Max Has Lymphoma. When Do We Decide to Let Him Cross Over?

Dear Friends at Rainbow Bridge, 

I need help. My Max was diagnosed with leukemia and stage 5 lymphoma. Doctors have given him 4 to 8 weeks. Today has been 3 weeks. He is happy and eating well, although he is on prednisone, which makes him hungry and thirsty. At this point we are feeding him anything his little heart wants(for the most part). He is going on walks and car rides and trips to McDonalds. We are spoiling him every minute of the day and we feel blessed to have these last days with him. 

The thing I am worried about is his weight loss. It is bad. He looks like he is starving, yet like I said every day he is happy and eating well. He is still jumping and playing like Boxers do; he looks like he feels good 95% of the time. The other 5% you can tell he is uncomfortable and not feeling well. We asked the doctor if he is in pain and he said, "No." He said it's similar to when we have the flu or some kind of bug - we just feel "blah"

My question is at what point do we decide to let him cross the rainbow bridge? It's heartbreaking to see him turn into a skeleton but I can't imagine letting him cross over with him still showing us he is happy. 

Dazed and Confused

Max and Me

Dear Dazed, 

Hi, I'm Ella. I'm filling in for Jack who has been called out on angel assignment today. He specifically asked me to reply to you because he knows I know more about lymphoma than he does. I know about it because I have had it too. 

Every animal is different, I can only talk you through how it was for us. I am an Airedale Terrier and I lived a wonderful life on earth with my heart partner, Lynette. 

Our life changed the day I was diagnosed. Lynette was reading and studying everything she could about lymphoma. When life gets out of control like it did for us, it's important to gather as much information and awareness as possible so you can go into the situation with knowledge and realistic expectations. Even though she was learning a lot, she still spent a lot of time in tears. She didn't really know what to expect because, like I said, every animal is different. She could not be prepared for the fact that she would have me for only a month after diagnosis. 

What I can tell you is that when you love like this, you will know when it is the right time, and when that time comes and you have made that decision, there is a kind of peace that comes with it. You WILL know when the right time is, Max will tell you.

Below is our story as Lynette tells it. I want her to tell it because I'm still not very good with the medical vocabulary.

This is me when I was a little tyke 

Ella was my beloved Airedale; she had been with us from 12 weeks of age, attended our wedding, honeymoon, nannied our two boys, and just after her 12th birthday, I noticed her lymph nodes were enlarged on her back legs. After a biopsy result confirmed our fears, we decided against chemo, and went down the prednisone route. I asked our vet the same questions, and no she wasn't in any pain, but would have days of being tired and lethargic. The tablets increased her hunger and thirst, but I was told when they stopped working, there would be a rapid decline. Ella was arthritic but still enjoyed her walks, right up until two days before we lost her. She loved her food. In fact my last photo was taken the day before she died, waiting for her tea.

We knew the end was near that Friday morning. She usually ate her breakfast first thing. That morning, she didn't get up for the first couple of hours, she did eat some of her food, went outside to do her toilet and came back to her bed. She didn't move and dozed all afternoon. 

We phoned the vet late in the afternoon and made The Appointment for next day, thinking we had that last night with her. However, at about 10pm, she lost control of her bowels. I spent the night lying on the floor with her, telling her how much she was loved, recalling our adventures. Just before sunrise, we called the vet out, and she slipped peacefully away. We watched the most beautiful painted sunrise, which I believe was her way of telling me it was alright. I felt at peace at that moment. We buried her on the hill behind our house, looking down the loch. 

Would I do things differently? Only in that I would have called the vet out the evening before. The decline was so swift. I can only advise if Max is happy in himself, wagging his tail and still eating, let him enjoy himself. If he stops eating, shows no interest in his surroundings, or has prolonged panting (a sign of pain), then think about letting him go.

I miss my girl every day. It will be 5 months tomorrow. I read Kate's book with tears streaming down my face, but it was very cathartic. I am sitting here again with tears streaming down my face.

I wish you and Max a peaceful time together in the coming days. I know you will tell him how loved he is, and how he always will be. 

Love and hugs from Ella and me to you and Max.

I Love You Mom. You Did Everything Right For Us

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