Saturday, September 5, 2009
A few days ago I noticed a strange lump on Penelope's belly, near her left hind leg. Knowing how susceptible fancy rats are to tumors, I took her to the vet the next day to have it looked at. After some poking and prodding and testing he concluded that, yes, she has cancer.
He told me that I have three options. I can have the tumor surgically removed, with a high risk of the cancer coming back. I can let the tumor run its course, growing in size until it eventually kills her, or I can have her euthanized.
From the outside this may seem like a simple choice, but it isn't. What if she has the surgery and it does come back? Then I'll have put her through a painful operation for nothing. The last thing I want is for her to suffer in any way. If I put her to sleep to avoid the risk of any pain I don't know if I can live with the guilt of never knowing if she could have been saved. A tiny living thing is depending on me to do what is best for her. A living thing who can't tell me what she needs. The way I feel now brings back strong memories of the way I felt six years ago, when my doctor told me I was pregnant. No one tells you how to handle these things. No one prepares you for the day you need to make these choices. It's a heavy load to carry, especially when you've got to do it alone.
Penelope is the sweetest, gentlest little rat I've ever known. When she looks up at me with those beady little eyes it breaks my heart to think that there is something inside her tiny body that is slowly killing her. The vet says she isn't in any pain right now. She acts like she always has, like nothing is wrong, but I wonder if she knows. I want to scoop her up and plead, beg her to tell me what I'm supposed to do. I know that she can't. It would just be so much easier that way.
Cancer is a bitch.