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What I learned from dying; Now I lose my dog?

It’s been an excruciatingly long, hard week. On the same day that I finished up a column about how doctors considered my being alive a miracle, I had an appointment with my oncologist where one of the only things I remember him saying is “what we’re doing isn’t working anymore.”

That means that Keytruda, the near-miracle drug for so many people with my cancer, upon which I’d placed quite a bit of hope, isn’t helping me.

I took this as bad news, although Jamie did a yeoman’s job of turning it into a positive by explaining that just because one medicine didn’t work, it doesn’t mean others wouldn’t either. It’s all about eliminating the ones that don’t work and kind of drilling down to what eventually will. I guess there’s some truth to that, but I know there’ll come a time where there won’t be any more medicines to try.

As I swooned for a couple of days from my perceived bad news, I got new, more immediate bad news: on Friday morning my dog Lech Walesa’s heart began to fail and he panted frantically to get oxygen. I drove him to a vet where they said it was heart failure and that if they could stabilize him he might be able to go home, but they didn’t give much hope for that.

Then a few hours later they called and said he’d improved a little and we could take him home to be seen again on Monday. That was my tough boy, my dog I’d gotten as a rescue when he was the runt from the leftovers of a set of puppies that no one wanted to buy.

I had just pulled through a miraculous situation and he was going to follow Daddy’s footsteps and we’d both be miracles.

But then Sunday morning Jamie woke me to say that sometime overnight Lech Walesa had succumbed to the heart failure. He wasn’t a miracle after all.

It’s easy to be optimistic when things go well. It’s a whole other story when life seems to pile on. I fully believe that God doesn’t just allow bad things for fun and that he’s leading me through all of this, but I’m scared sometimes.

Just two days after I was released from my miraculous recovery, I had to return to the emergency room after I was spitting up blood. I told Jamie on the drive there that was scared on this trip because I had almost not returned from my previous one.

And now I see symptoms that used to not really worry me but now they worry me because they’re in line with all the stuff that almost killed me the other day. I had been experiencing burning when I peed, which turned out to be a sign of dehydration, which caused my kidneys to fail. Just yesterday it burned again but now it’s not so innocuous or easy to ignore.

This week I worked on getting my will started but I’m already feeling like I started too late and like I need to hurry and get it signed while there’s still time.

It feels like there’s not much time left. Maybe I’m wrong on that. Maybe I’m just in a low spot and I need to look up and see the good still in front of me.

I understand that this has been a pretty depressing, somewhat scary column. I could clean it up and focus on a lot of the positives that are still easy to find, or I could say that I’ve been pushing through the obstacles in front of me and that there’s nothing that’s going to get me down.

But that’s not real life, or at least not my life right now. I’m working on staying positive, but sometimes I just miss my dog and worry my body is going to shut down again.

By Dave Taylor




  1. Ruth miller on October 6, 2021 at 11:56 pm

    You are in my heart.

  2. Jennifer Morris on October 7, 2021 at 2:57 am

    It’s sort of ironic that in class last week we were studying about death. I read an insert that stated “lending an honest ear to someone who is dying, is truly the best medicine.” Now, of course, I cannot speak from experience, but it did make me think of you, and about you sharing your truth. No matter how sad, happy, or ugly cancer may be, we are all trying to give you an ear, by simply reading your column. Thank you, Dave, for being raw, real, and vulnerable and using your platform to share your reality with your community. You are inspiring and I guarantee so people are finding ways to live their lives to their fullest potential. We are rooting for you and praying even harder.

  3. Nancy Estes on October 7, 2021 at 3:53 pm

    Oh Dave I am so sorry about your loss of your fur baby.I have you in my prayers and praying for a miraculous recovery.With GOD ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE PLEASE DON’T GIVE UP.YOU ARE AN AWESOME YOUNG MAN AND I DON’T THINK THAT GOD IS THROUGH WITH YOU YET. I PRAY THAT GOD WILL HEAL YOU OF ALL THE CANCER IN YOUR BODY.

  4. Autumn on October 8, 2021 at 8:28 am


    Thank you for being open and honest in this column even though it is probably super hard for you. I took a class in college called ‘death and dying’. It was a eye opener. Death is something we will all face yet one thing none ever thinks about, taboo to talk about.

    In this class we had to visit a funeral home, write our obituaries, and our will. As hard as that seems, it’s almost like a sense of closure. It felt like you got to close that chapter in your book of life.

    I pray for better days ahead and I am so sorry to hear about your dog as well.

    Thanks for continuing to write my favorite sections of the paper. The real and the raw. Not ‘news’–just life stuff that truly connects people in some way, shape or form.

    Best of wishes,


  5. Deborah Hauser on October 9, 2021 at 5:18 pm

    Your story of loss & suffering (while both universal experiences) sure feels personal hearing it in “first person.” I will be praying for your miracle Dave. I was diagnosed with Stage 2B Breast cancer in 2009. Went through everything available medically at the time. And by His grace alone … God granted me more time. I was 51 years old at the time of diagnosis in 2009 … this year I turn 64. Your hurt … when shared … can help you & certainly others. Prayer is everything. May His peace be your constant.

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