The Worst Possible News

Red blood cells (erythrocytes) are one of the ...
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Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while will know that Caleb, my German Shepherd cross, has been having some medical problems lately & his blood tests are showing a high level of red blood cells.  Yesterday, Caleb had an ultrasound & a chest x-ray to look for tumours.  His ultrasound was clear with no tumours visible, but his chest x-ray showed that he has a small heart which has to do with his low blood volume.  At that point the vet tested him for Addison’s Disease which may have explained his symptoms, but that test came back negative.

Unfortunately, this negative blood test means that Caleb has cancer and the vet believes it is one of two kinds; either kidney cancer or a bone marrow cancer.  At this time, the vet believes it is bone marrow cancer but we need to rule out the kidney cancer by doing a very expensive & complicated blood test.

If it is bone marrow cancer, which I feel it probably is, then Caleb will be on a chemotherapy drug for the rest of his life. The specialist that my vet has consulted with seems optimistic about Caleb’s prognosis & it is possible that Caleb could have as long as 3 more years with us.  However, cancer is unpredictable and the chemo drug could have some nasty side effects, so we have some tough decisions to make.

Do we decide that because it is cancer – either kidney or bone marrow and that Caleb’s life is limited that we stop running expensive tests and let him enjoy his life as long as possible or do we embrace the world of medical science and give him a shot at another couple of years?

If I knew the chemo wouldn’t affect him badly, I would give him that shot, but I don’t want his last months or years to be enduring side effects of the chemo.  I’m wondering if it is more humane to let him enjoy life side effect free & when he becomes ill to put him to sleep.

Then again, he might respond really well to the chemo with no side effects & is it fair to rob him of months or even years of relatively good health?

Also as much as I don’t want to admit it, there is the cost factor and at some point, that has to become an issue.  Can we afford an expensive drug for a long period of time?

Caleb has been with us for 7 years and our beagle Rory is truly devoted to him.  His death is going to hit us all hard when it comes.  I was hoping that I wouldn’t have to face these decisions for quite a few years.  Now it is staring me in the face, I’m devastated.

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About Meg

A thirty something queer Aussie geek girl who now lives in Germany.
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4 Responses to The Worst Possible News

  1. kwombles says:

    I’m sorry for the bad news; I hope you’ll be able to work out a way to balance cost concerns with quality of life for Caleb. ((()))

    • Riayn says:

      Thanks. At the moment, besides an arthritic shoulder, Caleb is happy & healthy so I’m leaning towards giving him a shot at a longer life by doing the chemo. I figure if the side effects are too severe we can always stop the treatment.

  2. I’m so sorry :( If there is any comfort to be found, at least you will likely know the time of death and it will not be sudden or a shock. I found that, with my animals at least, there was a big difference between the two. Such sad news :(

    • Riayn says:

      Unfortunately, due to the nature of the cancer we have no idea when Caleb will go downhill. Also, the cancer causes a small heart so I could arrive home tonight, or in a month’s time or in a year’s time to find him dead of a heart attack or stroke. So no comfort there.
      But, at the moment, he is happy & healthy and still able to do all the things he loves. He doesn’t know there is anything wrong with him.

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