The amuputation of Quinta’s front left leg was the immediate result of a biopsy that confirmed the presence of histiocytic sarcoma, an aggressive cancer with a grave prognosis. We have since learned that the tumor has metastasized to Quinta’s lymph nodes. Here in Japan, possible chemotherapy treatment involves either lomustine (CCNU) or doxorubicin (adriamycin), but the efficacy of such treatment is not clear. Even if the treatment were effective, in most cases it is short-term. Serious adverse effects include bone marrow depression, a condition from which Quinta already suffers.
I have been struggling with whether to put Quinta through chemotherapy under these circumstances, trying to figure out what is “best” for Quinta. He has been home for the past week and regaining his health; he is hopping around and enjoying the company of our three cats and our friends who visit him. Just being home and being relaxed have done wonders for him. Quinta seems very happy today.
I decided not to put Quinta through chemotherapy that may be of limited efficacy and that involves risks that would likely create discomfort for Quinta. I do not think that is what Quinta wants and I think what is important to him (and to me) now is to be able to spend every minute in the comfort of our home and with the cats and our friends whom we love.
A part of me wonders whether, by deciding not to proceed with chemo, I am failing to pursue all available options for Quinta, and therefore failing to fight cancer and giving up. I keep reading about how we should not give up without a fight, and wonder if I am not even trying to fight the cancer. Have I failed as Quinta’s guardian? What does it mean to fight cancer? Is there any correct way to do so?
However much I wish for a miracle cure, I realize that no amount of chemotherapy agent injected into Quinta’s bloodstream will be able to sustain the lethal attack of histiocytic sarcoma. The chemotherapy tools available to help Quinta today seem like 19th century gunboats trying to fight the onsalught of a nuclear arsenal. I cannot fight cancer on its terms.
Quinta and I will therefore fight cancer on our own terms — love and compassion. We have a great team of doctors, dog sitters and friends who have rallied around Quinta to provide him with the best care in order to ensure that his quality of life does not suffer and he can continue to live the rest of his remaining life in as much comfort as possible, surrounded by love and in a way that respects his personality and what is important in his life. I want Quinta to have as normal a life as possible, so we have started a rehab program to support his new life as a tripawd, as well as a program of supplements and Eastern medicine. I want him to continue to live a healthy life as a dog, being able to walk/hop and enjoying his meals and treats and playing with the cats and his friends. None of this may prevent what histiocytic sarcoma will ultimately bring, but we will not allow it to take over Quinta’s life and dictate how he lives.
Quinta is alive and happy today.
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