Say it ain’t so….

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My best girl, Rio (aka, The Woo), is almost 11.  I adopted her from the Humane Society when she was just 6 weeks old.  From the very beginning, we were soulmates, best buddies, inseparable.

We were told she was German Shepherd/Lab mix when we got her, but according to a recent DNA test, Rio is a German Shepherd/Whippet/Harrier/Pug/Mix.

When she was 7, she was diagnosed for the first time with Mast Cell Tumors (MCT).  She underwent surgery in July of ’07, and, based on margins, tumor grading, etc., we believed we’d gotten lucky.  Within a few months, I found another tumor in the same area — her left front “armpit.”  She underwent a second surgery, and a few months later, a third.  Because the cancer kept aggressively recurring in same area, her oncologist recommended radiation treatment on that site.  She made it through her course of treatment like a trooper!  I made her cute little shirts to cover her rad site so she wouldn’t lick.  She loved wearing them, and loved all the attention she got when she did!

A year later, I found another small mass.  It was on the same side of her body as before, but in front of the leg, along her neckline.  Her oncologist recommended immediate surgery followed by chemotherapy.  Again, she went through the surgery and following treatment with flying colors, and her prognosis was really good.  Even with such close proximity, there didn’t appear to be any lymph node involvement.

Here we are 3-1/2 year after the initial diagnosis and 2 years after her last treatment.  That’s the good news.  Unfortunately, the bad news is that her MCT is back, and this time it’s on the back of her rear leg (again, same side of the body), a spot that makes a simple excision impossible.  The oncologist’s recommendation is amputation followed by another course of chemotherapy.  Without treatment, the doctor thinks her survival potential is 6 weeks to 3 months.

The news has hit me like a punch to the solar plexis.  There has to be some sort of mistake.  Not my Rio!  But denial isn’t enough to change the facts.  So with my heart breaking, I am reading and trying to find out everything I can to help make this difficult decision.  None of the additional tests we’ve run have suggested that it has metastasized…yet…. so that’s good news.  But to complicate matters, Rio’s also been recently diagnosed with Cushing’s Disease.  And although it may not be something that complicates her treatment, I still am worried that it could affect her quality of life.

In all of the blogs I’ve read on this site, I’ve mostly found stories of dogs that have had bone cancer or traumatic injury requiring amputation.  I think that if Rio wasn’t using her leg and it was causing visible pain, it would be a little easier decision for me.  But, for all intents and purposes, she gets around just fine.  The tumor does hamper her mobility a little because it’s right in the joint, and so going downstairs is a little  awkward.  But no apparent pain.

So, as I struggle to make the best decision for my Rio, I’m looking at all the angles:  She’s already been through 4 surgeries, plus chemo and radiation.  Not to mention the $20,000+ in vet bills, and that’s with veterinary insurance!  And even assuming money was no object (I only wish I was that rich), I’m not sure that putting her through more of the same is going to give her more quality of life.  I would keep her with me forever if I could, but I want to do what’s best for my girl.

So do we lose the leg, and perhaps still have only 6 weeks to 3 months (not to mention that she’ll be going through amputation recovery and chemotherapy for a good portion of this short time)?  Do we opt for no surgery and do everything we can to ensure that her end days are happy and pain-free?  Or does the answer lie somewhere in the middle?  Any thoughts?

On a side note, I’m completely freaked out by the thought of my girl being “not whole.”  I’m trying my best not to let my fears make this decision for me, so I’m focusing on the rational, logical, statistical stuff.  But I could really use some words of wisdom on this angle as well.


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5 thoughts on “Say it ain’t so….

  1. Well, shoot, I know the difficulty of deciding whether or not to amputate when the pup isn’t in pain has come up several times since I’ve been coming to tripawds.com, but it seems to be a hard subject to search for. I don’t think it was ever a subject title. I may yet find one and I’ll be sure to come back and draw your attention to it. But you may want to post your concerns in the forums too because it has definitely been an issue for other pawrents here. They may find your blog here, but they’re probably more likely to see a forum post, so consider posting in the forums, if you haven’t already, to get more input. You will definitely find posts about MCT if you search the forums for it!

    I’m very sorry you and Rio have to deal with this, but glad you found us here : )

    I currently have a tripawd from an injury that occurred sometime during his mysterious past (I adopted in Nov. 2009), but prior to that I had Yoda, who was a tripawd due to osteosarcoma. BOTH dogs were/are just as happy! Yoda only had about 4 months after his amputation, but it was a very full 4 months!!! We did everything we did before – and tried to do it more, while we could. It’s understandable that it may take time for you to adjust to seeing Rio without a fourth leg, but trust me, especially when they run (which they do!!!) they do not look like they’re missing a thing. As many others here will tell you, a lot of times people seeing your tripawd for the first time take a while to realize and notice they only have three legs!

    Definitely watch people’s videos of their tripawds here, if you haven’t already, to see just how whole they are! I have lots at Gerry’s blog.

    All this said, you know your Rio best, you love her best – you will make the right decision – whatever that is. The only way to get through this without tearing your heart out completely is to trust yourself.

  2. Hi Angel,
    You and Rio will make the right decision. Trust your intuition and ask Rio what she wants to do. She’ll tell you. I am sending lots and lots of love and healing thoughts to both of you.
    You are so loved!
    Carol

  3. Hello and welcome to Tripawds.
    I am sitting here with goose bumps as I read your story. Please check out my Spirit tri-Pug Maggie’s blog: http://maggiesjourney.tripawds.com/maggies-story/

    Maggie lost her left rear leg to a MCT and thrived for almost 4 years. She was given 6 to 9 months after the amp. Not all are as fortunate, but she is proof that there is still hope. I lost her last June at age 11 to melanoma. You are right- not too many here deal with MCT, but there have been a few of us. Please check out the forums too- good information there on amputation and recovery- and tons of support as you weigh your options and decide what is best for Rio. There is also a way to send private messages in the forums if you want to talk off line.
    As far as your girl being ‘whole’- I was worried about that too with Maggie- mostly because she did not deal with change very well. She took her time, but adapted fine.
    This is not an easy decision, and you are right to weigh all the factors. As long as you choose a path for Rio based on what is best for her you can’t make the wrong decision.
    Karen and the pugapalooza

  4. Thank you for sharing your “Woo” story! We understand the decisions you face are difficult, but try not to let your human emotions get in the way of Rio’s quality of life. Amputation will remove the pain, medication will only cover it up.

    We send you and Rio best wishes, and look forward to hearing more.

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