Dr. Venable: Welcome to the Veterinary Cancer Pioneers Podcast, the show where we delve into the groundbreaking work of veterinary professionals who are dedicated to advancing the field of veterinary oncology. I'm your host, Dr. Rachel Venable, and I'm thrilled to embark on this journey with you. And welcome to the Veterinary Cancer Pioneers Podcast.

I'm your host, Dr. Rachel Venable, and I am so excited today to have our guest, Dr. Sarah Boston. She has such a diverse background and experience that I think so many people can relate to or just be interested in because it is so interesting. Although the different things she's done and things she's tried out. So to start from the beginning, Dr. Boston went to the Western College of Veterinary Medicine in Saskatchewan. She completed a rotating internship at the University of Guelph. Then she returned to Western Canada for three years. years of general practice before doing a surgery residency at the University of Guelph. She is boarded in surgery and she also went on to complete a fellowship in surgical oncology, so not a lot of surgeons with that fellowship there. She's also one of the founding members of ACVS and of the oral and maxofacillary surgery. She was a faculty at the University of Guelph. for five years before moving south to the University of Florida, which I found quite interesting because it's such different climate and just everything from, you know, that kind of jump. So definitely want to learn more about that experience. She was tenured at both institutions. She's now back in Canada working for a VCA as a surgical oncologist and she's adjunct faculty at the University of Guelph. She's also the past-president of the Veterinary Society of Surgical Oncology and has authored numerous journals, articles, textbooks. And she is also a publisher of her own book of how she is a cancer survivor. And her book, "Lucky Dog, How Being a Veterinarian Saved My Life" was a best seller. So also very exciting. I feel like a lot of people want to write books, but most people can't, and it's even less likely that you sell copies. So very impressive there. She's one of the founders of The Cage Liner, which is a satirical newspaper for the vet industry. She recently completed the Humber College Comedy Performance and Writing Program, which is also very interesting, kind of a different segue from what a lot of people do in vet med. But she regularly performs stand-up in Toronto and at various veterinary events. And she has a new podcast called "CoMedicine," where she interviews healthcare professionals as well as comedians. So without further ado, please join me in extending a warm welcome to Dr. Sarah Boston. Dr. Boston, thank you so much for being on today. 

Dr. Boston: Thank you so much for having me.


Dr. Venable: So, you know, I feel like it even takes a while just to summarize your background as you've done so much. It's very impressive. You know, I guess to start from the beginning, how did you get interested in veterinary surgery and on top of that oncology, even specializing more? 

Dr. Boston: Yeah, I became a veterinarian really young. So I think I was all over the place when I was in vet school and I had a lot of experience working in vet clinics. Like it was like a really long time ago. So it was like a kid like me, like a 10 year old kid could hang out at a vet clinic and watch surgeries and stuff. I don't, I don't know if that happens anymore, unless it's like the veterinarian’s kid. But that was kind of my background experience. So I saw a lot of small animal, like primary care practice. And then in vet school, I kind of went through, I think a lot of young veterinarians go through trying to figure out, okay, what am I gonna do? I was interested in wildlife. And then I think it was through like a summer job. I started I worked in like surgery and medicine as a summer student. And then I was like, Oh, no, surgery, that's, that's more what I want to do. And so I kind of left behind my zoo vet aspirations, and which a lot of veterinarians do, I think, and then really decided that surgery was what I wanted to do. And then just through some mentorship, kind of on my journey to becoming a surgeon, which didn't happen right away, but I had a mentor, Dave Szentimrey, who's a surgical oncologist. And I think I just really was excited about the discipline. And then I think your mentors really can have an effect on you. So his excitement and passion for surgical oncology. And then kind of, I think it's 'cause I like creative things and surgical oncology, it's quite a creative pursuit compared to some of the other kind of areas in surgery. That might make me unpopular for saying that. Yeah. I hope it doesn't, sorry other surgeons, but it's true. So I think those are the things that kind of like drew me to it. I like working with little dogs too. I mean, that's kind of a funny, weird thing to say, but they're, I mean, they're just, they're so important to their families. I'm sure you can relate to that. All my patients are 10 -ish and I just enjoy like that's, that's probably been a member of that household for that whole time. And they're really, important family members. So I like helping with caring for those family members, too.


Dr. Venable: It is interesting you talk about caring for the family members because I think that is something as oncologists that we all kind of have that empathy, you know, leaning towards for helping people because that is something for me that I just you know I want to help people even though sometimes it feels like a helpless situation, you know. And I'm sure as the surgeon you know you know, sometimes that, but you can be the hero, right? So that can be the nice thing about being a surgeon. 

Dr. Boston: Yeah, I think being a cancer surgeon, you can either be like the wizard or the hero, or just like, if you're having complications or things aren't going well, or that patient develops metastasis, I don't know if you become the villain, but you feel a lot of surgeries like this, but it's bit polar, like you can be like, I'm amazing, I cured this dog's cancer, or you can be like, I have a huge wound that I have to deal with and I feel terrible about myself. So it probably is, it's good. It keeps you humble being a cancer surgeon because we do big surgeries and they can have amazing outcomes. But there's probably the complication profiles a bit higher than some of the other surgeries that we do. So it definitely helps keep you humble. 

Dr. Venable:  I'm sure. And maybe that's why you like comedy. Is that kind of the, you know, you have to find a balance, right? You know, it's one of those, you know, know, you got to laugh at yourself sometimes or laugh at the situation. What did get you into comedy like as an actual comedian? I mean, I've met people that I would say are kind of funny, but I can't say I know any other vets that are legitimate comedians. 

Dr. Boston: Yeah, there's not, there's like very few I can count them on one hand. I think it's always been a bit in me, I come from a creative family, but I definitely didn't think, oh, I'm going to be a stand-up comedian. And I think that's probably largely because I was going to be a vet since I was six. So I was just on that path, like a lot of veterinarians, right? Like, so, you know, maybe I would have thought of that if I wasn't so sure of that path. I would have like explored drama and improv and all those things. But it just, you know, I dabbled as a high school student, but it wasn't serious. I, like, it was a lot through the book that I wrote, which will sound funny. but it's I had thyroid cancer. I started writing about it. I had to laugh about it because it was very challenging to go through that. But I just had to make it funny because there was a lot of like obstacles to getting care and people listening to me and it was a bit absurd.

And I think when you're going through that like you can laugh or you can cry. That's those are your two options. So I was like, well, there was things that were absurdly funny. And so I just started. started writing about it and then realized that I love writing comedy. My lectures usually have some jokes in them. Even long before I was doing comedy, people had that expectation of me that I was going to do something funny in my lectures, which I still think is like a good teaching tool. It's something I think is an important way to communicate science is through storytelling and comedy, as long as you still convey important science. So anyway, it was kind of through the writing of the book and I was like, oh, I actually really like comedy writing. This is something that I enjoy and then what am I gonna do with it?

And I started taking classes and eventually found my way to stand up comedy and just realized that I love it. I'm still sort of trying to figure out how do I fold this back into veterinary medicine? And I would say I'm in the work in progress phase of that but I've been lucky, I've been able to do comedy like for the veterinary audiences, which is a blast, because it's just we're different, you know, but probably all the health care professionals are a little bit wired the same way. And I think we all like to laugh about the same thing. So I'm kind of learning that. But that's kind of the pathway that got me onto comedy and comedy writing, I guess. 

Dr. Venable: We know, honestly, between doing standup and even doing surgery, I find both of those very intimidating. You know, I'm a medical. medical oncology, especially some of the big surgical, you know, oncology things that you guys can do. I would be very intimidated. So where do you get the strength? Do you find any of this intimidating? Do you find you kind of have to pep talk yourself? Like, how do you get yourself to do such what I would consider challenging things? 

Dr. Boston: You're the first person who's ever made that connection. And now I'm like, that's very interesting. I sometimes joke that I'm an adrenaline junkie. Like when I'm doing those big surgeries. And I think there is a bit of that with surgical oncology. But if you stop in the middle and are like, oh, all of these things that could go wrong with a serginelectomy, you'll freeze like a little bunny in the headlight, right? Like you just have to do it. You just have to have confidence. You just have to do the thing, do the best you can. Whatever happens, you kind of have to manage it. I enjoy those types of surgeries. I kind of accept that if you're doing a serginelectomy, there's like a list of things that can happen and you kind of have to be prepared. and deal with it. Comedy is easier than surgery. So I think that's the other thing is like, people will be like, how do you do that? I'm like, well, nothing dies. Like I do well or don't do well. It's like, it's mostly just really fun. And there's some things about it that are less fun, but mostly comedies, it's really fun. And it's a fun thing to do. And even if it doesn't go great or something, you know, I can, I can even laugh if it doesn't go great. Or I don't know, this week I did a show where there was eight people there and three of them. were my friends. But it doesn't matter 'cause I find every time I do comedy I just have to pick one good thing that happened that night, and my friends came and I got to see a comedian that I haven't seen for a while. That's it. But I was like, okay, well, that's fine. That's good. Oh, I made $10. (laughs) I think with the comedy also like I've done so much lecturing at veterinary conferences that there is a bit of a translation of that skill. Just to be able to get up in front of an audience and speak for 30 minutes or 45 minutes about anything. It doesn't have to be surgical oncology, but just to be able to do that and not be scared to do that or not feel intimidated by an audience, that's the same skill. And then it's just kind of like, well, what are you talking about? What are you conveying? And are you trying to teach people something? Are you trying to make people laugh? But the actual getting up in front of people is something that I haven't been intimidated by for I don't know why I don't just how I'm wired I think that doesn't really scare me. 

Dr. Venable: Going through and I do like how you said that comedy is a lot easier than surgery you know I think the medical professionals would appreciate that you say that.

Dr. Boston: It's still hard though I always had to tell people that because I was going to because I went to comedy school in college for two years of you know I went to classes and perfect attendance, I did all my assignments I had I won the award for the highest mark in my class of course I did because I'm a nerd. And of course, I'm going to go to every class and I'm going to do those things so I was really focused on it but is it harder than becoming a veterinary surgeon? No, but it is still like a something you have to work on and do homework and write and practice and it's its own craft it's its own thing so the best comedians in the world they work really really hard like they don't just get up on stage and it's that doesn't just happen they don't just get up and stuff just comes out of their mouth they're they've worked really hard on their set.

Dr. Venable: It does seem like you do have to be disciplined you know it's like you got to come off like it's easy, but it's not what I've heard Seinfeld likes to interview comedians, and that was something I've learned just from watching some of his shows. And, you know, when you do this, just the comedy and trying to be disciplined, I mean, I'm sure you can pull some of that from vet men 'cause you have to be so disciplined to get through all that. But also, how do you find just, you know, the challenges like you mentioned, you know, you like stand up, but there was only like 10 people or so the other day. So, like, how do you deal with challenges? With comedy and then in your professional life like are you able to kind of overlap or how would you recommend people even using comedy?

Dr. Boston: Okay, I mean I will say Friday I had an amazing show so I think that's what sustains me I'll just but it's kind of like what I said about surgery it's like you're up and down and you're just kind of like “Okay, well, like this was great you know like cured this dog's cancer. I had a great show I killed, and then it's like oh there was eight people there, and like, oh, that didn't go so well it's just life, right?” 

I get into the science of like improv and laughter and comedy because there is actually it's not a huge amount, but there is science there so just laughing you don't have to be a funny person just find something. There's so much online now like Netflix comedy specials or like sitcoms it doesn't matter whatever makes you laugh just laughing every day or laughing on a regular basis like that's just good for you. That's just good for your mental health. is just good for you. So, you know, some people are like, well, I like, I don't, I'm not funny. It's like, you don't have to be funny. That's, veterinarians don't have to be funny, but you should take some time. Like just, just to laugh is just a good thing to do. 

Trying to find humor in things is important. I think it's a way to find connections. I always say that's my wellness. Like I think we have a lot of issues in our profession with mental health issues and burnout and compassion fatigue and I can't get in front of a bunch of veterinarians or veterinary students and be like, I do yoga, and I do this, and I'm so well. 'Cause like most days I'm at work, I don't pee all day, you know, or I don't eat my lunch. And so like, I can't tell people to do that. I know I should do that. And I know I should exercise regularly and take time. And it just doesn't happen in a busy clinical day. I don't know how to do that. But I know how to like find humor in a situation or realize that I'm not perfect at it.

I sometimes have to do that. a step back and laugh later because some clients, if they're a bit rough on you, I'm like, are they being mean? I'm trying to help them. You know, I don't understand. But I then after can kind of try to find something funny about that interaction or what happened or try to understand that the Cage Liner, which I've been neglecting horribly lately, but that's like kind of like my answer to the onion. The coolest thing about that was seeing like if I made fun of some interaction that happens, like just the commonalities of all vets everywhere in the world. Like, you know, I'd have vets from Australia chiming in and UK and Canada and they'd have the exact same experience, or they'd be like, oh, this is like not even satire, this is real. And I thought that was the coolest thing.

If you are starting out as a veterinarian and a client's really rough with you, you will turn it on yourself. You'll say, oh, like I failed, I failed to communicate. Maybe that person's just having a terrible day, they're scared of what their pet, they don't have money. they have whatever issues happening in their life, and they're just unloading on you, which isn't fair. But if you can just find a way to kind of go, I'm probably not the only veterinarian in the world that this is happening to. Even today, there's probably veterinarians that the same thing, whatever this is is happening. And there is something of, I'm not saying it's funny to, I don't want people to misinterpret me. I don't think it's funny to want a client's abusive, but I think it's interesting that there are so many conversations that are the same conversation. Like I was in rounds at the hospital and not, and they were talking about a client, like again, this isn't funny. I don't want to say it's funny, but the client was like, the dog was really sick. They thought it had lepto. They were doing an amazing job. Like the ER team's amazing. They're doing an amazing job for you. But the client was like, well, I can only spend this much money. The dog has to be better by Saturday. And, but I don't want to euthanize. I don't want to euthanize. And it was like, I don't, how can you even put those parameters on these doctors?

Like they're, they can't control that. They can't control when this dog's not going to be in real failure. If the dog's not going to be in real failure, they're just, they're just working so hard. And then they were like, well, I can only spend this much per day until Saturday. And I know that's a reality for a lot of people. But I also just think how many vets are being told that, like, you know, I want the dog better, 100% better, but it has to be by this date. And I can only spend this much per day until Saturday. And I can only spend this much per day until Saturday. do, you know, it doesn't work that way in medicine. I'm not saying that's funny, but I think it's funny about how many times that happens. It's so typical, right? That's the part that I find interesting, or you've got to sort of try to find humor in that and just think, okay, it's not me, I'm just doing my best for this pet. I'm just trying to make them well. And that's all you can do, right? 

Dr. Venable: Oh, certainly, yes. I think there's something about unrealistic expectations or people try to treat medicine like they would ordering a car or something on Amazon. And it's like, no, I wish that I had that much control. 

Dr. Boston: Yeah, it would be great. It would be great to have that much control of things. Yeah, and I kind of go through that sometimes that I have to admit during the pandemic, like when the clients weren't anywhere near, like, you know, the clients, they weren't in the hospital. I don't know what you experienced where you are, but in Canada, like they weren’t in the hospital. hospital and the animals were in the hospital. And so, but like, I had to relearn to like to keep my mouth shut. My technicians would be like, “Sarah, be quiet.” You know, but like I would have cases come in and like, on the one hand, I'm glad people are confident to me, but on the other hand, these cases, they were so like, they wanted like, the whole leg is sarcoma and they were like, we don't want to amputate and like, you know, we heard you could do this. And I'm like, I'm not a wizard. Like I can't, there's certain things I can't do and I wish I could, but I can't, you know? So anyway, and I, again, none of that's funny, but you do have to kind of find like the humor in those expectations or the humor in like, this is the human nature of it, right? What people think they can ask you for, but it doesn't quite work that way in medicine. 

Dr. Venable:  Talking about communication and comedy, you know, let's, I wouldn't say that. hear a little bit more about your podcast, the CoMedicine, and what are you doing with that, and how is it going? 

Dr. Boston: Yeah, so as you know, podcasting is really fun. I didn't know it was so much fun. So I got this idea. I've sort of connected with a few veterinarians who do comedy, so there's two I know of in Canada and one veterinary technician. And we did a show together in Edmonton for a conference. So it was our veterinary, we called it our veterinary comedy festival because we're sure it's never happened before and we had so much fun and I just, I love connecting with people who are kind of, it's just such a weird Venn diagram, and so like anyone who's in that space, I just want to talk to them. But I didn't think I could sustain a podcast of just veterinary professionals who did comedy and I kind of wanted to talk to other healthcare professionals. So CoMedicine is me like meeting and talking to any health care professionals. So who does comedy? So I was going to do just stand up. I've branched a little into the improv. It's been so much fun. The one thing that I've learned a few things, but the one thing is like a lot of health care professionals, it doesn't matter if it's veterinary or human. We have a lot of similar struggles. And I think our brains are wired similarly. We're all kind of science people. We're all kind of nerdy. This is a bit of a commonality, like had some creativity in our past, which could be anything, could be music, art, comedy, acting, improv, and have basically put it away to focus on a career in the health sciences. But maybe we shouldn't have done that. You know, that's it, you know, and so some of these people are kind of reaching back and saying, oh, maybe I should do that. And I really believe it would be good for a lot of the health... professionals. And I guess what I know veterinary medicine is try to tap back into that part of your brain or that part of yourself. So I would encourage anyone listening, if you used to play the piano, play the violin, do art, or even if you didn't, and you just want to and you, you don't have to be good at it. I think that's the other thing is like, we always want to be like, you can't just do comedy at an open mic, you've got to be good, or you've got to be good, or you've got to be good at piano or good at art you don't just do it because you want to and create something and I don't know I think that is again it's my wellness I think it could help a lot of people to just try to discover that part of their brain because it's I know for me it's been amazing I think I always say that I think I'm a better veterinarian because I'm doing all this other stuff like I think it is helping me be happier and kind of roll with life a bit better but also just it's using a creative side of my brain, which is actually good for science in a weird way.

Dr. Venable:  Yeah, no, I think trying to utilize more of your brain. I started taking piano lessons, since you mentioned the piano. Perfect. I started taking those a couple of years ago and actually, well, no, maybe three years now. Anyway, but like you said, I'm also still not that good. I don't practice as much as I should, but I keep going. Yeah, because I know if I quit paying, then I'll quit playing and it will fall apart. So I keep going, but I do really enjoy it. And I can like feel it. You know, like when you work out and you feel your different muscles, I feel like I can feel it in my brain, especially when I'm really struggling with trying to play different pieces. It's, yeah, it really does work. A whole nother part of your brain that for me I hadn't tapped into for a long time. 

Dr. Boston: Yeah, I can really relate to that. When I was in school, I was working like, like 60% for my first year. So I would like doing a lot of like going back and forth. I don't really recommend that. It was a bit too much. And sometimes I was like, is my, am I gonna break? Like, is my brain gonna break? I was like, I'd go into the hospital and do rounds. Then I would go to school for a class doing improv or clowning or stand up or whatever. And then I would like go back to work. And I think I did okay on both sides of it. I think it's like those kids that are in French Immersion. or they're taking like three languages and they can get really tired 'cause they're like speaking French and then they're speaking German and they're speaking English like all in one day. My friend's kid did that and she was great. I mean, she could speak three or four languages now but she was tired. Like at the end of the school day, she was exhausted. So yeah, I'm trying to like be a vet one day and then do comedy a different day and not have it be on the same day. That seems to work better for me but it's not. is cool like when you're like oh I'm waking up a part of my brain it's there is something you can feel in that which is quite cool. 

Dr. Venable: Speaking of waking up different parts of your brain I am interested in how you wrote your own book you know as I mentioned earlier in the podcast I feel like a lot of people anymore you they want to write books, and frankly you can actually pay people to publish your book but you actually had a legitimate publication right? right? Like people actually bought your book. Yeah, instead of the other way around. Like, what was that like? 

Dr. Boston: Yeah, so not to like anyone who wants to write a book and publish it yourself, go for it. You know, you should do that. I got really lucky and found a publisher who also mentored me. So that was, that was huge because I was just, I didn't know what I was doing. Honestly, I was like, going through my thyroid cancer stuff. And I was in Canada, which I love our healthcare system, but there's a, but it's like slow, right? It's everyone gets the same slow treatment and it's covered, which is great. And I believe in it, but it was frustrating, honestly, because a bit by knowledge, there was a mass in my neck. It was growing. I knew it was growing. I ultrasounded it and measured it to know it was growing, right? So, and I knew it was in my thyroid. So I was very frustrated. That sort of made me right. Like, I was like, well, I'm just going to... write and I didn't even know what I was writing. I did get very lucky like to kind of have a chance meeting with an author who put me in touch with my publisher. So I didn't go through an agent or anything like that, which I think is frustrating when I tell people that. But I also say like, if you want to write, just write, just get up every morning and they call it morning papers and you just write. It doesn't matter just free writing, whatever happened to you the day before if you had a dream it doesn't matter just for 10 minutes or so just write. And it will be crap. Don't edit it. Don't, oh, this is crap. Why am I even writing this? Just, just write. But it just kind of gets your brain tuned to writing. And then that may push you to write something like specific or event stories or whatever you want to write about. And then I would say do that and then kind of see where you get. I mean, you can also be a bit more structured and have an outline and figure out, you know, have a project and stuff. And that's also great to get to that. You almost just have to get your brain, that part of your, whatever that part of your brain is, just get attuned to just, I'm just writing, I'm just writing crap, you know, and somewhere in your crap, you're gonna have some stuff that's like, oh, actually, that's funny, or that's a great story. 

If you have stories, just write those out. Everyone, every veterinarian, every healthcare professional, we all have, well, every person actually, this is the human experience, but everyone has stories. And so just get them out, just get them written, and then kind of see what happens. with it if that makes sense. Like I think it's almost like when you write a scientific paper, like when I'm mentoring any health officers about writing, like they don't know how to sit down and write a paper. That's impossible. Like if they've never done that before, how would they even start, right? So it's just like, write your introduction, just write that, that's it. And then write the next section and the next section. So just kind of take little bites at it as opposed to just, I'm going to write a book. That's so overwhelming. The other part to that is, I know a lot of people say, "Oh, I want to write a book." 

Just start writing because you never know who you're going to meet or what's going to happen. And if you have 40,000 words of a manuscript ready to go and you meet the right people, you need to have something ready for that. Or if you start taking writing classes or going to writing groups or that kind of thing, like just kind of get going on it, I think the biggest thing that stops me people is probably time, but also the fear that it's not going to be good. It won't be when you start. It'll be terrible. Unless you're like really, really, I mean, there's lots of brilliant people out there, but it probably will be terrible. Like and then you need to make it good enough that someone would actually be interested in your voice and then they'll help, you know, if you have a good editor, they can help you make it actually good. But actually, my podcast, I was like wanting to start a podcast and and talk about my podcast. And then I got advice from Dr. Andy Roark, who's my friend. I was like, how do you do that? And he's like, “You just start it.” I was like, “Oh, okay.” 

So you know what I mean? Like, cause you, you can only get so ready for something. You just kind of have to be like, well, I want to do this. I'm going to do it. And writing, like you don't need anyone to help you. You just, you just need a computer or a pen and paper and you just start writing. Don't keep it all in your head is what I would say. Like try to get it out somehow. And then once you see what you have, then you, okay, this is crap, this is good. Now I have an outline. Now I see what I'm trying to say. You kind of need to find your own voice of what's your perspective? What's your voice if it's on veterinary medicine or if it's just, or do you want to write a children's book or do you want to write, you know, you've got to sort of try to figure that out. I think you can do that while you're in the process of doing morning papers or some kind of writing. I think sitting down and saying, I'm going to write a great children's book would also be hard to start getting something out of you. And then I know what the is going to be now. 

Dr. Venable: Oh, I think so, because I feel like often you do you just get frozen because you just think like oh my goodness I could never like yeah how do I start what do you do but I really like that that idea of kind of like journaling but a little bit more right of doing the morning papers you were saying. So yeah, that's really interesting I like all that. And you know, something else I was wondering that you've been talking about is you know your experience with cancer and and how do you think that has affected how you work even, you know, like, so how you were treated, right? And just how it works on the human side and what you saw. And then have you been able to take any of that good or bad on the veterinary side? What, what have you seen on that front?

Dr. Boston: Yeah, well, you know, my experience, again, I don't want to slam the Canadian healthcare system. I couldn't believe how slow it was. And, you know, if you didn't have good insurance, maybe in the States, it would be similar. similar, except for you'd have to pay for your insurance, and I didn't have to pay for anything. But, you know, and thyroid cancer is kind of known to be good cancer, that it's slow moving. So no one was in a particular rush, except for me, you know, I saw four doctors, and they all said you don't have cancer, which was a little frustrating, because then I was like, oh, like, I either have cancer or I'm crazy, you know, because I kind of was getting treated a bit hysterical veterinarian, which maybe I was, but I had a reason. And then it was making me, it was making it worse cause I felt like I couldn't get an ultrasound for weeks and I couldn't get into a surgeon and I couldn't get what I thought I needed. So that was really frustrating. And then like at the same time I'm still working and I'm like, there's a dog with a thyroid carcinoma that comes in, gets a CT the same day, gets surgery within a couple of days, gets the histo back within five days. You know, if the histo isn't back within five days, like we're on the phone, like where is this? Which is hilarious. I mean, I think since the pandemic we're short of vets in every sector and I've noticed that my histopath has kind of slowed a little bit, but it's still, even when it's slow, it's still way faster than on the human side. It gave me sort of like a sense that we're doing a pretty good job. In veterinary medicine, I think we're doing a pretty good job. Also just the, you know, we're talking about the communication. When I went home from my, I had two surgeries in my second surgery, I was hypocalcemic and they sent me home with like, it was literally like a strip of paper said, call your doctor on Monday or something. Like that was it and no instructions about, like I was twitching, you know, and they sent me home with like, if it was a dog, like, well, every case that we send out of the hospital, right, it's like pages of instructions. And even then, like, it doesn't always work out. People don't understand them or I don't know. But like, we spent so much time doing paperwork and I literally got that little strip. And that was it. Okay, so if I start twitching uncontrollably, I guess I go to the hospital. I don't know, but like I'm educated in that. I was thinking, well, people who don't have a medical background, like it was amazing to me. So that, you know, it made me feel good about our profession.

Sometimes I feel like we almost do, it's overkill, like how much time we spend with clients and how much time we spend on the phone and how much access clients have to us. And I give a little lesson. and kind of keep more for ourselves to be healthy in our lives as professionals. But I also think on the human side, like I don't know why it was like that. They're probably very overworked all the things that we go through too, but like so little information. And even just to give me a website, like I had to find the Thyroid Cancer Canada website, which was an amazing resource. If someone could have just given me that instead of me having to kind of like go through all the websites and find it would have been so helpful to have that. Yeah. Whereas I think we tend to do that. Here's something to read, here's a website, you know, this is all this information for you.

Dr. Venable: Well, that is at least reassuring on the veterinary side that we're doing, you know, we are providing pretty good customer service because I do think we get kind of down on ourselves and I definitely hear what you're saying as far as spending too much time. I think personally, I can be guilty of that, and then, yeah, just how much are you giving away? That was something I always used to talk to that students about is, you know, you have to pick your boundaries. Are you going to give out your cell phone? Are you going to give out your email? You know, some of that, some people like and some people don't, but you just need to decide because if you get all here and there with it, it's almost worse.

Dr. Boston: I definitely don't think veterinarians should give out their cell phone. I'm in that camp. I there's other ways to get in touch. And I mean, but the thing is, like, I say that. I've been locumming a bit and people find me on LinkedIn. I've had it twice in the last week. I want to bring my dog to you and where are you and people can always find you. But I do think your personal cell phone number should stay personal. But you know, as soon as a client calls your work, your work's going to call you. I think boundaries are good, I guess. I think it's a good idea to have boundaries. 

Dr. Venable: You know, I do really love how you've been so open and shared about your own cancer journey and between your book and things. And, you know, as a cancer survivor, do you have any tips for anyone that's going through that or any words of wisdom, you know, whether they're in the veterinary profession or just listening to the podcast in general?


Dr. Boston: For me, it was like you have to be an advocate for yourself. And if you are not a medical person, like find one in your network to help you with that, I was just lucky that I knew a lot about that. Carcinoma, and dogs, and it's not the same, but at least I sort of had a really grounding on what was going on with me. But if you don't have that, like I always think that 'cause I was kind of pushed off a bit at the beginning of like, you don't have cancer, like literally had a male older doctor pat me on the knee and said, you don't have cancer, dear. And just think, oh, what if I was a history professor? I think I would have just gone home, honestly. So I think having an advocate for cancer, you and also like a medical advocate is really important. Ideally, someone can come with you and even in veterinary cancer consultations, I've just had that happen and it was amazing 'cause it was like the owner who was like very emotional and really having a lot of trouble with decision-making and she brought, I think it was her best friend. I don't know if she had medical knowledge but she was just on it. She loved the dog, she loved her friend. It wasn't like she was completely devoid of emotion about it but she was asking the right question. And she was retaining what I was saying, and she was saying it back to her friend. And I was like, “Oh, that's great.” Like she, you know, and when I left the room, they could talk, like I like to give people information. And then it's a lot, right? And then I like to leave them and just let them decide. But if they have no one else to talk to, I guess they can always call someone. But it was cool, because I left them alone. And I knew that that friend, she got most of what I said. And I think the owner did not get as much because she just was like too upset about the whole situation with what was happening with her pet, who had a very bad, very bad tumor. And so that was challenging to have to communicate to her that I think surgery was going to help the dog that much. And so she needed her friend there. 

So I would say any cancer journey, like having an advocate's important, listening to yourself, like, I think that was another sort of important lesson for me. Because I kept hearing like, no, it's it's fine. And I was like, no, no, like, I know this mass wasn't in my neck a month ago. I know it's new, I know it's growing. If something's wrong with your body, like no one knows your body better than you do. So, and it's the same thing with animal owners. Sometimes they come to us, he's not right, something's wrong with him and we can't find anything, but that doesn't mean that there's not something wrong with that dog. Like those people live with that dog, they sleep with that dog. If he's not acting normal, something's wrong,But it may just be that we have to go through all our tests to find out what's wrong. I think I always did, I hope I always did, but I try to really listen to pet owners too. They say something's wrong, something's wrong, and I'll start with blood work and basic stuff, and I'll work my way up the test until we figure it out or the dog gets better on its own or whatever, but they know, they usually do know it's interesting. Sometimes it takes a while to figure it out, but most pet owners, like, if they're really tuned into this, pet, they know when they're not normal or something's off of them. I don't know. 

Dr. Venable: Those are great tips. I think those are all, yeah, finding that especially a medical advocate, having a friend or someone with you, and just for us, like listening, or if you know something's wrong, like, don't, don't just stop, right? Like, that's incredible that you had four different doctors, like that's, that's wild. So yeah. I know. That one, it's good thing you kept kept pushing. The history professor, I mean, yeah, right? Like if you have no medical background, you probably just be like, okay. 

Dr. Boston: Yeah, and I remember actually the fourth doctor that said that was an endocrinologist and my husband came with me, he's a veterinarian and like we were leaving, he said, do you feel better now? And I was like, no, I feel worse because no one's listening to me. Like I feel much worse because now I feel like no one's gonna do anything, right? Whereas if someone said, oh yeah, this is a problem, like we'll get on it. I was like, no, have felt better, you know? 

Dr. Venable: Yeah, yeah, no, that's good on you for pushing through. And just going through, I really enjoyed our chat and all the different things you're doing. So what can we expect from you in the future? Veterinary, comedy, what all do you have coming up? 

Dr. Boston: Oh, okay, well, I'm still working. Some people think I retired, but I didn't. Going through school, I was working less, and then it was locuming. and now school's done and I'm like kind of figuring that out. So stay tuned on that. But I am still planning on being a surgical oncologist and working. So that you can find me there. I've been really enjoying like, since the pandemic is not over, but we can travel again, been speaking at some conferences. So that's been really joyful, just being able to see people. And I didn't, I wasn't a fan, still not a big fan of lecturing on Zoom.

Dr. Venable:  It's a very different dynamic. I didn't think comedy would be really hard because you can't feel the audience. Like you have no idea, are they laughing? Are they like crickets? 

Dr. Boston: Yeah, I didn't do much Zoom comedy. I did a bit, and then I was like, oh no, I don't like this. But I also, I don't love lecturing. I like this, like if it's interactive, it's fine. But if it's just me talking at my computer, not a fan of that. So I'm really happy that conferences are back in person again. I'm doing comedy event conferences, I'm doing comedy like in Toronto. So if anyone's in Toronto, you can come and see me. And working on my podcast, those are the main things I'm hoping to get into some more writing. I'm a work in progress. Everyone out there and my husband and my family, they're just gonna have to stay tuned. 

Dr. Venable: Watch, message you on LinkedIn or Facebook. 

Dr. Boston: Yeah, just incessantly message me, please. Please, just give up my cell phone number tonight too.

Dr. Venable: Yeah. Right. Right. Well, no, how about your podcast? Where can we find that? 

Dr. Boston: Oh, okay. So the podcast is called CoMedicine. So it's like C, O, Medicine. It's anywhere you get a podcast. I mean, Apple and Spotify are the most popular places, but we also put it on YouTube. Wherever you consume your podcast, if you search for CoMedicine, you'll be able to find it. But if people go onto my Instagram, which is Dr. Sarah Boston (@drsarahboston), I post about it a lot, and you'll be able to find my, you'll be able to find it through that if you don't find it just through the CoMedicine's own Instagram. But yeah, I probably am like alienating all my friends because they're like, oh, did you start a podcast? Because I can't stop talking about it. 

Dr. Venable: And your podcast is really funny. I really enjoy it. I think it is kind of a fun because it's comedy and it's medicine. So I definitely highly recommend it. And speaking of recommendation, who else would you recommend to be on this podcast? 

Dr. Boston: Have you had Dr. Nicole Erhart?

Dr. Venable: No, I haven't thought about Earhart. But yeah, that would be a good one. 

Dr. Boston: She's amazing. Yeah, she's incredible. So okay, that pops into my head. Dr. Jolle Kirpensteijn is kind of an amazing fellow. And he's like really interesting. interesting career. He's a surgical oncologist, but now he's the Chief Veterinary Officer for Hill’s. So that I think he's had a very interesting career path. Dr. Julius Liptack, also a pretty amazing person who's another surgical oncologist who's in Canada and a really good friend of mine. Those are my three people I really admire who I think are doing really interesting things. 

Dr. Venable: Yeah, no, those are perfect. So thank you so much. much. We'll definitely reach out to them. And thank you so much for being on this podcast. I had a lot of fun. I think it's great all the different things you're doing. I'm excited about your podcast, and we'll certainly look out for any more books or anything that you've got coming on the horizon.

Dr. Boston: Amazing. Stay tuned. 

Dr. Venable: Well, that's it for this episode of the Veterinary Cancer Pioneers Podcast. If you enjoyed this episode and gained valuable insight, we would be so grateful if you could share our podcast with your friends and colleagues. And it would be even more wonderful if you could leave a five-star rating, positive review, or any kind of feedback on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen. The Veterinary Cancer Pioneers Podcast is presented to you by ImpriMed.