Things People Email Me About

When you write memoir, you are out there. Really out there. People that know me always say that they can hear my voice when they read Lucky Dog. People that don’t know me will always say that my book is “so honest”, which I find puzzling, because it is memoir, it is supposed to be honest. Otherwise you will get yourself into a lot of trouble, like the guy that wrote A Million Little Pieces and got on Oprah, only for us to all find out (much to Oprah’s horror) that the whole thing was a big fat lie. So everyone gets to know you when you write memoir, even people that don’t know you.

 

The familiarity makes people want to reach out. A lot of people have emailed me tell me that they read Lucky Dog and they really enjoyed it. Most of them say that they have never written to an author before, which is also quite awesome. I feel honored. I appreciate these emails because the power of writing is the ability to evoke emotion in people. I know that my book has made people laugh and cry, sometimes at the same time. It is cliché, but that is the most common comment that I have received about my book from friends and strangers. When I get these emails, I always ask the emailer to consider sharing their love of Lucky Dog in the form of a review on Amazon, Goodreads or the House of Anansi (my amazing publisher) website, because, let’s face it, Shareen on Goodreads is an obtuse hater that needs her vicious one-star review diluted by people who really get me.

 

There are also emails from previous clients and dog owners who have treated cancer in their own pets. One woman told me that after she read my book, she decided to put her dog down. This is unexpected, but something about the book gave her the perspective that she needed to make this last loving decision for her dog. One of my previous clients told me that during the time that I treated her dog for bone cancer, she had just lost her other dog and left her abusive husband. She was living in a small apartment over a barn with her dog and two small children, which was partly because it was the only place that she could afford and partly because she was literally hiding from her husband. She did not have funds to treat her dog’s cancer and she enrolled him in a clinical trial I was running. Somehow, over 3 years later, her dog is still with her. She told me that she thinks he lived because he knew that at that time in her life, she literally could not live without him and couldn’t handle the loss, he was her only source of support, so he stayed. She is stronger now and more ready to let him go when it is time. She loves him enough to let him go, but still he hangs on.

 

Then there are all of the vets out there with thyroid masses. This freaks me out a bit. Maybe it is just a coincidence because I am a member of the vet community and I have thyroid cancer, so other veterinarians with thyroid masses are comfortable contacting me, but in the past 8 months, I have connected with six people within our profession (mostly vets) with thyroid cancer and 2 with thyroid masses that turned out to be benign. Maybe all of those years of volunteering at vet clinics and holding dogs for Xrays without wearing a lead collar has come back to roost? I am not sure, but there is a lot of thyroid biz going on here. When you are a member of a profession, you end up with a lot of people that are not close friends, but you have more familiarity with them than mere acquaintances. People you would “friend” on Facebook. I will call them frienquantances, because I love to make up words. I had one frienquaintance email me that my book is now her “go to” because she has been dealing with thyroid nodules for months, watching them grow and she finally had them removed, bolstered by my story, and she was diagnosed with thyroid carcinoma. Another compelling email came from a frienquantance who is also a veterinary surgeon, who told me that he had a thyroid mass and, because of hearing about my story, he pushed to get it checked out and removed and he was diagnosed with an invasive thyroid carcinoma. He said that he was “forever in my debt”. Those are heavy words from a frienquaintance.

 

The last group of people who email me are the thyroid cancer survivors or people from the greater survivor community. I am happy that Lucky Dog is the book that people take with them to read in the waiting rooms of all of the medical appointments that cancer patients endure. A welcome distraction from the sitting and waiting. I have a friend in Australia with prostate cancer who took my book to every appointment and I am proud that my words kept him company. I also have been seriously humbled by some of the emails from people who have very serious cancers. I am not a fan of comparing cancers and I am not a fan of calling thyroid cancer “good” cancer. There are no good cancers, but there are some very bad cancers. I received emails from a man with esophageal cancer. His entire esophagus was removed and they moved his stomach into his thorax to act as his esophagus. We don’t do this procedure in dogs because of the morbidity. He emailed me several updates along the way and through it all he kept his good humor and said he was doing well, “all things considered” and thanked me for my book. I feel unworthy of his praise.

 

This week, I received an update from a thyroid cancer survivor who lives in Ontario. He had his thyroidectomy performed at the same hospital that I did. He thanked me for Lucky Dog. A few months ago, he started coughing and he went in for a CT of this chest. His papillary thyroid carcinoma, which is supposed to be good cancer, had spread to his lungs. He received another round of radioactive iodine treatment and on his post-treatment scan, they saw something abnormal in his head. He pushed for a CT of his head and they found that his cancer had spread to his brain. He sent me the image (see below). He is going to have full course radiation to his entire brain. It is sobering and overwhelming that someone who is a stranger to me would share this bad news. With his permission, I am sharing this with you too. It made me pause, as everyone who has had a cancer diagnosis or cancer scare does, to ask myself if I am happy. If I was in his shoes and my thyroid cancer came back (which is considered very unlikely, but possible) would I be happy with my life? Would I be proud of where I am and who I am? Would I feel like I always acted with integrity? Am I having enough fun? Mostly yes, but sometimes no. Some things need improvement. I work too much and I don’t always find time for joy and exercise. I’m homesick for Canada and Canadians. I have trouble reconciling the perfect job and the perfect place to live. I want to live in a small mountain town in Canada, but I can’t figure out how to make this work. The best part about being a cancer survivor is that you are reminded that life is short and forced to ask yourself these questions. I keep the picture of this stranger’s brain on my phone to remind me of this every day.

 

So to all of the survivors, vets, dog owners and readers out there, thanks for the emails. I read them all and I take your stories with me.

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What not to wear, for vets

Veterinarians are professionals that work with animals. Usually sick animals. There are often multiple body fluids involved. This creates a tension in us. How do I dress professionally, knowing full well that I will soon be covered in feces, urine, anal sac fluid (I don’t even know what this stuff is called), blood and/or hair? Once, when I was in general practice, I was unblocking a cat (male cat, can’t pee, needs a urinary catheter placed ASAP) and I managed to simultaneously pass the catheter and release a jet of fluid from the cat’s anal sacs. Couldn’t really stop what I was doing due to sterility and finally getting the cat unblocked, so I just endured the stream of stinky fluid as it shot directly on to my neck and then streamed down my chest, settling in my nonexistent cleavage and bra as I worked. And I really can’t complain because when I tell this story to my colleagues, they always one-up me and tell me that almost the same thing happened to them, only the anal sac stream hit them in the mouth. The mouth. I quit.

One of my professors at vet school, a very old-school bovine veterinarian, used to wear a shirt and tie under his coveralls when he saw sick cows. I am not sure about his pants, or if he wore pants. (I hope he wore pants.) I am not even sure if it was a real shirt versus a dickie-style shirt-collar and tie, but the overall appearance was very very profesh. For male veterinarians, it is relatively straightforward; if you want to look professional, wear a shirt and tie. Our veterinary students are required to wear a shirt and tie on their clinical rotations. It looks good, but it is important not to think too much about the particular tie. Most vet students do not have a wide selection of ties. It is also questionable whether or not they have ever cleaned their tie(s) or if they would know how to clean their tie(s). Their tie is peeking out between the lapels of their clean-ish lab coat, picking up bacteria everywhere it goes. It is a fashion fomite.

Female veterinarians have a whole other set of hurdles to contend with. There is no shirt and tie off-the-shelf uniform. The clothes that we wear at work need to be: comfortable, flattering, stylish, professional, female, machine-washable and hair repellant. Easy to change in and out of is also a plus if you are going in and out of surgery. So what’s a girl to do? There is the old-school female(-ish) vet uniform, that is often mocked, yet can not/will not go away. That is the white sneakers, mom jeans and airbrushed animal T-shirt or sweatshirt. This ensemble fits only 2 of the 8 criteria above, but it is a real favorite. Some women just miss the mark when trying to dress professionally and land either in cocktail party or bar-girl outfit land, or even worse, frumpy middle-aged men’s business clothes for women land (complete with shoulder pads). It’s tricky. I oscillate between different vet girl looks on a regular basis. Sometimes, I try to look nice and I wear my best working girl clothes (meaning professional clothes, not that I am dressed like a hooker, which is definitely a look to be avoided). Then I get frustrated because these clothes get ruined or cost a fortune to dry clean and I switch to dorky, but functional and washable dress shirts and slacks. Sometimes I give up altogether on civilian looks and wear the surgeon’s uniform, which also look like pyjamas, surgical greens. Then I start the cycle all over again.

The other challenge to looking good is the general business of the day as a veterinarian. Most vets do not take time for themselves at work to do frivolous things, like peeing or drinking water. Actually, drinking water would just compound the problem, as adequate hydration can only lead to the need to urinate. No peeing also equals no looking a mirror for the entire day, so the mascara fail, food in teeth (assuming you had time to eat) or protruding booger go unnoticed all day. Ignorance can be bliss in this scenario. It is also a good way to know your true work friends, the ones that let you know when you have a “puppy in the kennel” as they gesture to a nostril. I would say I am a bit inconsistent on the booger alerting front. I try hard to be brave and just let my colleagues know that they have a bit of a situation in their nez, but sometimes too much time has passed in the booger-laden conversation and bringing it up now would just make it worse because I have been staring at it the whole time. Sometimes I am just not strong enough.

Once you head in to surgery, it is a whole other set of aesthetic challenges. It is impossible to stay pretty in surgery. The surgical cap, which is made of a truly disgusting synthetic material that makes my skin crawl and does strange things to everybody’s hair, the face mask and the sweating, all conspire. Once you come out of surgery, you have mascara running down your already darkened eye circles, strange hair that will not/can not go back to normal, and you are just a little sweaty all over. If you are a cancer surgeon like me, you might also have blood splattered across your face. Everyone you see in the hospital will tell me about it, just in case I forget that I look like an axe murderer as I head up to the waiting area to tell my clients that their precious dog is doing just fine.

I think that the only reasonable answer is to have a glam squad waiting for you as you head out of every appointment or surgical procedure. Just like the glam squad on American Idol that keep J-Lo and Harry from looking too shiny. (Somehow beautiful Keith doesn’t seem to need any touch-ups on set, he just gazes dreamily into the camera while is besties get re-primped.) Until we have vet glam squads, our clients will just have to take us as we are, shiny, frazzled, disheveled, tired and happy to get a little dirty.

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Easy-Peasy Thyroid Cancer

I had to change blogs in mid-blog stream. Something came up that was too offensive not to blog about. This was a blog that was published by the Huffington Post by Cindy Finch, called The 6 Injustices of Cancer. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/cindy-finch-msw-licsw/the-six-injustices-of-can_b_6573648.html) I am reluctant to include the link because it will mean more traffic and better metrics for an article that I don’t think deserves it.

Why six injustices? I have no idea. They are not even the six that I would have chosen if I had written a blog about the six injustices of cancer, but, as a thyroid cancer survivor and veterinary surgical oncologist, you peruse this kind of thing. It starts out with,

  1. When it’s over, it ain’t over
  2. Cancer now, may mean cancer later
  3. Your doctor may dismiss your concerns
  4. Cancer is humiliating

Ok, sure, although I don’t find this list particular groundbreaking or visionary, I can relate and half-smile my way through. Then comes #5:

  1. Some cancer patients get off really easy

Here are some quotes from provocative section #5: I’ve heard it a hundred times, “I’m a cancer survivor, too.” “Oh, really? What type of cancer did you have and what was your treatment?” “Oh, I had thyroid cancer and had to take a radioactive pill for 30 days then I was all better.” Blah blah blah, lots of crap on who has it bad and who has it even more bad, blah, blah blah “High on pain and often low on quality of life afterwards (if they live), these folks represent the worst among us.” (Clearly not talking about easy-peasy thyroid cancer here) “If you’re not one of these folks, perhaps you should be quiet and sit down and let someone else tell their war story.” (Clearly talking about thyroid cancer peeps here).

Let me just say that the thyroid cancer community is not amused. Currently, there are over 100 angry comments on the Huffington Post Site from thyroid cancer survivors pointing out the hypocrisy of this article and it’s making the rounds with the thyroid cancer survivors Facebook pages. I should say that Cindy Finch is sorry. She apologized. She is trying to make it right. She now sees the light and is going to write more poorly-written blogs about things she doesn’t know anything about, like thyroid cancer. I don’t really understand this because she says in her article that she has heard it “one-hundred times” so now that she has heard it two-hundred times, she sees it differently? I accept the apology, but the call for thyroid cancer survivors to share their thyroid cancer experiences with her is a bit too much for me, I don’t want this to be the person who tells my story.

This article unintentionally but accurately sums up the struggle of the thyroid cancer community. Most thyroid cancer survivors have struggled with the perception, both internally and externally, that thyroid cancer is easy cancer. The first thing that most people say when you tell that that you have thyroid cancer is, “That’s good cancer, right?” Yeah it is great cancer. Thyroid cancer does not measure up in the cancer hierarchy because it is not well-publicized or well-funded and what people do know about it is that it is cancer-lite.

The majority of people with thyroid cancer have a curable form of cancer. This is partly because most forms of thyroid cancer are slow moving and also because of science. Science has figured out that you can make iodine radioactive and that, because iodine is only taken up by thyroid cells (cancerous or otherwise), it will selectively kill thyroid cancer cells and spare normal cells. So let me just say that again, this is a form of cancer that has been cured by science. Thanks Science! Instead of celebrating this, thyroid cancer is dismissed for its curability. Also, after you have had your entire thyroid gland surgically removed (which is not actually as fun as it may sound and often more than one surgery is required), you have no thyroid hormone, which is a vital hormone for activities that people enjoy, such as being alive. Our friend, science has also found a way to replace thyroid hormone. That is also great news for thyroid cancer. Having said that, not all forms of thyroid cancer are a walk in the park, not all forms are curable, and not having a thyroid gland is a real challenge sometimes. Some people actually die from thyroid cancer. Surprising, but true. The people that are struggling with recurrence and metastatic disease from thyroid cancer deserve respect and support. Please do not marginalize them.

For the rest of the thyroid cancer survivors who apparently are not allowed to share their experience because it was too easy, they are silently struggling with fatigue and the small possibility of recurrence. When you have no thyroid gland, you look completely normal, but you just feel off or fatigued sometimes. You will again be dismissed if you dare to bring this up and told that this is just aging, or that you need to suck it up when you are tired (just got told this last week when I brought up the difficulties I was having with early mornings, thank you very much). The thyroid cancer survivors are constantly on defense about their cancer and they are also, as a group, really tired. I’m sorry we are not survivor-y enough for you. As a group, I don’t think that we are trying to prove anything or compete for cancer-pity dominance, we are just trying to get our thyroid levels in order, raise awareness, and get people to check their necks.

There are only two types of people that have had cancer. Dead people and alive people. Not all people with cancer live to blog and whine about it. A lot of people with cancer die. The dead people are silenced by death and the cancer-lite people are silenced by not suffering enough. What about the injustice of being dead? This did not even make the list of the six injustices of cancer. If it was possible to blog from the afterlife, I suspect that the grave-bloggers would tell this author that she actually has a lot more in common with the thyroid cancer survivors, considering she is alive and all.

I am a veterinary surgical oncologist at the University of Florida. I think about and work with cancer every day. I am also in the privileged position of learning from my physician colleagues at the human hospital. Because of this, I am very aware of the fact that I am incredibly lucky for everything that I have in my life and for having a cancer that is most often curable. The human experience that I learn from often has some tragic combination of bad genes, bad luck, bad disease, bad financial or social situations, bad or no health insurance, fear, and ignorance, which conspire and in many cases, cause death. But can’t I just feel lucky and happy without feeling guilty or invalidated? Why do we always feel the need to compare our scars? Things that all cancer survivors (and even people who have had cancer scares for that matter) have in common is that we thought about dying and we realized that sooner or later, we are all going to die. Maybe we should just focus on our fragile common ground.

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Conference Fatigue Syndrome

First of all, I need to apologize that I missed my blog post last week. I hear that is a bad move on the social media front, and I am sorry to my tens of followers. I was getting ready to be a speaker at the North American Veterinary Conference (NAVC) and I ran out of time. I just got back from six days in Orlando at the North American Veterinary Conference with 16 000 of my friends. It was full on. This is the biggest veterinary conference in the world. The main focus is on general practitioners and I have not attended this full conference before. This year, I was invited to give seven talks and the way they were scheduled, I was doing something every day, so I was in for the long haul. It was a scene.

When I first got there, I was emotional and overwhelmed by the feeling of being bonded to thousands of other people by our love for animals and the fact that we have devoted our lives to taking care of them. I also found something else that brings us together even more than animals. That is the love of free shit. Veterinarians love free swag. On day one, I found myself in a massive line that required stanchions and ropes for crowd control. I was waiting for a free teddy bear from Build-a-Bear that Vetfolio was giving away. I don’t even have children, yet somehow I had to be a part of it. I needed a bear. It was bizarre and unsettling to see so many professionals carrying around their teddy bears for the entire conference. A little bit of comfort at a massive conference center. Another line-up developed the next day with similar fury at the free T-shirt making station. Free, ugly, yellow T-shirts that everyone not only lined up for, but immediately donned. In one of my talks, about 1/3 of the audience was wearing a free yellow Tshirt. I did not partake in this. I draw the line at free stuffed animals. Then there is the free swag in the exhibit halls. I saw veterinarians with large boxes of something (kitty litter?) that were so big that they came with a little plastic trolley so you could continue to pick up more free shit and then you could put everything on your kitty litter box and your trolley. How are they going to get this all home? Everyone slowly cruises the flashy exhibit hall, trying to find the best swag and trying to grab it fast, without having to make eye contact or engage in the obligatory sales conversation. Nothing is for free. Actually, maybe some things are, because every time I went back to my hotel room, there was a present waiting for me. It was lovely. Chocolates, a travel mug, a useless car fan, a window decal and a “survival kit” (with Purrel, Advil, Band-aids, Kleenex, skin cream etc – I would have respected them more if they had thrown a condom in for good measure). It actually got to the point that the few times I returned to my room and there was not a present waiting for me on the freshly made bed, I was deeply disappointed and confused.

At the opening ceremony, there were speeches and the people from the NAVC were dressed fancy. Like black-tie fancy. It was a peculiar mix of people from a fashion perspective. (BTW, I would like to take this opportunity to offer my services as a stylist to anyone at the NAVC who would like a hand in this regard.) Intermixed with the speeches and sponsors were some circus openers and dry ice, and then, to top it all off, comedian Jim Gaffigan to entertain us. Jim Gaffigan was hilarious! I have to hand it to him. Last year, I came to NAVC for one night and the opening ceremony comedian (I get the feeling that the order of events doesn’t change too much every year) was Kevin Nealy. Kevin Nealy phoned it in. He did the minimum for his tens of thousands of dollars and he appeared most unhappy to be entertaining a ballroom full of incongruously dressed veterinarians. He might have made me chuckle, but I can’t remember. Jim Gaffigan made me laugh out loud and he gave us a show that would have been fit for a TV special. It was awesome! I didn’t go to the Monday night rock show (38 Special – wow) or the Tuesday night lecture (Ebola dog stuff). Mostly because of exhaustion and intense networking opportunities.

I didn’t know about the intense networking. I guess I am naïve. I didn’t realize that the tweeting would get so crazy at a conference. Or that I would get to Tweet up with my virtual friends on Twitter. I didn’t know that people said Tweet up. It was very cool to meet my virtual friends in real life. Real human beings were sprouting from my phone! I also taught a friend how to tweet. His first tweet was nearly a disaster as he used Siri to advertise his talk on Anal Sacs. Siri did not hear anal sacs. Enough said. I also didn’t realize that people would buy copies of Lucky Dog. I brought some copies with me just in case and sold them all randomly. Learned after the fact that this is illegal in the land of NAVC and it actually has a name. It’s called Suitcasing (that is a verb!) and it is naughty. (Sorry!) I am not sure how you get punished if you get caught. Maybe you have to stay in the Gaylord Palms resort for a few extra days and you never get to go outside.

I never got to go outside anyway. I had a few brief moments outside, on the bus from one massive hotel conference center to the other massive hotel conference center and my attempts to go for a run. I couldn’t seem to get more than 5km out of the hairpin trails outside the hotel and was told that it was unsafe to go “off property” (off compound). During my second run I ended up on the golf course by mistake and was reprimanded by some very impatient and angry golfers. The next morning, I went on the conference Fun Run. Hoping for safety in numbers. We actually ran on the same trails where my golfer friends were getting their knickers in a knot. The fun run brought out another characteristic that veterinarians share. We are a wee bit competitive. It was like a real race, with numbers and a finish line and medals. The whole deal. I met a woman who was running and she told me that she wasn’t carrying her cell phone for the 5K race because it was “too much weight”. Really?

The whole experience was wonderful and exhausting. It is going to take days to recover. I think that I have conference fatigue syndrome (CFS). The only cure is my own bed, my own dog and going for a long run on my own.

Can We? Should We?

I know that most blogs that are being written this week are about the horrific events in Paris yesterday. It seems strange to write about anything else, but I am going to write about veterinary medicine. This is partly because I don’t feel like I have a lot to contribute as a veterinarian, other than to offer my condolences. It is also because although I am enjoying social media, I seem to have a major block when it comes to adding to the conversation when something particularly joyful or awful happens in the world. If it is trending, I clam up. I can’t seem to get into the social media frenzy of grief porn. I want to get on board and tweet #JeSuisCharlie, but I can’t/don’t/won’t do it. #JeSuisSad.

So on to a topic that seems much less important when the world is literally going to shit right now, cancer surgery in animals. I am speaking at the North American Veterinary Conference next week in Orlando (#NAVC, #LuckyDog, #Orlando) and I have been charged with a talk that is entitled (not by me, I might add): “How I answer the question ‘Could We’ versus ‘Should We’?” Grammatical errors aside, the title is provocative. And by provocative, I mean that I do not love this title. It puts me on edge. Maybe I am being oversensitive because I am just really really tired of hearing people say, “Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should” when they are talking about my career and my passion. In my experience, people that say this have very little experience with the subject. This line of thinking definitely strikes a nerve with me, so it is ironic that I was handed this title as a starting point for my talk. The question itself implies that sometimes, in veterinary surgical oncology, we do procedures that we shouldn’t do, which in turn implies that we are not working in the best interest of our patients. This is where the striking a nerve part comes in.

Part of the reason for the bad reputation that veterinary surgical oncology has earned is that the procedures are, by nature aggressive. There is no getting around that. This is because most cancers are also aggressive. A lot of surgeries in this field (human and veterinary) are aimed at removing all of the visible and microscopic cancer cells. This means removing the tumor and then 2-3 centimeters of tissue surrounding the tumor. This usually results in a large defect. Sometimes it means removal of a body part. Luckily for my patients, there are a lot of dispensable body parts. Also, they are not fazed by a dramatic change in appearance caused by cancer surgery. Some people call this disfiguring, which I also think is offensive. First of all, the cancer is disfiguring. Secondly, animals don’t care what they look like. They care about comfort and function, but that is about it. Humans care what they look like and what their pets look like. I would feel sad myself if something happened to Rumble to drastically change his appearance because I believe that he is the world’s cutest dog. You have to let go of that when your dog has cancer. Again luckily, our pets don’t care what we look like either.

So the first question is, “Can we”? This is relatively easy to answer. Veterinary surgical oncology has advanced tremendously in the past 25 years and I am sometimes overwhelmed to be a part of the development of this amazing subspecialty. A lot of procedures that were not considered feasible or technically possible (and even called barbaric and unethical) in the past are performed routinely today. We are also able to perform advanced imaging, such as CT and MRI routinely to help us plan surgery. (This actually also helps with the “should we” part as well as the “Can we” part.) Along with surgical oncology, veterinary critical care and anesthesia has also advanced in parallel and allowed us to do bigger surgeries successfully. This means that we can manage blood loss and control pain, as well as providing 24-hour advanced nursing care to our patients post operatively. If the patient will be comfortable and functional post operatively, and the owners can afford surgery, the answer is often yes, we can.

“Should we” is the next question. I guess this is where it gets a little sticky for some people. This is how I work through this. If I think that surgery will offer my patient a high chance of cure or long-term tumor control, or if surgery will offer the patient improved comfort and quality of life, I will recommend surgery. Also, if the owner wants to treat and understands the potential risks, I think we should. Sometimes this risk will include either death or euthanasia on the operating table. It’s dramatic at times. Owners have to consider this risk when they are deciding. Then there are the two most common questions: “What if we do nothing” and “What would you do if it was your dog?” If the patient is suffering and will continue to suffer and go downhill with no therapy or palliative therapies, then I think that something has to be done. This something can be euthanasia, but if that is not happening, then we are obliged to do a procedure to help our patients to feel better, even if their their time is limited. This is why being a surgeon fits perfectly with my personality. I like big interventions that make a big difference (my mentor used to say, “Win Big, Lose Big”) rather than limping along with palliative care while our patients slowly fade away. This is the paradox of surgical oncology. The big interventions that seem too invasive, too big or too much to put an animal through are actually less to “go through” compared to doing nothing and letting an animal live with cancer pain.

As for the next common question, “What would I do if this was my dog?” That is the problem, it is not my dog. I think it is dangerous for anyone to chime in on this one. That is where the preachy, “Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should” can get on my nerves. Sometimes I do procedures on my patients that I might not do on my own pet. Further, I have no idea if I would do some procedures on my own pet until I am in that particular situation. Similarly, the question of whether or not it is “too much to put him through” is problematic. If you are at a specialty hospital with 24-hour care, you have to trust that they are going to treat pain aggressively and make the post operative recovery as easy as possible and that it won’t be too much. That is our responsibility to our patients.

So, I hope that clears this all up for you….This lecture is starting to take shape.
See you in Orlando!

New Year’s Blah-g

I feel a lot of pressure today to write my blog because: 1. It is Wednesday, and I always post my blog on Wednesdays (unless I post on Thursday) 2. Tens of people are counting on my Wednesday/Thursday blog and/or being forced to read it because I keep posting it on Twitter and Facebook and 3. Because it is New Year’s Eve and it seems appropriate to write my weekly blog about the New Year. That’s what everyone else who writes a blog or anything is doing today. I am feeling pretty Blah to be writing about the New Year, my resolutions, or a review of 2014. I know that this is a bad way to start a blog, but it is the truth. I am already so sick of hearing about the top moments of 2014. Generally, the moments from January 1st to November 1st do not make the consciousness list of 2014, so the reviews are really just a review of the past 2-3 months and I remember the Sony Hack like it was just last week. Everyone does. Because it was just last week. Also, most of the news stories of 2014 were horrific and it is hard to put a positive New Year’s spin on them. I have heard a few people on the news try to do this by saying that 2014 was the year of everything bubbling to the surface, all of that racial and feminist tension, finally exploding into… not really sure what. A lot of protests and violence and misogyny and misery from what I can tell. Apparently people are pretty tired of getting shot at, raped and groped. And speaking of being groped, it is also amazing to me that CBC radio has put out a review of 2014 pop culture on Q and another satirical review on The Current this week and there was only one small sound bite about Jian Gomeshi-gate. From what I remember, this was big news, in Canada at least. (In the US, no one knows who Jian Gomeshi is or that this is an actual name.) But that was 3 months ago and it is mortifying, so everyone in Canada has moved on. Everyone, except for Jian, his victims and the publicist for the Canadian cinematic release of Fifty Shades of Grey.

I actually like New Year’s Eve more than Christmas, but that is not to say that I love New Year’s Eve. There is a lot of New Year’s Eve pressure to have the most fun-filled night of your life, or at least your year. The best and most memorable New Year’s Eves for me are always the pre-party, where a group of friends gets together before heading out on the town. Maybe it is the anticipation, or the fact that these are your actual friends who you love, but I am always a little sad when the pre-party ends and it is time to head out into the cold to the overpriced NYE event. I would beg everyone just to stay put with me and keep the pre-party going all night, but there is the New Year’s Eve anticipation, and we have all paid fifty bucks or more for a cover charge, a plastic glass of undrinkable champagne, a party hat and a noise maker. You can’t pass that up. The lesson here is, if you are having the time of your life, appreciate it and acknowledge how fleeting these moments with your best friends are. You don’t really learn that until you can’t just snap your fingers and have a room full of people you adore ready to ring in the new year with you. I am not saying that to be pathetic (but realize it sounds a bit pathetic). I am saying it because it is true. When you think that something is too good to last, you are probably right.

I am sticking close to home this year. Mostly because I live in rural North Florida now and I am terrified to be out on the roads after midnight. This area has not really embraced the concept of drinking and driving as a social problem, or a crime, it’s more of a lifestyle. When I say that there are drunk cowboys on the roads, I mean that literally. And when I say that I am spending New Year’s Eve back at the ranch, I mean that literally too.

I wasn’t going to do it, but I have a few resolutions to share. They kind of flowed out of me like an unstoppable New Year’s Eve Force. I have ten. In fact it is (another) top ten list. These are my top ten (meaning that there are actually more but I am only recording ten) New Year’s Resolutions for 2015.

10. Take work email off of smart phone. When I told my friend that I did this (have been doing this off and on for a month, I am making it permanent for 2015!). He gasped. How could you? We all need to unplug. This #digitaladdiction is getting cray. #unplug #NYresolutions2015 #NYE2015

9. Wear more jewelry. This is a vet thing. We need to bedazzle ourselves more. Also I think that I could actually keep this resolution.

8. Write another book. Writing Lucky Dog never felt like work. I really want/need to get my writing mojo back on. Any suggestions are welcome.

7. Stop binge drinking. I actually don’t really do this, (or so I thought) so it should be an easy one to keep. Apparently, if a woman drinks more than 3 drinks in 2 hours, this is defined as binge drinking. I learned this on CBC. I do that sometimes. But not any more.

6a. Run half marathon in February
6b. Train for half marathon in February

5. Do more yoga

4. Try an improv comedy course

3. Enjoy doing nothing sometimes. I just realized what my problem is. This resolution is the antithesis of resolutions #4 through 6 and #8.

2. Stop padding your top ten lists with fluff just to get to ten. Top nine is ok too. Stop being such a perfectionist.

1. Stop being friends with narcissists. Maybe this seems obvious to you, but narcissists are so freaking fun to be around. I find them irresistible. They are hugely entertaining when they are shining their shiny pretty light on you. But it gets really cold and dark when they stop. Best avoided.

Happy New Year!!