Just the word alone is frightening, but please don’t stop reading. I am not a doctor and not going to scare you with too many details and statistics. What I am is a loving pet parent and Cat Behavior Consultant who now is living with a pet who has cancer. My goal in writing this is to share a story and maybe something that helps if this happens to you.
So lets get the statistics out of the way:
In 2015 An estimated 6 million dogs and nearly 6 million cats will be diagnosed with cancer.Studies show that cancer accounts for nearly 50% of all disease-related pet deaths each year. Although cancer is not as common in cats as it is in dogs, the cancers found in cats tend to be more aggressive. Approximately 1 in 4 dogs develops a tumor of some kind during his lifetime.
So I am one of the unlucky people who has a cat with a form of cancer that is not curable and Brodie will eventually cross the Rainbow Bridge because of this. Now I don’t want this to be a huge downer so know that Brodie may have cancer, but he is not his disease. Right now thanks to amazing doctors and 4 weeks of radiation we have added months and maybe more to his time here. He is full of energy and has a wonderful life with us and his 3 brothers from other mothers. We call them the Pawsome Foursome!
Now I have to be honest it wasn’t and still isn’t always easy. With the radiation came many challenges and at times both of us weren’t our best selves. Depending on the type of cancer your pet has the treatment options will vary. Brodie has Adenocarcinoma and had a tumor in his sinuses so radiation was the treatment recommended. Other forms of cancer are treated through surgery, chemotherapy and even vaccines. Along with the different treatments come different side effects so have a really good conversation with your vet and make an informed decision. You may choose, like we did, to go the full course or you may choose no treatment at all. There is no wrong decision. You have to figure out what is optimal for your pet and realistically what you can afford. The advice I would give is really educate yourself and make a decision out of love. We made our decision as we were not ready to say goodbye and we knew Brodie is a fighter, always has been.
Now this is the part I feel I have to share. Please know that some pets do incredibly well and have no or very few side effects. In other cases, like ours, the doctors do their very best to prepare you, but nothing really can until you are in it. Brodie stopped eating halfway through treatment as the radiation effected his sense of smell and he needed to have a feeding tube. It was really, really tough for all of us, but it was the only option to keep him alive. I won’t share all the details, but know it was an awful roller coaster ride and almost ended in saying goodbye. This is where knowing your pet and how strong they really are comes in. Brodie wanted to live, decided to live and finally started to eat again on his own. That bring us up to today. Brodie is as healthy as he can be living with cancer, but more importantly he is happy.
As you can see it’s all about the journey. Know you will not be perfect, take a deep breath and let go of trying. Your dog or cat just needs you to love them, comfort them and keep things as normal as possible. You may have to become a nurse, a chauffeur, a groomer and it may seem overwhelming, but as you already know the love you get in return is priceless. Cancer cannot take that away!
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