It was about 10 months ago when Sheba had a lump removed from her side that was found to be cancerous. The hope at the time was that our vet had removed it all, and that we would not have to deal with it again. At first I was worried and stressed, but as months went by with no sign of its return I began to relax.
Then a few weeks ago another lump appeared in the same area and seemed to be growing quickly just as the original had. The needle aspirate was inconclusive and this one had to be removed as well. My heart really sunk when our vet called after her surgery and said he had found many more lumps, and he was going to do a chest x-ray to be sure there were no signs of cancer there (only a small spot was seen). Only a biopsy was going to determine whether these lumps were cancer, but our vet felt sure they were. Still, we had to wait again for the lab results.
Those results came last Friday and our worst fears were confirmed. There’s no good news/bad news this time, and there’s no sugar coating it: it was spindle cell sarcoma again, and the margins were not clean (clean margins are difficult to get with this type of cancer). This means the cancer is most likely to return again, and this time it is more aggressive so we probably won’t see the 10 months that we did the first time.
Our vet is not experienced with treating this type of cancer, but is willing to refer us to an oncologist for the possibility of radiation and/or chemotherapy treatments. We knew 10 months ago that radiation was an option and we declined to go that route. The biggest problem for us is that there are no veterinary oncologists or cancer clinics in our area. We would have to travel at least 60 or more miles, meaning an hour and a half or more in the car.
Sheba hates riding. We have decided again not to go that route; considering that factor as well as others such as her age (11). My research turned up that any treatments would be only to slow down the cancer, there is no curing it. Because Sheba’s cancer is a Grade 3 (out of 3), which is very rare (too bad we couldn’t win the lottery with those odds), there are not a lot of statistics to go by to know how much more time the treatments could even buy us.
We have been through cancer treatment with our first dog Shelby, who had lymphoma. But she was treated locally by our own vet, she was only 6 years old, and her death was imminent if we did nothing. We never regretted the decisions we made for her, which got us 2-3 more happy months, and I hope we can say the same when Sheba is gone.
We want Sheba to live out the rest of her days happy and enjoying life for as long as she can. Don’t think that his has been an easy decision; I have been waffling, agonizing, researching and talking to friends and family. My hubby is relatively comfortable with it, but it’s just not in my nature to feel sure that we’re doing the right thing.
Plus there’s the matter that I can’t just do nothing, I feel like I have to do something. I can’t just sit and wait and fear what the future is going to bring. A friend recommended the book The Dog Cancer Survival Guide and I have started reading it. When I saw this quote in the book “Imagine looking back at your life, five years from now, and having not a single regret. You can help your dog fight cancer and…..you can honor your dog’s life by living each moment to the fullest, starting now.”, I got the idea for the title of this post. I feel hopeful that this book can give me ideas of ways to help Sheba, even in some small way; and I hope it will help me feel like I’m doing something positive for her.
Where are we at now? Sheba’s incision from the surgery looks to be healing well, and she is feeling great. She wants to play ball with her sister Cricket and she wants to play tug with her brother Luke. Hopefully her stitches will come out Thursday morning and she’ll be back to playing soon. Our vet has let me know I can call him any time with questions, and he is also going to share Sheba’s case with a veterinary board online in the hopes we can learn a little more about this cancer.
We have the support of family, friends, readers, and the pet blogger community. I have appreciated everyone’s comments and support on previous posts; I just haven’t had the heart to answer each and every comment. But please know how much they mean to us and how much prayers and well wishes are cherished.
I try to hold back my tears around the dogs so as not to stress any of them. I want to keep Sheba’s life especially as stress free as possible, which is one of the other reasons we don’t want to make her take long rides to doctor’s offices. I want every minute of every day for whatever time she has left to be filled with joy and being spoiled as much as possible.
Sandy Weinstein says
i am so very sorry. i live with these bumps on my oldest schnauzer every day. she has lots of them, most have been benign, but she is 14 plus and she is getting them more and more. just found another big one on her head, where she has lots of them. so back to the vet. so chemo cant help? have you contacted a vet school to see if there are any new studies. there is a dr at duke in durham who is also a vet, he stared studying the sarcomas in dogs and is now a dr at the cancer center at duke as well. he is a dvm the first of the wk and a dr at duke the later part of the week. he got into b/c he has so many dogs coming in the sarcomas and wanted to do studies. his name is wil eward. he is a vet at the triangle vet referral hospital. he and other dvm, duke’s mark dewhirst dvm, phd, gustavo s montana prof of radiology at duke are working with duke and the nc vet school, the consortium for comparative canine oncology (c30)the duke cancer center is in durham next to the hospital. if you like i can try to get further information for you. i live abt 30min away and was there last wk for some tests. there was this article in their newsletter. again, i am so sorry and my prayers are with you and your family. the best to sheba.
Sandy, thank you so much for your input and help. This particular type of cancer does not respond to chemo, only radiation. And radiation would require several treatments per week for a month, with Sheba having to be sedated every time. Plus it’s over a 3 hour drive to the closest place that does it (Tufts in Boston).
I imagine duke is just too far away for us to be able to do much with (we are in NH) either. You are lucky to live so close to such a great place!
I’m sorry to hear about your schnauzer. I hope her latest lumps are benign as well. It’s so tough when they get old. Our late beagle Kobi also had many lumps, but none of his were ever cancerous. Old age caught up with him at 13.
Dogs N Pawz says
I am so sorry to hear about Sheba. I don’t even know what to say. Sending lots of hugs and prayers your way.
Thank you so much, Lisa. Just knowing that you care and are praying for us means a lot. Right now Sheba is doing great…we just don’t know how long it’s going to last. That makes it tough to stay positive, but we’re trying to focus on the good and to not worry too much (easier said than done).
I’m sorry to hear this sad news. It’s hard to make these decisions. Enjoy whatever time you have left with Sheba.
Thank you so much, Clowie. Right now Sheba is feeling well so we’re going to make the most of this time while it lasts. We might change her diet a bit, and add some supplements that could help slow the cancer down. Mostly we’ll just keep her active and happy for as long as possible!
Dolly the Doxie says
I know it won’t help but I think you are doing the best for Sheba, and yourself. Having no experience treating a dog with cancer from what I have learned from others, dogs don’t respond to chemo and radiation like we do. It only buys a few months at best, but then at what quality of life? I remember how sick my friends Rottie was on chemo and I felt terrible for her. There is probably a lot more you can do to make Sheba’s last months more comfortable than putting her and yourself through treatments and vet visits. It makes me so sad to see blogger friends go through this with their pets because we know just how we would feel if it was us, and we’ve gotten to know and love Sheba too. Sandra
It does help, Sandra, thank you so much. It has just seemed like many people have been choosing chemo lately, and I felt like maybe we weren’t giving Sheba the chances we should. But you are so right, I just don’t want to spend what could end up only being weeks or months driving back and forth to vet visits and stressing us all out. That wouldn’t make Sheba happy….because our dogs want us to be happy too, don’t they? Just enjoying her is what will make us happy, not trying to get more time that might not even be quality time.
And it means so much to me hearing that you know and love Sheba too. xxoo
Oh Jan, I didn’t know. I’m sorry. From what you’ve written you remind me so much of me. Always wondering did I do the right thing.
Coming to peace with them leaving us is hard and having to make decisions that affect them is even harder. Hopefully talking with others is helping you feel better about the decisions you are making.
Thank you, Jodi. I knew you were there if I needed you, almost contacted you several times, but I could only talk about it just so much. I needed time to process.
Sheba got her stitches out this morning and everything looks good. She does have a little fluid buildup by the incision though so we have to watch that (I think it’s going down though), and she still has to stay quiet until it goes down completely. I had a really good talk with our vet and he made me feel better about the decisions we have made. He will still look into things further for us, in case there is something simple we can do to help without having to travel.
He did seem optimistic that we might have quite a few months yet, and also said any new lumps could be removed. I’m not sure if we’d want to put her through another surgery, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
Lauren Miller says
Oh my gosh, I am so sorry! <3
Callie, Shadow, and Ducky's Mom says
Stupid Google put this post in the junk folder. Luckily I looked there before emptying the folder.
Glad you’ve started reading the survival guide, and that it’s helping you deal with Sheba’s situation. I wish I’d had time to read it again when Callie was diagnosed with the lymphoma.
Try not to be hard on yourself about the decision to not treat Sheba’s cancer. Since she doesn’t really like car rides, avoiding the stress it would cause her is a loving decision. All she really wants is to love you all and to be loved by you, and she knows she is loved. As Bev said, love on her and enjoy watching her enjoy life for whatever time she has. She is a stoic girl, like my Callie always was…she will give you many happy moments to treasure. Live in the moment with her. And know that I’m here for you if the sadness and tears you’re hiding from her, Cricket, and Luke overwhelm you.
Callie will watch over Sheba for you for as long as she is needed, just as she watches over her sisters for me.
I’m sorry you got such disappointing news about Sheba.
Many of us have been in similar situations and have struggled with making the right decision for treatment options. I’ve always been of the mindset that I will do whatever I can that is in the best interest of my pet’s health and well-being. That may mean they won’t live as long as I’d like, but damn, they’ll live well! I lost one of my first kitties to cancer when she was only 8 years old and the only way I got through it was to focus on what was in her best interest. That meant stopping chemo because it was too stressful for her and focusing on giving her the most enjoyable, comfortable life in the time she had left. She ate a lot of ice cream and licked the cheesy flavor off a lot of cheetos! 🙂
Have a good cry with the doggies. Mourn the time you hoped you could have with Sheba. I’m sure they can sense your sadness, and you will all be a great comfort to each other. After your tears have been soaked up by their fur, have a good romp, some playtime, and a tasty treat. I know you will continue to give Sheba a wonderful life and you will share your love with each other for as long as she is with you.
Paw hugs to you and yours.
That is such wonderful advice….thank you. I fear I’m holding in my tears too much and I’ll explode at the wrong time, if you know what I mean. Having a good cry with all of them will be cathartic I am sure.
Sheba got her stitches out yesterday and she is doing very well right now. A long talk with our vet helped me to feel better about the decisions we’ve made. We are still open to treatment if it is something our own vet could administer, but I know that’s not likely. I look forward to spoiling her and enjoying her for as long as we can.
Oh Jan, I’m so sorry to hear this. I’m heartbroken at this news. Sheba looks great, and it’s a blessing to her that she can live out her life happily, without the worry that comes from knowing she has this issue, like we humans do. She WILL live her life out to the fullest, and she’ll live it knowing she’s loved and cared for. I pray that by some miracle she has a longer life than expected. I know you’re making the right decisions for her; I also understand the worry and that awful feeling of not being able to do anything – we share those traits. But you ARE doing something by making loving choices with her best interest in mind and by giving her a wonderful life. I will be sending lots of POTP and prayers to you and her.
Thank you so much, for your kind words, and for your prayers and POTP! I hope I can learn from Sheba, and will be able to put aside my worries and fears and just enjoy the time we have left together as much as possible. She feels good right now and she is happy so I will focus on that. Who knows? Maybe we will have more time than we expect.
Jackie Bouchard says
Oh, I’m so sorry to see this news. For what it’s worth – we also decided against radiation when our 12 yr old beagle had cancer and that was an option. We did one small procedure they said might give her 2 – 12 months, and we got exactly 2 months, but it was a great 2 months, spoiling her like crazy, and I know you’ll do the same cherishing whatever time you have left.
I was going to suggest that “survival guide” book. When things got late in the game with Abby, I wanted to feel like I was ‘doing something’ and that book helped me. Even if you just try some supplements (which we did) or I cooked part of Abby’s meals for her based on the recipe in the book. I hope it helps. It’s hard when you feel like you’re not “doing anything” but you’re loving her and that’s the most important thing!
Thank you, Jackie! That’s exactly what I intend to do…maybe try a supplement or two, and make her some meals too. You are so right that loving her is the most important thing. I want our time left together to be happy and not spent at vet appointments, so I think we’re doing the right thing.
My heart just sank while reading this post. I so wish the news was different for all of you. Living in the moment (and to the fullest) is so hard to do at times like this, but if you can manage it, it does bring some peace of mind if even just for a short while. I wish I could do more than send my thoughts and prayers, but know that many of us feel your hurt and send our love.
Your kind and thoughtful words are a very big help to me, so by just leaving a comment you are helping.
I feel a little better after her vet appointment yesterday. The stitches are out and as soon as the little bit of fluid she has goes down, she’ll be back to playing. I had a good talk with our vet and that helped too. I know I’ll have times where I’m consumed with worries and fears but I’ll also have times where I can just look at her and know that NOW she is good and we’ll enjoy these times.
The Island Cats says
We’re so sorry that the news wasn’t better. We purr for Shelby and for you…enjoy the time you have together…we hope there are still many good days.
I am so sorry to hear about Sheba. Dogs are amazing in the way they don’t really know what is wrong so they continue to play and live life!! It is a blessing. She looks wonderful and has her family to love her and make all the days amazing. You are doing the best thing by loving her. I know with Daisy I would think is there anything else I could have done but I know in my heart that I loved her and did all I could. I am sending prayers to you all for peace.
Even when she can’t play like she wants to, she is still just smiling away! She lies on the deck and watches her siblings play and I feel like she is even just enjoying that. I hope she’ll be back to playing within the next week or so. Her stitches are out, but she still has some fluid in there that needs to go down before she can be active again. Thank you so much for your prayers and for caring.
Sand Spring Chesapeakes says
Oh boy, so so sorry the results came back bad again. Hug her and live each day to the fullest and there is no right or wrong answer as to what to do. You do what you guys feel is right!
I am just heartbroken for you. IMHO there really is no “right” thing to do other than to do your best and you certainly are doing that. The silver lining is that now you know what you’re dealing with and have the gift of a bit of time to create joyous moments for all of you. Sending prayer, love and lots of hugs.
DZ Dogs says
We are so sorry to hear the bad news. 🙁 She’s such a wonderful girl, we’re wishing you a wonderful holiday season with Sheba and we hope you have many more months of pain free living.
Sending lots of love and hugs your way!
Wags & Kisses from Dante and Ziva!
Karen cantlin says
All we can do is give them all the love they deserve. Sheba is a happy girl and that’s because she has a loving family and the best home a dog can hope for. I think that is where she wants to be for as long as she can. And I hope it is longer than you think. Love to you all.
M. K. Clinton says
Jan, Our hearts are breaking for you. I had to stop reading this and just motion to Skipper because I couldn’t speak without totally losing it. I wish there was a magic wand that I could wave and make the cancer go away. Please know that your grief is being shared by your friends so you don’t have to carry the weiight of it by yourself. Give Sheba a big hug from us. I am sure that you are making the right decision even if it is hurts. We have you in our prayers. ♥ ♥
Thank you so, so much, Melissa. Feeling your love and your support is such a great help to me. I tell Sheba too how many people she has pulling for her, and I think it helps all of us. ♥♥
Jenna,Mark “HuskyCrazed” Drady says
Aw Jan 🙁 I am so very sorry. I wish so bad that there was something I could do. As always, I am sending you all my love and prayers. oxoxoxooxoxoxooxoxoxxo
Poor sweet Sheba 🙁
Ellen Pilch says
I am sorry you got that bad news about beautiful Sheba. Have you thought of trying turmeric and or vitamin D, they are known to help slow down cancers in people. I don’t know what the dosing would be for a dog or if it would be an option, but it might buy a little more precious time.
Thank you for those ideas, Ellen! We actually have already been using turmeric, we started that after her first lump was removed last January. But we had her at a low dose so I’m going to try to figure out exactly what she can get. I will look into the Vitamin D as well.
Ann Staub says
Ugh. I’m sorry about the bad news 🙁 I know how you feel at least a little bit. I chose a similar route for my cat in the past, but I have no regrets. I hope Sheba is feeling OK.
Right now Sheba is feeling great, Ann! She just got her stitches out but has a bit of a seroma so has to stay quiet a little longer (which she’s not happy about!), but I think it is going down so hopefully she can get back to playing soon. And hopefully she continues to feel well for some time; right now we are just trying to focus on that.
Two French Bulldogs says
Sending you lots of hugs
Lily & Edward
Oz the Terrier says
This is so sad to hear. I am sorry that cancer is back and that it is a yucky kind that doesn’t go away easily. We agree that living each moment to the fullest, and eliminating stress, will make this time very special to you all.
Auntie Sheryl says
We love you, Sheba, and your Mom & Dad & siblings. Praying for lots more happy days for you, sweet girl. You are very loved. ❤️????
Hailey and Zaphod says
I am so, so, so, sorry to read this. Sending you hugs. Enjoy ever second with beautiful Sheba!
2 Brown Dawgs says
Gosh I am sorry to read this. It is never easy to get a tough diagnosis and even harder to decide whether to give treatment or not. Hugs to you. I hope Sheba has a lot more time with you. She is lucky to have such great people who take care of her. Cancer of all types is so prevalent in Goldens. I hope someday they will figure out why.
I hope they figure out why too. Sheba’s brother and mother also died of cancer, and I think at least 4 or 5 other dogs from their litter. One just died recently, suddenly overnight, though they don’t know what caused it. That just makes me more grateful for whatever time we do have left with her.
I just read a statistic that said that 75% of goldens die from cancer. It does make me think twice about possibly getting another one…though I suppose you can look at it as every dog will die of something, and at least in Sheba’s case, she is not very young.
We lost our very first dog to lymphoma, and she was only 6 years old, and she was pure mutt. You just never know.
2 Brown Dawgs says
I just saw something on the news about a researcher at Cornell who has been able to artificially inseminate a Bagel. It is not the same kind of AI that JoAnn did with Glory. Rather it was fertilized eggs, which is apparently much more difficult to do in dogs than it is in humans or other animals due the repro system of dogs. Anyway they hope it will allow for some genetic engineering in the future to maybe lessen or eliminate some of the genetic diseases including cancers.
Bev Green says
Our heart is with you all..such things test our hearts in ways we wish we never had to know.All you can do at the end of each day and the beginning of the next is love them..it is after all all they want..our sweet pets do not dwell or live with what if’s they live in each moment..the very thing that we love about them. Love Sheba..enjoy watching her have fun ..cuddle her and smooch her..she has no idea she is unwell at this time..only be kind to yourself as well..you are not wrong for being confused or even conflicted..it is very human…so take a page from Sheba’s book and live in the moment…we send our love as you know and continued POTP that Sheba has a great time in her moments…Love Bev xxx
I think we have a lot to learn from Sheba through all of this, and she will probably help us just as much as we can help her. Thank you for your love and support, Bev. xxoo
Pam and Sam says
So sorry for the bad news regarding beautiful Sheba’s cancer but I think your plan of action is the kindest one you could choose……Sheba loves you all and will have days full of love for as long as she’s here – what more can ANY of us ask…….traveling to and from any treatment would be so hard on her if she’s not a car lover. What’s important is spending this time TOGETHER – we will continue to send prayers and POTP…………and some STRENGTH for you all.
Love, Sammy and Mom Pam
Thank you so much, Sammy and Pam, your prayers and POTP are most appreciated. Feeling the love and support from all of our friends like you will help us to pass that on to Sheba and make whatever time she has left just full of love and hopefully lots of fun for a while.
We are so very sad and sorry to hear this. Mom always hopes if any of us get cancer it will be like her last dog where it was diagnosed and a week later she was gone. It was hard, but there was no time to ponder solutions or have sad thoughts. We pray the cancer if it returns takes its time and doesn’t reappear for a very long time. Hopefully Sheba will feel good and can enjoy the rest of life, no matter how long it is. It’s important to cherish every day with all of us because anything can happen and anyone can be gone in an instant. Life is precious. Sheba is in our thoughts and we send her lots of hugs and happy thoughts.
Thank you so much, and you are so right about all of that. Sheba’s brother Moses went quickly like your Mom’s dog…it was tough too in it’s own way but there was none of the agonizing over doing the right thing.
We just found out that one of Sheba’s littermates just died. We don’t know if it was cancer or not, but it was very sudden…like overnight…he had been just a little sick and when they woke up the next morning he was gone. But counting Sheba, this is at least the 6th dog out of I think 12 that has had cancer from that litter (and the Mom also died of cancer). She is the only one other than her mother that has survived it so far…so we feel even more blessed for whatever time we do have left with her.
easy rider says
this 2015 is the year of the tears and the sorrows, that’s for sure. I cry with you for the bad news… and I wish you as much time as possible together…. and I hope your vet has some better news for you after sharing Shebas case with colleagues… POTP and crossed paws and fingers for Sheba and for you all…