Anyone who has Googled "chronic lymphocytic leukemia" has run across references to the disease in dogs and, more rarely, cats. If you give Fido some chlorambucil, he goes on merrily chasing his tail, usually for a normal life span.
Recently I received a phone call from someone who read my letter to the local paper in which I explained that I have CLL and that I support health care reform. The caller left a message on my answering machine. She said she supports reform also, and then began to talk about her dog, which was recently diagnosed with CLL. If it would not be a bother, she asked, would I mind calling her back and telling her a little bit about the disease and what might be done to treat her dog?
When Marilyn and I heard the message, our reaction was the same: laughter, of the disbelieving kind. I don't mind talking about CLL to fellow patients, or to my neighbors, or to a complete stranger who has some interest in the disease. But I'm not a veterinarian.
My gut level response, to my surprise, was anger. I love animals, and I like dogs, but I have seen too many friends and acquaintances die of this disease. I have seen too many struggle with impossibly difficult choices. For every great remission I have seen great disappointment. I have spent almost six years struggling with CLL, not always successfully. If I thought the last six years were bad, the next six promise to be worse. So pardon me if I don't have a lot of energy left over to counsel people whose dogs have leukemia.
Sometimes I think I'm being a little hard-hearted about this, but I cannot bring myself to call her back. I know she means nothing by it, that she's probably not aware that a CLL patient might develop some emotional baggage after awhile. Is she being a little insensitive? Or am I being oversensitive?
I empathize with her and her dog, but all I want to say to her is "Use your freakin' Google."
Am I right or am I wrong?
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