Miles of Life ~ My life as a donut Kylie Donia

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My baby dog

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

They handed her to me, and she looked up at me. She had a mohawk, and licked the end of my nose before snuggling into my elbow. I let Mike hold her, and held her sibling. But I already knew, and soon had her back in my arms. “Do we need to go get a checkbook?” Mike asked. I nodded. But we didn’t go… he did. I held her. She was my baby from that moment on.

Baby Annie

Baby Annie

Annie now

Annie now

This week, my fears of a couple weeks ago were confirmed: Annie, my baby, has cancer. There is a main mass on her shoulder, another smaller one connected to it, a spot in her lungs, and some affected lymph nodes. Not that it is ever an easy thing to hear, but it was not what we were ready to hear. She had been limping, and we were worried about a soft tissue injury since we couldn’t find a source or swelling, and she hadn’t be getting better with rest, so we took her to the doctors who had done such a wonderful job with her ACL replacement in February. With their finding of the mass, and their concern, we started the tests, and the waiting. It was 4 years exactly since the day we named her, 4 years and a day since she was first handed to me.

We did a biopsy of the shoulder mass, an aspirate of the smaller one — the biopsy wasn’t good news, and the aspirate was inconclusive. Then a CT scan of her shoulders and lungs, and an ultrasound of her abdomen. The CT found the spot on her lung, but her abdomen was clear. Then an aspirate of the lung spot, and while not conclusive, it was another indicator of cancer. And yes, we cried. And held her. And let her sleep in the bed.

Now, with all the tests back, we are deciding. We’ve met with her oncologist (yes, my dog now has a surgeon, internal medicine specialist, and an oncologist — she couldn’t have a better medical support team than those three!) and we are facing one of the hardest choices, if not the hardest, that I have made so far in my life. Do we make her as comfortable as we can, enjoy the weeks and maybe months she has? Do we do chemo, which is different in dogs and people, in that dogs are not made ill by it, but at the same time it doesn’t hold the hope of curing it permanently, and have another 6-12 months with her, with a vet visit in San Diego every 3 weeks? Or do we combine the chemo with radiation, the hardest hit on the family both financially and with time (with four weeks of weekly visits to San Diego to go along with the visit every 3 weeks), but giving her the longest chance at 12-18 months?

We can’t cure her, but if all goes well, the extra time with her (with treatment) has a good chance of temporarily curing her. But the outcome no matter what is the same: my baby dog will not grow to be the old dog I have always pictured, but cancer will take her from me sooner than I ever imagined I’d say goodbye. I thought I was at peace with loving her as long as I could, but just making her as comfortable as possible. But the more I learn about the treatment options, the more I don’t know if I’m ready to take the least medical approach. She is my baby. But I also don’t know the affect it would have on my family as we, in some sense, just prolong the inevitable: knowing what we face, could we truly enjoy and savor the time we have together, while not losing the other parts of our lives that make us who we are? Not focusing on Annie to the exclusion of Gracie, and Kenzie, and Mike, and the relationships and goals and dreams and plans we have with each other?

To Annie, all is the same. As her wonderful surgeon said “Her reality is that her shoulder is a little sore and she has the best family in the world… and that Dr. Ganz keeps finding ways to drag her down to San Diego and stick a needle in her once a week…” And with any of them, my heart is breaking.

She was meant to be part of our family. She almost shares my birthday, being born one day before it. Driving to the other pet store across town, the compressor in the ac in my car blew out (again). And I laughed. “I’m glad I’ve already got her! We might have been too busy dealing with the car and its expenses if we had waited.”

It all started on a bike ride a day before our one year wedding anniversary, having just got back from volunteering at Ironman Canada. We talked about how Gracie seemed to have fun staying with friends with other dogs while we were gone, and about a pack member for her. At home, I found a puppy online that I really liked from the info… named Beauty. But the one named L’il Bit had the picture that drew me in. At the adoption day at the pet story, those dogs weren’t there. But someone who knew their foster mom was, and she was called, and brought the girls down. They handed me L’il Bit first, and told me the info for L’il Bit had been posted with Beauty’s picture, and vice versa — the info and picture I loved were L’il Bit, and I hadn’t fallen for two dogs. And she came home with us. I think Gracie was more interested in the canaries in a cage near the dogs, but she sniffed the little black ball. And once home, Gracie was a bit more curious, although she seemed to look up at us saying “You know, those yellow birds were pretty cool… and you brought home this?”

Pictures of our first Annie-versary

And some more pictures from then:

Our first picture of Annie

Our first picture of Annie. I missed.

With her mommy

With her mommy

Checking out the little sis

Checking out the little sis

Baby sleeping by her daddy's foot

Sleeping by her daddy’s foot

Annie sleeping on Mike

Annie sleeping on Mike

Hey how did she get there?!

Hey how’d she get there?!

Gracie and Annie, Day 1

Gracie and Annie, Day 1

And now:

Gracie, Annie, and Kenzie watching their yard

Gracie, Annie, and Kenzie watching their yard

Kylie, Kenzie, and Annie on a hike

Kylie, Kenzie, & Annie hiking

Mike and his girls

Mike and his girls

Gracie and Annie on a hike last weekend

Gracie and Annie on a hike last weekend




A pic of running with Gracie

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

Gracie and Kylie running

The only time Gracie allows rain to touch her: for a run! A fun day back in November at my mom’s house 🙂

Late race report

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

The race report might be late, but I’m still feeling the last couple weeks in my legs!

Mike, the Exceeding Expectations group, and I did the Highland half marathon January 25th. With the run focus these last couple months (ok it was done mainly because I love running) I was eager to see how I could do. My current best half marathon time was a 1:55:59 in the Muskoka 70.3 – a hard, hilly course in the rain. So I did have hopes for this race. Until I woke up. You know that explody-head feeling, complete with stuffy nose? Where it is enough that you feel like staying in bed would be nice, but not enough that you feel justified in doing so? Ugg. I’ve been battling a bit of a cold or something for a while now, and it was defintely present that morning.

Hearing how I was feeling, Mike asked me if I thought I should do the 10k. “Yes,” I answered. “But I’m not going to.” I am a bit stubborn, after all… and I am a fan of the snot rocket so it should be ok. Just maybe not the super day I had hoped for. We got up, dressed, and headed to the race. Helped some kids get ready, chatted with some of my also-racing coworkers, and soon were on the line. And it was time to go.

The first turn, and it was uphill. I knew the course was hilly, having biked parts of it many times. But I really felt the difference in the hills on foot as compared to on the bike. Check out the elevation:

race elevation profile

So it was up and some little downs, and then a really steep downhill just to make sure your quads were feeling the first 2 miles. And then the steady climb that lasted forever. And now I know why on a bike that section is so speedy 😉 About mile 5 I caught up to Miguel (one of the EE kids). Damn it, he is supposed to be fast. But made a stupid shoe choice, and although I ran much of the middle with him, I did tell him that it better be the LAST TIME I can catch up to him. And yes, after the race we did get better shoes onto his feet (and over the blisters his Chuck Taylors had caused).

I was definitely feeling the course already, but my stupid brain believed me each time I said it was only another 8 miles, only 7, etc. A steep uphill to the turn around (I’d never looked at that road that direction – it was worse than I was ready for). I counted women after the turn, and it looked like I was in 5th! Awesome. Now to hold on… and the downhill began. Balancing how nice it was to not climb with what I could actually sustain. Miguel and I did some back and forth for a couple miles, but in the end his blisters won around mile 11 and I didn’t see him again til the end. Also around mile 11 I saw Josh (another EE’er) pull to the side of the road — I asked if he was ok, but didn’t stop. He was at a controlled intersection, and I knew there were people to take care of him. Honesetly, I did question this in my head, but figured it would be what EE would agree with. And later I did check, and it was the case.

A couple guys went by me on the downhill, and I passed a couple of them. I didn’t see any women though, and soon I focus on the end. Only that last little bit to go, and yup, you can see it above, a turn for some more climbing. Heading up my legs were ready to be done, but my watch was telling me I was close to a sub-1:50! So I had to go for it. Damian, one of the EE kids that did the 10k and who I joke around with, stepped out in front of me in the road and went to my side as I came to the turn for the finish line. “If you get in my way I will punch you in the face” (or something along those lines) was my reaction. I was close to my goal, and it was all I could do to keep going, and it was not the time for joking around. I got to the line, and crossed at 1:48:44. Aweome… sub-1:50 and a bit!

I was wobbly, but pleased. Mike found me, and it turns out Damian had just wanted to run in with me. So I felt bad, and made sure I let him know later why I’d said it. He knew I hadn’t meant it in a mean way, but also understood when I said I was going for a PR and didn’t want to just barely miss it. So we are cool 😉 Writing this though I realize how much I was reaching for that PR, and I am a bit ashamed. Yes, I didn’t need to stop for Josh (as I confirmed later), and Miguel made it home shortly after me, and I said what I did to Damian in a joking manner. But it is just a time, and no feelings are worth that. Sometimes tired minds don’t make clear comments/jokes, so I will watch that.

End result for me: 5th place overall woman, and 1st in my age group. Mike was 5th overall, but second in his AG — so for the first time my placing was (sorta) better than his. It is good to see all my run work paying off, even on days when I don’t feel completely on.

And the kids? Josh ended up pulling out with his leg cramp, Miguel made it home blistered, Isi puked so opted for the 10k, Marlene finally beat her mentor to the line, and many of the new kids had a successful day. And we did all have fun… at least once it was over 😉

Merry Christmas Eve

Wednesday, December 24th, 2008

Hope you are surrounded by people you love!

All the best,
The Donia Family

IMAZ cheering and a burger!

Sunday, November 30th, 2008

Actually important things first: Dad took me on a walk the other day, and my nose led me to hidden treasure! I stuck my head in a bush, and came out with a hamburger! mmm yummy.

I might be the most awesome dog ever… I think Mom and Dad get it. They took me on vacation with them so that I could be petted while they yelled at people who were playing in the water and on bikes and running. I went to a water gathering, and I wanted to join them:

mmm water

Then I walked and walked and cheered all day. And soon I was wiped, so back to the hotel:

tired puppy

That place was cool — I got to sleep on the bed with Mom and Dad! I was a good girl and tried not to wiggle too much.

holiday habits

Sunday, November 30th, 2008

The holidays. Eating too much, and getting lazy… no thanks.

This year Mike and I had our first family Thanksgiving – just us and donutdogg. And I’m please to say that (well, until the donut I just had) I was coming out of the holiday weekend feeling in better shape than going in.

With just the two of us, even Thanksgiving day turkey meal was somewhat a normal meal. We didn’t gather house ahead and start snacking (well ok I had some clam dip with breakfast, but it wasn’t like some hors d’oeuvre sessions). We didn’t stay at the table chatting for hours, but instead cleaned up once done and went for a chatty walk. We didn’t have a thousand desserts, but kept it simple. So that helped.

What also helped was some family workouts. Still running everyday (on day 60 or so now). The pool was closed for the holiday, but we also got on the bike each day. A big ride up to the cider area in the mountains near us, and some shorter stuff. And a ride on the tri bikes, which hadn’t been out since Muskoka 70.3.

Here are some pics from the climby ride:

Kylie climbing

Mike's self portrait

mini cider donuts... I almost stopped

Mike and Kylie on the climb

Mike on the climb

Finally the top!

Oh and there was a walk. Started as a 2hr walk, but with some crafty path choices we made it out alive in about 3hrs and when it was no longer light enough to easily find the car. Even donut was done after that one! Here are some walk pics:

Kylie and Gracie start the walk

Mike and Gracie before one of the bigger climbs

Mike and Kylie

Gracie helping us up the hill

And some downhill help

Yeah, looks like it did get a bit longer than planned… here are Gracie and I at the end of the walk:

Kylie and Gracie at the end of the walk

Life is good 🙂

satisfying end to a weekend

Sunday, November 2nd, 2008

Mike and I went for a mountain bike ride this afternoon.

We got kinda stuck. Ended up in an orchard. Fenced. And the fence topped with barb wire. So we ended up hiking and bushwacking our way out (going back how we came is too easy ;).

And Mike’s pedal fell off.

Good times 🙂

thanks mom

Saturday, November 1st, 2008

I love my mom a lot. So much that if she asks me to I go out in the rain, and wait until she goes on the porch to go back on it. I didn’t even bark. I have a harder time going back in the rain again. Mind you this is not for any real reason other than that it is raining! But I did it. I went over to her. Finally she went back inside, so I could, too. And I got a toweling that was nice. Then I sat and laid down when she asked me to on my nice DRY pink blanket. Yup, I earned that half a bone. Maybe a whole one next time Mom? I do put up with a lot from you!

With love,
the damp puppy

rainy puppy

almost Halloween

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

It is that time of year — tomorrow we’ll get to meet the kids in the neighborhood as they are out decked out and looking for candy! To make sure they knock Mike and I carved a couple pumpkins this evening. We are pleased with how it turned out! Here are Jack and Pupkin 😉

Muskoka 70.3: Racing as a Donia

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

Muskoka 70.3 was the focus race for the year. Mike and I signed up long long ago — in fact, I don’t even remember signing up! It was before we even got engaged. Once we were engaged, we started planning a wedding. And the question of when to have it came up. We knew we didn’t want a bazillion year long engagement, and we like outdoors, so we settled on Fall 2008. We also knew we’d like to have the wedding in California, and then a reception in Canada for the members of Mike’s family that couldn’t make it to California. Well, with the race near his family and in September, it was the perfect timing for a reception — and we didn’t want a reception that far after the wedding, so our race date was set as the weekend before the race. Yes, you do have to sign up for some races farther in advance than you need to plan a wedding…

I was SOOOO GLAD I had Marky helping me get ready for this one. It was definitely a crazy summer. Yes, a wedding to plan. And school to attend, and work to do, and a new city to move to, and a dog to welcome to our family. Plus the training, and I am glad I didn’t have to also think through and plan out each workout! I just had to “get ’em done”. I knew the training and prep was all in place, and with his help, I got to the race confident and excited. Tapered as well, at least from workouts, thanks to a couple weeks of family and wedding and travel and more family 🙂

My goal on arrival was to PR, as it almost always is when I race (now that I train smart). I was thinking I would PR for sure, having had such better prep. My goal was about 7s: swim 37, bike 3:07, and run 1:57. But what I was forgetting was that the race was 4km long on the bike, and that they found the most “fun” (ie fun looking rollercoaster profile) they could for the bike, run, and yes, transitions! So after driving the course, I was no longer sure what would happen (esp on the bike, where I was really hoping to see one), and I was again glad to be racing with power. I knew where I should stay to have a successful race, and I just didn’t worry about it.

The race was taking up all the parking at the resort hosting it. So we had to park on the airstrip about 2 miles away. However, there were shuttles regularly, and we just ran it once just to get a quick leg-shaker in. It was something we were curious to see how it would go, but the race directors did a great job with it.

Registration was easy. The expo disappointing. I mean, it was my honeymoon race. You think I would by *something*. But they had decided to only make men’s jerseys, and the smallest size was a medium that was about right for Mike. When we asked if they had any women’s jerseys, we were told no, and that there were plenty of other clothes to buy and to go pick one. Umm sorry, but a cotton fitted baby shirt and a bike jersey are different. So my credit cards got a break there.

We headed to Mike’s brothers, got the bikes all set up (it’s easy when all you need to do is stick on a couple stickers!) and put our race stuff together. I was really excited about our outfits: bride and groom jerseys, bike shorts with “just married” on the butt, and for the run “just married” visors thanks to Tribabe (mine enhanced with a veil thanks to my sis and Holly). The next day we checked in our bikes and got in a practice swim. We were ready to go. Off to our wedding reception, and then bed time!

I woke up part way into the night to some rain. Ok, not some rain, but sheets and sheets of downpour. I love the sound of rain, so apologised to my bike for leaving it out in that and went back to sleep. Still not sure how the whole shuttles from parking would work on the big day, we arrived at the race nice and early. And it was still raining. Not pouring now, but more a constant drizzle. Other than the electrical tape on our wheelcovers the bikes were just fine. And the tape was just to stop the sound of it rattling on some bumps, so it was no big deal. We set up our bike shoes and helmets, deciding to place glasses nearby but forgo them if it was still that wet when climbing on. Our run shoes and socks were placed in a plastic bag beside the bike stuff. A bottle of carbopro/nuun (600 cal in the bottle) were placed on each bike, and the aerobottles filled with water. We were done, and just had to chat while waiting for the start.

We had met another couple while at the practice swim – he was in Mike’s AG, and she was in mine. They got married at Kona last year. So we chatted a bit with them, maybe too long — or we all forgot how long it took to walk to the swim start. So Mike and Scott got down to the water as their wave was ready to go. Leanne and I had a bit more of a wait, but soon we were also off!

I started to the outside on the swim as our wave had a number of the older and sometimes big and rough guy age groups in it. It was a smart choice, as I had a somewhat clear swim. There were always people right around me, but never much of a washing machine. I even caught a draft for a while, thinking about how Marky had told me to try it and given me some tips. Out of the water in 38:40 for a 2:00/100m pace (as I learned later – I don’t keep race time during races). Good enough for 11 in my AG, which I believe is my best AG swim placing ever.

The run to transition was not short, and not easy. It was a crazy-ass climb, and about 300m long!! An a fairly serious climb. So I took advantage of the wetsuit strippers and just cruised on up, already chanting my T1 mantra. Shoes, helmet, inhaler, blocks. Shoes, helmet, inhaler blocks. At my bike I dropped the wetsuit. The inhaler and blocks in my helmet were put into my pocket, helmet on my head, shoes on my feet and I was off. I had a great rack spot with an easy exit route! T1: 4:21.

(photo by Paul Graham)

I was looking forward to the bike. I knew I could do it, the hills weren’t scaring me, and I had my lovely yellow PowerTap friend smiling up at me. Until one of the many rough spots in the first couple miles, when the back of the craddle broke and my poor little PT CPU went flying. Shit shit shit… do I stop? Go? For a race this distance, and not having another watch to know timing and nutrition, not to mention the cost of that computer, I stopped and grabbed it. Back on the bike, with the PT now in my pocket, all I could think was how Marky said I should ride on feel 🙂 And then wondered if he somehow caused this.

I enjoyed the bike course. Up, down, around, up, up, down, up, over, around, up again… Never a dull moment, and beautiful scenery. But I was good, and only glanced at it out of the corner of my eyes. I felt good on the bike. It was still raining, and then it started raining more seriously. It was like needles on my arms and legs, but it wasn’t cold, so it was actually kind of comfortable. Every now and then I’d pull the PT CPU from my pocket and check what I was at — was about where I wanted in effort, nutrition was on, it was just a slow day for what I had hoped for. But that’s racing: it’s not a course you know, an a know scenario. It’s an experience.

There were a couple pairs of drafters, and people who would try to draft anyone near them and then get dropped. I just don’t get it — especially when you are at a place in the race where it’s not about podium spots. It just gave me a desire to ride clean: I made sure I dropped back before repassing (dudes who pass and then quit pedaling: it’s ok to ride your own race. Please ignore me and let me do the same to you). And to the guy who (I think) made a snarky comment about using a wheel cover: it worked just fine and I had fun, thanks for asking.

Then a big descent, and a guy passing me goes down, HARD. Starts sliding across the pavement, right in front of me, rollling into a ball. I somehow manage to barely miss him and keep on the edge of the road. Hoping Steve is ok (we’d been near each other for a while) I thanked my lucky stars my day wasn’t over and kept going. A right turn, and I was on a fairly rough stretch of road. It was almost like it wasn’t paved, but it was just bumpy and not really pot-holey. About on the home stretch now, and ready to get running. I like biking, but I was tired of being on a bike in the rain, and I love running. Plus the attention-whore in me was ready to have my visor and to run like a bride 😉 Off the bike: 3:26:34 (58.4mi, 16.98mph).

T2 mantra was going: Helmet and shoes off, watch, socks, shoes, visor. Helmet and shoes off, the watchband of my Garmin into my mouth, socks and shoes on, and visor in hand I ran on out. 1:51.

One thing I love is seeing Mike on the course. At IMKY last year, I happened to be right where the loop joins itself as he started his second loop and that was just amazing. We knew it would be close, so for the first mile I focused on not running to hard and watching for him. I never saw him, but we found out later we had just missed. And no matter how easy I made myself go, I was flying! 8:17 for the first mile! And I thought I was going nice and easy. I guess I was more excited than I thought to be off the bike 😉 Like the bike, and T1, there wasn’t much flat about the run.

But I was having fun. I ran with a girl from the area for a while, I ran with a girl in my age group for a bit. Through it all I felt I was going just maybe too hard, but I felt maybe just maybe I could hold it. Along the way many people told me they had seen the groom, and lots loved the outfit. Some asked if I was running to the alter, and I asked if they thought I should turn back. I focused on maintaining on uphills, and cadence on the down. I cursed and thanked Marky both ways as his words on turnover and effort and such rolled through my head. It was again pouring at times, and I just enjoyed the drops on me keeping me nice and cool.

(photo by Paul Graham)

I reached the final 5k and thought I had stepped into an Escher poster. It was on golf course paths, and there were runners everywhere, but you couldn’t tell where they were from or going or how much farther it was. I kept going, knowing it was only a 5k — I can hold this pace that far! I kept telling myself. So I did. I saw Mike, and he encouraged me, and I knew it was only about 3k left. Oh. My. God. Longest 3k ever. I thought my Garmin might have started going backwards. It was hilly and hard and I hurt and just had to keep going. Marky said to neg split, just barely. So I couldn’t slow now — that would be the same as admitting I had gone too hard on the bike! So I didn’t. And somehow my legs listened. And we just kept on going. And going. And finally it was the last turn. Nope, I was wrong. Maybe now? Nope… at least one more… But then it was the last uphill, and the finall slight down right into the finish chute! I relaxed, let the person by me go on and through, and had my own moment at the line. My watch read 1:56:00 (and sportstats matched it) but I’m going with 1:55:59 like the tracking had :). A half marathon PR. And on <a href=”″>that course</a>, and that weather. 4th fastest in my AG.

Total: 06:07:24, and 8/37 in my AG. I think that’s my best placing in a big race so far. Not the sub-6 I was hoping to repeat, but a tougher course and day, and I had a blast and felt I executed really really well. So I’m happy with it. But as Marky said of his last race, it is only going to get better. 🙂

A post-race massage, and then a hunt for warm food and to the awards. And then — a warm shower and REAL FOOD. Ahh it was good 🙂

I will let Mike post his race report in full later — but I’m so proud of him that I’m going to give some of it away! 4th out of the water in his AG, and then he led the AG race through the end of the bike! He ended up in 3rd in his age group and looked stylish doing it 😉