A Diagnosis of Cancer
This topic is so personal for me that I will write about it in mostly general terms. Everything I write about here is from my own experiences. I’m not a vet nor a vet tech nor an oncologist for humans.
If you hear from the vet that your kitty has cancer, or dog for that matter, here is what I suggest:
1. Get yourself a good holistic vet, if you don’t have one already. You may or may not want to give up your regular vet — they have their uses — but holistic medicine is all about making your pet as comfortable as possible, no matter how many published scientific articles there are on the available treatments. This is the time for comfort, not doing battle with a by-the-book vet who puts academics ahead of your peace of mind.
2. If you’re part of a couple, it’s ok to naturally take turns with each other being the strong one and the one whose eyes are like faucets turned on full-blast. This may change on a daily, or even hourly, basis. No one can be strong all the time, but if you spend all your time crying, you could make yourself very sick. Denial is a very important tool here! Use it!
3. See #2. Deny, deny, deny. You can accept that your baby’s sick without accepting it.
4. Take paw prints, now. They sell kits online or in craft stores. It doesn’t mean your baby’s last days are imminent. My kitty lived for a whole year after getting impressions of his paws. Think of it like taking a picture.
5. To the extent possible, avoid people who don’t get it. You know who they are, or may find out when you can least afford the aggravation. Conserve your energy for taking care of your baby. If you have animal-loving friends, esp. those who have cared for cancer patients, lean on them for support. But don’t guess about that — just because someone has a pet doesn’t mean they have sensitivity, tact, and concern.
6. Take as much time with your fur-child as you can. If your employer doesn’t offer paid bereavement leave for non-human illness/death, take it unpaid if you can. It’s worth running up a bit of debt to have this precious time.
7. Expect to spend more on heating bills. Sick animals, including humans, tend to be cold. Plan for this. Heated pet blankets are a great investment. If you can, holding your pet is a great way to help them stay warm.
8. Minimize stress in your household as much as possible. If that means toxic people aren’t welcome, so be it (they shouldn’t be welcome anyway; sometimes a pet’s illness is what causes former doormats to finally raise their standards about who is permitted into their homes). Sick animals are much more susceptible to stress-induced problems.
9. Other pets can feel left out, when a sick one is getting lots more attention. Give them extra love to reassure them that they’re still your special babies too. You’ll need their support.
10. Research everything your vet tells you, whether you know and trust them really well or not. There is so much information out there that they might not know.
11. Don’t subject yourself to extra gratuitous costs and hassles by having tests that will not affect the treatment. For example, an X-ray or ultrasound to confirm the biopsy result when the treatment will be prednisone no matter what. Systemic cancers are not surgically treatable, and usually the vet can tell by looking at the cells whether chemo is viable or not. Usually, all roads lead to prednisone. You can have it compounded so it will taste better.
12. This is the time to spoil your kitty/dog silly if you don’t already. Spoil, spoil, spoil! They can have anything and everything they want that isn’t harmful. You’ll be so glad you did!
13. Make friends with a vet or vet tech who does house calls. Keep their number handy. Cancer patients have good days and bad days, and sometimes the bad days are dreadful.
14. Ask fellow animal parents what they think of treatment options and/or pain/symptom relief that comes in herbal or homeopathic or other alternative form. Some things work, others are just gimmicks or could be bought some other way than what is charged on sites aimed at pet parents. Others’ experiences can be very valuable, even if it’s just via reading their blogs or product reviews. Good sites: www.askariel.com, www.petwellbeing.com, www.rainbowbridge.com
15. A critically ill animal = no more routine vaccinations! Sales reps from our vet kept calling to try to bully us into annual vaccinations for our ailing kitty (died within 30 days of diagnosis), even though that hospital was where he was diagnosed! Politeness did not work; the bullying continued until we refused to pick up the phone. Never underestimate the stupidity and lack of ethics within the medical profession.
16. Trust your instincts, now more than ever. You know your pet better than anyone, and you’ll know the difference between a “bad day” and when they truly don’t have life left in them.