(K, I hope you don’t mind me talking about you here- if so please let me know and I will remove this right away.)
My heart is breaking for my friend today. She has a wonderful cat Bailey, whom she adores and spoils and overall just loves to pieces. Bailey has been having a rough go of it lately- what started as an upper respiratory infection turned into a frightening series of seizures. After a myriad of vet visits, referrals, clueless receptionists and a neurologist visit, K and her husband were told it was likely a dental issue. Great, right?
So today Bailey was getting a dental examination and a CT scan. When the phone rang with what she thought was a perfunctory “All is well” call, the voice on the other end said the words that no one ever wants to hear. “I’m sorry. We found a mass.”
After listening to the options and mulling over radiation therapy, invasive biopsies and the like, they chose what I think most people in the same position would: to take him home, give him some medications to help his symptoms, and love the heck out of him.
I’ve been thinking about her all day, sending her good thoughts and knowing what a rough day she is probably having. It’s so hard to have these choices in front of you and wonder if you are making the right decision for your pet. Sometimes you don’t have a choice- treatment either isn’t medically possible, or financially possible. Sometimes you don’t want to put your pet through treatment as bad as the disease. Sometimes you do. Cancer, in particular, is so very tricky in veterinary medicine because most of the time, we don’t cure it. We just delay it a little.
I’m 3 for 3 on cancer with my dogs now. Nuke had a hemangiosarcoma that had metastasized by the time we diagnosed it. I am so, so very grateful for the internist who gently but firmly told me as I was asking about surgery and chemo and this and that, you know, sometimes it’s better not to do anything. In that case for sure, he was right.
Mulan had melanoma. It wasn’t doing much when I diagnosed it, so I went ahead and got radiation therapy in an attempt to slow its inevitable spread. If I had to do it all over, I wouldn’t. Of course everyone’s experience will be different, but she had a pretty rough time of it. She had difficulty swallowing due to the radiation. The pred I used to treat the swelling meant she couldn’t be on arthritis meds. Watching her hurt was awful, made worse by the wondering how much of it I caused. I don’t know it was worth the extra month or two- well, I’m sure it wasn’t. It is my one biggest regrets in life, putting her through that radiation.
And now Emmett, with his lymphoma, the most responsive of cancers to chemotherapy, though a lot of times the frickin cancer doesn’t read the journals and runs around and does all sorts of terrible things it’s not supposed to. There is no good cancer to get, really. It all sucks.
We pursue these treatments in the face of the inevitable for lots of reasons-
1. Hoping for a miracle
2. Wanting to enjoy that extra week/month/year
3. We feel like we have to. And in our society, that is the expectation, right? Paying for medical care for ill geriatric people is a given in the States, and hospice is seen as throwing in the towel. It’s such a weird way to look at life.
There is a special kind of strength needed to look at all the things you could do, and say, it’s not what I should do. To be able to move past that, and say: I’m taking him home and letting him do what pets do best- live in the moment, love you with every fiber, and experience the give and take of unadulterated love for the all too short time we have them with us.
Not that you need my approval, of course, but I think you did the right thing. Ear scratches to Bailey from me.