The month ending October and most of November 2017 were fraught with stress and sleepless nights. Many of you reading this have followed the story and know parts of what I will share. For those who haven’t here’s a little background: Dempsey (9 year old goldendoodle) has had a few tumors removed over the years, but this one was a little different.
The beginning of Sept. I noticed a small bump around his hip, this bump which didn’t cause much concern initially, became fairly large in a short amount of time. I was hesitant to have it checked because honestly, I was scared.
Morgan, my yellow lab, had a similar bump which turned out to be hemangiosarcoma and there wasn’t anything we could do to help her. Dr. Amazing (name changed for privacy), my amazing general vet, gave me the options and I elected to take her home for what was 6 more months of adventures! Having lost my nephew in 2006 at the age of 23, I knew how precious 6 more months would be….. one more day would have done, but we made the most of 6 months! From hiking in the Shenandoah area to the final extended weekend in Cape Charles, VA. She was a trooper to the end.
Back to Dempsey's tumor....we had it needle biopsied and it was inconclusive. Dr. Amazing then took a small piece of the tumor to have it fully biopsied. It was definitely cancer and I was referred to the emergency hospital.
We’ve known this emergency hospital for quite some time. When Dempsey was about 1.5 years old we took a trip to Ireland and had 4 different people checking him and Tanner regularly. 5 visits a day, we hired someone and had friends check. We thought we were covered. Dempsey had been on prednisone at the time because of his lockjaw. The pred caused him to drink a lot of water and obviously caused him to have to urinate more often than normal. He was too good a boy that he developed a urinary tract infection. The night after we returned from Ireland, he couldn’t get up. Our first intro to this amazing emergency facility.
At the time this emergency facility was one of the only emergency vet hospitals in the Richmond area so we went. He spent a few days there and they were awesome. I went by each night and hung out with him in the crate as he was pumped with fluid. He got better, we got him back on his pred and thyroid meds and had been great up to this point. Okay, so minus the occasional weight gain and lecture by Dr. Amazing on his weight, he’s been great. Dr. Amazing once asked me how many cups of food I feed him a day, “The recommended. Only 1.5 cups in the morning and 1.5 cups in the afternoon.” Dr. Amazing, “And how many treats do you give him?” Me, “Look at that face, how many treats would YOU give him?” Exactly.
So that’s a little background and honestly, not at all the point of this post. I’m an academic life coach for students and part of what I love about coaching teens and young adults is they are so full of hope and wonder. They are also full of uncertainty, lack of confidence and doubt... and this causes them great angst.
So what does my being an academic life coach and my experience with 3 amazing vets and one unforgettable dog have to do with each other….
Here are a few things I’ve learned over the past 2 months and areas we want all of our teens and young adults to learn:
1. Humility: I’ve always appreciated Vets for their care of our animals. The past 2 months have shown me true humility and what it means to put your ego at the door. You won’t always have all the answers in the immediate. And that’s ok. I've worked with many teens/young adults who want and expect to have answers immediately...#google. From Dr. Amazing referring me to the emergency hospital, to Dr. Awesome listening and asking question upon question… when they were the experts… Doctor’s in general ask questions, but there is something quite different about a Vet asking the questions. A human doctor can ask the patient about what and where the hurt is, the Vet is gathering as much information as possible when the patient can’t speak for themselves. This being the reason I opted for the CT Scan before the surgery. Dr. Awesome gave me the options and didn’t press me on any, she would have gone in blind if needed. I thought to myself, how could I not opt to give her the best chance of success. I know she wants to succeed, and I want her to succeed, how can I help this situation. Had we not done the CT Scan she wouldn’t have known it was in the bone. We don’t have all the answers to questions involving others, nor do we need to have all the answers. Give yourself and those around you the best possible option to succeed… it’s all anyone wants.
2. Gratitude: Something that is not shown enough in the Veterinary community. I’ve sat in the emergency area enough to witness first hand the lack of appreciation this community receives. In doing some research I stumbled upon something I had no idea...1 in 6 Vets have contemplated suicide upon graduation. The suicide rate among veterinarians is high: More than one in six veterinarians might have contemplated suicide since graduation, according to a study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The study also showed that vets are more likely to suffer from psychiatric disorders like depression than the general population. It’s a problem that the veterinary community is sadly aware of...the rest of the world isn't. Having witnessed what I did over the past month, it actually makes me angry and I have no idea what to do to help the situation but write about it. These amazing individuals are trying their hardest.. Every. Single. Day. They are helping patients who can't describe or share where they hurt... no different than a pediatrician.. next to educators they are the people I admire most. They deserve the same level of respect you'd give any other doctor... Vet visits are costly, I understand. However, $10K is nothing to save a life in my estimation. Taking your pet to the emergency hospital and then complaining about the cost while in the waiting area isn't doing anyone any good. I joked about Dempsey starting a "Snuggle" fund... it was a joke and I apologize. I won't joke any more... we never really know what we'll do in a situation until it happens. I didn't know shock until my nephew died... I know shock.. I didn't know what I'd be willing to spend to save a dog...I now know I'll spend what I need to...
3. Dedication: Many of us believe we are dedicated to our profession. And while I’ve spent many a night and weekend responding to clients, I learned what true dedication is over the last couple of months. From Dempsey’s surgeon answering emails at 10:00 pm at night, to his general vet answering questions via text on a Saturday to friends and family who may or may not have ever met Dempsey – answering and asking the same questions that his attending vet is asking… my heart is overwhelmed with the love that he and I have felt… love, gratitude and new sense of dedication. This is what purpose looks and sounds like.
If you take just one thing from this post, please thank your Vet whenever you can. They are caring humans who face failure on a regular basis...and they get up every day to face the possibility of additional failure, just like your policemen, firefighters and human doctors.
Dempsey is continuing to heal and regardless of the outcome, I'm grateful to all who have thought about and cared for him... and me.
Happy Thanksgiving to all!