Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A Dog Named Blitz, Chapter 8 "4th Year, Part 5"

For background on this serial, please click here. You can also start at the previous section

I got Blitz back home from the University, and I'm not sure who was more happy to be home more.  My wife greeted both of us at the door, and Blitz appeared close to shaking her tail loose as she celebrated her homecoming.  We tried to keep her as quiet as possible, but she was simply too happy to be sitting still.  She put very little weight on the let, but other than that she showed no signs of being in any kind of pain.

Unfortunately, the joy of having her home was short lived.  The next day we ended up getting the call that, in our hearts, we knew was going to come.  

Our surgeon from the University called us to let us know that the biopsy showed it was definitely cancer, and it was definitely aggressive.  Since there really was no way of knowing if it had spread, and if so, how far, she suggested that we amputate Blitz's leg immediately, test the lymph nodes in the leg, and use that as a proxy. If there is additional cancer (either found in the leg or discovered later), they could try and treat it with chemotherapy. If it didn’t spread, and was relegated to just that part of the bone that was tested, Blitz could be completely cured of the cancer and live a full life. At least as full of a life as a three-legged dog can lead. 

Of course, there would always be a chance for contracting it elsewhere in the future. And chemo was not a guarantee, and even with aggressive treatment, the cancer could still win out.

How did we want to proceed? 

I let the University know that my wife and I would need to discuss it and would get back to her.  I immediately went downstairs and let Blitz out of her kennel.  As I took her outside I noted the divot in her shaved knee, and her substantial limp.  What if we amputated her leg and the cancer had spread?  Is the trauma of going through that really how I wanted Blitz to live out her last days?  What was right for her?  If we don't amputate, she'd die for sure.  In two to four months.  But that time would be quality time with Vera and me, and not spent in hospitals or recovering from horrific surgeries. 

The back and forth of the decision process was a living hell.  But in the end, we decided Blitz had been put though enough.  Given how the cancer literally exploded in her leg via the differences seen between the first and second x-rays, if the cancer had not spread beyond the bone it would be a miracle.  She'd keep her leg and she would die comfortable, and with us, even though she would die very, very soon. 

Some would reach a very different decision when faced with the same set of circumstances. I know that I wouldn’t wish such a decision on my worst enemy, and that I often look back and wonder if I did the right thing. But I had made a promise to a perky little pup just a couple of years back.  I'd take care of her, no matter what.  It was time for me to own up to that promise the best I knew how.  Even though living up to that promise, in the end, would absolutely break my heart.  

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