Consider this: the heartbreak of a lost battle to canine cancer. And now, finally, a new chance to share a life with a beloved dog…
I dunno exactly what I was thinking.
It might be part of the healing process to file away the pain and grief that loosing a dog to cancer visits upon your heart – if not soul.
I can’t say that I have forgotten that feeling of disbelief, shock and horror that smothered me before my vet had completed the sentence delivering Zelda’s diagnosis: bone cancer. An aggressive bone cancer.
I can’t say that I have forgotten the rush of subsequent weeks, days, hours and minutes of despair as broken-heartedly, I pushed myself to absorb, sort, question, verify, decide and hope for what was best for her – how to keep her with me as long as possible, to keep her comfortable, to help her understand how loved she was.
But the end came anyway. And with it came a sadness I hoped never to live to see again. Only when I started creating photo jewelry designs to have her photo with me did I start to find a path out of it…well, you know the rest.
I dunno, I guess I just thought it would never happen again.
A Call I Didn’t Want
Heidi is every bit as sweet a Berner girl as Zelda, but more humble. Maybe it’s the challenge of her declining eyesight, but Heidi isn’t one to fuss much as long as she knows I’m nearby.
So that’s why I noticed when she started to scratch at an area on her right side fairly frequently throughout the summer. The vet wasn’t worried, but recommended a biopsy to be sure, and I hardly gave it another thought.
That little extra politeness in a vet’s tone…it’s always the first punch to the gut and you spend one of those eternity-in-a-nanosecond moments wondering just how hard the second punch will be.
Heidi’s biopsy went well and both cysts had been removed cleanly, so I was expecting this report to be a mere formality. Not so much: CANCER.
My entire being seized, expecting to hear the most dreaded word: HISTIOCYTOSIS – the cancer that claimed Zelda.
Instead I heard: MAST CELL, STAGE 2. Not benign, but potentially capable of evolving into some really bad news. My vet urged an oncology consult as soon as possible, and within two hours I had Heidi scheduled at Cornell University Vet Specialists in Stamford.
This Time, It’s Different
Walking into Cornell, I didn’t know what to expect. I wasn’t happy with the experience at the oncology practice I used for Zelda – but then again, I don’t think things would have ended differently anywhere else. So I took a deep breath, gripped Heidi’s leash, and prepared to walk into the gears of the great canine cancer-treatment machine.
I couldn’t have been more relieved – and fortified by the confident that I was in the right place.
Heidi’s doctor, Dr. Thalheim, drilled through the reports with a laser focus, sorting and prioritizing the findings. In her opinion, chances were very good that Heidi’s mast cell tumor DID NOT fall into the malignant category. To confirm her diagnosis, Dr. Thalheim recommended a battery of additional diagnostic tests.
I’m lucky – while we are awaiting the final results, it looks like cancer lost this round.
I’ve been given pause to understand how this time, I was much better prepared to do battle with canine cancer. I wanted to share why with you.
1. With insurance for Heidi (Trupanion), the added stress of counting up the charges in my head was nearly, completely, eliminated.
Please consider pet insurance if at all possible. (See my review of pet insurance plans on Zelda’s Blog.)
2. Ask for opinions from dog parents on the cancer treatment options in your area.
The confidence I had in Heidi’s oncologist (which I did not have with Zelda’s), made a world of difference.
3. FETCH JOY! every moment you can, and find a way to preserve those memories – photos, video.
I have my Molly Photo Bracelet with Heidi, Zelda, Casey, Molly and Miss Trix.
Whatever you decide, do it, because it all goes by much, much too quickly.