yes, there is healing in love. We are a lucky family to have been on the receiving end of his unconditional love. He is a total giver. Thank you for your wise words.

  • Leslie says:

    You’re blog really touched my heart! I’ve been thinking about it all day. The only thing I can come up with is that Jaxon is an angel. Sent to you to teach you lessons and show you the meaning of true, unconditional love. Enjoy each and every one of your moments together.
    I am sending you all healing prayers.
    With light and love.

  • Lynn Weisenfeld says:

    Elise, Words can’t convey how reading this today left me feeling. My heart is with you and your family. I know we are thrown curve balls and it is how we deal with them that makes the difference in our lives. Your two angels diagnosed with cancer in such a short period of time is heart breaking yet you have turned it around to find the gift they have given you. I will continue to send my thoughts, prayers and love to Jaxon, Willow, you and your family. My family will forever be grateful to you for aiding us in extending our time with Sophie. Love, Light & Prayers, Lynn

    • Elise says:

      I am thrilled to know that you are still able to love & spoil Sophie:). These guys are a definitely gifts and even though our furry family members do not live long enough, the joy they bring to our lives makes it all worthwhile.
      Sending you, your family and Sophie some healing energy right back.

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