I was recently asked, “What are you grateful for?”
Well shoot, what am I not grateful for? I am blessed with a healthy family and people and pets who love me. The rest is gravy (to start throwing in Thanksgiving puns.)
But I think the question was more specific to veterinary stuff, so let me start with telling a story:
When one of my dogs was diagnosed with melanoma, I did what any good general practitioner would do and bundled her off in the car to the specialist. In our area, we are fortunate to have not one but several veterinary oncologists, including one who specializes in radiation oncology (which is the treatment of choice for this type of cancer.)
We sat in the exam room and he outlined the course of treatment: it was intensive, involving multiple anesthesias, and fairly expensive. It is the sort of thing most owners probably cannot or would not do due to the expense and time involved. I understand that, and I respect that. It is not for everyone.
We also talked about other things, our families and careers and all that stuff you talk about when you are chatting with someone with whom you have a lot in common. “I’ve stopped telling strangers what I do for a living,” he said.
“Why?” I asked, figuring it was the same reason I don’t: too many people pumping me for free advice.
“Because I’ve had several people tell me I wasted my career on pets,” he responded. I sat there open-mouthed, wondering if that was a joke. It wasn’t.
“When I told a woman at my daughter’s school that I was a veterinary radiation oncologist, she actually got angry,” he said. “She said to me, how could you waste all your time and effort on that when there are so many children out there with cancer that you could be helping instead?”
As if there was a vast shortage of MDs entering the field.
The underlying implication, of course, is that until all humans are healthy and happy, well, pets just have to deal. And we all know what the chances are of that happening.
I hope and pray I NEVER need the services of a pediatric radiation oncologist. But if I do, I am fortunate in knowing there are out there, accessible and ready to help.
Had this good vet gone into med school instead, there would be no radiation oncologist for me to take Mulan to. They are an uncommon breed.
Veterinarians have long been the red-headed stepchild of the medical field, enduring the never ending question of “Why didn’t you become a real doctor” on a regular basis. Getting soundly chastised for the choice, however, was a new one to me.
So on this day, I say I am grateful for those who have devoted themselves to the veterinary specialties, those who put in 18 hour days 7 days a week and bust their rears doing cutting edge research and make themselves available to provide the absolute best care to our pets and in turn get told they wasted their life by sanctimonious PTA parents.
I assure you, good doctor, as not only a colleague but a client- your time was not wasted. Thank you.
ETA: I didn’t write this to ask for recognition on my behalf- you all always make me feel loved. 🙂 I really just wanted to single out the specialists who live their lives to go above and beyond for those ‘extra special’ clients like me who would do anything to help their beloved family member, even if the rest of the world thinks we’re nuts.