Real talk, cancer freaking sucks!! A cancer diagnosis can be pretty terrifying, especially because most of us know or have loved someone we have lost to cancer. Being nervous, sad, afraid, stressed, and concerned are all totally normal and understandable feelings.
When it comes to the welfare of your beloved dog or cat, quality of life is always the first thing to remember. This will continuously pop up in every avenue of pet care you give from diagnosis through possible treatment.
It's important to understand that pet cancer is very common, although this doesn't make it less difficult, it's important to know this. For me, I personally questioned everything, did I choose bad food, treats, etc. It is easy to get sucked down that wormhole, so being informed is important. There are roughly 6 million dogs and cats that will be diagnosed with cancer each year. One out of every two dogs will be diagnosed with cancer. So you're not the only one, you're not a bad pet parent.
Understanding the Battle Ahead
In order to give a more accurate diagnosis for your pet, testing will be required. Such tests included and are not limited to blood tests (e.g., blood count, chemistry profile), urinalysis, radiographs (X-rays, ultrasound), tissue aspirate, and biopsy. Tests done by your local veterinarian might be repeated at a cancer specialty center due to the changing nature of your pet's illness.
Other tests that may be used include ultrasound, specialized radiologic studies (nuclear scan, CT or MRI scan, dye contrast studies), bone marrow aspirate, lymph node aspirate, endoscopy (direct examination of the stomach, colon, or lung with a specialized scope & camera), and immunologic studies.
These tests will give your vet important information about the type of cancer and the extent of the illness in the body. This is oftentimes where information regarding treatment, quality of life, life expectancy and the financial long-term impact will start to come into play.
Tests & Treatment Ain't Cheap
Many of these tests are not cheap. Biopsies can vary from a few hundred to a couple thousand. Similarly, X-rays and ultrasounds are not cheap and you can expect those tests to cost hundreds of dollars. Having pet insurance beforehand will come in handy, just make sure the facility you're using accepts pet insurance. Care Credit can be used for medical care and veterinarian care. Again just be sure the facility you are using accepts these forms of payment. Go fund me and various fundraising platforms are also available which may help cover some of the cost.
The Fight Plan
Once you know what your dog is up against, take the time to educate yourself on the type of cancer your pet has. Look up success stories, medical options, and procedures. You can start getting a rough estimate on cost, quality of life, and sustainability by doing your own research.
While these things might not be dead-on accurate, being informed helps you manage your decisions, but more importantly, this will help you ask more specific questions regarding your pets case. Vets can unload a significant amount of information (vet speak) that you might not understand. While most vets are happy to explain and break it down for you, again having some background knowledge will help you understand your pet's current situation more so.
Realistic and Hopeful
When my dogs were diagnosed with cancer, it stirred up those old familiar feelings that I had when my mother was diagnosed. A true raw ache and nervousness in my spirit. A sudden overwhelming realization that everything has now changed. Cancer can be pretty scary, but there is life after cancer. A hard diagnosis doesn't mean your beloved pet is going to die. Even in the event the prognosis isn't good, it doesn't mean your pet is going to suddenly die.
Even in the worst situation, you might have time to plan a beautiful goodbye rather than a sudden loss. While I completely understand that there will never be enough time, trust me I know, a beautiful goodbye (quality of life considered) is much better than a sudden sharp one. Ask your vet to discuss these things thoroughly with you and don't be afraid to get a second opinion. These are going to be some difficult days for both of you. Do your best to decompress, and stay positive.
There are so many support groups for these very issues available online. One quick search will have you connecting with people in similar situations, don't neglect these resources if you need them. Fight the good fight together, just as you have lived together.
If you're reading this because you find yourself in this situation, don't hesitate to send me a message. I will happily pray with you and over your beloved pet. I will also offer any tips and suggestions that I have. I have walked this path personally and I have seen both beautiful outcomes as well as the gut wrenching ones. Such is life.