Cancer in Dogs – A Retrospecitve of Ramius’s Journey – Deciding on the Course of Action
Thank you for reading our continuing series about cancer in dogs, and Ramius’s long journey with the disease, which started in the summer of 2014 and lasted until he passed away in January, 2016.
When we last left you in Part II, Ramius just had surgery which successfully removed his lymph nodes. The next step was to determine how aggressive we wanted to be in treating his cancer now that the lymph nodes had been removed.
With surgery completed, we had to decide on our course of action for Ramius moving forward. The next part of the process involved taking Ramius in for radiation treatments, and after that chemotherapy. When it came to his radiation options we essentially had two paths to choose from; one that was less aggressive and another which was more aggressive.
5 Radiation Treatments – The Less Aggressive Option
The less aggressive option involved us taking Ramius in for a total of 5 radiation treatments about once per week. This option had a lot of great pros but one major con:
Pros of 5 Radiation Treatments
- Less stress and difficulty for Ramius
- Reasonably certain he would be able to handle this course of action
- Less stress and difficulty for us
- Less expensive
- Easier to keep appointments (only once/week)
- Easier to juggle our work schedule with the vet visits.
Cons of 5 Radiation Treatments
- The chance for success given Ramius’s condition was not as good
20 Radiation Treatments – The Much More Aggressive Option
The other option was far more aggressive and called for us to bring Ramius in for a total of 20 radiation treatments. This option was basically the inverse of the previous option in terms of the pros and cons.
Pros of 20 Radiation Treatments
- Gives Ramius the best chance to cure his cancer
Cons of 20 Radiation Treatments
- Treatments would have to be daily. 20 straight days of radiation treatments (except for the weekends)
- Far more stress and difficulty on Ramius
- Given Ramius’s age and diabetes, less certain that he could handle this course of action
- Very difficult on us. Tough to juggle going to work and making daily trips to see the cancer specialists for nearly a month
- Much more expensive
So there you have it. Basically, one option is much easier and much less expensive, but also gave Ramius less chance for success. And the other was far more difficult, far more onerous, and much more expensive; but it gave Ramius the best chance for success.
So what do we do? These are difficult choices…
The 4th of July Summit
As I mentioned in Part II of the series, we had the long 4th of July weekend in 2014 to figure out what to do and make our decision. We still refer to this weekend as the 4th of July Summit.
My wife and I, along with Ramius and Sacha, were all up at our Wisconsin cottage. We were lucky because this provided a nice environment to get away from everything and quietly discuss our options. Of course, Ramius, the subject of this discussion, had no idea how much hinged on this conversation for him.
We discussed everything and every angle all weekend long. Can we pull this off logistically? How hard would this be on Ramius? What if 20 treatments is too hard on him? What if we do 5 treatments and it doesn’t work? Will we always feel guilty for the rest of our lives?
It’s difficult stuff.
At least we had one factor that didn’t much matter to us and that was cost. We had Ramius covered by Healthy Paws Pet Insurance at a 90% reimbursement level. Meaning that even if his cancer treatments cost say $50K, we’d only be out of pocket $5K since we’d already met our deductible. $5K was something we could handle. $50K? Don’t know. Probably not.
In any case, it would be much more difficult. Which is why I urge all pet owners to get pet insurance. If faced with this decisions, the options are already tough enough. No need to have the financial impact weighing on top of everything as well.
Pam and I went back and forth and back and forth all weekend long. Let’s do the 5 treatment option. No, what if that doesn’t work, we’ll never forgive ourselves. Okay, let’s do 20. No, that’ll be too hard on Ramius. Besides, how can we pull that off with our jobs and everything?
On and on and it went like that all weekend.
You’re Not Alone – Talk to Friends and Family
One thing to always remember if you find yourself in this situation is that you’re not alone. Please take advantage of talking through things with your family and friends. They’ll help provide a different perspective and in our case, they were very supportive with whatever choice we would make for Ramius.
Just knowing that made us feel better. Remember, there is no absolute right or wrong decision in this situation. As you can see, the choices are tough ones, and there are strong pros and cons of each. It’s not easy to know what to do, and no matter what choice you make, you could always feel like you should have made the other one.
So take advantage of your support system. They can help.
Our Decision for Ramius
After all of this deliberation, we made finally made our decision. We decided the best thing for Ramius was to do the 5 treatment option. He was almost 11 and diabetic. We didn’t know if he’d be up to taking the full 20 treatment course.
And besides, who’s to say that 5 treatments wouldn’t work just fine? What if 20 treatments was overkill and we didn’t need that many? Yes, obviously, 5 treatments doesn’t give us as a good chance for success as 20, but it’s still a decent shot.
Or so we thought at the time.
As you’ll read about in Part IV of our series, there was a far more significant difference between 5 and 20 treatments than we realized, and this would cause us to rethink our decision. But we didn’t know that the time.
So, at least for now, we decided that 5 treatments was the way to go for Ramius. We told our family and friends and they all agreed. They supported us and made us feel like we were doing the best thing for him. We also called Dr. Smith and gave her our thinking, and she too agreed, we were doing the right thing. We felt confident in our choice.
Finally, we broke the news to Ramius. I’m not sure he understood everything, but he seemed to be on board with this decision as well. 🙂
The next step was to meet with the Radiologist, Dr. Looper, at MedVet Chicago. We hadn’t met with Dr. Looper yet, so we had no idea at that time how much of an impact she would have on Ramius’s life. And ours.
You can read about that meeting in our Part IV of our series which will be COMING SOON. I don’t want to give too much away, but as you’ll see, we’d be rethinking our decision go with 5 radiation treatments for Ramius.
Healthy Paws Pet Insurance
You’ve read earlier in this post what I had to say about the importance of getting pet insurance. Again, taking the financial component out of the equation makes things much easier when faced with this kind of decision. You can read my review of Healthy Paws by clicking on the link below:
Thanks for reading, and please continue to read this series as it unfolds. Cancer in Dogs – Ramius’s Journey – Part IV is now live!
And if you have or have had a dog with cancer and you’d like to share your experiences, please leave us a comment. You’re not alone. We’ll be sure to get back to you.