Veterinary Oncologist Says Career Saved Her Life

Dr. Sarah Boston’s career led to her discovering her thyroid cancer.

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Sarah Boston, DVM, DVSc, Dipl. ACVS treats cancer in dogs and cats, so when she felt a mass in her neck during her nighttime moisturizing routine, she knew what it could mean. As it turned out, she had thyroid cancer.

Dr. Boston, who is an Associate Professor of Surgical Oncology at the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Florida, began writing about her diagnosis and what she was going through via email in an effort to keep her friends updated.

Dr Sarah Boston
Photo credit Dr. Sarah Boston

In time, those emails became lengthier, reading more like essays than updates. She soon had over 300,000 words written, some of which she read at a veterinary cancer center event in Canada.

Her words got the attention of Noah Richler, a writer who connected her with Canadian Publisher, Anansi Press. At the request of her editor, Boston incorporated her life as a veterinary surgical oncologist into her book. She soon realized that her career was influencing her experience with cancer.

Boston began comparing cancer treatment for animals with cancer treatment for humans, concluding that maybe animals get the better deal.

She says that if you treat a dog for cancer-related nausea, he feels better; but if you treat a human for cancer-related nausea, her nausea may be gone, but she's still dwelling on the fact that she has cancer.

Just as her career influenced her cancer experience, her bout with cancer influenced her career. Boston told Veterinary Practice News, "I would definitely say that my experience with cancer has influenced my career in a lot of ways. It has made me even more aware of the parallels between human and veterinary medicine. We can learn a lot from each other. I also know firsthand how long you have to wait in the human system for diagnostics and treatment, so even though I always strive to give my clients the best service possible and I do my best for my patients, I don't get stressed out if I can't get a CT for my patient the same day as their appointment."

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Her book mixes her experiences both as a cancer patient and one who treats cancer, the differences between animal cancer patients and human ones, and what her life has been like after such a diagnosis. Boston's book, "Lucky Dog: How Being a Veterinarian Saved My Life," is available on June 7, 2014.

While promoting her book on Twitter, Boston discovered that "the veterinary community has been extremely supportive and excited about another veterinary author. The experience…has made me feel wonderful about our profession and the bond that all veterinarians share. I can't imagine a better profession to be a part of."

Lucky Dog Book
Photo credit

As the title of her book suggests, Boston's health is excellent now. "I am cancer free and I am working with a fantastic endocrinologist to help keep everything in check. I do get more tired than I used to, which is normal for thyroid cancer survivors," Boston told VPN. "[I]t is a drag sometimes, but I am working on it and staying positive."

That postiveness may lead to Boston writing a second book. Although it may be hard to balance work and penning another book, she hopes to do both.

"I have thoroughly loved the experience of writing and all of the support and mentoring that I received from my publisher, House of Anansi, and my wonderful editor, Meredith Dees," Boston says. "I love my job at UF so much and I would also like to try to write more. Writing has been such a positive experience for me and it has been fun to use a different part of my brain for a change."

Boston received her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Saskatchewan in 1996 and her Doctor of Veterinary Science from the University of Guelph in 2003. She was honored with the presidency of the Veterinary Society of Surgical Oncology and her recent publications include "Clinical Findings and Prognostic Factors for Dogs Undergoing Cholecystectomy for Gall Bladder Mucocele." Follow her on Twitter at @DrSarahBoston.

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For more on cancer treatments for animals and humans, check out this article.

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