Cancer is a scary diagnosis and just hearing the word can overwhelm you. Hearing it applied to your dog can be just as bad as it being said about you. It’s normal to be in shock, paralyzed, overcome with sadness, or a range of other emotions. How could you not?
I can’t tell you not to worry, that everything will be okay. It is awful news to receive about your dog or other companion. It confronts us with their mortality, and sometimes our own. But I can tell you pretty confidently that your dog is not worried –he or she just wants to feel better. And many times, once you are empowered with a diagnosis, you can in fact help your dog feel better.
There is no one way to deal with a cancer diagnosis, but here are some suggestions for how to work your way through the process if you receive such devastating news.
- Breathe. It’s easy to just stop breathing. When you feel panic and fear welling up, remember to breathe. Ground yourself. You need your wits about you.
- Give yourself time – at least days – to absorb and process what you’ve been told. Often times, you don’t have to make a decision about what to do right away. If you are in a situation where you must make an immediate decision because your dog is in a life-threatening situation, please call a friend. Talk it over with your vet, but also call a trusted friend or family member to act as a sounding board.
- Remember that you only have to make one decision at a time. If your dog needs surgery to cut out a tumor, then decide about surgery. The recommendation might be chemotherapy after surgery, but you don’t have to decide that today. Take it one step at a time. Consult an oncologist to learn all your options.
- Talk to your dog. Ask him what he wants. Some people and dogs just want to live out their days without any big intervention. Others really quite clearly want to stay longer and are strong enough to endure surgery or other treatments if that’s a possibility. You know your dog. But talk to him about what he wants at this moment. You might be surprised how clearly you feel or hear an answer.
- If you don’t want to pursue any aggressive options, remember that holistic medicine can help your dog maintain quality of life and in some cases, slow down cancer progression. If that is something that sounds appealing to you, check out your area for holistic vets.
Not all cancers are equal. Some are curable. Many are not. Some are so aggressive that there just aren’t many decisions to make. Others are a very slow and steady march to the end.
Having been through this so many times, I can confidently say that each cancer and each dog is different. I did chemotherapy with one dog, surgery with another, and a vaccine protocol for melanoma with another. There is no one right answer for everyone – there is just the answer for your family and your dog at this moment in time. Give yourself permission to do what feels right even if it is not what “other people” might do.
Your pup just wants to be with you. You don’t have to perfect. You don’t have to be strong all the time. You do need to try to be present in the moment with your dog and honor her wishes. You’ll get through this. Even if you think you won’t.
All my love and heartfelt wishes for making the most of all the days of your and your dog’s life.