Friday, July 4, 2014

Interview with veterinarian and memoirist Dr. Sarah Boston

Dr. Sarah Boston is an associate professor of surgical oncology, department of small animal clinical sciences, at the University of Florida. From age six, Boston knew she wanted to become a veterinarian. She has practiced veterinary medicine in various parts of Canada (including Guelph, Saskatoon, Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton), the U.S, and New Zealand. She is currently President of the Veterinary Society of Surgical Oncology. She lives in Gainesville, Florida, with her husband, who is a large animal veterinarian, and their dog Rumble and cat Romeow.

She’s here today to talk about her first book, Lucky Dog: How Being a Veterinarian Saved My Life.

Welcome, Sarah. Please tell us about your current release.
Lucky Dog is a memoir about my own treatment for thyroid cancer and about the animal cancer patients that I treat. This is not your average cancer memoir, it is a humorous and heartwarming look at human and veterinary health care in Canada and the States.

What inspired you to write this book?
I discovered a mass in my neck when I was getting ready for bed one night. Because I treat thyroid cancer in dogs, I knew that the mass was new, growing fast and in my thyroid gland. Because the Canadian health care system is slow, I was told that I would have to wait for over a week to get an ultrasound of my neck. I decided to take matters into my own hands and I ultrasounded my neck myself. Unfortunately, what I saw was consistent with a thyroid carcinoma. Although I was certain that I had thyroid cancer, my doctors all told me that the mass was most likely to be benign. This created long wait times and a good deal of frustration on my part and, ultimately, this is what inspired me to write. At the time, I didn’t know that I was writing a book, but over the course of my treatment for thyroid cancer, the book developed.

Excerpt from Lucky Dog:
Chapter 1

I wish I were a dog. The lack of opposable thumbs part would be hard, and I do like talking a lot. I am also pathologically attached to my iPhone, but maybe there is an app that would allow me to continue to stay connected as a dog. The iPaw? Canine fashion has come a long way in the past few years, but I would miss shopping and dressing myself. I wouldn’t miss the self-actualization and consciousness, but I would probably miss everyone recognizing my self-actualized consciousness. That would be hard. Even with having to give up the use of my hands, texting, the ability to speak, shopping, and the recognition of my full potential, I still wish that I were a dog today.

On Sunday night, six days ago, I was performing my nightly bedtime ritual, which involves washing my face with fantastically overpriced French cleanser and toner and then moisturizing with an equally overpriced French face cream. I believe this is worth it if the products can fulfill their promises of preventing the inescapable turkey neck that plagues women as they march into their late forties, the neck that seems to tarnish movie stars and human beings alike. No woman is immune and no amount of Botox or plastic surgery can erase the creping of the neck. It is the truth. Despite this, I am convinced that my routine is worth every penny and is working wonders. At thirty-seven and a half, I have the neck of a twenty-five-year-old. I alternate between extreme vanity and the suspicion that I may look like a cross between Ellen DeGeneres and Janice the Muppet. But back to vanity, I’m spreading on the cream, banishing forehead wrinkles, eye wrinkles, and smile lines. I move on to my the neck. Wait a second, what 
is that? I can feel a mass.

I do not say “bump” or “lump” or “swollen gland” because these fingers are trained fingers and I know instantly that it is a mass in my right thyroid gland. I know that it is new, and that it is not good. I’m away from home and staying with a dear friend in Calgary. I run into her bedroom and climb into bed with her. I ask her to feel my neck. She agrees that she can feel something and asks if it could be a swollen gland. She is not a doctor, but she plays one on TV (she is a health reporter). It is 11 p.m., and charged with this finding, but certain there is nothing that I can do about it right now, I retreat to my room. I try to reach my husband but I can’t— his cellphone is dead. So I just lie awake all night thinking about what to do next.

This excerpt is taken from Lucky Dog: How Being a Veterinarian Saved My Life, copyright © 2014 by Dr. Sarah Boston. Reproduced with permission from House of Anansi Press, Toronto.

What exciting story are you working on next?
I am hoping to work on another book with stories about some of the challenges that veterinarians face. I am also considering writing a book about cats because Lucky Dog is almost entirely about dogs.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I tried writing as a hobby a couple of years before I wrote this book. To be honest, it did not go very well and I thought that maybe this was going to be another of my hobbies that were fun, but that I wasn’t very good at (like playing the guitar and photography). I took a correspondence writing course where I was paired up with an author for guidance about my work. He was a young-adult author and we were not well-matched. He really did not understand my sense of humor and he thought that I should write a young-adult veterinary mystery novel, something I had no interest in. I dropped out of the course, but I kept writing. I was so happy to find a publisher and an editor that understood me and appreciated my writing. The House of Anansi is a wonderful publisher for a first-time author because they really work with their authors to produce the best books possible. I feel like Anansi has helped to bring out the best in my writing.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I write in my spare time, as I continue to work full-time at the University of Florida. This means that I often write in spurts, when I feel inspired. I do try to take notes when I get ideas to save them for periods when I have time to write.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I wrote most of this book in the middle of the night on my cell phone. I would wake up in the middle of the night with an idea and I would jot down notes in my cell phone. It drove my husband crazy! Then when I had time, I would go back to these notes to flesh out the ideas. I wrote most of the book this way.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I always wanted to be a veterinarian. Being a writer is a relatively new dream and I am so lucky that I have realized both of these dreams.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I have received incredible feedback about Lucky Dog so far. The most common comments that I am hearing by far are:
“This book made me laugh and cry” and
“I couldn’t put it down”

I am overwhelmed and honored by the response to Lucky Dog. Anyone who has struggled with the health care system and animal lovers will particularly enjoy this book, but it has something for everyone.

Thanks for being here today, Sarah!

No comments: