Four days ago we got the detailed report on Tara's tumor. You know, the ONE tumor she had on April 9th. The ONE tumor that was removed on April 10th. The ONE tumor that, one week later was joined by six others. The six tumors, that just one more week later were joined by 20+ others. And then this morning, I found out that if there are more than 50 tumors on your dog, the doctor lists it as "too numerous to count." Yes, indeedy.
Two days ago we saw an Oncologist in Malvern, PA. Wonderful facility, but they kindly said that they don't take cases as extensive as Tara's, and referred us to Red Bank Veterinary Hospital in Tinton Falls, NJ. That same day we took Tara to an Holistic vet. Somebody asked me what holistic is, and I don't know what the official definition is, and I'm too tired to make the effort to link to wikipedia, but it's all natural remedies, with herbs, massage, acupuncture, and stuff like that. I learned a lot about the body and blood, and got some really good suggestions on changes to make to their dog food recipe. I also got a couple of supplements to aid in digestion and restore energy. The holistic vet also highly recommended Red Bank Veterinary Hospital. Her exact words were, "run, don't walk, to an oncologist." Not something you want to hear.
That brings us to this morning. We left at 7:00am for our 9:40am appointment with the head of Oncology at Red Bank Veterinary Hospital. (By the way, if anyone is keeping track, that's seven visits to four different vet offices in 4 weeks.)
I have to tell you that I was immediately impressed with the facility. Bright, airy, immaculate, well thought out. You have got to go to the link above and click on "virtual tour." Really, really impressive. Every staff member I dealt with was kind and compassionate, even though I had been up all night (and looked it) and couldn't stop crying from the moment I got there. There was something so very final about this appointment. This was our last hope, and it is incredibly terrifying to take your sweet little girl through this door:
The doctor was so good with Tara, and kindly did not comment on the fact that I was a blubbering idiot. He was incredibly calming, he took his time with us, and answered every question. Even the stupid ones. In a nutshell, we learned that Tara's cancer is atypical. Lymphomas usually appear in the lymph nodes (around the neck, in the groin area, etc.) and then go to the internal organs. Tara's cancer is sub-cutaneous, under the skin, and is over her whole body, but ONLY directly under the skin. No organ involvement. That's a good thing. It is also extremely aggressive. Remember the "too numerous to count" comment? That's a bad thing.
Typical lymphomas have a 75-80% remission rate after chemo. That's good. With Tara, he said all bets are off, and would estimate a 50-50 chance of remission. That's either good or bad, depending on the whole is the glass half full or half empty kind of thing. Apparently dogs have only about 10-15% chance of having side effects from the chemo, as opposed to 90% chance in humans. If this was a typical lymphoma, we could expect an 80% reduction in the lumps in the first week. Again, Tara is not typical, so no guarantees.
With all that in mind, we elected to begin chemo. With such a low chance of side effects, we had to go for the 50-50 chance. She goes back next Saturday to be evaluated, have more blood work done, and round two of chemo.
It is wrong for me to hope that since the tumors appeared so quickly, they might leave just as quickly? Maybe I'm not hopeful. Maybe it's wishful. More than likely it's delusional, but let me have my little fantasy, OK?
In the meantime, I am sitting here watching her. Watching, watching, watching.
Is she breathing too fast? Too slow? Does she look thirsty? When did she pee last? Are those lumps any smaller yet? Less numerous???