Friday, January 20, 2012

No Cancer for Roya!

This is Roya in her One-sy, napping on her fleece bed in the living room. We've had quite a week!  Following her initial visit to Dr. Strickfaden, I made an appointment to consult with my regular vet, Dr. Jay Peters at Countryside.  Had Dr. Strickfaden not seemed to back off in her belief of the accuracy of the bicom, I probably would not have gone.  The pronunciation of "no cancer" was good enough for me!

But since Dr. Strickfaden had pursued the Xray and blood-test and we discussed opening Roya up to see what was going on, including a quote of how much that would cost, I wanted to see what the comparable service with Dr. Jay would be.  He wanted to take another Xray, and this one showed her spleen back in it's normal location, though somewhat flattened. The question remained that something was out of order, so do we just open her up and perhaps find nothing? I figured we would spay her so that at least the invasive procedure was mildly justified. However, she would have to be opened up from sternum to groin so that Jay could view all the organs.

Last Thursday I took Roya in for her surgery. She weighed 50.3 lbs.  At around 10 a.m., Dr Jay texted to let me know he was beginning surgery.  The next notice was that there were no obvious tumors or vast ugliness (my term, unscientific!)  but there was some discoloration on the spleen and the liver.  We had discussed the potential options in advance and if he would have discovered huge tumors, metastasized to other organs, I would let her go on the table.  The last thing I wanted was to prolong pain.  Since since was not the case, he took the spleen (an unnecessary organ) , spayed her and took a liver biopsy.  It was all good and I allowed myself to think perhaps it was just an old dog thing.

A short time later, another call cast those thoughts aside when Dr. Jay said that he had cut into the liver and it didn't look good. Oh no!  Back to the C-word.  Taking the spleen is the protocol for cancer or benign tumors, which can also burst, but if cancer had spread to her liver we would be looking not at months for survival, but weeks.  Days.  Hey, I know!-- I Googled it!  With medical issues I like to know all the options and all the "what if's".  That way I can wrap my brain around what the best choices will be.  The surgery was long, lasting 2 hours.  Roya had lost alot of blood, as well.  I expected to be taking her home that afternoon, but that wasn't to be.  Her temperature had also plummeted and she was in a warming wrap and under blankets, being heated. She was also on IV fluids.  I called Tom to meet me there so we could visit her.  I did not want to leave her there overnight because there is no one there to watch her and check in on her, but I knew that was the best place for her.  There was also concern that she would throw a clot.  This was around 3:30 pm and she had not truly awakened from surgery.  Her eyes would briefly open, but there was not tail wag or recognition.  We petted her, told her we loved her and stroked her beautiful little ears.  We left, unsure that we would ever see her again.

I told Tom I wanted to sell any dog over 5 years old so that I would never have to go through this again.  In the past several years, we have lost Jinx, Digit and Ali.  Too many dogs.  Now I just had to wait until the next morning, for the phone call that would either bring good news... or bad.

Shortly after 8, Dr. Jay called to tell me Roya had made it through the night.  She wasn't out of the woods yet and he wanted to keep her on fluids for the remainder of the day, and I agreed.  I was scheduled to attend a seminar, so I spent part of the day trying unsuccessfully to distract myself, and tearfully relating the outcome of the surgery.  I wondered if I had done the right thing.  Did I have my baby cut from top to bottom, cause her pain only to die anyway? How long would we have?  I left the seminar early to meet Tom and go to pick her up, and that evening we were in our living room with Roya instead of our season-ticket holder seats at the hockey game.

Andrea D., from the Animal Referral Center, who had helped me so much with Jinx's rehab, gave me the one-sy in the picture.  I'm not sure who makes it, but it has been a god-send.  It has a rolled neck and a snap-crotch, so that you can just roll it up when the dog potties instead of having to pull it off, and yet it covers the entire tummy which a T-shirt would not do.  When Jinx was recovering from surgery, she wore an UnderArmor compression shirt, but we only need to protect the shoulder area.  I also got a soft cone from Andrea, but then Darcy B. told me about another awesome product, an inflatable neck roll, that we purchased at PetCo.  As it turns out, we never had to put any type of cone on Roya as she did not mess with her staples at all. Good girl!

Tom and I spent the week taking shifts of sleeping in the recliner or on the couch so that Roya could be comfortable and not have to be crated, and we could get her out regularly to potty.  She would get up and come to us when she needed to go outside.  We administered Clavamoxx twice a day (12 hours apart) and Tramadal rpn.  After the first day I learned my lesson about staying ahead of the pain.  I picked up raw meat patties and special canned food, because that made the poop easier to pass.  She had pooped when we picked her up on Friday and I was becoming very concerned when she had not gone again by Sunday!!  When she finally pooped Sunday afternoon, I think I was as happy as if she had become valedictorian! I learned that the pain meds can cause constipation.  Popping the pills down her throat was met with resistance; holding it out, wrapped in a treat, was met with suspicion; I finally just mixed them in her moist food.  The first time she discovered she had swallowed a pill--- too late-- she stopped and gave me an incredibly affronted look!  She walked away from the dish as if I was trying to poison her.  However, this is the dog who didn't meet a pound of bacon or 12 pack of Heartguard that she didn't love, so it didn't put her off for long and since then has become the means of delivering her drugs.

Yesterday she had the staples removed.  I held her front paws and she stood on the hind legs while Dr. Jay removed the staples.  She weighed in at 49.7 lbs.  The day before I had called for results of the pathology.  I was worried that he wasn't calling me because it was bad news, and wanted to tell me to my face.  The reality is that their phone lines had been down!  So when I called and they told me the results were on his desk, I held my breath.  I wanted to be prepared mentally for our appointment so that I could ask important questions with a clear head.  I held my breath and waited.  When he called back, the voice on the other end of the line said "no cancer!!" It took a minute to register!  What? no cancer? what had we seen? what had we cut?  I have a copy of the pathology report, but the bottom line is that there is no malignancy!  

It looks like Miss Roya will be celebrating her 12th birthday after all!  We will do a follow up liver function test, and examine holistic means of helping the liver.  I'm still babying her... making sure she gets her medication, tethering her to me when she sleeps on the bed so that she can't jump off, and getting her out to potty every few hours.  She is still sleeping quite abit, but after all , she is, what, almost 84 in human years.  She deserves the right to nap when she wants!  Tom adores this little monkey, too!  We bought steps at PetCo, so she can walk up onto the bed instead of jumping.  Such a baby!  Every time I think "no extraordinary means", I look at my dog and go that extra mile.  The surgery at Countryside, however, even with the fluids, keeping her longer, etc, was still $400 less than the Countrycare estimate.  And that $400 can go toward treats, food, and new stairs for the Queen....

On to the next adventure with Miss Roya! I'm so glad we have more time together.