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.