On Monday morning last week, I had a vet appointment scheduled for Maggie. She was due for her checkup and vaccinations but there were other concerns I had to discuss with the vet. She's been showing some signs that not all is quite right with her and it seemed more than just being a slightly senile 10 year old neurotic beagle.
I had thought that maybe I was crazy and I was imagining her symptoms. But then she stepped on the scale at the vet and she'd lost 4 pounds. Being as we have always kept a close eye on Maggie's weight so that she wouldn't give into Portly Beagle Syndrome, this was not a good sign for her. She really didn't have 4 pounds to spare.
The vet and I discussed possibilites and ways to go about diagnosing them. Then they got a blood and urine sample from her and sent us home to await the results.
Good gravy, it was a long wait. By the end of the day Tuesday I had a migraine so vicious that I would have thrown up except I hadn't eaten so there was nothing to come up.
When we finally heard back from the vet things were a little unclear. We ruled out the most likely possibility but the remaining possibility wasn't sunshine and roses either. The vet said she would have the pathologist take a closer look at the cells in her urine sample to see if we could determine anything more and that she would let us know in a couple of days.
Thursday we found out we were still in limbo and the vet was recommending more expensive tests. We're talking upwards of $500 worth of diagnostic testing and we'd already spent a few hundred dollars on Monday.
This is the point where my parents being veterinarians comes in so handy. While they live too far away to treat Maggie, they have been so wonderful in helping us over the phone, talking over diagnostic options, talking to us about treatment options, and running the whole gamut of scenarios with us.
After a lot of conversations between Scot and I and my parents, we decided that we were 80% of the way there with diagnosis and spending $500 to get 100% there was not really smart. Especially when there isn't much we can do.
Maggie has bladder cancer.
It's not very common in dogs but it is slightly more common in beagles. It is generally inoperable because it tends to occur in a section of the bladder that makes it nigh inaccesible. While chemo treatments might exist, I just can't put my dog through something so rotten that she won't understand. There is one treatment available to us. Many dogs respond to it and it is surprisingly affordable. But we cannot cure her. The treatment will alleviate her symptoms for a period of months. Then the symptoms will return and it will be time to let Maggie go. We don't know how many months she has. Dad has seen some dogs go 18 months to 2 years but the research literature says 6 months. So, it's anyone's guess. We started the medication on Saturday and we'll see how things progress.
It was not an easy week last week and it was especially difficult trying to keep all of this from the kids until we had an answer. Once we did, we sat down and told Liam who was heartbroken. He took it as well as he could have and I think he understands that the loving thing to do is let Maggie go before it gets really bad.
In some ways, I'm so grateful for knowing we only have months because it means everyone has a chance to say goodbye and make a few last memories with her and to adjust to the idea that we are going to lose her sooner rather than later. But no matter when it happens, we will all miss her terribly.