One of the objectives of this blog is to help educate and inform pet parents fighting cancer in their furbabies. Sadly, Mosey’s cancer is very rare and he is not a candidate for surgery or radiation (except a palliative version). I reached out to the canine cancer community to see if anyone would be willing to share their stories of fighting more common forms of cancer. I was very happy to receive the following facebook post:
Hi Diane! I’m actually a veterinarian and run a FB page for my pup that is going through chemo for lymphoma. That way there is info from both the doc and mommy point of view. Erin Houser Kelly
I confirmed that she was giving me permission to share her story and am so pleased to say she agreed. Her dog, Wrigley, is in remission from lymphoma. Here is their story from both Erin’s and Wrigley’s point of view:
On Monday, October 14th Wrigley was diagnosed with lymphoma. This is his page– dedicated to him and what is important to him (hint: it includes food, his 4 legged sister and the 2 little girls that share his residence– as well as his adopted parents
The sad reality is that I was diagnosed with a terminal cancer (Stage IIIa, B-cell lymphoma) and without treatment my life expectancy would have been 4-6 weeks. There is a good chance I would be gone by now or nearing the end of my life if my parents chose not to go forward with chemotherapy. The day I was diagnosed I didn’t look or act sick, mom just noticed my lymph nodes were a little big. However, it’s a rapidly progressive disease that would have caused me to go downhill very quickly. And my family wasn’t ready to say good-bye just yet.
A few days later my mom had me seen by a veterinarian oncologist (Dr. Back actually graduated vet school with my mom back in 2007– but she went back to become a specialist– she’s obviously SUPER smart!). They started chemotherapy that day and a week later I was determined to already be in remission. The Dr is doing something called the “CHOP protocol”which is an acronym for the different types of meds they use to treat me. It’s a 6 month protocol and after that point I am just monitored for return. Unfortunately, it’s not a matter of IF it comes back, it’s a matter of WHEN. However, with chemo my life expectancy went from 6 weeks to up to 12-18 months (maybe 2 depending on how well my body does). That’s a big difference– especially when you calculate that into “dog years.”
The biggest question people ask my mom is “how sick does the chemo make him?” And she can easily say that there have been very, very few side effects. The biggest problem I had was with a steroid that was used at the beginning of treatment that makes me drink a lot of water and so I have to urinate a lot too– so started having accidents in the house. Plus the steroid makes me very hungry so I’m not above breaking into cabinets, purses and the trash can to steal food. The good news is that the steroid dose has tapered and I’m done with it next week– and I’m no longer having accidents in the house. Overall, no one can tell I’m sick… The chemo hasn’t made me throw up and I still have all my hair– I will have about a 6 hour window once a week where I’m sleepy but that’s the extent of the effects so far. Overall, my quality of life is amazing– I’m still romping around the house with my sister, love to take walks and lay on my back in the grass under the sun.
If this blog can help someone else along the way then I think I’ve done a good job. Lymphoma is a tough diagnosis (and my mom cried for 2 days straight when she found out)– but chemotherapy is giving me a chance to spend an extra year (hopefully more) with my family.
If you feel this note has helped you, or may be beneficial to friends/family that may have a pet in this position, please feel free to share this note or my page. And I’m always open to questions. Both my parents work full time so I have plenty of time to blog during the day while they are gone 😉
Yours in Remission,
I so appreciate hearing this success story…remission is something we all hope and pray for. If your pet has been diagnosed with Lymphoma and you have specific questions for Erin or Wrigley please ask them in the comments section of this post. I will continue to provide updates as to Wrigley’s prognosis.
Diane and Mose
Mosey is a happy, goofy, beautiful golden retriever with a voracious appetite, very treat motivated, and a total love bug. His energy level is excellent for a 10 1/2 year old so nothing prepared me for the cancer diagnosis. Here is our story:
Mose has slept for years on a big, puffy, pillow type bed. One night, a few days before Thanksgiving, he woke up and started breathing very heavily…almost panting. He moved off his bed and onto the floor. I got up, sat beside him and started petting him to relax him. He stopped the panting after a few minutes, went to sleep and was fine the rest of the night. This happened a few nights in a row. I thought it was odd, but I didn’t panic as he was fine the rest of the time. A few days later I noticed he was breathing a bit harder than usual during the day…not after any activity, just as he was lying around the house. Again, this was so slight that it didn’t raise any concerns but, after a week of the 5 minutes of heavy panting at night business, I decided to take him to our vet. I honestly expected them to tell me he had allergies or something similar.
Our local vet checked him out and asked if she could take some x-rays. The first shock was when she told me he had a mass surrounding his heart and that there was nothing they could do here in Taos. She referred me to specialists in Albuquerque and told me “Keep him very calm, don’t go on any walks or any other activity and call me on my cell in an emergency…like if he collapses.” What? OK, so now the panicking started.
This was on a Thursday afternoon and our appointment with the specialist was not until the following Tuesday morning. My husband and I spent a very long, tense and sad few days, lots of crying and frustration with the wait. It didn’t help matters that we had a big snowstorm and sub-zero temperatures forecasted the day of the appointment. Taos is 2 1/2 to 3 hours from Albuquerque and we had an early morning appointment so Mose and I left Monday mid-day to beat the weather. Let me tell you…sitting in the hotel room waiting for the next day was one of the longest nights of my life.
We first met with a cardiologist who, after an ultrasound, told us that the mass had not gone into his heart and that, for his age, his heart was very strong. Some good news! Then she referred us to the oncologist who had us do an abdominal ultrasound which revealed no major abnormalities. They aspirated some of the mass for analysis which showed degenerating cells…probably cancerous. The oncologist created a report for me which states:
“Mose has been diagnosed with an intrathoracic mass that extends to the heart base (also called heart based mass). There are generally four common differentials for a tumor in this location. They are lymphoma, thymoma, ectopic thyroid carcinoma and chemodectoma. The aspirate results have ruled out lymphoma. These other three potential cancers are all epithelial which is what the pathologist thought the cancerous cells were most consistent with. Thymoma is a cancer of the thymus, an organ involved in development of white blood cells in embryos and babies. When cancerous, it is most often treated surgically although it is also responsive to radiation therapy. Ectopic thyroid carcinoma is when a remnant of thyroid in the chest becomes cancerous. These tumors are best treated with surgery although many are non-surgical. If non-surgical, they can be treated with either radiation therapy (if site is appropriate) or chemotherapy. Chemodectoma is a cancer of the cells at the base of the heart involved in sensing blood pressure and position. Chemodectomas are generally slow growing cancers and have not been particularly responsive to most therapies. If possible, they are removed surgically but they are only rarely surgical.”
I met with the surgeon Wednesday evening to determine the next steps. First was to have a CT scan to get additional info. We had the CT scan performed on Thursday morning. The results showed the cancer was inoperable. They ruled out 2 of the 4 potential cancers. The oncologist said, based on the CT scan findings, that she believes it is an ectopic thyroid carcinoma but it could also be chemodectoma. They also found 2 lung nodules which makes them think it is also a metastatic disease.
You can imagine my week of crying, bargaining with God, and researching everything in sight. Mose has always eaten healthily, but I am amping up his diet by starting an anti-cancer holistic program. He started taking an anti-cancer drug called Palladia last Friday. We are waiting to hear from Colorado State University, Ft Collins to find out if he is a candidate for radiation therapy. If not, the oncologist recommends we watch what the Palladia does (or doesn’t do) and then discuss chemo.
The only good news is that, except for a little bit of panting once in a while, he is symptom free. Great appetite, energy appropriate for a 10 yr old, no pain…his normal goofy self. This is the hardest thing I have ever gone through. My friends and family have been amazing…listening to every detail and offering support and guidance…but, especially now during the holidays, I don’t want to continue to bum them out with my sadness.
These blog posts are designed to help me keep track of Mosey’s situation. It is such an overwhelming and confusing time. I want everything I learn, try and experience to be organized. I hope our story helps others on the same journey.