Sunday, September 21, 2008

"Voice of reason"

A month or so ago, I wrote a post about rational thinking versus emotional thinking. This week, I came across another example of it. The situation is similar to the post, but this time, it's not a client's dog but a family member's dog.

A few weeks ago, my dad called me and told me that Claude, their 12 year old shih tzu-poo was not doing well. He had an upper respiratory infection which later turned into bronchitis. Then early this week, they took him to the vet where the vet noticed some bumps on his neck. She wanted to check it out since there were a number of possibilities. It could be as simple as an enlarged lymph node to something worse, like cancer.

The official biopsy isn't back yet, but by mid-week, it looked to be some form of cancer. They decided to go ahead and start chemo and prednisone. The vet had said if the chemo was going to work, she thought it would work quickly, though she gave no indication to that time frame which left my dad and D., his wife, a bit puzzled.

Then, I received a phone call early Friday morning from D. I could tell she was very upset by her phone message. I dreaded the news since these early morning calls usually have a grim undertone. She said Claude had a rough night, and she didn't know what to do. She had thought about euthanizing him that day but couldn't do it. (I was thinking at this point, whoa, this is moving kind of fast here. I didn't say that though). I told her that it does take a little time for the medications to work and to give them a chance. I also said, "let's not make a rash decision here." I briefly spoke to my dad, since D. was sobbing by this point.

My dad said the vet thought it was "lymphoblastic," a rare form of cancer. So that afternoon, I did a little research to find out about this type of cancer. It basically depends on the exact diagnosis as there are several different forms with differing prognoses.

I called them this afternoon to see how Claude was. They said he was a little better--eating and drinking and had a few of his normal characteristics but had another rough night. D. said my dad told her he thought that "this was the day" which got her upset all over again. (Really, I couldn't believe he said that to her and did tell him that that only upset D. more and wasn't helpful to the situation.) I reiterated to both of them to hang on through the weekend, go to the appt. on Monday, talk to the oncologist, and just get all the information first before making a decision. D. thanked me for being there and being a "voice of reason."

This is a tough situation. Ultimately, we all know that Claude's days are numbered. My gut feeling is that since there are tumors in his lungs, the cancer metastatized. I'm not sure which type of cancer he has, whether it is indeed a form of lymphoblastic lymphoma or leukemia or hemangiosarcoma. Either way, the odds are not favorable for him.

I know both of them do not want Claude to suffer, but at the same time, so many emotions are flying around. I know it is easy for me, as an objective viewer, to tell them to do this, this, and this. I'm not in the thick of the moment, clouded by emotions However, I had a few fears. One was that my dad would pressure D. into making a decision. Claude is really her dog, so the decision should be hers. Two, I didn't think making a decision while upset was wise. Three, I was fearful that if she had made the decision to put him to sleep, she might regret it without knowing all the facts. This type of decision doesn't have a reversal. Once it's done, it's over. There are no electric shock paddles to bring the dog back to life. It's final.

The interesting thing about this conversation was I found myself getting very upset at the thought that they might euthanize Claude without having all the information, talking to the vet, or at least giving treatment a try. I wanted to scream into the phone, "what are you thinking?" But instead, I recognized this and knew my emotions were getting the best of me and quickly calmed down. They both called me the "voice of reason," but I don't know if it so much that or just the fact that this is how I react to this type of situation. It's important for me to have all the information, and then make a decision from there. Even when my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer a number of years ago or my dad was diagnosed with colon cancer and melanoma, this was my demeanor. Some might say that I react this way not to let myself express emotions outwardly. Maybe that's part of the reason, but I think it's more that I want to keep a sense of optimism but know reality too.

In this situation, I hope for all involved that the best decisions are made from both the head and heart.

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