Decisions, Decisions

As many of you are aware, our Cavalier Bichon mix, Myra, was recently diagnosed with transmural lymphoma of the small intestine. We were fortunate to find the cancer through a series of lucky events. But once we had a diagnosis, we had to start making decisions about treatment. I practice integrated medicine, which means I will generally lean toward holistic or alternative therapies whenever possible, but I will use traditional Western medicine when it offers benefits that are needed.

I have treated hundreds of dogs and cats with cancer over the years and the first thing I tell clients seeking alternative therapies is that they should still make an appointment to speak with an oncologist. By listening to the information the oncologist can offer about different treatment options and prognosis with or without different therapies, the client will be able to make an informed decision. It never hurts to have more education. Knowing what you are facing is half the battle. While statistics are great, there will always be those individuals that "beat the odds" and respond incredibly well to either traditional or holistic modalities. While every one of us would like to believe that our pet is the one that will beat the odds, it would be unrealistic for that to occur every time.

When I posted Myra's diagnosis on Facebook, I received a message from one of my veterinary college classmates who owns a large specialty center outside Washington, D.C. He has treated two of his own dogs for lymphoma and had some great advice to offer. He recommended half body radiation of both the thorax and the abdomen. He said these treatments seemed to be making a big difference in dogs with lymphoma. He also knows I tend toward holistic therapies and recommended that I "suspend my beliefs" while considering Myra's treatments. I actually thought that was great advice. While I can't suspend my beliefs completely, I am definitely open to therapies that can save our little girl. We are looking at ways to combine the traditional and holistic therapies to achieve the best outcome.

So, in following my own advice, we sought out an oncologist to help us unravel the mystery of Myra's cancer and how best to approach treatment. Generally, we take our pets to a specialty center in Delaware that is only a few minutes from home. That is where Myra had the surgery to remove the cancerous bowel section. I will be forever grateful that the surgeon recommended the biopsy. Unfortunately, their oncologist is about to go out on maternity leave and coverage will be handled by visiting oncologists for the next few weeks. They also do not have a facility to perform radiation treatment and we are pretty sure we want that to be in Myra's protocol. I have many clients that have taken their pets to the Hope Center in Malvern, Pennsylvania, and they seem to really like the doctors there. I called to set up our first consultation and agreed to see the first oncologist available.

I am a firm believer in fate. Myra saw her new doctor within 48 hours and it was a match made in heaven. The new doctor is trained in acupuncture and herbs; she believes alternative therapies will play a large role in Myra's recovery. Tune in tomorrow to meet Myra's doctor and hear what she had to say.