To Treat or Not to Treat

I learned this week that my English Pointer, Claire, has a form of cancer.  It cannot be resected from her leg, and it has spread to her lymph node in that leg.  I was faced with 2 options: do nothing and see what happens or put her through chemo.  She is an 11-year-old dog, but as spunky as ever and not in any pain from the cancer.  Before learning that the cancer had spread, I thought chemo would be a bit extreme.  But the fact that it spread concerns me.  Several years ago, our black lab, Katie, died unexpectedly at the age of 3, with no warning.  She just collapsed and died.  There was nothing I could do about it.  Well, there is something I can at least try for Claire.  She was rescued off the street – literally (Westheimer) – when she was about a year old, and has been a sweet girl ever since.  I would like for her to live a long happy life, and to me, that means trying to stop the spread of her cancer. 

As I was debating on what to do about my dog, I thought about the decisions our mesothelioma clients must face.  I can only imagine the hours of time these victims' families spend talking to doctors, researching the internet, talking to other friends and family, and praying for an answer as to what they should do.  Mesothelioma (meso for short) is such a terrible disease.  Some patients respond well to chemo and radiation.  Others are too frail to treat, and are sent home for care with their families or hospice just to make sure they are comfortable.  Dr. Roy Smythe at Scott & White has performed extra-pleuralpneumonectomies on some of our clients, but it is rare for a meso victim to be in a position that such a drastic surgery would be recommended.  It involves removing various organs and tissues in an effort to get rid of the cancer.  It is not a cure, and is painful, but it is also a way to lengthen life for some victims of this terrible disease. 

For my dog, chemo will only be a shot, a pill and an IV drip, if I understand correctly.  Side effects are less severe in dogs than in humans.  My decision wasn't too difficult.  A meso victim has a much more difficult decision to make.  Everyone is different.  As an attorney who represents meso victims every day, I can understand each and every treatment decision made by clients.  There is no right or wrong.  I hope the decision I had to make for Claire will be the only cancer treatment decision I ever have to make.  I wish she could speak and let me know what she wants to do.  Then again, I remember an old Far Side cartoon where all the people were wearing headsets called canine decoders, and all the dogs were just saying "Hey!" "Hey hey hey!" 

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