This is the question our minds can go to, the question that eats away at any pet parent who faces a cancer diagnosis for their beloved pet, whether they ever speak it out loud or not.
I understand why people ask it. Of course you want to know what the chances are of your sweet fur baby pulling through. It’s also a really good idea to be informed, as it helps you weigh up your treatment options.
Yet, ‘that’ question can lead people into severe emotional turmoil. In fact you can start to grieve the loss of your pet, to imagine it, just by going down that road in your mind.
There are other questions I’d much prefer people to ask and things I would like them to do before looking at ‘the facts’, but before I get to that, I will attempt to address ‘that’ question.
Please bear in mind that I’m not a veterinary professional, I’m a holistic therapist for pets and people, I’m not an expert in veterinary statistics. I know that those statistics help vets to make a prognosis, based on the type of cancer, the stage or extent of it, the age and breed of the animal and other factors. They are very useful in helping people to make informed decisions about treatment options for their pet’s cancer.
There’s a time and a place to reference them, to consider them. When you’re first scared witless that your pet will die, that’s not really the time or place to go there.
Please ask some different questions.
So, I’m going to change tack and steer you in a different direction. Apologies for skirting over the question – the short answer to which is that it depends on many factors (as mentioned above). Treatments are improving, there are cases of full remission and yet not all pets make it through.
Here’s what I’d really like you to consider.
Our pets are more than statistics.
Our beloved pets are each unique and individual beings, with their own ways of responding to health issues, their own preferences and tolerances, their own ways of being in the world. No statistic can recognise that. You can. You’re the one who can have an instinctive awareness of whether they’d tolerate treatment well, of whether a few extra months of life is ‘worth it’ for them (or even whether treatment is a viable possibility for your circumstances).
As Dr Dressler says in his book ‘The Dog Cancer Survival Guide‘ (which I highly recommend, for cat people as well as dog people), you know your pet better than the vet does and you know your circumstances better than they do too.
You are your pet’s advocate, you make the final call on making assessments for them.
In order to do that, you need to be calm, you need to be in a state where you can take in information and make decisions. When you are scared and upset it’s almost impossible to be clear headed and able to do that.
So, the first thing I’d ask, is this.
Can I be present, here and now?
When we’re in fear we’re in the future. If we can focus on the present moment, we can start to come out of that fear. To become present can be as simple as focusing on your breath, feeling your clothes on your skin, or noticing your feet in your shoes.
Then ask yourself this.
What can I do to calm myself now?
Do whatever helps you get calm. It could be a breathing technique, meditation, thinking of happy memories, gentle movement, even watching clouds go by.
Personally, I highly recommend the technique of EFT tapping, which I demonstrate in this week’s video. It’s simple to use and it can help us come out of fear in just a few minutes.
Once you are calm, ask yourself this.
What can I do for my pet right now?
What’s one thing that will help them in this moment?
Maybe it’s to sit in the sun, maybe it’s some attention, maybe it’s a softer bed, maybe it’s pain relief. Take it one moment, one step at a time to begin with.
When you’re calmer, that’s the time to get informed, to do the research,to look the bigger picture and at the options for the future.
Again I recommend Dr. Dressler’s book for this. It includes holistic approaches, simple exercises for you and for your pet to keep you both positively focused and it has excellent guidance on decision making and monitoring quality of life.
Also please don’t be afraid to ask if you need extra help and support.
Sometimes we need an ally to help us stay strong. Find someone you know who understands, or someone like me who offers professional support.
Then, be present and take it moment by moment, day by day. Keep checking in to see if you are present. Keep asking questions, seeing what you can do in each moment and keep enjoying every moment with your precious fur baby.
In this video I share how EFT tapping helps to empower people to deal with their reactions to their pet’s cancer diagnosis and I then demonstrate the technique. Please do try it out for yourself. For my readers who are seasoned tappers, the tapping round starts at 5 minutes and 15 seconds into the video.
Are you open to possibilities?
When you do look at the statistics I invite you not to lose sight of other possibilities. For me, nothing is set in stone and I don’t like to buy into the limitations of those numbers – such as how many months or weeks a pet is likely to live or how many extra months of life could be added with treatment.
I could be called Pollyanna, for I like to believe in possibilities. I like to believe in miracles. I like to believe in fostering and nurturing all possibilities for healing. That’s part of my job, to hold that vision for possibility.
Part of that is believing beyond statistics, beyond your fears.
Yet, on the flip side of knowing the power of a having a positive attitude, I’m aware that not all pets will make it through, even when we desperately want them to, even when we want it to be possible and do everything in our power to make it so. Many people decide not to put their pet through treatment. In that case, what are the possibilities for your pet to have maximum levels of comfort and maximum quality of life?
Whatever you choose, aim be ‘present’, to stay focused ‘in the moment’ as much as possible. That will help you navigate the rollercoaster of emotions that you can face (e.g. your pet has a ‘good’ day, you’re hopeful and optimistic but your pet has a ‘bad’ day and you’re beside yourself with worry and fearing the worst). I see this as a large part of the job of being a pet caregiver.
It’s up to you to find ways to ride the emotional rollercoasters.
It’s up to you to do what you can to be a strong, calm presence for them and with whatever is happening in that moment.
It’s up to you to be able to tune in to their needs and be willing to ask what is truly best for them.
It’s not easy, it’s not possible in every moment, it will be a bumpy ride at times, but it’s a goal worth pursuing, moment by moment. Your pet will notice you doing this and it will help their healing process and quality of life.
This doesn’t mean that you ignore your negative feelings of fear, upset, anger or grief, it’s more that you recognise them and work through them, rather than letting them overwhelm you and diminish your capacity to be an effective caregiver. Whether you use the EFT tapping or other techniques, do whatever it takes.
And for you.
Thank you for reading and please consider sharing this with someone who is facing a cancer diagnosis for their pets right now,
All the best,
Ferris Jay – Holistic Therapist for Pets and their People.
P.S. You can use the tapping directly to help them, with pain relief, with quality of life, See below for a free video series showing you how to use the tapping for and on your pets.