Pappy Has Cancer
There you go. I was going to say that the title of this blog says everything, but it hardly says anything at all.
One year ago we discovered a bump on Pappy’s side. We brought him into the vet where they took some blood from it and had that biopsied. The lab work came back that it was a mast cell tumor and we should have it removed. That was all the info we were given and we took it at face value. I was sad and scared but we scheduled the surgery and had it removed. At the time, the vet took me in and showed me the x-rays they took and he told me that it looked good, that they had gotten it all. We were never asked if we wanted to biopsy the tumor and we wouldn’t have known to ask, because at the time we didn’t even know that could be done.
Fast forward to a few weeks before we leave for Maine. We discover another bump on Pappy’s side. This time it is under the skin and not on the surface like the last time and it is growing pretty fast.
I took him into the vets and she did what was called a punch surgery to see if she could remove the whole thing in a simple procedure for the biopsy. She wasn’t able to get it all but she sent what she had to the lab to be biopsied.
The news came back a week before we left for Maine that it was another Mast Cell Tumor and needed to be removed. We scheduled the surgery to take place the day after we arrived in Maine. We had no choice that was the soonest they could get him in.
While we were in Maine they sent us a text and a video showing us how well he was recovering and all was right with the world.
While we were on vacation we had boarded the dogs at the same vet’s that did the surgery – we always do. So when I went to get the babies after arriving home they asked if I wanted to have the tumor they removed biopsied. I asked what was the point? We already knew it was a Mast Cell Tumor and they removed it. I was told that the biopsy would tell us the severity of the tumor and if they got it all.
I kind of blew it off at the time thinking that they didn’t do any of this last time. And though he got another tumor, I didn’t think that it could possibly be serious. Pappy was fine. He didn’t act sick at all.
In the next week or so I mentioned it in passing to my husband and he said, well, if it will give us peace of mind that they got everything we should go ahead and do it. So we did.
I got home from work one day about a week later to a message on our answering machine that they had misjudged. The lab work came back as a grade 3 tumor and we needed to contact them right away.
I immediately burst into tears. I had no idea what any of that meant but it sounded serious and it was. We googled grade 3 Mast Cell Tumors and the news was not good. I cried a lot that night.
Rob called the vet the next morning and was basically told this was beyond their area of expertise and we were referred to a specialist.
We met with the specialist who told us there was not much research out there on Grade 3 Mast Cell Tumor treatment. However, what they DID know is that that particular type of tumor is rare and really aggressive. And what they biopsy showed was that Pappy’s “lines were dirty”. What that means is that although they took a VERY large margin of skin with his tumor, it wasn’t enough. The skin that is left over still has the disease in it.
We were told all of our options. Chemo, radiation…a lot of terms and words we didn’t understand came at us at a rapid pace. We were told that they couldn’t tell for sure if it had metastasized unless they did some pretty invasive procedures on Pappy, but given the history on this type of tumor they were 90 % sure it had. We were sent home with a prescription for Prednisone and told to also give him Benadryl and Pepcid. We were to do this until we reached a decision and got back to them. They also sent us a follow up email detailing all of the treatment plans.
I cried a LOT that week.
The good news was that the specialists were VERY encouraged by the fact that Pappy showed no signs of being sick. That he seemed in very good health and had no behavioral changes.
Rob and I finally sat down and talked about treatment. We both knew that we were not interested in anything that would make Pappy sick and ruin the quality of the life he has left. We don’t know for sure how old Pappy is because he was a stray when we got him from the SPCA, but we guess he is either 12 or 13 years old. It would be very selfish of me to put him through a treatment that would make him ill and miserable, just to keep him around so I won’t be sad and miss him. And hell, for all we know, it may not have even metastasized! I know the odds are that it has, but I’m not willing to put him through another major surgery to find out.
Rob also talked to a co worker of his that was a dog trainer. He had some friends/clients that had experience with these types of tumors. He said the reason there is no research out there on the treatments is because they mostly happen in older dogs and the owners typically opt out of treatment.
So Rob and I have opted to keep him on the steroid/pepcid/benadryl treatment plan until he goes. That is supposed to suppress any of the ill effects of the cancer in him.
So far he is doing well, still has a huge appetite, but he drinks and pees a lot more from the steroid. Just this week he has been having a hard time getting up on the bed and into the cars. I’m guessing that is more age related than cancer. Because he is such a long dog we have anticipated having some back problems with him eventually.
We may change our minds on the treatment if he starts to show a decline in health, but for right now, I feel we have made the best decision.
I love this dog with all my heart. You can’t even imagine. He is always by my side. He waits up for me when I come home from rehearsal, no matter how late. He stays up with me until I’m ready to go to bed. If I am ever sad or sick he is right there in my face, licking away my tears. Ironically he licked away my tears when I was crying for him.
He’s just a good boy and I’m so sad this had to happen to him.
I want to keep him forever, but I know that isn’t going to happen. Part of being a dog owner is accepting the fact that they live a shorter life span than we do. It is heartbreaking when they pass, but I wouldn’t give up the daily unconditional love that they provide for one second.
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