Friday, 22 June 2007

The Story So Far.....

Where do I start? Probably with a little bit of background. Prince is about ten years old, I say 'about' because he was a rescue dog and I know virtually nothing about his background. I've had him for about eight years now and he means eveything to me. Non-dog owners will probably find it hard to understand, but I would literally do anything for him. He's beautiful, fun, loving, loyal and kind. Unfortunately, he's also just been diagnosed with Canine Lymphoma.

Lymphoma is in simple terms, cancer of the lymphatic system. There's no cure as such, and the only option other that to put him to sleep, is chemotherapy. Whilst I was waiting for confirmation that it was Lymphoma we were dealing with I was adamant that I would have him put to sleep if it did turn out to be cancer. My reasoning behind this was that I couldn't bear the idea of him suffering. As far as I was concerned, chemotherapy would make him very ill, require very regular vists to the vet (who he's terrified of, through no fault of my vet) and simply extend a life that may well not be worth living. We've enjoyed eight years of fun and love and I didn't want to put him through months of illness just for my own selfish purposes.

However, when Lymphoma was confirmed I began to change my view. Lots of people and sources were telling me that chemotherapy in dogs didn't generally leave them terribly ill as it can in humans. In fact, I'm told that many dogs enjoy a perfectly happy and normal quality of life. My vet has treated a dog of his own with chemotherapy and assured me that he would do it again if one of his current dogs was unfortunate enough to need it. Although constantly tired and fed up, I got the distinct impression that Prince wasn't ready to go yet - he still 'bullied' me when he felt up to it (ie. playfully attacked me in a very faux viscious way!), and had an obsession with food as yet unmatched in the canine world. All in all, I decided that if there was a chance of enjoying a further six months or more of being with Prince, and as long as he was happy and reasonably well, it had to be worth a go.

So that's really where we are. I'm still worried that the regular trip to the vet will be too much for him, and that the chemo will make him ill, but I think we have to try. As much as I don't like to think about it, we can always revert back to plan A if I think that he is suffering in any way.

The treatment schedule is quite intensive for this type of chemotherapy, and I don't know how well he'll be between treatments, so I've given up my full-time job to look after him. A major factor in this was also that if I have the opportunity to give Prince an extra six months of happy life - I'm certainly not going to spend it at my desk. I want to be with him all the time, and ensure he knows he's the most loved, cared for and appreciated little pooch on earth.

Giving up work has been frightening. I have no 'reserve' funds as such and really have no idea how I'm going to survive. To be perfectly frank, I don't really care though - as Prince is the only thing that matters at the moment. I'm very fortunate in many ways though, as I have a very supportive family, who feel the same way about Prince that I do. My previous employer was also very understanding, and has given me the opportunity to do bits of freelance work for them as and when I can. Dogs Today magazine also commissioned me to write a short article for them about Prince, which they'll pay me for, so this helps too.

My vet has referred Prince to the Liverpool University Small Animal Teaching Hospital for his chemotherapy, as they have the experience and facilities to deal with the treatment better. I'm pleased about this, as they are a European Centre of Excellence for oncology and are clearly experts at what they do, but a little disappointed as my usual vet has been fantastic up to this point and I would have liked to have him look after Prince if possible. Oh well, it says a lot about the professionalism of my local vets that they recognise when better treatment can be found elsewhere.

Anyway, we're due for our first appointment at the hospital on Monday at midday, so the journey starts here.......

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