A Difficult Choice: Standing In Front Of Two Doors Not Knowing What’s Behind Either One

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Beauford’s CT Scan left us with many questions, and very few concise answers.   I have been forced to make an impossible choice, and one which I never want to look back on and feel regret.

Ultimately, I was given two paths.  The first surgery, remove the mass, biopsy it, and that opens the door to surgical complications, post surgical complications, and the possibility of other therapies (like chemo) being necessary to fight this beast.   The risk of Beauford not surviving the surgery, I believe I was quoted 20%.  Any way you look at it, that number is a high one.  There’s one school of thought that he’s got an 80% chance of pulling through and doing great.  If you got an A on a paper you’d be happy; right?

Only I wasn’t.  I have to be clear and concise when I say this.   I don’t doubt (AT ALL) the skill and ability of the surgical team in Guelph.  They were incredible.  And their confidence was reassuring, and they left me with a lot to think about.

The surgery, no matter how it’s done is complex because of the location of the mass, how close it is to the vessel.  It means a 3-4 day stay in the ICU,  and 2-3 weeks of recovery at home.

Unfortunately, what we don’t know and can’t know unless the mass is removed is exactly what the face of this beast is.  Nor do we have a definitive idea of how much time Beauford would have if he had the surgery, or the quality  that this time would be.

He could get the mass removed, have a crap month and be okay for 3 years.  He could get this mass removed and find out that this cancer is aggressive and the month he spent recovering might be one of the last that we have.  He could get the mass removed and be okay for one year.  He could…he could…he could…

The second option is to do nothing.  And by nothing I mean monitor the mass with regular ultra sounds, and allow him to leave out his days without significant medical intervention.  Choosing this course would allow me to spend these good days that he’s having now, doing things he loves, and making memories.   This option allows me to say he will have his best days, he will do all the things he loves while he still feels great, he will be able to go every week to play at his best friend Dexter’s place, he will be able to go to the store each day and chew his bones, he will be able to eat special snacks and enjoy trips to the beach and seeing all his buddies.  He will…he will…he will.

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Will it mean saying goodbye to him sooner?  Possibly? Maybe?  Probably?

I had a lot to think about, a lot of medical information to absorb, and an ultimately a massive decision I had to make.

The first thing I had to do, was set aside my feelings and put Beauford first.  I had to think about everything, the gigantic picture, all of it, and make the best decision for him.

I have chosen to monitor the mass, and at this point will not proceed with surgical intervention.

I know there are going to be different opinions on this.   Some may feel that I have been provided an option that could give me more time; so, why on earth wouldn’t I take it? Here’s why.

Beauford is my entire world.  He is my purpose.  He is my heart, and he is a part of my soul.  His health, well-being, and happiness have always been my TOP priority.   I don’t think anyone who’s met us has even remotely thought otherwise.

Even though I am facing losing the one thing on this earth that loves me unconditionally and quite honestly saved my life, I can’t be selfish now.  I can’t think about me.  I have to put him first.  I can’t think of the agony of waking up without him here, can’t think of the loneliness, the sadness and heartache.  I can’t let those feelings get in the way, and make me want to do whatever they can to save him…for me.

If Beauford was a “healthy” dog with cancer i.e. he didn’t have the neurological condition, and esophageal dyspepsia , I would more strongly consider the surgery.   The thing is, he has these episodes that are akin to (or might very well be) gastric seizures.  They can last anywhere from 6-36 hours before all symptoms subside.   In all likelihood he would have one post-op at some point.  That would be incredibly hard for him.

Though I don’t think these “episodes” are terribly painful, they are undoubtedly tough on him.  He needs a steroid injection to ease any inflammation, and he wouldn’t be able to have those before or after the surgery for quite some time.  That is a giant factor.  Him having episodes of pica, gulping, drooling, coughing, and excessive swallowing while he has bruising, stitches and discomfort on his belly is, to me, not okay.   In that case something that is uncomfortable would be painful AND we don’t know that any stress on his system would do to his recovery.

At the moment the only thing I notice about Beauford that has changed is he’s lethargic, doesn’t want to walk as much, and sleeps more.  He is still bright and smiling, still eating and drinking, still has bursts of energy, loves going to Pet Valu to chew his bones, loves playing with his friends, and he is LOVING our new adventures and making each day special.

If I do the surgery, I am taking away days where he will feel this vitality and we are doing the funnest of fun things, and replacing them with nursing care and him feeling crummy.  He will be away from me for days in an ICU, recovering again from an anesthetic that I know makes him feel awful, and won’t be able to do much for the 2-3 weeks at home.

I asked how long he would have without medical intervention, and I was advised 6  to 8 months.  With the surgery they said 1 to 3 years.  Three years being incredibly optimistic.  In Beauford’s case there is just too many unknowns.  To do the surgery to possibly get an additional 4-6 months, wherein we lose 1 to recovery seems to not be the right choice for Beauford.

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The one thing the surgeon did say to me is you can’t compare cancers.   My father’s dog had liver cancer and the surgeons in Guelph removed that tumor and he didn’t require chemo and we had MANY years with him after.   The short term pain in Theo’s case was absolutely worth the long term gain.  She told me to remove Theo’s story from my mind because they simply aren’t the same kind of mass, and respond differently, with completely different medical courses of intervention.

I feel as though my time with Beauford is incredibly precious, and I am treasuring every single second I have with him.  I want to spend this time with him making memories, doing the things we love, and spoiling him with love, and of course treats.

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Beauford has fought a lot in his short life.  We fought against a doctor that said he wouldn’t live passed the age of 1, and I know that he will continue to fight.  We will continue to fight together.  Though our decided weapon of choice (at the moment) is LOVE, not medical intervention.

I know that some may not agree with the choice I’ve made.  Some may feel I have been given an option that I am blindly choosing to ignore, that I am possibly robbing him of “years”, or think it’s worth the effort to save him; right?

Others may look at my choice and think I am absolutely doing the right thing, realizing that it has NOT been an easy one to make.

In this instance, honestly, I don’t believe there is any right or wrong choice.  There is just too much that’s not known.  It’s like standing in front of two doors, not knowing what’s behind either one.  In my gut, I feel I am making the right choice for Beauford and I am at peace with this decision.

 

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One thought on “A Difficult Choice: Standing In Front Of Two Doors Not Knowing What’s Behind Either One

  1. I believe you have made the right decision for you two. You are absolutely right, too many unknowns. No matter how many years we live as humans or animals, it is all about quality. Some idiot humans tie up a dog in the yard for its whole life? You are giving Beauford a truly loving and fun life though it may be a shortened one. The mental and physical stress of operations really takes its toll and if he is already becoming tired and lethargic, you are making the right choice. The healthier one is going into an operation, the faster they bounce back. Stick with your choice (you know him best) and fill his heart and mind with the love you truly bestow upon him every damn minute of your time together. Can’t wait to see you two again in Petvalu on Yonge! Stay strong, Cindy

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