Getting to the final diagnosis is easy. Bloodwork, chest radiographs, abdominal ultrasounds, needle sampling, and other more specific tests are typically performed to determine the type of cancer and degree of spread throughout the body. This workup provides a clearer understanding of the chemoradiotherapy needed and ultimately how much time is left. It can be handled with variable degrees of success, but it is the owner’s emotion throughout the initial suspicion, diagnostic workup, definitive diagnosis, follow-up therapy and palliative care that’s difficult to handle. Accepting the diagnosis is tough.
Emotions, in general, are difficult to deal with, especially when cancer is involved. It’s a horrible feeling regardless of who was diagnosed – a pet, friend, family member, or an acquaintance. So much unknown about the future worries the heart in the present. But there is a silver lining.
As a person who spends a lot of time with dogs and cats who have cancer, I feel it’s difficult to tell if they even realize they have cancer. It’s difficult to know if they understand the gravity of their diagnosis and that what they have is killing them. Think about the old dog with an amputated limb, receiving pain medications, anti-inflammatories, and chemotherapy for metastatic osteosarcoma. Running around, barking, jumping, and gobbling down his food. Or the younger cat with lymphoma receiving chemotherapy, pouncing on her toy mouse in the afternoon and real mice and baby birds outside at three in the morning. Sure, they have cancer, but that’s not stopping them.
This is the beautiful thing about animals other than our selves. They don’t think too much. They accept things for what they are, no matter how tough we may think it is.
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