Let’s talk about cancer, shall we?
I know, I know, it’s not a nice subject..........but the chances are, most of us are going to be affected by cancer with our pets at some point. An estimated six million dogs will be diagnosed with cancer this year alone, with fifty per cent of all dogs over the age of ten developing cancer at some point.
I hate these numbers.
They’re freakishly high, we literally are talking about an epidemic.
Cancer is so common, it doesn’t even raise an eyebrow now; people just shake their heads and say how sorry they are, but no one is ever really surprised, are they?
But shouldn’t we be?
With all the strides in medical science and the vast amounts of money poured into research, surely we should be so much further on than we are?
Now I know that some of you are going to start rolling their eyes any minute and say I’m a whack job conspiracy theorist, but I do wish to share my thoughts with you on this today and hopefully get you thinking outside of the carefully packaged box we are often presented with alongside of the cancer diagnosis.
Chemo, surgery, radiation therapy, prednisone, these are some of the most common instant go-to’s suggested to pet owners as options.
But wait...what if there were other, even more effective options, wouldn’t you at least what to hear about them?
Today’s newsletter seeks to show you just a few of them and to shine a light on the way I am personally dealing with terminal cancer with my own dog, Ava.
First thing is, cancer is not necessarily a death sentence. Just putting it out there for all the dog owners who scream and cry at the diagnosis thinking that their dog is going to ‘pop their clogs’ at any minute.
Most diagnoses come along with a life expectation and therein, my friends, lies a huge gift. Yes, a gift.
Two years ago, I lost one of the great loves of my life, beautiful fourteen and a half year old velvet eared Weimaraner Nelson, to a stomach bleed. He died within 24 hours of diagnosis; we buried a huge chunk of our hearts with him and our lives will never ever be the same. We felt robbed. Literally robbed. We didn’t get the chance to do a bucket list, sleep one last night together, breathe him in for days so I could hold the scent of him in my heart forever as I needed to......we were robbed.
14 months ago, I took Ava our then 14 year old chocolate lab, to the vet because of a growth on her back end that wouldn’t heal, and received the diagnosis of Neoplasia, a soft tissue cancer that just keeps increasing and increasing until the end. I asked for a life expectancy and the vet told me she had no clue, maybe 3 months, maybe 6, impossible to tell.
That was all I needed. Time.
I just wanted time.
I came home to Pete, told him the news and we unanimously decided no big treatments that would keep her in the vets office for hours at a time. No chemo, no radiation, no cancer drugs, not even intravenous vitamin C therapy,(more about that later) which I’m a huge proponent of.......we decided to just let her live her life, keep her comfortable until she was comfortable no more, and then say goodbye when she was ready.
Last week she started to get sick, vomiting up her breakfast and not displaying her usual joie de vivre, and I looked over at Pete and said ‘Do we think it’s going to be time soon?’
Before the last words got out of my mouth, she looked at me and said ‘BITCH KNOCK IT OFF! I’ve just got an upset tummy because of the pollen, half the dogs in Georgia are suffering with icky tummies because of the ragweed and you wanna talk about sticking a needle in me? F*ck off, I ain’t anywhere near ready!’
(Okay, I have to be honest, Ava is not in any way trailer trashy, she’s gentle and lady-like and would never utter those words. I attribute these words to her because I have a foul mouth, have tried completely unsuccessfully to teach all of my dogs to say ‘f*ck’ and ‘bollocks’, so now I just tell people that my dogs talk like that so they will think I’m not the only one in my family that talks like a truck driver.)
Every day she plays and runs with her family pack, every day she literally dances for her meals, every day she lays her head down to sleep with a smile on her face and Pete and I are always satisfied to see it.
I know she won’t live forever, but her life the last 14 months hasn’t been spent dealing with cancer. Her life has been about living her life, every moment that’s left of it, while she can.
I hope this continues for years, although I know it likely can’t, as she’s now 15 and a half years old.......however Ava, Pete and I, all know that she would never have chosen to spend her last days having tests, treatments and being poked and prodded, zapped and pilled. Instead, she’s communed with nature, eaten anything she wants and been with her family every minute of the day.
Cancer has been a gift of sorts. It’s concentrated our minds and made us think of what SHE wants, how we could make every day special for her, and made us feel so grateful for every breath she draws.
We have concentrated on her life, not her death. And here she still is...8 months past her expected demise, still kicking it big style.