J.D.: Will doesn’t have cancer! What should I tell him?
Cox: Well, I’d open with that.
“Practice saying, ‘Good news!’ Practice saying, ‘It’s a miracle!'” -Greg Ogilvie, DVM, DACVIM, Oncology (veterinary cancer specialist)
Christmas Eve and all we had on the schedule for the day was checking a sweet little Shih Tzu pup’s tooth for a friend. And food. Lots of food. Being at work for the morning was not what we dreaded. We were truly with friends. And, as I mentioned, food. What we dreaded, what every vet team dreads when working a holiday I imagine, was ruining that holiday for a pet and their family with Bad News.
Even so, the morning was quiet so far, and we were enjoying each other’s company (and food).
Our first call of the day was from the owner of an 11 year old Golden Retriever who suddenly started limping.
(If it were not Christmas and if I had not decided years ago to not say it online, I would say it here. In fact, we may have, In Real Life.)
Old Golden. Undoubtably sweet (soon to be confirmed). Undoubtably sweet family (soon to be confirmed). Christmas. Limping. Away from the elbow-towards the knee. The old osteosarcoma mantra we all learned and use regularly. Preferably not at Christmas time though.
Stephanie cleared the food and decorations and Christmas tablecloth off of the x-ray table. Brooke prepared for x-rays. Jen and I saw the patient. Amy, it turns out, was just waking up. Oh to be a groomer! Just kidding, Amy!
We stood and chatted around the x-ray table with Golden’s Mom. We had not told her how sad a lameness could be, but we knew she knew. We had not told Golden, but if he knew, in typical Golden fashion, he did not care. His very favorite people, including Mom and several people he had just met moments ago, were all there with him petting him!
We sent Mom up front away from the x-ray beams. We took two views. And then a third. We stared. We sighed. We teared up. And I slowly walked Golden up to Mom.
No cancer. No cancer! No radiographic lesions whatsoever! YOU my new best Golden friend, are going to need to be spoiled through the holiday! Not because it is the beginning of the end, but because, Old Man, we need your soft tissue injury, that you most likely sustained playing with the new puppy, to heal.
You can break our hearts another day. Right now it is Christmas and we need you to go home to do what your family had probably planned for you all along, take it easy and let your family spoil you rotten.
The very next night, Christmas night, I was setting up hospice care with one of my very best person friends for one of my very best cat friends.
Someday we will be saying good bye to Golden. Someday we will be saying goodbye to Cat Friend. But for that one moment, on Christmas Eve morning, we could say, against all odds, this sweet old dog is treatable, we are surrounded by love and friends (and food), and it is, indeed, a very merry Christmas.