Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Worst News...

Cancer. It felt like a punch when our Veterinarian confirmed the diagnosis we feared. Looking down at Holly's nervous eyes as we sat in the exam room at the clinic, I fought back tears as Dr. B went over our options and shared her knowledge about this terrible disease. Expectations. Signs of pain. A timeline for survival. It all seemed so surreal. 

It was only a few weeks earlier, after playing fetch in the yard, as we do on a daily basis, I noticed a small scrape on Holly's chin. Believing that she had caught herself on the deck or scratched herself on a stick, it wasn't much of a worry until the bump persisted for a week or so. Knowing that she may need some antibiotics to kick an infection if that were the case, we stopped in for a visit with Dr. B. She worried that it could be something more, so we biopsied this annoyance. The biopsy showed nothing, so antibiotics were given and we went about our day. Fast forward to a week into the antibiotic treatment, the small lump began to noticeably grow, so we stopped by for a recheck. Fearing that the previous biopsy had missed something, we ran a second test and had it sent out for a more in depth culture. This culture confirmed the worst. Cancer. 

Holly - 1 month after her diagnosis. The tumor on her chin
has grown to about 1/2 a ping pong ball size.
Mast Cell tumors are not uncommon in dogs, particularly in breeds like Staffordshire Terriers, which Holly is a mix of. After speaking about our options, we decided surgery was the best option to remove this tumor, so we scheduled our surgery for 5 days later. On day 4, Holly woke up with a tennis ball sized lump in her throat and swelling up and down her chest. We immediately contacted Dr. B and Dr. T, who opened up their schedules to get us in immediately. At this point, we realized how aggressive this tumor had become. Her lymph nodes were highly inflamed and it was confirmed that the disease had already spread further than the surgery could cure.  We spoke about our options and treatment plans, and left with more information than we knew how to handle. 

After speaking with several veterinarians, friends who have experienced a similar diagnosis and searching our own souls to decide what was right for Holly, we were left with two options. Chemotherapy, which has a low chance of helping to extend her life by more than a few months or a treatment plan that focuses on her quality of life and ensuring that she is pain-free for whatever time she has left. We chose the latter and are committed to ensuring that or here out, every day is the best day for our Holly-girl. 

So now, as I sit outside, with Holly happily kicking the cushions off of our patio furniture (one of her favorite things to do - she is an odd one), I am reflecting on the amazing 10 years we have had together. The only hard part of owning a dog is saying goodbye. Holly had a rough start to life before we adopted her, so now, as our promise to her, she will have the best last few months any dog could ever dream of.

Stephanie Conrad
Pet Studio Art | Artist