Jack was a handsome bunny who presented to the Western Veterinary Cancer Centre for evaluation of a very large tumor in his chest. This tumor type, called a thymoma, was so large that it was compressing his lungs fairly significantly. Rabbits can be challenging patients to anesthetize, especially so when they have a large tumor in their chest interfering with normal breathing efforts. Jack was treated for his thymoma using radiation therapy, and initially had a dramatic response to treatment. Unfortunately, his remission was of short duration, and he re-presented 3 months after therapy with massive tumor regrowth. We received the following letter shortly after Jack’s death. It is reproduced with permission. It is important to realize that, when treating a patient for cancer, things may not always go the way we hope. I think the letter also shows that we need to focus on the good things we were able to achieve, rather than lamenting the things that proved unattainable.
Thank you doesn’t even begin to say what I feel. Right from the first time we saw him “Jack” was an individual in his own right and we loved him very dearly every day we had him. Not to say that he was perfect (he did what he wanted no matter what) but he knew no matter what he did we loved him anyway.
Before we adopted him from the Calgary Humane Society he had been adopted twice before and returned for various reasons. Totally their loss. Alex has a video of him when he first came to live with us and there he is running in and out of the bedroom, kicking up his heels and shaking those beautiful long ears. Pure joy to watch in his new freedom. He did go back to his cage at night to sleep but for the whole day he ran amuck, just as we feel all pets should do.
His favourite places were under the bed in the master bedroom, under the love seat in the family room downstairs and under the hearth (right next to the love seat). He would sit down there with us when we watched movies and when I turned on the Weather Network in the morning to see what the day would be like he always joined me. He loved the weather Network and was very up on the latest reports.
When Alex moved into her own place next to the University he discovered windows and would sit and watch the birds in the tree just off the balcony or the clouds rolling by in the sky (more weather only close up and personal now). He loved this and Alex loved having him there. He always had a sympathetic ear when she got home and told him about the trials of the day at work. And he always reminded her that stroking a rabbit’s silky fur lowers blood pressure and puts you in a much better state of mind. He was better than any shrink could ever be.
The next part was written by Alex and says it so much better because of how close she was to him for the last few months of his life.
I want to thank all the staff at Western Veterinary for all their kindness and compassion dealing with Jack’s thymoma. Even knowing what I know now, I have no regrets for the choices I made seeking treatment. It may not have given us as much time as we had hoped it would, but the time we had was so much better because of the treatment and care he received from Dr. Mauldin and the team. I can’t express how much I appreciate being able to take that time to come to terms with things and, in the end, know he was as comfortable and happy as he could be.
I realize the expense gets more of the “he’s just a rabbit, go buy a new one” attitude than most treatable illnesses would, but they don’t know Jack. For me, he was someone to come home to, someone to hang out with and take care of, to remind me however bad things get there’s more to life than what happens at work or in school or with friends. Taking care of him has been therapeutic for me, putting life into perspective and emphasizing that need for someone who will never judge or grade me, just let me do my best for his sake. Being able to give him the chance to recover was worth it, and I know I’ll never regret having tried. He was always a fighter and lived every day to the fullest which was all I ever wanted for him. I know he’s in a better place now, where he can run in the grass and nap in the sun, but I still miss him every day and know part of me always will. We came through so much together, it would never be easy to say goodbye which is why I’m so thankful for all the support and assistance we found with you. When I first brought him home I promised I’d always take care of him, and when I realized there was an option to treat his tumor (however temporarily) I knew I would because as hard as it was to consider him passing under anesthetic or having complications come up in recovery, I would rather risk him dying there surrounded by those best suited to save him and who genuinely care, than to suffer every day at home and die in agony without having tried.
Jack had a happy life with us, hiding under furniture inside the house and under bushes outside in the yard, cuddling for pets and treats, destroying the odd sweater or sofa cover, having breakfast together, fighting my sister’s chinchilla, napping in the sunny spot in the living room and generally running wild all day. For a former shelter pet he did alright, and I’m glad I saved a life worth saving. Everyone who knew him is sad to see him go, but I’m glad he’s not suffering anymore and that I had that last week to say goodbye. I’m glad he had fresh greens every morning and a treat every night, I’m glad he got to run around the back yard on warm summer days and watch TV with us at night and bum around the house the rest of the time. I’m glad he was mine for 5 years, we had each other’s friendship. I’m glad I had the courage to stay with him and hold him at the end so he wouldn’t fell abandoned again, and that when the time came you were there to help me do this last thing for him.
Thank you also for the beautiful flowers. It was such a nice surprise to come home to and find them sitting in front of my door. Bitter-sweet but nice to know that we were all in this together.
We are so thankful that Western Veterinary is in Calgary and that Dr. Mauldin, Catherine, Cindy, Julie and the whole WONDERFUL TEAM work there. You guys are totally awesome and we love you all very very much.
Barb and Alex
& “Jack” (who will always be in ALL our hearts)