The Plan B for Plan B, A Bad Time for Birds, Doggone Cancer Treatment
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This week, V is slinging history lessons. They unpack how recent executive orders from President Biden stand in stark contrast to the “chastity laws” of the past, which made everyday sexual activities a federal offense. Plus, V highlights the hidden historical gems in the new movie Amsterdam — beyond TSwift’s period attire, of course. They’re then joined by multihyphenate medical provider Dr. Renée Alsarraf, who treats cancer in dogs and wrote a book about how it’s helped her care for herself.
Follow Dr. Renée Alsarraf at @reneealsarraf on Instagram and pick up Sit, Stay, Heal: What Dogs Can Teach Us About Living Well wherever books are sold.
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V Spehar, Renee Alsarraf
V Spehar 00:00
Hey friends, it’s Tuesday, October 18 2022. Welcome to be interesting, where we break down the viral and very interesting news you might have missed. I’m V Spehar. And today we’re gonna be talking about the shady history of chastity laws in the United States and how far the federal government has come since then. Plus, what is up with the economy lately, and birds? Then we’ll get to hear from the veterinarian about how treating cancer in dogs helped her make sense of her own cancer diagnosis. All that and more on today’s V INTERESTING from Lemonada Media. Let’s be smart together. First up the plan B for Plan B. Did you know President Biden already signed 23 executive orders this year? Could you even name any of them? Yeah, they don’t get the best press right? If not, I do not blame you. A lot of news has happened this year. Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson became the first black woman to join the Supreme Court. The Queen died we had spit gate. But if you missed some of the orders that Biden signed recently, it means you also missed their larger historical meaning. So let’s run through some of them. Biden signed an order of mandating pay transparency for government contractors. He used one order to declare a national emergency so more resources would be available to free us nationals held hostage or wrongfully detained after Congress passed the chips act this summer, Biden signed an order to kickstart it. And just a few weeks ago, he signed an order to revive an advisory committee for the arts that had been dissolved by Trump. And the recent pardon for certain marijuana convictions. Well, yeah, that one came in the form of an executive order too, but I really want to talk to you about two orders pertaining to reproductive health in particular. And all the chaos of this summer, you may have forgotten or never even known that Biden signed an executive order after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade. In July, he spelled out a list of actions that he wanted other government officials to take. The main goals were to help Americans understand that reproductive health services were still legal, and to make sure that they could access them. A month later, he followed it all up with another executive order giving even more instructions to further these goals. He tasked the Secretary of Health and Human Services with planning how to better distribute abortion pills, as well as launching a PSA campaign about abortion options in general, he looped in the US Attorney General and Secretary of Homeland Security to get to work on protecting people’s privacy in regards to reproductive care. There’s even guidance for how to help states offer legal protection to people who have to travel for care, as some states outlaw procedures like abortions. That last part is so important because no, these orders can’t stop local governments from enforcing their own bans on abortions or other health services. That topic is now by default, a state’s issue. They want to say we gave the states back the power to choose. They didn’t okay, they took away the federal constitutional protection. Don’t ever forget something people had for over 50 years was taken away. And there are lots of states continuing to keep it away.
V Spehar 03:37
But ultimately, when you look at what these executive orders focus on, we’re talking about pills, and we’re talking about information. Those are two things that can be passed around through the mail or on the Internet, regardless of where you live. And Grandpa Joe controls these federal pathways. Now it wasn’t always the case that Grandpa Joe had this kind of power or any precedent, come with me to the late 1800s Before the birth control pill and certainly before medical abortion was an option. There were things like early versions of condoms. So let’s let those stand in for the reproductive products of today. 150 years ago, a veteran and salesman living in New York made it his mission to ban all 50 Shades of Grey. This man was named Anthony Comstock, and Tony was just appalled by sex work in the streets and pornography on the shelves. He thought society was too promiscuous for its own good. And apparently it wasn’t quite satisfying enough to just tattle on his own neighbors when he saw something he didn’t like. So he went to Washington, he lobbied Congress, and in 1873 he got some wild legislation passed at the federal level. It came to be known as the Comstock Act. The full name was an act for the suppression of trade in and circulation of obscene literature and articles of immoral use, what a prude. This outlawed contraceptives and other quote obscene articles at the federal level. Importantly, this meant that you couldn’t send anything having to do with sex across state lines, so no smart novels but also no educational pamphlets or medicine of any kind. This man Comstock had made a fun little hobby of giving tips to police officers about sex workers. And now he was controlling the lives of an entire nation from the top down, with the federal government on his side, the law was inescapable. So why don’t we still live like this? Why isn’t birth control banned from the mail? Well, because people fought for federal legality, reproductive rights advocates just straight up disobeyed orders, they made a lot of noise on the ground. Margaret Sanger just went ahead and opened up a birth control clinic in Brooklyn, which she was arrested for in 1916. That led to a court case that allowed birth control for specific purposes. And the following years, pushback against the Comstock Act and other shoddy morality laws led to the 1965 Supreme Court case, Griswold v. Connecticut, where a conservative court ruled that there is a constitutional right to privacy and that married couples could privately elect to purchase and use birth control. Griswold v. Connecticut is one of the cases Clarence Thomas wants to, quote take another look at which is why these executive orders from Biden protecting your right to receive contraception via the USPS are so crucial. You still have a right to privacy when it comes to your mail. Yes, some states will probably try and challenge mail services through legal action down the road. But for right now, daddy Biden in the federal government say birth control, emergency contraception, and abortion medication are all fair game.
V Spehar 06:58
Did you know that tomorrow is the 35th anniversary of the worst day in Wall Street history. I’m talking about Black Monday friends. On this one day, October 19 1987, the Dow Jones lost more than 20% of its value. That is more than 500 billion, billion with a B dollars. and the NASDAQ recorded its biggest one day loss ever. A week after this happened. A Time magazine article called it the October massacre. In hindsight, the lead up to it showed signs of a crash. The Dow Jones had gained a ton of value in a short time making people suspicious that it was a bubble. Then the government revealed a trade deficit and the dollar lost its value. By the next week. People started to sell, sell, sell and down it went. What’s interesting about this event was the aftermath. On Black Monday, the Dow Jones dropped almost twice as much as it did in 1929, which you know, caused the Great Depression. But this crash in 1987 didn’t trigger a recession. After the huge drop, things just kind of leveled out, the markets calmed down, and a lot of the lost value came back pretty quickly. In just two years, the Dow Jones reached an all-time high, the history making bear market became a history making bull market. So a crash won’t always cause a recession. And a recession can be caused by a lot of things other than a crash. Lots of other things. That’s why there has been so much discourse about what’s happening to the economy right now. by some experts definition. We’ve been in the recession for the past few months by others. We’re on track for one next year. One of the weirdest things is that a recession can happen when things feel good, like really good. If people are doing well, that can actually be why things go south. Case in point, our current moment. When people started to go back to restaurants and concerts after early COVID lockdowns they were spending more money than before. As demands went up. So did prices. And then came supply chain disruptions. Since inventory was low prices went up again. Meanwhile, to entice new workers to help with these disruptions, companies were offering more perks and higher salaries. How did they afford that? With price hikes. That’s why the Federal Reserve has been raising interest rates. It’s designed to reduce inflation by getting people to stop spending. It makes it more expensive and less attractive to borrow money for things like mortgages and cars and stuff. And I know that you might not want to hear this. But there’s also Russia’s control of oil, the power of social media to sway people’s opinions of companies, the pandemic, all of these things are at play here. Many people have made it their mission to try and track all of this, because as much as we talk about the stock market, I don’t have any money. I don’t have any stocks. The economy is so much bigger and messier than the Stock Market, am I right? Money is weird. Oh, it’s just, it’s a weirdo little thing that we have to deal with. And to help us make sense of all of this. I’m going to bring on a friend to talk us through the money stuff again, okay? Because we’ve got experts, they know what they’re talking about. And sometimes you got to go to somebody else’s house to learn, we will get there together.
V Spehar 10:25
Bear markets, bull markets. What about bird markets? Now that’s a whole different story. You can’t fix one of those as easily because friends, it turns out that if you collect and sell bird eggs, you might just cause their demise who would have thought I’ve never had a thought about bird eggs in my life. But that is one of the subtler details and the new murder mystery movie Amsterdam. It’s directed by David O. Russell and stars the likes of Christian Bale, Margot Robbie, my girl Taylor Swift. I know this movie just came out. But it is not a spoiler to say that two characters in the movie identify as birders it’s not even a spoiler to tell you that they raid some nests for research purposes and get scolded for it. There’s a lot of plot points in this movie. And that one, I promise you, it really doesn’t go anywhere. So we’re okay. Amsterdam is based on true political events in the US and Europe following World War One, which has led many viewers to wonder exactly which parts of the story really happened. And because of this birding storyline, where they’re stealing bird eggs, it doesn’t really like connect to the core of the movie, you’d be justified in thinking that all of it was just made up that it was just for color. But alas, people across the US and the UK were doing this exact thing in the early 20th century. So there is so much truth to this that I didn’t even know collecting eggs used to be for food and survival. It became more of a hobby leading into the early 1900s When affluent men fancied themselves historians and scientists and just started like gathering eggs for fun. To be fair. There were also expeditions that were sponsored by governments and museums, but it was something that a lot of men just like did for funsies and for sport, we’re talking 1000s of specimens and personal collections of bird eggs. This kind of birding was huge during this era. So huge in fact, that a major player in the field inspired one of the most famous fictional characters of all time. That’s right baby. James Bond bet you didn’t know that. Ian Fleming, the author of the James Bond novels knew of a real life ornithologist named James Bond because he had one of his birding books, Fleming lifted the author’s name from that 1936 fields guide and used it for his stories. Like with a lot of things, the fun of birding, at least the more hands on type that many people were participating in at this time, was ruined by doing it in excess, combined with the poaching of the late 1800s and early 1900s. for commercial purposes, like fashion, recreational egg collecting likely caused the decline of some species. Obviously, draining an egg for a collection means that that egg won’t ever hatch and all it takes is doing that once within endangered species to wipe out the entire generation and in England where one of the fictional birders hails from collectors have historically been known to pursue the rarest of eggs. So, there was actually a lot of truth to the characters in Amsterdam and to the harm that they caused. Now, if you go see the movie, you’ll have to let me know do you think Mike Myers is an accurate representation of what they would have looked like?
V Spehar 13:37
My God, these birds just can’t catch a break. Sorry for all the bad news, my friends, but you know, we got to stay informed. There is a new strain of avian flu and it is spreading across the US unfortunate timing considering how many birds are actively passing through on their way south for the winter. When compared to the last major outbreak back in 2015. almost three times as many states have documented cases of the virus this time around. When avian flu reaches birds, they can die. And that is bad for wild fowl and the food chains that they are a big part of it is also bad for all the poultry farms that rely on live healthy birds to sell. I mean, it’s like the whole business model. Avian Flu usually doesn’t jump to humans. So the larger concern is how this could affect our meals, our economy and wildlife. California is a particular cause for concern because of the States Pacific Flyway, which is a great name and I wish it was coming up under better circumstances. The Pacific Flyway is the path that birds follow as they migrate down from Alaska and Canada. And even though you might think you’re seeing endless flocks of birds overhead; they do indeed spend some time on the ground. A lot of time they’re down here they’re mingling and sharing space with other critters and down on the ground. Animals are in closer contact that they have been in the past due to things like real estate developments and deforestation, as animal Let’s get crowded out of the landscape, there is even more of that mingling than there should be. And that is speeding up the transmission of things like avian flu. At this point. We’re just waiting on scientists to learn more about the flu and potentially proposed new ways to contain it. So there’s just not much we can do right now. Sorry to bring it up. But definitely an argument in the long term against paving paradise and putting up parking lots on the topic of humans taking up way too much damn space. Because of manmade light pollution baby puffins in the Westman islands of Iceland aren’t able to leave their nest. They typically hatch in little burros around this time of year, and then fly to sea to do some growing up years later, they come back to the land to breed. And historically, they found their way to the water by following the moon. But for decades, they haven’t been able to see it. They can’t see the moon, the baby puffins, the moon, because artificial light on the ground is so damn strong. So they start flying and then they stop when they see something bright and then like surprise, it’s a building or a streetlight or something else disappointing and they never make it. Fortunately, locals took notice and started giving them a hand, a literal hand, a toss, a soft little there you go Puffin baby, as they throw the bird off of a cliff, but this is actually good for them. Apparently, an NPR got some great pictures. So we’ll link to it in the show notes so you can check those out. As I pointed out in the egg collecting story, sometimes human interference can really disrupt a species, especially for the puffins. They meet for life. They don’t lay eggs every year, and when they do, they only incubate one per season. So now we’ve resorted to throwing birds off cliffs, and it’s to help them man you really got to get creative out there times are tough. Good thing we have really smart folks who have always been looking out for animals like Dr. Renée Alsarraf. She is a Veterinary Oncologist or as I like to call her a dog doctor. And she just wrote a book which comes out today, October 18. It’s about treating cancer and dogs and how it helped her navigate her own cancer diagnosis. I cannot wait to talk to her about it. And I cannot wait for you to hear about it. I promise you. It is a very uplifting story in the end, so stay tuned.
V Spehar 17:34
Welcome back friends. Today we are chatting with Dr. Renee, the author of sit, stay heal with dogs can teach us about living well. The book comes out today and features the story of 10 pet parents and how their fur babies navigated a variety of health issues. I laughed, I cried, I truly enjoyed learning through the lens of other dog owners what to look for and what to do so that I can be the best pet parent. Dr. Renee, welcome to the show.
Renee Alsarraf 18:03
Oh my gosh, thank you so much for having me V, I appreciate it.
V Spehar 18:07
So this is my first time getting to interview a veterinarian and not walking out with a $600 to $4,000 Bill, this is a big dream. What made you want to get into veterinarian work?
Renee Alsarraf 18:22
I have wanted to be a veterinarian since the age of seven and I have never wavered. And so many people would say oh my goodness, it’s so much harder to get into vet school than medical school. Yeah. I think my dad tried very hard to talk me out of it. You know, people would say you certainly don’t make the same amount of money that you know, a physician might make but I never wavered once. I never even thought of any other option. It was more of a calling.
V Spehar 18:51
Yes. Oh my god. So are you treating like as a veterinarian? Where’s your practice?
Renee Alsarraf 18:57
So I’m actually in New Jersey, and I am a veterinary specialist. So I went on to do an internship and a residency. So I am a Veterinary Oncologist meaning that I treat cancer in animals and like all animals, basically small animals, right dogs, cats, I’ve treated rabbits, ferrets. It’s a lot but it’s good.
V Spehar 19:22
Yes. And you used this term in the book radical empathy as part of the way that you treat dogs. And we’re gonna we’re gonna stick it to dogs today because it to go on. I have dogs and I feel such a soft spot for dogs and I know a lot of listeners have dogs. So we’ll probably focus on dogs today. But all the little animals deserve love. But you were saying that use radical empathy is part of the way that you treat dogs where in addition to laboratory tests, use a keen awareness of the language and behavior of dogs to kind of like locate disease and be able to treat it. How did you develop that skill?
Renee Alsarraf 19:54
I think just being extremely observant, right? And just having that, that feeling for animals, which, you know, looking back at like even family photos of when I was three years old and at the little petting zoo, I don’t know if in part that always existed, right? But to be a good veterinarian, or you know, probably anything in the medical profession, to be able to observe, just because someone tells you something, doesn’t always mean that it’s true, right? Or they think that they’re limping on the right leg, but none of our patients can ever speak, you know, we need to be able to really watch, to learn. And then to sort of learn the behavior signals from dogs, you know, is their tail tucked between their leg or their hunches? Are they eager? Are they looking around the room? There are all sorts of different signs to put together.
V Spehar 20:54
What are some of the signs that you see that that folks maybe should be looking out for in their dogs.
Renee Alsarraf 21:00
Any little new lump or bump, right? If there’s something that’s been there for a very long time and hasn’t changed, likely, that isn’t anything to worry about. But anything new, your veterinarian should take a look, they should aspirate it, which is basically putting a needle in it, taking out some cells. If your dog is drinking more water than normal, or needing to go outside to urinate more normal, more than normal. Obviously, you know, eating normally, but losing weight for no reason that’s a big tip off, or not really finishing all of their food, you know, sometimes you ask people one question, you know, oh, how’s your dog’s appetite? Great. He’s eating. And then you say, okay, but you know, he’s eating his regular dog food. Oh, no, he refuses to eat his regular dog food, but he’s willing to eat, you know, hamburger. And I’m thinking, well, if I’m sick, I don’t want to eat a salad, I want to eat the big bowl of pasta, or whatever that might be. Being lethargic, sleeping more. And sometimes, you know, that might be because they’re tired from, you know, a lot of exercise on the weekend, or they’re getting older, they have arthritis. But other times it’s, it’s not just an age related thing.
V Spehar 22:13
Does veterinary school teach you how to manage the emotions of the dog owners when you have to deliver a diagnosis like your dog has cancer? So how does that work?
Renee Alsarraf 22:25
Not at all. In fact, I one time I was a senior veterinary student, I was in clinics with a with a very seasoned clinician, and I don’t remember what the dog’s main clinical signs are or disease happened to be. But I know that I remember that the family was very sad. And they were crying. And that that clinician, that veterinarian when his white lab coat just had his arms straight down by his side. And I think I got just a little misty, I didn’t cry. But then the family left and the veterinarian and I went in the back. And he pulled me aside and he said, you know, Renee, don’t worry about this, you know, after a few of these cases, in a few years, you’ll toughen up, this won’t affect you. And I thought, oh my gosh, if it ever gets that, it doesn’t affect me, then that’s when I need to stop, like, good or bad feel sorry for my family, I want to feel all of my feelings. Right. And if I, if I don’t have that empathy and feel what that family is feeling, then I don’t think I’m being very good or true person, let alone veterinarian.
V Spehar 23:40
You’re giving out these diagnoses. And the other thing I read in your book, which we’re gonna get to talking about soon, was that the way that the dog owner and the way that the dog react to the diagnosis are so different. And something that I loved that I read, as you said that dogs do not sacrifice the moment they don’t waste the present, they treat every breath like the gift that it is you tell this dog you have cancer and only a couple of weeks to live it. It’s like I love you, this is incredible. What is that like kind of like being in the room with all of these families all that time?
Renee Alsarraf 24:11
It is on some level, a really hard job to do that. And on another level, it is what fills me up obviously not giving them bad news. But part of my job and what’s so important to do is to teach them everything that we that I can about the disease process, what the treatments are like side effects, you know, cost and then prognosis so that that pet family can make the best decision for them. Because I don’t believe that there are any wrong decisions, right? It’s just different decisions. But then as I talk about a lot in the book is to use the dog as our model or what The dog mirrors for us to literally live in the moment. In one of the chapters, you know, one of the one of the pet parents has cancer, and so does his dog. And I think the biggest concern for him was who’s going to die first, which, that just gets you.
V Spehar 25:20
Right, because as you’re doing all this work to help animals and seeing very sick animals, dealing with families delivering these diagnosis and health plans for the families and working them through it, you yourself had a doctor deliver a very difficult diagnosis to you. What was that moment like for you being on the receiving end of the cancer diagnosis?
Renee Alsarraf 25:40
Truly, it felt like a sucker punch to my gut. And for someone who can talk forever. I had such jumbled thoughts and emotions in my head, but I couldn’t say anything. I remember I got the news on the phone at seven o’clock at night before we were going to throw a big party. And I just sat down on the kitchen step. And I couldn’t believe it, you know, and I thought, I could die. I don’t want to die. And I, you know, feel like I’m too young. And, you know, I had a horrible thought, which is just embarrassing. You know, crazy. Of course, we should all recycle. But I thought, why am I recycling?
V Spehar 26:24
Oh, please, the things we do when we get those that I’m like, nothing matters. This is all a silliness. Yeah, it’s so true.
Renee Alsarraf 26:31
It was really, really hard. And likewise, it was really hard. Kelly, my son, who at the time was a junior, or a senior in high school. That was very scary to have to tell him.
V Spehar 26:45
Did you find yourself using some of the strategies you use when having to tell families about their pet when you had to tell your family about your diagnosis?
Renee Alsarraf 26:57
100%. Yeah, great question. Yes. Right. Always wanting to be fully honest, fully transparent. But with a soft touch. I did stage it for him. In the sense of we really don’t know, you know, I have to first have surgery. Perhaps that’s the only thing you know. And it wasn’t until I knew for sure that I would need chemotherapy and radiation. Although my doctor’s had already paved that that way. You know, then I broached that with him, just so that I didn’t put it all on. And the one thing I did is, is I told him that it was okay to talk to his friends about, right? And obviously, you know, me and his dad, but because I think, you know, that helps or just, you know, he’s tends to keep things in sometimes especially probably just for me as being my high school kid. But to let him know that it’s okay to share an open up until lean on each other.
V Spehar 28:02
I think that’s such precious advice. Because so often, you know, something tragic happens. And we just, we there is so much like you said this weird embarrassment that comes from it. Like what Who do I talk to? How am I going to deal with this? How many people do I want to know? But you decided to write a book. That’s how we as people who are overachievers and hard workers deal with things, right, we maximize. And the book is called sit, stay, heal, where each chapter is about a different patient, and what that family or you learned from the dog in the story, and then woven in our chapters about your backstory, as a working mom and dealing with your own cancer, Renee girl that has a lot, to feel like a lot when you deal with cancer, I’m gonna be treating dogs and I’m gonna write a book.
Renee Alsarraf 28:49
You know, it just morphed naturally, I had always wanted to write. But I figured that’s the same as someone saying they’ve always wanted to be a veterinarian and, and as a veterinarian, for me, it was never a job it was even more than a profession. It’s how I identify myself with for good or bad. But at the time, when I had my diagnosis and my treatment, I didn’t do any social media whatsoever. And what I realized is I couldn’t keep telling friends and family over and over how I’m doing how the chemo is. So I took two emailing them in a group, and the little group morphed into about 75, you know, of my closest friends and family haha. Some of those people were actually my son’s friend’s parents because our house was where the boys always came. And periodically people would write back with support and encouragement, which was like a lifeline. But they would also write Have you ever thought about writing a book? You really should write a book. One of those people was my son’s friend’s mother, who’s this big literary agent in New York City. And she said, you know, you really should think about writing a book. Of course, I blew everyone off, I would even then, after my treatment, I might bump into him at Whole Foods still blew him off when they said it. And then one weekend, my partner and I were in. We just went to a hotel or a resort for the weekend in Rhode Island, and the newspaper came to our door, which I never really get. And so I read the comics and the horoscope the important parts. Yeah. And I swear to God, my horoscope said, you should begin writing your book today.
V Spehar 30:35
This is why we read it.
Renee Alsarraf 30:36
And two days later, I started writing.
V Spehar 30:38
Wow. And I know that folks can want to give a lot of advice, often, unsolicited, when a diagnosis like this comes down, because that’s like, a lot of people’s panic response is to try and like educate or provide a solution. How did you handle that? As a cancer doctor? Was it hard to accept sympathy and solutions?
Renee Alsarraf 30:57
Oh, my gosh, I love you. Yes. Completely. I didn’t want to hear that. Yeah. As horrible as that sounded, right. I was fine to meet someone you know, who said, Oh, my sisters, brothers, whatever had, they’d love to meet with you. And I found that I just endured it if they just told me what they went through. Because I didn’t really, it wasn’t me, right? But I think something that helped. And something that I got from veterinary medicine is I would sit at in the cancer center, and it would be full of people waiting to either be called for radiation or chemotherapy. And many people would bring someone, some people would come by themselves, but nobody spoke. And yet when you’re in the veterinary clinic, right, dogs go and they sniff each other, and they wag their tails, and pet parents talk to each other. And I noticed that with my veterinary oncology patients, you know, people even then started to book the same appointment times, because it becomes their own support center. So I would try to talk to the people in my waiting room when we’re all there for our own treatment. And, you know, some people really didn’t like it. And I figured that was sort of it was on them. If they sat next to me, they were asking for it. And I found though, that I really never wanted to talk about me and my experience, but I wanted to learn from them. And I learned so much that helped me get through it better than had I not had that. And then there were some people that you just enjoyed seeing, you know, are you worried if you didn’t see them? Yeah, it was it was a really good support group that way.
V Spehar 32:50
But we’re going to take just a quick break, but when we get back, we will have more with Dr. Renee. Were there other things you learned from dogs about navigating the disease that were parallels that were kind of the same?
Renee Alsarraf 33:15
Well, just like people, dogs can still get sick from chemotherapy, although at a much smaller percent, right. I was told when I went through chemotherapy, because I was determined I was going to will away all my side effects man if it ever happened. Yeah, exactly. And my doctor said, no, everyone gets side effects. And I’m thinking well, you don’t know me, of course, I got side effects. But I think I had fewer side effects. In general for dogs, depending on the chemo 85% have no side effects, which is huge. Your next door neighbor’s dog beyond chemo. I’ve treated dogs that have been, you know, that worked for the scene I that still guide there, you know, visually impaired person. Dogs that work as search and rescue dogs, you know, dogs that show up for their family every day, you’d have no idea. But so I knew those types of side effects, right. And I knew just from studying the chemotherapy drug, how it acts in a dog versus me. But I think the biggest lesson that I learned is that they come dogs come in with such a better attitude, right? They’re wagging their tail as they enter the door. They’re looking for a little biscuit or a treat. They are happy when it’s done. And they’re like, now I get the treat, right like nobody offered me a piece of Godiva when I was done.
V Spehar 34:50
I’m starting any business cookies for chemo. Yes, we deserve cookies would be
Renee Alsarraf 34:54
Great. Yes, cookies. That would be even a great title. But it makes such a difference because those negative thoughts do nothing but bring us down, right? They don’t help our cork to float at all. And it’s such a waste of energy, when instead, we could be putting that energy in again, like you said, to manifest or to fight the disease, or just to feel better and happier and more present in the moment.
V Spehar 35:25
I was reading in the book, you said, I wanted to deny that the C word had gotten the best of me, I wanted to be the biggest opponent I can be. But maybe this is like trying to defy gravity. At best, it seems like false bravado. What did you mean there?
Renee Alsarraf 35:40
That I was actually talking as vain as it can be about my hair. As messed up as this is, I would go into the waiting room. And I would think I’m not like them. Of course, I was like them, I look just like them. But you know, we all do it. I think it’s just a self-protective thing. And, you know, I think also, sort of one of the differences between veterinary medicine and human medicine is in human medicine, you go in, you’re diagnosed with something, and then your doctor gives you one path or one treatment protocol that we follow blindly. And yet in veterinary medicine for a whole host of different reasons. We talk about multiple different paths to treatment, or if you choose not to treat what palliative care looks like, right? So that in that knowledge and in you make in that pet parent making those decisions, they have a sense of control, and hopefully, minimizing regrets in my care. I didn’t feel like I had any control aside from my wacky wheeling these things not to happen. So I was convinced and was fighting the fight to keep my hair because I thought it was something that I could control, you know, with a cold cap to freeze my scalp or what have you. I think it gave me something to focus on. You know, looking back, it was maybe silly, but the doctors never saw that. I don’t even think they understood it because all their patients are bald, and you know, it just grows back and it’s not a big deal. But it is a big deal.
V Spehar 37:25
Yes, I hated that terrible.
Renee Alsarraf 37:25
And they told you that they said you might as well just go ahead and shave your hair. It was like you might as well just submit.
V Spehar 37:35
Is there any goofy stuff you remember that made you kind of snap out of the sads here and there?
Renee Alsarraf 37:40
Oh, my goodness. Probably on some level when my own dog Newton got cancer. While I was simultaneously getting cancer and then I come home exhausted. And he’d come home and run to his food bowl to see if anything was there like, he didn’t care do.
V Spehar 38:04
What kind of dog is Newton?
Renee Alsarraf 38:07
V Spehar 38:08
What kind of dog would you be?
Renee Alsarraf 38:11
Oh, gosh, you know, I think aside from the wrinkles and the drawl hopefully I would be a boxer because I just love their I love how present they are for their family. You know, I love their loyalty. Their protectiveness, they are working breeds so they’d like to think they’re silly sometimes. What about you, would you be?
V Spehar 38:38
Oh, I would be a Yorkie. I have to Yorkies and I absolutely am 100% Yorkie. I’m like very crammed. I like to yell a lot. A lot of talking. There’s a lot of like panicking. 100% Yorkie. Oh, I love them. Yeah, we have miss […]. And little over here, just the cutest little angel baby. So we’ve talked a lot about some of the chapters in the book, some of the ways that you were able to parallel what was going on with dogs what’s going on with you telling other people’s stories, because part of the thing that sucks the most when we get bad news is that we initially maybe feel some level of like, why is this happening to me, it’s like waves and then you get to that wave, you’re like this is uniquely horrible and only ever happened to me. And what I like about the book is some chapters really do make you cry. I mean, they’re like holding the rug, crying chapters, but then there are some very hopeful chapters to and it’s that kind of like rise and relief that really allows you to not feel alone if this is something that you’re going through. And that allows you to see that like other people how other people have handled things and we’re all such like show and tell learners. What was something that you learned writing the book that really surprised you.
Renee Alsarraf 39:53
I think that what I noticed as I was writing the book, one of the big things themes or lessons, is how much better dogs are because they’re pack animals, right? So they survive in the wild, because they’re a pack. And they have genetically evolved through 1000s of years to be a part of our pack, right? They’re hardwired into us. And I know that my life is so much better for being in a packed with my dog. But then if I and hopefully other people will try to take this one step further, we as people are so much better off as a pack together, you know, having each other’s back being loyal to each other, instead of at odds or the single one, you know, as an individual. That I hope that shines through and resonates with a lot of people.
V Spehar 40:54
Absolutely. Did you have a favorite story in the book?
Renee Alsarraf 40:58
Oh, my gosh, you know, there were so many. There’s some that, you know, couldn’t make it in the book, just because of the length. I think, too. The one is Bentley the Beagle. Just because that was so touching, with his dad. And then the other one was Frannie, the bloodhound who it’s been golly, I don’t even know many years. And she is still doing well. Yeah, she had three months as her average prognosis and it has been, you know, probably five years at this point.
V Spehar 41:43
That’s a manifesting.
Renee Alsarraf 41:45
Yeah. She never looked back. She did ultimately have to retire from the police force, because she gained too much weight. And she was too slow. And she was happy about that.
V Spehar 42:00
And where is your cancer now?
Renee Alsarraf 42:03
It is gone. Given it the middle finger in the eye. But yes, so I just had my checkup in July. And my medical oncologist said that I don’t have to come back for a full year, which is so great. Although, for me, there is some security and being checked. So I talked her into six months, just in case, which she kind of rolled her eyes and said, sure, you know, come on back in six months. But thankfully, it’s been very good.
V Spehar 42:37
Dr. Renee, it’s been such a pleasure to have you today. Thank you so much for sharing this journey with me for chat and dogs and also tell folks where they can find you and where they can find the book.
Renee Alsarraf 42:48
Okay, so they can find the book in any bookstore. It has a website sitstayhealbook.com. I’m on Facebook and Instagram and all those good things. You know, it’s always good when you’re 55 to start that.
V Spehar 43:06
That will get you on TikTok next, and we’ll link to all that in the show notes. So people have an easy time finding it, you just be able to go click on it. I laughed. I cried. I had anxiety. My dog jumped on me. It was a wonderful read. So I really hope people do get the book. And I’m so grateful that you were here and I’m so grateful that your cancer is gone and never come back. We’re manifesting. Health for life.
Renee Alsarraf 43:29
Thank you so much. You do so much good for so many people. And I am just very grateful to be on your show. I really appreciate it.
V Spehar 43:42
I just love dogs. I love dogs. I love Dr. Renee. I am. I’m going to take the rest of the day today to just see what little advantage you want to do. Get your leashes girls, we’re gonna get […] and star bees and I don’t know, maybe we’ll like go see what Home Goods has. I buy them so much crap at home goods. You could never have enough blankets, right? Why don’t you treat yourself to a little home goods run. But be sure to check back on Friday when we’ll be chatting with AB burns, whose brother Brandon Burns has been in prison for the last 16 years serving time for a crime he did not commit. You do not want to miss this one. And we really need your help to get the story out there. As always, you can leave me a voicemail at 612-293-8550, subscribe to Lemonada Premium on Apple podcasts. Follow me at under the desk news and take care of yourself. Go find a dog to pet.
V INTERESTING is a Lemonada Media Original. Our producers are Rachel Neel, Xorje Olivares, Martín Macías, Jr. And Dani Matias. Executive Producers are Stephanie Wittels Wachs and Jessica Cordova Kramer. Mixing and Scoring is by Brian Castillo, Johnny Evans and Ivan Kuraev. music is by Seth Applebaum. Please help others find the show by rating and reviewing wherever you listen and follow us across all social platforms at @VitusSpehar and @UnderTheDeskNews, also, @LemonadaMedia. If you want more be interesting, subscribe to Lemonada premium only on Apple podcasts.