Courage During a Doctor's Last Days

About 2 years ago I started working at a local veterinarian's office. The vet has been in practice for over 30 years. He treats dogs and cats that are owned by clients and those that are in need at the local shelters. He loves all living things with deep compassion and has a great understanding for the way people appreciate and need animals in their lives.

His daughter was the office manager at our office. After a long struggle with drug addiction and dealing with the suicide of her brother (the vet's only son) she was getting her life back on track. I was able to help her through some extremely tough times, including trying her first glass of wine after rehab. Although it seems trivial, she told her dad that I was there for her during this time of decision. It meant a lot to me. About 6 months ago she left our office to become a drug counselor for local youth.

Her dad continued with his practice as always, saving lives and helping others in their time of need. He aided pet owners who had little to no money, including the women at the local battered women's shelter who had pets that needed medical attention. He has offered me countless insights into the field of animals. Having 4 dogs and 5 cats of my own, he saw my animals before I worked there. I got my first puppy, a dachshund named Pickles, about 3 years ago and he always had something witty to say about her silly name and my love of animals.

When I started working there I was even more enthralled to be around such a person. His daughter did not fall far from the tree. Her personality and willingness to overcome outweighs most other people's that I have encountered. We fell out of touch slightly as she was busy with her job and I with mine, although occasionally we are able to catch up at the office. Our clinic is a very tight-knit crew and we operate more like a family than coworkers. The vet and his younger partner are like my two dads and their wives like my friends. I feel very connected to those people.

Two weeks ago the vet was performing a massive amount of spays and neuters on some dogs that had come from the local rescue. He kept making comments like, "when I am done someone needs to drive me home, I am so tired." He also had recently been complaining that he was having some pain in his stomach, which he thought was mild indigestion. After his long morning of performing surgeries, the vet left in a rush. We always knew he ran out to have lunch with his wife and occasionally his daughter, so we thought nothing of it.

That evening, as I was getting ready to go hiking for the weekend I received a text that the vet's wife had taken him to the hospital because he was just in so much pain. Thinking nothing more than that he was probably overworked and tired, I went on my trip. Saturday morning I was informed that he was still in the hospital with some swelling around his diaphragm. They wanted to keep him the weekend and stop the fluid buildup. Monday morning brought more tests and scans. No results yet. The whole staff was expecting him to come bouncing in the door as always asking if we had anything for him to work on there.

On Tuesday afternoon our second doctor ran out the door suddenly. He called the clinic, telling me to cancel all appointments. I did as he asked. In about 20 minutes, however, he returned and told us he was going to see walk-ins and that everything was just fine. Assuming it was, I continued my day of clients and puppies and kitties and laughter. It was toward the end of our business day that the vet's daughter came in. She was picking up food for her kitties at home. She did not remove her sunglasses and I could tell that she was in a somber mood. It was then that she asked me to step into another room for a minute. Heart racing, and I, as her only confidant there, had a thousand thoughts pouring through my mind. She delivered the news to me: her dad had cancer and chemo was not an option. They were giving him 4 months to live. She kept saying, "I can't imagine this place without him." To be honest, neither can I. My thoughts immediately turn to her and the time we have lost due to our busy schedules. The sudden shock keeps me from crying right away. I can only hug her and tell her that it won't be easy but that I am there for her. Knowing we have not spoken in months but for a few moments, I wonder how she views my comments. The precious nature of time floods over me. A person who I was there for and who was there for me, now I feel like I barely know and she is going through something so heart-wrenching. I lost my dad 9 years ago and not a day goes by that I don't need COURAGE.

The prognosis for her dad dropped down to a month. This was a week ago. The cancer is much worse than they thought. I think about how precious her time is with him, how much of a women she will become in the next few months. She will need courage to find her way. Courage to remember what he stood for. Courage to stand up for his and her beliefs. Courage to be the woman he knows she is. Courage to be alone. Courage to meet a guy and know that she won't want a big wedding, because frankly, who will walk her down the aisle... Courage to seek the good in others. Courage to be there for her mother. Courage to continue with pride for her family. Courage to receive guests at the funeral and say "thank you" but knowing she won't remember anyone she saw. Courage to look at her father and help him every day until then. Courage to remember and forgive. Courage to love and be loved. Courage to be herself in everday. Mostly, courage to make everyday, the best day, for her dad. The thoughts that are pouring through her mind are never going to stop, and I know, it will not be easy. We are backing her with courage. Her dad means the world to so many people, and so does she.



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