Monday, January 31, 2011

First Chemotheraphy Session

I just brought Laura home from her first chemotherapy session and she is doing great.  Eating and acting normal.  What a relief.  I was worried that the chemo would  make her sick.

Before they could administer the chemo drug doxorubicin they had to do blood work on her to make sure she was healthy enough and that she had enough platelets in her blood.   She passed her blood test with flying colors!

From the research I've done, dogs generally handle chemotherapy pretty well.  They handle it much better than humans because the doses are much smaller.   Chemo in dogs isn't meant to completely kill the cancer like in humans, but to slow it down so that it extends their life.   They don't lose their hair!  A bald Laura would have looked awful silly.   I'm giving her a ton of supplements and herbs to help her deal with the side affects of chemo.    But so far, so good. 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Final Diagnosis: Hemangiosarcoma

Incision healing nicely, bruising gone
Dr. B called this morning and the pathology report is in.   I went in a few hours later and brought Laura with me so he could look at her incision. 

I had already prepared myself for the diagnosis so the results were not shocking.   While the results were not shocking, they were somewhat mixed and confusing.   From the pathology report:

"COMMENTS:  Only one of the four blocks contains a pattern consistent with a vascular neoplasm, and in that block the amount of neoplasm is quite small.  Therefore, I cannot make a definitive determination whether this is a splenic hemangioma or a splenic hemangiosarcoma.  Both of these tumors can rupture resulting in hematoma and hemoabdomen.  Although the neoplastic cells are not forming a stratified layer and I did not observe mitotic figures, I am leaning towards the diagnosis of malignancy as some of the cells are plump and have large nuclei."


FINAL DIAGNOSIS:  Hemangiosarcoma, spleen"

Now that we had a final diagnosis, Dr. B was willing to discuss options and next steps.   He immediately recommended chemotherapy since it appeared the cancer hadn't yet metastasized to her other organs and the result of her spleen biopsy was mixed.  Even though she is 10 years old, she has always been in perfect health and is a strong active dog.   When he told me the life expectancy with and without chemo, it was a no brainer.

Median survival time with surgery along:  19 to 65 days.
Median survival time with surgery plus chemotherapy:  145 to 178 days (mean survival, 271 days).

Laura playing with her brother
We scheduled her first chemo session for next Monday.   She will do chemo once every three weeks for 5 to 6 treatments.  Doxorubicin is the chemo drug we decided to go with.

Along with the chemo, I've also decided to take a holistic approach in helping her fight this deadly cancer.  I'll discuss her cancer diet and supplements in a future post.   We are going to do whatever it takes to get her cancer in remission and extend her life as long as possible.

She continues to do well after the surgery.   She is up and running and playing just like she is 2 years old again.  It's great to see.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Homecoming!

Laura relaxing after coming home

It's Saturday morning and Dr. B has cleared Laura to come home from the doggy hospital.   What a relief!   She is going to be treated like a queen for what ever time she has left.

When I get to the hospital she is definitely ready to go.   The vet tech brings her out on her leash and she is literally pulling the vet tech so hard I thought she was going to fall over.  Laura screams a big joyful yelp when she see's me and showers me with kisses. 

I talked to Dr. B for a few minutes about her after surgery care, which is just to get a lot of rest and not to get too excited.   He prescribed an antibiotic for 10 days to make sure she doesn't get an infection.   Dr. B said he would call me next week with the pathology results.  I pay the bill (which is about $2400 so far including the emergency vet) and we are on our way home.

Laura is clearly happy to be back home.   Her brother, Gipper, is so excited to see her.  They give each other a few kisses and then it's nap time for Laura.  She is still pretty tired and just sleeps most of the day.   I constantly check her gums to make sure they are not white.   They look good -- a nice bright pink color.

Her abdomen looks awful though.  Lots of bruising from the surgery area.   It looks like her incision is about 10 inches long.   She had metal staples put in, but there are no signs of infection or leakage.  

Now all we can do is just take things one day at a time.

Bruised abdomen after surgery

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Visiting Laura in the Hospital

Laura continues to recover from her surgery.   She is doing very well.   Her blood work today appeared very good.   I stopped by again after work to visit her.   She was well enough to get out of her cage and visit me.  I took her for a short walk outside.   She started eating and drinking again today which is a good sign.

If all goes well she can come home Saturday morning.  I can't wait!  I know she hates being in the hospital away from her family and her best buddy, Gipper.

Get well soon!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Laura makes it through surgery!

Dr. B finally called around 4:00 pm.   She made it through her surgery!

One of Dr. B's vet techs has a Rottweiler who donated the blood for her transfusion.   She got real fresh blood -- it literally went out of the Rottweiler and immediately into Laura.   This certainly saved her life.   The surgery was a bit more complicated.  As expected, her stomach was full of blood and the tumor on her spleen was ruptured.   Dr. B was able to remove the tumor and her spleen.  Despite her age, Dr. B said she was a real fighter and he was amazed at how well she did through the surgery.  I guess Laura knew that it wasn't her time to go.

There were no tumors on her liver or other organs that Dr. B could see.  That was good news, I guess.   I was told I could come visit her after work.

Laura right after her Spleenectomy
When I arrived, I went back to the hospital ward and opened her cage.  Laura just looked up at me and wagged her tail a bit.  She didn't feel like getting out of the kennel which was fine with me.  I just petted her for about 20 minutes and told her how much I loved her.   I knew this wasn't the end yet. 

Dr. B came back and we chatted for awhile.  I had already done tons of research on the internet and knew that this was probably Hemangiosarcoma.   He told me not to jump to conclusions until we got the pathology report back from the lab.   I work in statistics so I always like to know what the chances are, what the odds are.   He agreed that in cases like this it's usually hemangiosarcoma in about 75% of all cases.    Hemangiosarcoma is an aggressive, quick and terminal type of blood cancer in dogs.  Most don't even make it a few months after diagnosis.  Complete devastation is all I could feel. 

I gave Laura a kiss and told her I would be back to visit her again tomorrow.   I wish I could have stayed the night and slept on the floor with her.

Terrible Diagnosis

I arrived at the Emergency Vet at 7:30 am.   They had already faxed the diagnosis and blood work over to my regular vet.   The vet showed me the x-rays that were taken over night.   The first few x-rays she showed me looked great.  Her lungs, heart and other vital organs all looked good.  No signs of any tumors.   I thought YES! -- everything was going to be okay.

Then she pulled up the last x-ray.  It showed a huge mass on her spleen.  The vet said she was bleeding internally and it looked like her spleen had ruptured.   Her stomach was full of blood which is what was causing the anemia.   If she was going to make it though the day she would need a blood transfusion and her spleen would need to be removed.

I got on the phone and called my regular vet.   I told him I would explain when I got there but that Laura needed a blood transfusion and her spleen had to go.  He said bring her right over and he would take care of her.  

The emergency vet went and got Laura and brought her out to me.  She still had her IV in her and we transported her with the IV and x-rays in hand to her regular vet.  Dr. B met me at the door and after reviewing the blood work and the x-rays he concurred with the Emergency Vet's diagnosis.    He would do a blood transfusion and remove her spleen immediately.   Obviously there were no guarantee's she would make even make it through the surgery.  

I left and went to work after being up all night.  I waited and waited and waited for Dr. B to call with news on how the transfusion and surgery went.   It was the longest day of my life.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Scary Night

Chillin in the bed
Laura loves sleeping in the bed for the first few hours of each night and then she retires to her den (the closet) for the rest of the night.   As I was laying in bed with Laura tonight, she kept making weird noises with her mouth, almost like she was thirsty or something.  I thought it was odd but didn't think too much of it because she acted fine otherwise.   She kept doing it off an on for the next 30 minutes.   I decided to get up and check her out, so I turn on the light and look in her mouth.   Her gums were completely white.  It looked very strange to see the inside of her mouth looking so white.  I knew something was terribly wrong.   I got on Google and looked up white gums in dogs.  My heart sank, all I remember is -- anemia, life threatening, get to the vet quickly.

And so I did.  I rushed her to the all night emergency vet where I spent the next few hours with her while they tried to find out what was wrong with my girl.

After a thorough physical examination they drew blood.   The first results came back so low they wanted to do them again to confirm.  The second results confirmed the first results.  Her red blood count was very, very low.   Here platelets only registered 8 (normal range is between 200-500).    The vet said she either had a blood disease or was bleeding internally.    They immediately put her on an IV to give her some liquids.   By this time it's about 2:30 in the morning.  They told me I should go home and that they would run some additional tests and take a full set of x-rays to figure out what was going on.  They said they would call me immediately if her condition deteriorated.   They felt she was stable enough that she would make it through the night.   I was suppose to come back at 7:30 am and take her to her normal vet, Dr. B.

I went home but didn't sleep.  I prayed.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Meet Laura

This blog is about my best friend in the world and probably the best dog ever.    This is Laura's story and her fight with Hemangiosarcoma.   Laura is a dog who I fell in love with on Valentine's Day 2002.  I stopped by the Animal Shelter during my lunch break Feb 14, 2002 and saw a playful puppy -- she was obviously a mixed breed, but looked like a Greyhound (DNA testing later showed she was actually 75% Doberman Pinscher and 25% Italian Greyhound).   I knew she had to come home with me.   I had stopped there because I was looking for a playmate for my other dog, Dubya.   Dubya was a purebred beagle puppy who was close to one year old and needed a lifelong companion.   For 10 years Dubya and Laura were inseparable.

Dubya and Laura

Unfortunately, Dubya died right before Christmas 2009 of pancreatic cancer.  His cancer was swift and harsh.  He was fine one day, and then died the next day on the operating table.   Laura was devasted over her brothers death.  She would mope around and was obviously grieving.   I had to do something to cheer her up, so I got her another companion.  A Beagle puppy.  We named him Gipper!  She soon fell in love with him and now Gipper and Laura are best friends.   Laura and Gipper both acted like puppies together.  She absolutely loves him.