Sarah Boston is a veterinarian who treats dogs and cats suffering from life-threatening cancer. When she came face-to-face with her own diagnosis, she was shocked by the difference of the care we give for animals versus humans.
She wrote a book about her experience called Lucky Dog: How Being A Veterinarian Saved My Life.
“I feel like being a veterinarian saved my life because I found a mass in my neck when I was getting ready for bed one night,” Dr. Boston says. “I knew it was new, I knew that it was in my thyroid just because I’m a veterinary cancer-surgeon, and I felt like it hadn’t been there before.”
Dr. Boston said she rushed home and contacted his husband, a large animal veterinarian, and asked him to bring home his ultrasound machine.
“I actually ultrasounded my own neck,” Dr. Boston said. “It was going to take a week for me to get ultrasound and it was growing. Then I said, ‘No, I’m not gonna wait. I’m going to see what’s in there.”
Boston says it took two and half months from the day she found the mass to the day she actually had surgery — leading her to compare the human healthcare system humans to that of dogs.
“I was very surprised by that because when I see a dog with thyroid cancer, he’ll come in and usually have surgery in one or two days, and get their diagnosis usually within a week,” she said. “To have to wait, I found it very frustrating to wait so long.”
She says her veterinary experience helped her in some ways because she knew that it was bad to wait, and it let her mind run away from her.
The veterinarian has two things she wants people to learn.
- If you feel like something’s wrong with you, don’t let them tell you, “You’ll be fine. Let’s watch it.”
- Make sure you have to have a friend or family member to be there for you.
In her book, Dr. Boston emphasizes dying with dignity. She points out the differences in human doctors and veterinarians. Human doctors prolong their patients’ lives as long as they can –even when all that is left is pain and terrible suffering. On the other hand, veterinarians are honest about pointing out when a dog has no hope and is only dying in pain. Vets allow their patients to die at peace and with dignity.
“One thing amazing about my patients is I can have a whole family crying in the room because their dog has cancer and the dog is walking around wagging his tail,” Dr. Boston says.