But then the vet called back.
Diabetic dog has (newly diagnosed) lymphoma.
It’s widespread. Aggressive. And his diabetes is (still) uncontrolled.
I told a few folks at CONTEXT that they suspected lymphoma (they did a checkup just before I put ’em in the kennel to go to the con), but I really didn’t let myself process or think about it. Though I knew. I mean, you know the look that medical folks get when they don’t want to tell you bad news. But you set it to the side and tell yourself everything’s okay, since you haven’t actually heard it. Right?
He’s definitely stage III substage b (systemic spread, evidence of systemic symptoms including loss of appetite and difficulty breathing). Maybe stage IV or V – we’ve not done that kind of testing. Doesn’t really matter, though. Life expectancy without treatment (or with prednisone alone to alleviate some symptoms) is 4-6 weeks. In retrospect, some of those symptoms showed up 2 weeks ago, so bog knows how long he’s got.
This is almost – almost – worse than what happened with Taylor, when there was less than 36 hours between diagnosis and him dying. Almost.
He could be treated with chemo. Survival rates for 1 year are pretty decent – 50% – but drop heavily for a two-year survival rate to only 20%. As this website (which gets major kudos for being both pretty rigorous and also giving comprehensible information about cancer in dogs) points out, a year may be up to a tenth of a dog’s lifetime, so that 20% two-year survival isn’t quite as horrible as it sounds.
And yes, it would be difficult (given the large amounts of steroids involved) with his uncontrolled diabetes. But that’s not the shit thing.
The anticipated per-month cost for chemotherapy for the first four months would be two and a half times my mortgage. It would be over two-thirds of my monthly paycheck. I can only imagine how much more it would be for a person.
And this really tears the shit out of me. Because it’s not a matter of me going without, or having a little less of some things, or going a (little) in debt. It’s a difference between me having somewhere to live or not. Or increasing my consumer debt again by another third to a half.
I know some people wouldn’t have even treated him for the diabetes. That’s because some people are hellbent on demonstrating why I tend to value the average dog’s life over those of the average humans. For me, this is a hellish dilemma. (I can type, but I can’t talk right now. I just had to cancel an interview I had scheduled for this evening.) Even with the chemotherapy – presuming it doesn’t turn his kidneys into rubbish – he won’t live that long, at best. Without… well, yeah.
Sure, there’s some (cold, oh so cold) relief by knowing that it’s not nearly as bad as having to make that same kind of decision about a loved human. And I can get distracted by the righteous anger of knowing this is the bullshit decision that so many people diagnosed with cancer – even those with health insurance – have to make in the USA.
Because yeah, if I had the finances to pay for it, this would be a no-brainer…
If you’ll excuse me, “Pavlov” and I have to head off to our trailer…1
1 Yes, to those who know me, I’m well aware that making that image and bad joke was an attempt to deflect my own emotions by keeping myself occupied for about twenty minutes. Your point is what?