Grief and Gratitude: Facing a Tumor Diagnosis With Hope, Love and Perspective

Mikkel Becker's Pug, Bruce
Credit: Mikkel Becker
Bruce is more than a pet — he's a part of the family.

We got some sad news last week about our beloved Pug, Bruce. For the past several weeks, Bruce has had a noticeable cough and has seemed to have less energy than usual. At first, his symptoms seemed to be related to a bronchial infection, but the cough never let up — even with treatment. Suspecting that it could be related to a heart condition or a problem with the structures in his airway, I took him to the vet for some tests.

The Bad News

What I saw on Bruce’s radiographs made my heart drop. He has a tumor in his chest that is pressing down on his heart and lungs. I stood in the vet’s office and faced the very real possibility that my beloved Pug may have cancer.

As I listened to the vet explain his findings, my mind was already spiraling forward. I immediately began to think about who to call and what appointments I would need to schedule in order to get a more specific diagnosis. I was thinking about treatment options and potential cures, and fretting about side effects and associated risks. And through it all, I was wondering exactly how my family — including our other Pug, Willy — would live without Bruce, our furry ball of joy.

I was able to hold myself together until I left the vet’s office. But as I lifted Bruce into my car, he licked my hand and wagged his tail and looked up at me with his sweet face, and I immediately teared up. “I love you Bruce,” I told him. “You mean so much to me.”

"Our Little Brucie"

On the drive home, I called my father. My attempts to be strong and factual as I told him what the vet had found lasted about 10 seconds, and then I burst into sobs. In that moment, he went from being Dr. Marty Becker, America’s veterinarian, to being my wonderful daddy and a sad and grieving Pug grandparent.

“I can’t imagine anything ever happening to our beloved little Brucie,” he told me. “There’s a lot that’s unknown, but I’ll tell you what I do know: Bruce is family. And for him, we’ll do whatever we would do for any family member. We will give him the best healthcare we can give while also ensuring a high quality of life, so he has the best life possible.” 

“I’ve loved that little guy since he was a puppy,” he added, “and I’m going to do everything in my power to help him the best I can.”

My heart was lifted by my father’s encouragement and wisdom, but our grief was still there as we hung up. I was still crying, and I found myself asking for help and guidance for our dog.


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