When we learned that Lady probably,
but not certainly,
(no the vet could definitely not be certain),
had cancer and that all signs suggested it had spread to her lungs,
I felt lost.
The vet, a stranger I'd only gone to because our regular vet was out of town, spoke quickly. She'd called with test results a full day later than she'd told me she would, and now spoke with the speed of someone who wants to get an unpleasant task over with. She explained, "The x-ray showed a large medicalwords in her abdomen blocking the flow of medicalwordsmedicalwords, resulting in medicalwordsmedicalwords leg." That, for what it was worth, was definitive.
Lady in her favorite spot under the rocking chair trying to bathe but knocked off balance by her swollen back leg
"So there's a tumor in her abdomen and something that should flow through her leg and on to other parts of her body can't because of it." I offered hesitantly. "That's why her leg is swollen." The vet made a sound indicating agreement and repeated some of her previous medical words as if they would now hold meaning for me.
The vet continued. "Test results were consistent with but did not definitively conclude that medicalwordsmedicalwords. The x-ray and test results together suggest medicalwordsmedicalwordsmedicalwords. A biopsy would be required to be absolutely certain." She paused pointedly there.
"And anesthesia is pretty risky for rabbits and Lady is elderly," I finished for her.
"Let me see if I understand. All signs indicate Lady has cancer that can't be operated on because it has spread through her body. But you can't be 100% positive because the test for that would probably kill her?" I added quickly before she could add her equivocating word soup.
This was no longer awkward, it was maddening. I understood that all the equivocating and medical jargon was an effort to be precise and not make a diagnosis she couldn't back with facts. She also didn't know me. She didn't have any idea how I would take this news, this bad, bad news.
But why the hell was I, the emotionally involved party, now in charge of moving the conversation forward? She was the professional. She was the one with the experience and information. This should be her responsibility.
"OK, so what now?" I asked with an edge to my voice.
"The usual course in treating medicalwords is surgical removal, which is not an option in this case due to medicalwordsmedicalwords."
I remembered those smudges on the lungs in Lady's x-ray and made a sound indicating comprehension. She continued, "Chemotherapy has been developed for cats and dogs, but it has not been found to be effective in rabbits."
As disapointing as this news was, at least I understood it.
"What. Do. We. DO?" I emphasized the last word. I wasn't asking how we return Lady to health or even how we extend her life. I jut needed a plan, a step by step guide to making her final days as easy, joy filled and comfortable as possible.
"Keep giving her the Metacam for pain relief and monitor her for any signs of distress. I will send a copy of her tests to your regular vet."
It wasn't until I hung up the phone that I realized I had no idea how to spot distress in an animal whose every instinct is to mask it.