I am currently on the second week of my oncology rotation, and this has been one of my favorite rotations so far. I know you might be thinking, how can such a terrible disease bring on such feelings? Well, let me tell you.
Oncology patients happen to be some of the sweetest patients I have ever had. Unfortunately, some of our most beloved breeds like Golden Retrievers and Boxers have a higher chance of being diagnosed with cancer than some of our others (although any dog or cat can get it and cancer does not discriminate). Even though our patients have a scary disease, they are just happy to see us and get all the snuggles. For me, they teach me a lesson every day. No matter your situation, try to find the silver lining and appreciate what you do have in life.
Another aspect of oncology that I have enjoyed is the owners. These are some of the most dedicated people that I have met. Our school has a renowned oncology department, and we offer stereotactic radiation therapy, which is fairly uncommon. Many veterinarians refer their patients to us for further care and clients are coming from all over the Midwest to see us. These clients are willing to drive several hours for their pet to receive chemotherapy maybe once a week or once a month. Some of them spend the night in hotels, and some take time out of their schedules just to make a day trip. All of this effort is put in so their animal can have a better quality of life for however much longer that may be.
Every patient that comes in is special—to their owner, and to us. Oncology can be very frustrating as some of these cancer types are unwavering and unkind no matter what we throw at it. I am learning how to be more empathic to what choices our clients must make. I am learning how to have those difficult conversations, and I am learning how to prepare owners for what they can expect at these first appointments. Cancer certainly sucks, but the patients and their owners are truly some of the best.