Ever since mum showed me a sudden appearance of a lump the size of a golf ball in her left breast in May this year, her cancer has been advancing aggressively.
In early August, every single night without fail, she felt intense tearing pain at her back, where the rib cage bones are located. She could not sleep and started taking Panadol for pain relief. The pain accelerated quickly, and by the middle of August, she was in pain more often than not. I had to give her 600mg of Ibuprofen twice a day plus rubbed her back with Counterpain, an analgesic cream.
By September, none of those helped relieve her pain and she finally agreed to see the oncologist for pain management. At the hospital, mum asked if she could be put to sleep painlessly (euthanasia), which, of course, is against the law in Malaysia. Needless to say, the specialist declined to help her along that path.
I had thought that stronger drugs like Tramadol or morphine would effectively mask mum's pain, but apparently, those narcotic drugs only take the edge off the pain, not mask it completely.
With mum opting for no treatment, we suddenly found that there are many people who chose not to be treated, too. Her church friends started to share about their own family members who opted for no treatment while my cousin shared about her friend in US who did not want treatment and opted for palliative care instead. Why did mum and those people chose to have no treatment, preferring to eventually die from their disease or condition?
Mum had invasive ductal carcinoma stage IIIB in 1999. She had mastectomy plus chemotherapy, radiotherapy and hormonal therapy. She completed the treatment but it traumatized her greatly.
Those who has had treatment for life-threatening diseases or conditions, or knew someone who has had those treatments, are very aware of the pain and suffering the treatments bring.
My late father-in-law was a diabetic and when the time came for him to have dialysis, he chose not to do it. He had seen his brother, also a diabetic, who went for dialysis three times a week, and he knew of the pain his brother went through. Needless to say, my late father-in-law died in his sleep four years ago, but he did not suffer.
And so, comes the point of this post. It got me thinking of animals that are sick and suffering. Is it kinder to put them through invasive treatment or to put them out of their misery? Many of my friends, animal lovers and rescuers, are against euthanasia. Just mention the word and you'd be flamed.
But, if our pets could speak, what would they choose for themselves? Would they want invasive treatment, or would they choose euthanasia? Are we being selfish, reluctant to let our pet go when we choose to hold on to them by prolonging their life and thus, suffering? Euthanasia is after all, the most painful decision a pet owner has ever had to make.
I had to make such a decision once. And it wasn't easy. Up to 10 o'clock at night, the vet from UPM was still calling me, telling me I had to make a decision, whether to put Brownie out of his misery or to let him continue to suffer. The vet assured me that Brownie would definitely be in pain, and that it was more merciful to let him go peacefully. It was the most heartbreaking decision I had ever made and I hope no pet owner has to ever make that decision.