A Cruel Twist…When Canine Cancer Strikes The Same Family Twice

Sadie 9

Our family won the dog rescue lottery.   We really truly did.  Some 6 years ago, after my father lost his Shepherd/Collie Theo to cancer, we welcomed Sadie into our lives.  She is an absolute delight.  Since day one she’s been pretty much perfect, other than her knack for middle of the street pavement pooping; which is not very ladylike at all.    She came to us a middle-aged black Labrador/hound with a full grey beard, and crossed eyes.   Sadie is sweet, charming, and incredibly affectionate.

Sadie 14

After Theo passed away, and my father was ready to welcome a new canine into his home and heart, the search began for a dog that would fit our family perfectly.   Given that Beauford is incredibly submissive, we had to be careful not to bring a dog that was too alpha into the family.  We wanted Beauford to remain comfortable, and still be in charge in his home, since this new dog was going to be spending a great deal of time here.

Initially, my father had his heart set on another black and tan, younger male dog.   I tried to be the voice of reason and insisted that he look at both male and female dogs, that were middle-aged, and expand his parameters when it came to looks and breed.   There are so many dogs that are in need of great homes; so, I didn’t fear finding the right one.   He or she was out there.  It was only a matter of time before we met.

Sadie 3

When we found out about Sadie my dad jumped at the chance to meet her.  He was very enthusiastic and encouraged by what we’d heard.  He knew well before I did, that she was it.  Sadie had been dropped at Brampton Animal Services by her former “mother”.  Apparently their family was in the midst of a divorce and she was suffering the consequences.  They had adopted her 7 years prior from the same shelter, and returned her with nothing but a bag of dog food.   Though there was a promise of veterinary records, they never appeared.

The sad fact was that given that Sadie was a middle-aged, black dog, with a full grey beard, she might not be very adoptable.  Kelly, who was working at Animal Services at the time, saw Sadie’s character and wasn’t about to let her spend another moment in that shelter.  You see Sadie was indeed the perfect rescue dog.  She knew all her commands, was in great shape, and was just so incredibly loving.   Kelly took her home to foster her and was absolutely committed to finding our girl the perfect home.   Kelly and Sadie stayed together for several weeks, living in Kelly’s downtown condo and to this very day those two ladies share such a special bond.   Kelly always gets the signature “Sadie hug” every time she sees her.  Sadie 6

Dad met Sadie first.  It was love at first sight.  For both of them.  I was a bit more anxious (admittedly).  I had a dog with special needs and wanted to be certain she was the right fit for Beauford.   Her lack of veterinary records made me nervous; so, I called Kelly, discussed my concerns and she definitely put my mind at ease.

The moment I met Sadie I melted.  She is an absolute gem, just a gem.  She was obviously a snuggle bug, and incredibly patient.  So, sweet and ALWAYS smiling.  I found her crossed eyes to be very charming and was surprised that my father hadn’t mentioned them.  After we’d had her for two weeks he called and said “Did you know Sadie was cross-eyed?”  I laughed and laughed that he hadn’t noticed.  Despite her crossed-eyes Sadie can catch a ball like a professional ball player.  She loves to play ball.  She loves to fetch.

Sadie and Beauford were fast friends.  Admittedly Beauford went through a bit of a jealous phase, but Sadie was content to let him be in charge.  She just wanted love.  After being abandoned by the only family she knew, it took a while for Sadie to reach that level of comfort where she knew she was going to be ours forever.  Three months after she joined our family she started playing with stuffies.  But whenever Beauford was a bit of a jerk and demanded it back she’d drop it.

Sadie 11

The two of them walked together and played together.  They are two peas in a pod, the very best of friends and were meant to be companion dogs.  And now, they both have cancer.   As we began this journey with Beauford we were aware of lump on Sadie’s leg.   We were told to monitor it, and as it grew bigger it was clear we needed to biopsy it.  In the back of my mind I was worried.  Sadie had some episodes recently where she didn’t feel like eating. And knowing what I know about the symptoms of cancer (reduced appetite etc.) I had a nagging feeling.   Though Sadie (and ironically Beauford) have struggled with pancreatitis in the past I couldn’t shake the thought there might be something more.  But I also didn’t want to project my worries about Beauford onto Sadie.

Sadie 4

When my father called to tell me the biopsy results, I sadly wasn’t surprised.  Sadie too has cancer.  Beauford and Sadie are canine cancer companions.  This is news we didn’t need,  two dogs with cancer is no picnic, but we aren’t thinking negatively.  Sadie, much like Beauford, looks great and feels pretty decent.

As we wait for her tissue biopsy results, we have added an additional seat on the spoil the canine train.  Both these dogs are now getting extra store trips, delicious bones, special treats, and a whole lot of love.

The picture below was taken at last years Smiling Blue Skies Walk to End Canine Cancer.  We can’t wait to get this years picture of these together, smiling and loving all the attention they get because they are a really, really good-looking pair.

Sadie 12

 

 

 

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It’s 4 a.m., Beauford’s Sick, and We’re Out Of Coconut Oil

It’s 3:45 a.m., and I’ve been awake for a wee bit nursing a dog that’s just not feeling well.   I sleep very lightly; but lately, since all this started, I don’t sleep very well at all.   I’m exhausted; therefore, I should be able sleep, but it evades me.  And tonight is one of the reasons why.

Beauford got up early this morning, and as soon as I heard his claws click on the floor I knew something wasn’t right.  I got up to check on him and his tail did not wag when I pet him.  A sure sign that something was amiss.  I wondered, at first, whether if having some knuckle bone today was going to be mean there would be another poo-pa-looza in the backyard, but one good look at him told me otherwise.

I brought him downstairs, and as we went to walk in the yard he hesitated, then vomited. It’s tough to know whether this is because of the (now uncertain) cancer, or the fact that if he goes too many hours without eating overnight he seems to get sick to his stomach.   So, here I am at 3:53 a.m., waiting for scrambled eggs (that I just made) to cool so that I can feed him, see if he has any appetite, cross my fingers and hope he doesn’t vomit again.

At the moment things seem so vicious.   And by things, I mean life.  I got some news a couple of days ago (that isn’t mine to share publicly just yet) and it was an unbelievable cruel twist.  Another kick to the gut that’s already taken quite the gut-kicking of late.

As I made eggs just now I had a moment where I needed to breath deeply, and not crumble. We are out of coconut oil.  Not a big deal; right?   Well, it isn’t, but it oddly symbolized something else.   It was representative of the fact that I am absolutely in “this” alone. I was supposed to go to Costco on the weekend to get more, but Beauford’s bad night Friday meant that didn’t happen.  That set off a particular chain of events, and now this particular Costco connection is gone.  I no longer have my partner to give me a hug when I so desperately need one.  I have memories, lots of fantastic memories, but I don’t have him.

What I most certainly do have are some family and friends who have been seriously supportive.   Though, I am incredibly grateful for that, having that one you love hug you feels different.   It’s a different kind of comfort.  Most everyone knows that, so I doubt anyone will fault me for feeling the way I do.  Thus, I’ve lost a lot over these past few days and I must admit I haven’t handled it very well.  Poorly, in fact.  I give myself a failing grade for keeping my sh*t together.

As I have mourned the total loss of my relationship, and more so the vacant space in my life where someone who became a best friend once stood,  it’s been beyond words hard.   I’ve had a difficult time just letting go.  I realize now that’s because I’ve lost someone I love  all while facing the impending loss of the one being in my life that loves me unconditionally, Beauford.   It’s been damn near impossible to move on when my instinct right now is to grip on and fight for those I love.

So, here we sit.  Beauford snuggled up next to me on the couch and we wait.  We wait for the eggs to cool and to see if this is the cancer-barfs or the empty-stomach barfs…

 

When Making Memories Gets Messy

A friend of mine posted a really cute how-to video, and the end result was a lovely framed picture of her dog’s paw.  It looked pretty easy, something even I could manage.

I should be clear, I am about as crafty as a bankrupt craft shop!  So, I knew this seemingly simple project wouldn’t end without a glitch or two.  All I needed was matte paper, non-toxic paint, a co-operative dog, and a little bit of patience.

I decided today was the perfect day for the project.  Beauford had to gone to daycare (they were testing the fire alarms today, and he’s petrified of that putrid sound; so, there is no way he was staying here for that)  and I knew he’d be tired from all the exciting fun!

So, on my way home today I stopped at the Dollar Store picked up a sketch pad (the paper has to be Matte finish, not glossy), Winners for a few picture frames, and the toy store for some non toxic finger paint.    The entire project cost about $20, with the most expensive thing being the frames.

Once the monkey had finished his dinner, and had a sufficient rest, I got the paint and paper out.  I was excited to get started.   I dipped Beauford’s paw into the paint and attempted the first print.  DISASTER.  Knowing the first print might come out globby I tried again, and again, and again.  Beauford was over it by press number 3!

I had to get a few more prints since I wanted to make four good ones.  I had dozens of bads and needed to get a few more…I dipped his paw for what was to be the final set of attempts, got 2 presses out of it and he took off.  Let’s be clear, even with getting additional tips and tricks, my apartment carpet now looks like this:

Carpet smears

I have never laughed so hard.   It was sweet revenge.  Beauford trotted all over the carpet in various places leaving smears and smudges everywhere.  He was quite proud of his art work, wagging his tail the entire time.

The carpet is now a Beaucasso or a Beau-Ray.   I tried to clean the it, but now it’s just smears of black paint everywhere.  Oh well.   Making memories can be messy.

Beauford's print

Overall, the end results are not half bad.   There are a few special people, including myself, that are getting Beauford’s pawiture.   They’re a little trinket to be treasured for all time.

“In Retrospect”. This Has Now Become A Very Uncertain Journey

Beauford has never been a typical case.   Since he’s been a puppy he’s always been a bit of a medical enigma.  He’s been diagnosed and misdiagnosed, and if I had a dollar for every time I heard “we’re not quite sure”, or “I don’t know what to tell you” after a medical procedure or blood test I’d be rich!!!

I was told when he was 6 months by a bright minded specialist that there was something wrong with him, but they couldn’t pinpoint what, and that he likely wouldn’t make it passed age 1.  I refused to believe that, instead walked out of that downtown specialty clinic committed to giving Beauford the best life.   Though I am not perfect, and I have made mistakes, I have certainly tried to live up to that promise.  Now, he’s six and I find myself feeling the same was I did as when he was six months.

I write this with the understanding that the news from yesterday is still fresh, shrouded in uncertainty, and not having fully processed everything.   It’s now believed that Beauford does not have a mass on his adrenal gland as first thought, and there is some variability in his diagnosis.

When Beauford was first “diagnosed” the radiologist saw on the ultrasound what he believed to be a tumor near Beauford’s kidney.  The prognosis he shared with our family veterinarian was not good.  He had seen this before, and didn’t believe anything could be done to save him.  Second and third opinions were sought as to what, if anything could be done, for Beauford.

In the emotional hours following Beauford’s diagnosis I remember very distinctly standing in Pet Valu getting the call saying that all hope might not be lost.  Apparently the VEC in Toronto and the OVC in Guelph believed something could be done.  There was mention of an MRI, CT Scan, repeat diagnostics.   VEC said their plan was to do an MRI , Guelph said their plan was to do a CT Scan.

Given that Beauford had an extensive medical history in Guelph, was comfortable there in their care, that it has a remarkable canine cancer centre, and was most reasonable in terms of cost, I chose to go to Guelph.

After Beauford’s CT scan I was told that they believed him to have an adrenal mass that was either the AP or AC tumor.  I was also told that Beauford’s adrenal gland did not light up in the way they had anticipated (not shocking, it’s Beauford) and because the mass was too high risk to biopsy, the best diagnostic tool to find the type of beast was surgery.

I went with my gut, and decided against the surgery.   Instead we did the – for lack of a better term  – fancy urine test to see if this was an AP mass.  I opted out of surgery. We got the results of that test back and it didn’t appear to be a blood pressure tumor.  So, that was “excellent news”.  Instead it was decided to test for Cushings, and the oncology team was now more comfortable with my choice to monitor the mass by way of ultrasound to track its growth.   I made that choice against surgery because I believed it was the absolute best choice for Beauford.  I have never been more thankful that I did.

Beauford OVC

Beauford had his one month follow up yesterday.  As we traveled to Guelph I was nervous, but hopeful we’d hear that the mass was the same size, and there was no sign of it spreading or threatening surrounding organs.  We stopped at Ren’s Pet Depot on the way and he displayed epic poor manners when out of sheer excitement he knocked over an entire urn like display of gigantic beef sticks.  He was the very definition of a bull in a china shop and I was the jerk owner that found it amusing since it was great to see him have his second real enthusiastic burst of energy this week.

After speaking to the student in oncology, I was advised that he might have to be mildly sedated for the ultrasound.  I hoped he’d be able to get through it without it, since he has never required it in the past, and I remember all too well how hard it is for Beauford to metabolize and process sedation.   Unfortunately, Beauford had to be sedated as he was uncomfortable during the procedure.

When we came to pick him up I was told that he might require a second ultrasound, and there was some talk of a biopsy.   This ultrasound was clearer than the previous CT scan, and there was some doubt, or perhaps some clarity, offered by what they found yesterday.  I was confused since I’d be told a biopsy wasn’t possible because the risk of complications was too high.

I met with oncologist, and I was told that the ultrasound image yesterday was indeed actually clearer than that seen from the CT scan.  According to yesterday’s imaging, it does not appear that Beauford has a mass on the adrenal gland.  And what they believed was a mass causing the surrounding lymph node to swell, is now thought to be a very swollen lymph gland.

I am obviously frustrated, upset, confused, and have tons of questions.  Questions that unfortunately there are no concise answers for.  I was told that “in retrospect” an MRI would have been a better diagnostic tool.

So, what does all this mean?  Here’s the thing, I don’t know.  There was some discussion that it could be three things…

  1.  That this particular lymphatic gland has always been enlarged that way — NOT LIKELY though since he has had ultrasounds in the past and it wasn’t ever seen before.
  2. Beauford has some kind of infection, though it’s uncertain what it could be.  Nothing has showed up in his extensive bloodwork, or other diagnostics that would give them any tip off as to what it could be.
  3. This enlarged lymph node is a cancerous lesion.   There may or may not be other cancerous lesions elsewhere at the moment.   Thus, we’d now be dealing with a different kind of cancer altogether, lymphoma.

 

The biopsy that was briefly discussed in the waiting room, was discussed further in the exam room.  It would still be high risk because the node is still close to the vessel, and Beauford would require further, deeper sedation, to ensure they would be able to get a good sample of the node.

Beauford was in the room the entire time with us (and Roosty) and he was struggling from the side effects of the sedation.  He was whimpering, crying, panting, unsteady on his feet, anxious, and at one point his back legs just gave out suddenly and he stumbled into the cabinetry. His tail was stuffed so far between his legs, and his eyes were tired.   This guy, was not my smiling golden guy.  My heart hurt and his eyes said it all.  He was over it, and so am I.

So, now what?  We have no definitive diagnosis.   We are facing an uncertain beast.    I have listened to my gut from day one.  I have had Beauford’s best interests in my head, and in my heart, every single step of the way.   Trusting myself, trusting my bond with Beauford, and listening to my gut has not led me astray thus far; so, I will continue to do that.

Last night was terrible.  I slept for an hour.  Beauford came home and was resistant to eating, remained slightly unsteady on his feet, and  unless he could feel me next to him he would whimper and cry.  I sat next to him on the wood floor for hours.  I should have done creative mattress movement (my bed is too high for him to get in and out of in that state safely), but I was physically and emotionally exhausted, and figured sitting with him, his head on my leg was just as good as anything.

This morning at 6:00 a.m., my smiling golden guy woke up!   The side effects from the sedative finally wore off, and despite my absolute exhaustion we were at Pet Valu this morning so Beauford could get a new bone to chew.  And this time, I let him bring it home. He’s already decided that it’s acceptable to proudly display his treat and bring gross bone in the bed.  Yeah, cancer or no cancer gross beef bone in my bed isn’t happening!   So, we had a little discussion about that today.

As for the future, at this moment it’s been decided that Beauford will not be returning for further diagnostics, or follow up until July at which time he is scheduled have an ultrasound of his entire abdomen, not just his adrenal gland.

The sad reality is that if this lesion is lymphatic cancer, it will undoubtedly spread, and unfortunately the ugly face of cancer will begin to appear by way of reduced appetite, vomiting, gastrointestinal issues, increased lethargy, and coughing.  Lymphoma though “treatable” is not curable.

There is absolutely nothing pleasant about that.  Not a single damn thing.

So, do I need to go back next month have Beauford sedated to see if it’s spread?   No.   Beauford seems to struggle greatly with the side effects of sedation.   Given that he is uncomfortable during ultrasounds to have many would become unpleasant for him, and would mean too many nights like last night.   To me, (and to him I’m sure) the short term pain doesn’t provide long term gain.   Three months seems to be a fair compromise; so, I don’t need to go back monthly to check.  If this is lymphoma without a doubt in time we will know.

What I need to do, and what I am absolutely committed to, is doing what  have been doing since “diagnosis day” and that is making each and every day special.

Beauford glasses