I have to take Danny to the vet later this afternoon.
Late last winter, we had several weeks of alternating warm and cold days so that the snow melted and froze, making our driveway very ice. Danny started limping badly so we think he slipped on the ice and injured himself. We took him to a veterinarian near us, who said he doesn’t have a broken leg. She felt he might have injured his ligament, which can take a long time to heal, the vet said.
Danny improved, but he never completely lost his limp. Recently Danny began walking more stiffly and limping again. I would have taken him to the vet for a check up, but JJ drives our second vehicle to work and school, and it’s very difficult for me to find transportation. EJ and I recently scheduled eye appointments at the same time and he took the day off work so I could actually get there. And, besides, we really thought Danny was just getting old and arthritic or maybe had re-injured the ligament again and needed time to heal. Besides stiffness and limping, Danny didn’t seem to be in a great deal of pain.
Then yesterday I glanced at Danny and saw a HUGE pink swollen mass on his upper thigh. It wasn’t visible the day before–but Danny’s hair is so thick that it could have hidden it. I was horrified. In the evening, EJ googled Danny’s problem and said he found photos of masses that look like Danny’s. They are common in some dogs and are usually benign. This morning my friend told me her previous dog had a similar mass, which was so big that every time he bumped something, it bled. The vet did surgery, she said, and he was ok afterwards. Maybe Danny will be ok.
So I messaged JJ and asked him what his schedule was like for today because I needed to take Danny to the vet. Then I called the vet, described Danny’s issue, explained my transportation problems, and told the receptionist that I needed an appointment tomorrow (which is today) at around 10:30 a.m. so I could drop my son off at college before bringing in Danny. She said she would see what she could do and get back to me. When she called back, she said that there was a chance that a surgery scheduled for 10:30 a.m. would be canceled so I could bring in Danny, but they wouldn’t know until 9 a.m. JJ usually leaves for school at 8:45 a.m., so I couldn’t make it. She said that the other opening was at 4:30 p.m. I said I would take it.
I have always been extremely empathetic. When I was a child, I would faint–or come close to it–whenever I heard about, read, or watched a movie about illness or injuries. I found it difficult to sit through science classes or visit people in hospitals. When I was in my early 20s, I went to a behavioral specialist who taught me relaxation techniques for handling doctor visits and stuff. It worked, and while hearing about illness or injuries were never comfortable, I didn’t faint. I even had surgeries with IVs in my arm and blood transfusions, and I didn’t faint. Yay me! However, in 2013 when we first met with the oncologist and were told about JJ’s cancer diagnosis, I started to faint. The oncologist actually made JJ get off the exam table so I could lie down instead, and he wouldn’t let me follow the guys when they went to look at the x-rays. I felt so embarrassed. I almost fainted again when we attended the chemo classes to learn about what to expect. And I had to leave JJ’s room during chemo whenever the needles were being inserted into his arm. Once the IV needles were in, I was able to return. After JJ’s surgery to remove a cancerous lymph node that chemo hadn’t gotten rid of, I walked into his hospital room, saw his deathly white face, and had to leave. I walked into the hallway, leaned against the wall, and slid to the floor. They gave me smelling salts.
Since cancer, my empathy problem has returned and I really struggle in medical situations. Danny’s mass is so gross that every time I look at it I feel like vomiting. I try not to look at it. I think, “How on earth am I going to keep from vomiting or fainting when the veterinarian is examining Danny? I am the WORST person to take Danny to the vet, but I am the only one who has the time. The last day of the month is crazy busy at work and EJ usually gets home very late. I will just have to tell the vet right away that it is very possible that I could faint. Or vomit.
This afternoon EJ texted me that if expensive surgery is necessary, it might be necessary to say a permanent goodbye to my faithful dog. We are not rich, and Danny is old. Usually, EJ takes our pets to the vet when they need to…you know. I say goodbye at home because I can’t bear being there. I don’t know how I’m going to have the strength to make (maybe) terrible decisions. “How much money is too much to pay for Danny? How will I be able to decide whether he lives or dies?” I’m sitting here alone in the house with Danny at my feet, crying as I watch the clock tick away the moments until I have to go to take him to the vet. And I feel like this: