Friday, January 10, 2014

Old Dogs

Zoe had something that looked an awful lot like a seizure yesterday. She was at work with me, getting a CBC done to check for adverse effects from the chemo. Yeah, she's got cancer. Again.

Zoe had an anal sac adenocarcinoma removed in 2009, and had chemo in 2010. She has been cancer free since then, and by 2013 I had gotten pretty lax in checking her remaining anal sac. It is standard of care to only remove one anal sac, because the morbidity associated with the removal tends to be higher with bilateral removal, and it rarely metastasizes to the other anal sac. So, we've blithely gone along, and I had finally stopped worrying so much about the remaining one. I had her at work with me in November, and figured, better check. And there was a new mass, in the other side. Lucky us.

She had surgery that day. She refluxed after anesthesia and had horrible esophagitis, which kept her from eating normally for about three weeks. We started chemo in December, and she's had three treatments. The oncologist said she expected we could gain at least a year with chemo, plus "she just looks like the kind of dog who could go on for awhile". She doesn't look 14, I guess.

Having old dogs is a unique sort of horrible at times.  I feel for my friends who've never had an old dog, but will soon. It's a lot of worry. A lot of guessing. A lot of negotiating with fate. Before Guinness got melanoma, I spent a lot of time wondering if his kidneys or his neurological condition would decline faster, and which would ultimately be his demise. Turned out, whammo, cancer. That bastard that just couldn't leave well enough alone.

Now with Zoe, I wonder if chemo is more harm than good. She's always had a good quality of life, even during her last bout. She had some bad days just post-surgery. On the third day after chemo, she'd always look at her dinner skeptically, as if it wasn't quite worth it. But it was short lived. This round, I thought the esophagitis was going to be the end, I've never had a dog so miserable. Once that healed, and it didn't look like she'd strictured, I was hopeful that treating her was the right thing to do. But she's older now, and the chemo seems to take more out of her. Plus, I think it's much harder on her to be in the hospital all day than it was. And yesterday, that seizure came from nowhere.

So I will watch her. If it happens again, I will not scramble to do tests, and I will consider stopping the chemo. I have my syringe of diazepam at home in case she needs it.  I will try to do the best for her like I tried to do the best for Guinness. I won't cut her life short, but I will not let her suffer any more than is absolutely necessary, and I will try not to prolong out of selfishness. Today she ate her breakfast, she played with the boys, and she's sleeping on her bed.  I will watch her, and hope she will tell me what she needs.

1 comment:

Kennedy said...

Rachel, I'm so sorry the Big C attacked again. It's not fair. Their lives are always too short anyway. To have such innocence and joy and giving, open, loving ability taken away even sooner is wrong. Here's hoping to Zoe's continued joy with life and happy days ahead for you to treasure.