Saturday, January 26, 2008

Charlie's diagnosis

Charlie at the Lincoln Park pool in Grand Junction for Dog Daze in September 2007 Our worst fears were realized on Thursday evening when we received a call from Dr. Dernell. The results of Charlie's biopsy came back positive for osteosarcoma. Nan and I both took the news badly. It meant that there was no cure; the disease was going to kill him, probably within a matter of months. The traumatic surgery we had hoped would remove all traces of the tumor now seemed cruel if it was only going to gain him a few months, so we have opted not to put him through it. Instead we are going to begin a cycle of chemotherapy as soon as possible and hope for the best. If it slows the growth of the tumor and its metastasis, Charlie could survive as long as eight months.

We met with Dr. Dernell and Erin yesterday at the Animal Cancer Center in Fort Collins to discuss Charlie's future before driving home. They cautioned us that while he may be his normal self right now except for the tumor and the bad breath, he would soon start to experience persistent pain and associated changes in behavior. We agreed to enlist whatever palliative measures we could to keep him comfortable. They said we would see a gradual change in his attitude about life, that his focus would shift from the joys of eating, sleeping, chasing tennis balls and going for walks to a fixation on his condition and a loss of interest in everything else. At that point, he would begin the process of dying and we would need to consider ending his suffering instead of prolonging his life.

I can't even write these sentences without crying. I can't believe that just a month ago Charlie's life seemed to stretch out into the foreseeable future and now it will be over in less than a year. The best we can do is make the most of our remaining time together, giving him as much love and attention as possible, which is how we should all live our lives with each other no matter how much time we have.

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