Luckie has thyroid cancer. It's not an official diagnosis since he has not had a biopsy but the vet is pretty sure that is what his lemon-sized (my nurse oncologist mother says plum) tumor in his throat area is. He's 14. He's lived a good, long life. Much healthier than a lot of dogs who are 9 or 10 years old. His only elderly health problem has been bad arthritis. Otherwise, he's remained curious, happy, loving, lovable, and incredibly interested in food.
His age--or his species--doesn't make his diagnosis and the fact that I will lose him one day any less painful and scary.
He has choked once while eating food. His breathing is more labored when he exerts himself. I now worry every time he barks and coughs, wondering if the tumor is going to close off the esophagus and choke him to death.
I don't know what we'll do yet. I need to read over the information the vet will send, possibly get a second opinion, try some natural remedies in an attempt to approve his thyroid functioning and keep the tumor from getting bigger.
I've known about the tumor for well over a month after Brian found it while hugging the dog. I tried to tuck my fear away, tried to say, maybe it's always been there but I never knew. But I knew that wasn't true. When I took him to the vet on Saturday, I said it was for a regular checkup but it was really for the tumor. At first the vet couldn't find it and didn't seem too concerned by the fatty tumors she found. But then she found it and she turned very concerned very quickly. She aspirated the tumor at least 5 times. All that came out was blood, which means the tumor is being very well-fed.
We talked and I said, "Well, I don't want to do anything drastic. He's 14. Let's just keep an eye on it and make sure he's comfortable. I don't want surgery or chemo." She agreed. She still needed to look at slides and check out the cells more, although it would be hard for a lab to read with so much blood.
When I spoke to the vet yesterday, she said things like carcinoma, metastasis, four months. I lost my shit. I stopped eating. Suddenly everything I said about wanting to make him comfortable seemed stupid and, most importantly, a lie. What about chemo or surgery? I don't want to give up. She said she wouldn't try surgery if it were her but we'd need more information--xrays and biopsies--anyway. I felt nauseous. I had to leave work early not because anything was wrong with Luckie--he's fine for now. I just wanted to be with him and I didn't want a stupid reason like work to get in the way of being with him while he's still happy and relatively healthy.
If you have a companion animal, give them a big hug for me. I hope they're okay. If you don't have one, and you know you can totally care for and love one for their whole life, I can't tell you enough what a great idea that is. One of the biggest reasons I've been so open to going vegan is because of Luckie. When I thought of killing and eating him or keeping him penned up so I could take his milk (well, if he were a girl) or his fur, it seemed unthinkable, sick, and cruel. I've rarely met a creature--human or otherwise--who has such personality, who makes me so happy just looking at him cock his head when I talk to him, who is so damn sweet and funny. Companion animals can be great ambassadors for farm animals. They can break open your heart. And they will also eventually break it.