Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Diagnosis

We first discovered the mass on the front of Harley's left shoulder over the holiday's 2010.  We watched it closely, but knew it felt different than his other lipomas, which are kind of spongy and symmetrical.  The mass didn't seem to bother him and it appeared to be free floating, not attached to a bone or muscle, but also seemed to be growing off of a lipoma.  It's very alarming at first when you see something new, different, and foreign growing on your dogs body.  We don't know how old Harley is, but in the last year we've watched his body age the most since we have had him, the slight loss of muscle tone and eye sight being the most obvious signs of age.  We agreed to just keep an eye on the mass before rushing him off to the vet.  Knowing he is a senior dog even without knowing his age, I wasn't sure what options our vet would present us with, even though I trust them implicitly. My fear was that they would say he was too old to operate on and there was really nothing they could do, the fear was totally unfounded, but it was still the thought that haunted me and caused me to delay taking him to the vet as long as possible. The mass grew rapidly, probably multiplied in size by three by January 24th when I took him to the vet and it had also begun to ulcerate his skin (never a good sign).  I had done everything within my power at that point to doctor it and Harley has always, always, been the best patient, but we weren't seeing any improvements, so it was time for a visit to our vet to see just what our options were.

I knew by my Vet's reaction she was concerned (We have two Vet's so you will see he and she interchange, both are tending to Harley's case, so in a sense he has a whole team of support. Dr. Robert J. Lewis, V.M.D.,  Dr. Rachel M. Teribury, D.V.M. ).  The one thing that makes me so completely comfortable with the Veterinary team that we have is that they always lay the options out so that we can make an informed decision about our pets care.  The conclusion was made that because the tumor had shown up and grown so rapidly, it would continue to do so until it interfered with his mobility.  We decided to have it removed, I would leave him there, and pick him up later that day.  Tears were shed at the thought of leaving him there, putting him though another surgery, the uncertainty of what they would .find.  If it was cancer, how much more time did we get to have with him.  The tears officially started on this day.

We got the call within a few hours that the surgery was over, he was in recovery, but wasn't awake yet.  I was told I would get another call with a pick-up time, the mass went a lot deeper and was attached to more than they expected it to be, making the surgery more invasive than originally thought it would be.  They couldn't even guarantee they got it all, because everything inside that area was so swollen.  Around five o'clock I got the call and they asked if they could keep him over night just to keep an eye on him, of course we said yes.  Making sure he had the best care was very important to us and post-surgery they were better equipped than we were.

I picked Harley up around noon the next day.  I was prepared to get half of my dog back, as seemed to be typical after he's had surgeries in the past.  Usually he's groggy, barely able to stay on his feet and has to be boosted to get in the car.  At that moment I had a renewed gratefulness that they kept him overnight, it obviously gave him adequate time to recover and I was in a sense getting the same dog back that I dropped off, with the addition of a sutured incision that nearly went from his jaw to the front of his left leg arm pit.  The suture puckered a little at the top, which seemed to bother the doctor far more than it did me, it only did so, because so much had been taken out from underneath the skin.  I can deal with a cosmetic issue, that has no affect on our dog or who he is to us.  He got into the trailblazer completely unassisted, settled in and was ready to go home.  I cried a little bit as I was so happy to be bringing our boy home and because I couldn't help but wonder how many more rides he would get, he absolutely loves riding in a vehicle.

Life went on the rest of the week with little to no discussion of the elephant in the room.  I can honestly say I had almost forgotten that we were waiting for a histology report on the mass, until the call came on Friday.  "Hello," I said.  "Hi, how are you?" Rachel said. "Good," I said.  "Well, I'm sure you probably wont be when we finish..........."  Gosh that just made my heart sink...........  The mass was a mast cell tumor, there was no guarantee that it all was completely removed and based on the level and grade of the tumor, weeks was really the best they could offer as a prediction of time.

We were floored, to say the least.  Lou and I took turns calling the vet and having our questions answered.  We agreed without question that chemo and radiation was just not an avenue we wanted to take with him.  Cost had no consideration in our decision, we would mortgage our home to care for our dogs if we had to, we just couldn't justify making him "sicker" with chemicals or reducing his quality of life in the time we had left.  The diagnosis/prognosis was a death sentence, it was just a matter of when, there was and is no cure.  We faced the disease the natural way and modified his diet to fight the cancer with all of the knowledge we could find.  We also added supplements and other over the counter items that would help him stay healthy for as long as possible.

What baffled us and what we kept repeating to the vet was that Harley showed zero signs of being sick, other than the stitches and physical imperfections, no one would believe there was anything wrong with him.  To us this was a bonus and something to hold on to, as long as he stayed happy, healthy, and mobile there was a chance at bating the idea of only having "weeks" left with him.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.