Wednesday, September 26, 2007
If a veterinarian leaves us a voicemail, and we don't know it's there, does the dog still have cancer?
Since I've been on the cable modem, I haven't been using the land line phone at all. So I was barely aware that there were any messages waiting for us. Somehow I assumed that the veterinarian would call my cell phone when test results came in on the biopsy from Tuffy's tongue. It's the only phone number I give out to anyone I actually want to hear from, the only number I ever use. And the house phone tends to get lots of useless voicemail, people trying to get us to refinance, or give to charity, or support some political cause or other. Half the voicemails are the last five seconds of a recording; they can't even be bothered making sure their machine isn't talking to another machine, or program it to wait for the beep.
Anyway, between my antipathy for the home phone, the ending of one job and the beginning of another, and Tuffy's ongoing health issues, I failed to realize until last night that the vet might have called the home number, in the daytime when she was sure not to reach us. Tonight I called and picked up the messages: ends of two or three political recordings, leads on three jobs (one I'd already followed up on, one good one and one useless one; in any case it's too late now!), a refi offer, a request for some charity I've never heard of - and Dr. L.
The results of the biopsies are in, she said. The three cysts Tuffy had removed were benign, as expected.
The tumor on the tongue is a carcinoma.
She left us the name and number of Tucson's only animal oncologist, and advised us to call right away for an appointment. Being in high demand, the specialist has a lag time for seeing patients. And if the tip of Tuffy's tongue is not removed, Dr. L warned, the cancer may quickly spread to her lungs.
Yes, it's fair to say and John and I have been freaking out tonight.
We just spent $1,035 on stuff that isn't life threatening, and now the dog is in danger after all. Maybe if we max out another credit card we can buy Tuffy another five years of life - or maybe not. She's 11 years old, not ancient for a dog her size, but not young. We could spend the money and the cancer might spread anyway. Maybe it's spread already. We wouldn't know without still more tests, right? If she does have more surgery, it may or may not help her. If she doesn't, how long does she have until her quality of life is gone? For that matter, how good would her quality of life be with a third of her tongue missing?
And I wish I could say that money is no object. My inclination is to spend whatever it takes, on the slimmest of hopes. I think John's is to avoid putting us in an ever deeper financial hole unless we're reasonably sure it will really save Tuffy for years to come. Either way, it's not an easy decision. Back in 1989 I had to make the choice to end Jenny's life, when cancer was the latest of her problems and it was clearly over for her, and John was out of town and out of reach. About a decade later, John and I both witnessed the end of Noodle's life, and John cried for about the second time in the thirty years I've known him.
In the morning I'll copy down the relevant info, and call from work. We will make the appointment, and when the time comes we'll find out what the options are - and what the odds are. I can't begin to tell you what happens next after that.