Yesterday morning, I heard something I didn’t want to hear. My dog, a 6 year-old female blue heeler named Tsisdu, has Grade IV lymphoma. I am a veterinary pathologist, with a lot of education about cancer, its behavior, its origins and its diagnosis. But yesterday, I was just like many other pet owners, sitting in my vet’s office, trying to wrap my mind around the terrible news.
Lymphoma is a canine cancer that is considered “treatable,” that is, there are interventions that involve chemotherapy that can prolong her life, but none that will cure her. The average life expectancy, if she responds to the treatment, is another year and a half. Dogs handle the chemo well, that is, side effects tend to be mild and quality of life is largely unimpaired. Cost is around $3000, depending on what chemotherapy protocol is used and the number of visits and follow-ups needed. My oncologist told me that Tsisdu would require weekly visits for about five months. Sooner or later, the cancer will return, it will no longer respond to treatment and she will die.
Now the decision-making process begins. It’s important that I clarify that I am also a hospice chaplain. I have had the privilege of sitting with dying people, learning from their experiences, sharing their regrets, their challenges. Some of them have had unfavorable experiences with cancer treatment prior to coming to hospice. Some of them chose treatment because others wanted them to, rather than choosing their own path. Some carried the burden of others’ grief and fear of death, as they tried to live the remainder of their own lives well. I learned much more than I gave in hospice and that will certainly impact my decision about my beloved dog.
I have seven to ten days to make the decision about chemotherapy for Tsisdu. She is on high-dose cortisone in the interim and hopefully, the cancer will respond to that treatment.
A series of guest posts by: Delana Taylor McNac
Delana is a friend and we want to thank her for sharing this trying time with us. Please support her in this difficult trial. She is the founder of Pet Peace of Mind (see video below), an amazing organization that helps hospice patients keep their pets. We hope that her personal story can help others and also be a therapeutic tool for all of you who are facing a similar issue, pet related, or human related. If you would like to learn more about pet cancer, please go here. Hugs and prayers from Laura and Caitlin