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. www.houseofanansi.com.


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!

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