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Priorities: Stage IV but I want to have kids August 20, 2009

Posted by PAS in cancer, pets, survivorship.
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Holding hands with a child from the Miracle Fo...
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This is a hard post for me to write, and I’m sure for some it won’t be an easy post to read. But I hesitate to put it on a support board because any response to someone who has discovered s/he or a partner is infertile due to chemo and radiation treatments always sounds as if it’s being insensitive.

A support board discussion about infertility or preserving fertility during treatment for rectal or colon cancer usually starts something like this:

I have just been diagnosed with Stage IV rectal (or colorectal) cancer. I have mets to my (liver) (lungs) (peritoneum). I’ve been reading all of the posts about what happens after (radiation) (chemo) and my doctor didn’t tell me that I wouldn’t be able to have children! I don’t have time to save my (eggs) (sperm) because I’ve already started (radiation) (chemo). Why didn’t the doctors tell me more about this?

Often, the responses will include other peoples’ stories and experiences. But sometimes the advice (if the person hasn’t started treatment yet) to take ovary-sparing measures during radiation, bank sperm or preserve eggs to use to conceive a child when treatment is completed, etc. And reading it is heartbreaking — not because the doctor didn’t discuss infertility with the patient, but because the doctor clearly didn’t make the gravity of the Stage IV diagnosis clear to the patient.

Stage IV in any cancer is serious business — but stage IV CRC is a cage fight. Despite advances in treatment and care which are helping those of us with stage IV CRC live better and live longer, the prognosis for a stage IV diagnosis is still very grave. Most patients will be in some form of treatment for the remainder of their lives with only very short breaks. If chemo and radiation work, there’s a chance at surgical intervention which may be curative, but that option only becomes available for about 30% of the patients diagnosed in stage IV. Curative intent of surgery isn’t guaranteed.

I am a five-year Stage IV survivor of rectal cancer. The longest period I’ve been NED during these last five years has been 21 months — and six of those 21 months were spent in surgical recovery and post-op chemo, so they weren’t treatment free. I know a few five-year survivors; only a handful have been NED (no evidence of disease) for most of those five years. I know only a handful of 10-year survivors, and only one has been NED since initial treatment and diagnosis.

Now — here’s the really hard thing to say, the thing that is perceived to be insensitive when posted to a support board. If you or your partner has just been diagnosed with stage IV rectal or colon cancer, the chances of surviving for more than five years — much less ten years — and the chances of being alive and healthy and free of disease long enough to bear and raise a child are very, very small. And the difficult question to ask is, in light of that information about the gravity of the diagnosis, should having a child or preserving your fertility be any priority at all? Shouldn’t the first, and maybe the only, priority of a person with a stage IV CRC diagnosis be dealing with treatment?

More of us are living longer with CRC and treatment, yes — but five years where most of the time is spent in chemo and radiation and surgery is certainly not the best environment in which to try to bear a child. Five years, even ten years, is not long enough to raise a child — in many breeds of dogs, it’s not long enough to raise a puppy! It’s not long enough to see a kitten into old age, and birds often outlive their healthy owners!

It’s at this point in the post that, on a support board, most responses will get vehement:

  • Someone has to be in that 30% who live; why can’t it be me?
  • The doctors still should have told us that I/we couldn’t have children!
  • I’ve heard of lots of people who have children after treatment!
  • I’m going to beat this and I want the option to be a parent!

So am I saying that a stage IV patient shouldn’t have kids, shouldn’t have pets? Of course not.

However, my responses to each of those vehement protests is just one thing: what if you don’t survive? Is having a child (who will probably grow up without a parent because you are more likely to die than live) more important than living yourself?

I waited a year after being declared NED the first time before looking for a new dog — and I didn’t want a puppy, I wanted an older dog who I’d have a better chance of training and showing, who had a safety-net established for a new home in case I got sick again. And when I did have a recurrence, I was very glad that Madison and my older dog Casey have established safety nets for their care. They’re adult dogs, relatively care-free and trained to accept that sometimes I can’t function as well as I’d like. They are not babies (human or canine) who need 100% attention and care 24/7.

I knew the chances that I’d be around to raise a puppy into an adult and safely retired old dog were slim (and still are), and I didn’t want to take that responsibility…for a pet. I confess, I’m mystified that anyone with a terminal prognosis like most stage IV CRC patients would want to take on the responsibility of bearing a human child, knowing that s/he would likely not be around to raise the child to adulthood.

If you are one of the lucky ones who does experience extended survival time after a stage IV CRC diagnosis, there are many ways to parent without personally bearing your own child, or even raising a child born of your eggs or sperm. Adoption, foster parenting, simply being an active adult in the lives of children who are not your own are all options — viable options for contributing to the life of a child without creating a life you’re not going to be able to be responsible for raising. Or you can try to roll the dice, and bet that you won’t be one of the 70% of patients who don’t enjoy survival much longer than five years.

What about you? Is bearing a child so important to you that you would bring a baby into the world knowing that you had a fatal disease which would prevent you from being around to raise your child to adulthood?

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More NY state anti-dog legislation in the Assembly this week June 1, 2009

Posted by PAS in canine legislation, dogs, pets.
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A purebred dogImage via Wikipedia

Senator Aubertine’s office advises that 10 bills of interest to dog owners are on the agenda for next week’s (June 1-7) NY State Senate committmee meetings.

**Regarding “puppymills” **

S4961A Oppenheimer (same as A 7983A Paulin) Redefines “pet dealer” by REMOVING the exemption for residential/ hobby breeders and ADDING “any person who SELLS, OFFERS FOR SALE OR NEGOTIATES THE SALE OR PURCHASE OF ANIMALS BORN OR RAISED ON ANOTHER PREMISES;

The proposal also adds numerous requirements for care of animals by “pet dealers” including veterinary protocols, exercise, and more. Also requires pet dealers to authorize release of their records with breed registries and veterinarians to New York State or its agents.

link: http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?bn= A07983&sh=t
– – – –
S5392A Squadron (same as A7285 Paulin)
Prohibits ownership or custody of more than 50 intact dogs or cats

Allows for seizure of dogs or cats if any person or business “has in its care” more than 50 intact dogs or cats over the age of 4 months. Note that such animals may be sold off or killed by the impounding agency if security bond requirements are not met within five days.

link: http://assembly.state.ny.us/leg/?bn= A07285
Note: this bill is endorsed by HSUS
– – – –
Please join the Dog Federation of New York in opposing these bills and immediately write or phone NYS Agriculture Committee Chair Darrel Aubertine and the Agriculture committee members to express your concern regarding such extremist proposals. If enacted, both will devastate
lawful, humane pet breeders.

As always, be brief, be polite, mention the bill number and “oppose” in the subject line

Contact information:
Hon. Darrel Aubertine
Chair, NYS Senate Committee on Agriculture
903 Legislative Office Building
Albany, New York 12247
518-455-2761 (office) / 518-455-6946 (fax)
email: aubertin@senate.state.ny.us

committee members:

Sen. William Stachowski
918 Legislative Office Building
Albany, New York 12247
Phone (518)-455-2426
Fax: (518) 426-6851

Sen. Velmanette Montgomery
711 Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247
Tel: (518) 455-3451
Fax: (518) 426-6854
Email: montgome@senate.state.ny.us

Sen. Neil Breslin
502 Capitol
Albany, New York 12247
Tel: (518) 455-2225
Email: breslin@senate.state.ny.us

Sen. David Valesky
416 State Capitol Building
Albany, New York 12247
Phone: 518-455-2838
Fax: 518-426-6885
Email: valesky@senate.state.ny.us

Sen. Catherine Young
Room 513 Legislative Office Building
Albany, New York 12247
(518) 455-3563
(518) 426-6905 (fax)
Email: cyoung@senate.state.ny.us

Sen. James Seward
Room 711B Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247
Phone: (518) 455-3131
Email: seward@senate.state.ny.us

Sen. George Winner
Room 415
Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247
Phone: (518) 455-2091
Fax: (518) 426-6976
email: winner@senate.state.ny.us

Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer
315 Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247
Tel: (518) 455-3161 / Fax: (518) 426-6963
Email: ranz@senate.state.ny.us

also copy or call
Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith
Office of New York State Senator Malcolm A. Smith
909 Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247
Tel: (518) 455-2701 / Fax: (518) 455-2816
Email: masmith@senate.state.ny.us

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Good for Madison, not-so-good for me… May 1, 2009

Posted by PAS in dogs, pets, travel.
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Blue Roan coloured English Cocker SpanielImage via Wikipedia

It’s national specialty week for the English Cocker Spaniel Club of America (ECSCA), and I’m here in Milan OH at the national specialty. On Monday, Madison made her agility debut in FAST (did the send successfully and racked up 35 points before we made the critical mistake of retaking the A-frame…oops!) But she stayed in the same ring with me, worked the whole course, and didn’t check out to do her own thing once.

Then on Wednesday, she put together a lovely run in Rally Novice B, tied for first place with a 98 and ended up in second place (Rally ties are decided by course time.) I was really happy I’ve kept her in Novice B, on lead, to get as much experience showing her as possible and let her work the kinks out of the whole thinking-dog thing. Best of all, co-owner Lisa got to see M’s run, and she was happy and impressed. All wonderful.

But on Tuesday, I learned through email, phone calls and txt messages that the R&D division of my group based in Syracuse will be closing no later than end of 2010. I’ll just be 55, so if I can hold onto my job until then, I should be okay. If my job is eliminated before the move, I’ll be a year short of 55–and lose about two-thirds of my pension.

On one hand, I was philosophical about the announcement meeting when I left on Friday–I couldn’t change the meeting, so I might as well enjoy my national, a show I’ve been planning on for months.
Today, though, philosophy lost out to figuring out how I could survive.

It’s hard to think that the company didn’t do this on purpose–evaluate the ages of the people at the site, and then select the closing date and job eliminations so that they could avoid paying full pensions to those who would hit 55 within a couple months of the relocations.

And knowing that the job front is in upheaval at home sure makes it tough to keep my head in the game on a dog show vacation.

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