My boss is a very talented clinician. He has expertise in both internal medicine and in surgery, which makes him a great wealth of knowledge on just about anything. Except rats or hamsters, so I have some value to my place of employment.
I went into work today, on my day off, to watch him do a forelimb amputation. It went swimmingly, by the way. While the tech was with the dog in recovery, I was hanging out in the back and chatting while my boss looked at some of the drop offs. Among them was a really sweet pup who was in the middle of a course of chemotherapy. The owner brought him in because she felt, despite the treatment, that he seemed to be getting worse.
My boss looked at the dog, who was bouncing off the walls. “I’m sure it’s just an overreaction,” he said, reviewing the notes. The cancer was caught early. It was one of the most responsive types of neoplasia, with a very good remission rate. The median time of first remission with the protocol he uses is somewhere around a year. This dog was only two months into treatment and had responded beautifully- there was no reason to think this patient should have anything short of a long remission. He patted the dog’s head, reached over, and felt his lymph nodes.
And said, “#$@!#!@#.”
It made no sense. The dog had a remission of 7 weeks instead of 7 months. That isn’t supposed to happen. There was no logical explanation for it, other than that cancer sucks and sometimes it behaves ways it shouldn’t. Sometimes you wind up like my grandfather, given 6 months to live with lung cancer, but who lived another 12 years. And other times you wind up this dog, who had the best of everything, an owner who would do whatever was suggested, and the cancer basically flips everyone the bird and says, meh, chemo schmemo. The dog is in recurrence.
There are other options, though usually they follow the law of diminishing returns. In other words, things are looking less than great for the poor little guy- who was sitting there obliviously eating treats, enjoying the attention.
The staff gathered around, tears in their eyes, while my boss went over all of this with the owner, who pretty much knew where this was going before she walked in the door. After all, I’m a vet too.
And then Emmett and I came home. And I cried.