I recently received a post from a guardian who felt that perhaps the approach in The Dog Cancer Survival Guide leaned towards “pushing the positive”. And her feeling was that when one’s own dog does not live to published median life expectancy, taking an optimistic approach was not that useful. Her dog lived 6 months.
Now, here’s the opposite side of the coin. A couple of weeks ago, I had a birthday picnic with family in the park up on the side of the mountain where I live. A woman ran up to me with tears in her eyes and a bottle of wine. She explained through the tears that I had given her dog an extra 6 months of life after she had given up, based on what the previous vets said. She hugged me and gave me the wine as a gift.
So, who was “right”? Well, it all depends on the viewpoint of the person looking at the situation. The woman who felt that the 6 months of added longevity was too little to have an optimistic mindset, or the woman who felt that the 6 months was an impossible treasure she will always remember?
When one is dealing with a challenge, the mindset is one of the most important parts of the equation. The mind is a strange thing that sometime takes us places that don’t always serve us or produce the best possible outcomes. Sometimes, left to its own devices, the mind can actually lead us to make decisions that later we wish we hadn’t. Often this is because there is missing information, or because we choose to only look at some of the information.
That’s why it is so important to gather all the data we can before making decisions. It is also important to realize that the mind can be colored by the emotions. From this standpoint, it is also important to have the emotional management part of guardianship under control, which is discussed at some length in the Guide.
But, what about this question of optimism in the face of a dog cancer diagnosis? Yes, the Guide emphasizes a positive outlook. There are several reasons for this. First is that cancer itself is a profoundly negative issue. Discussing cancer is negative. Survival times can be negative. Finances can be negative. Dealing with life while and also dog cancer can be negative. Treatments can be negative. So essentially everything about cancer is negative.
If one allows this to overwhelm the outlook, it can be paralyzing as a guardian. So Dr. Ettinger and I deliberately chose to approach dog cancer with an optimistic slant meant to fight all this negativity. And the wonderful thing is that most guardians have been able to not only help their dogs, but also help themselves by tipping the scale to a more positive outcome.
Do we have a cancer cure? Not yet. But there is a lot that can be said for doing what can be done to maintain positivity during times as difficult as dog cancer.