The hardest thing I do

I had intended to write a more light-hearted post this evening, but sometimes things take an unexpected turn.  Macey was a Boxer who developed lymphoma a year ago in July.  She had been misdiagnosed elsewhere and put on antibiotics for her swollen lymph nodes.  After four weeks of that, they sought a second opinion, my opinion as luck would have it.  A biopsy confirmed my suspicions based on her exam and history.

Her owners could not afford aggressive chemotherapy, so we treated her with prednisone alone.  It’s cheaper than dirt and sometimes will slow the progress of lymphoma.   In this case, the results were outstanding.  With nothing but prednisone, she had over a year of remission and good quality of life.  That’s about a hundred to one shot — lots of dogs don’t get that kind of remission even with very aggressive chemotherapy.

As you’ve probably guessed, today was the end of the trail.  She had some colitis last week, which seemed to be resolving.  This morning she seemed a little disoriented, but after talking with the me, her folks decided not to bring her in.  They went out for a while this evening and found her having trouble breathing when they returned.  At 11:30 tonight, she made her last trip in to see me.  Her lymph nodes had all swelled up again, including the ones around her bronchial tubes and they were suffocating her.  Every breath was a struggle.

Even when you know what the problem is and you’ve exhausted your options and you know it’s "time", it’s pretty hard to let them go.  It would have been harder to watch her gasping all night until she finally died in misery.  That doesn’t make it much easier to take the final step to euthanize the patient, but you do what you have to do.  She was so close to the edge that she collapsed before I could finish the injection.

You sometimes hear people talk about what a blessing it is to end the suffering, and how they wish that people could have the same gift sometimes… but it’s the hardest thing I do.

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