Shortly after my birthday this year, we noticed that Harley was acting different. More lethargic, not getting excited. She stopped eating. And after two days of her being like this we took her to the emergency vet, since it was a weekend. The initial diagnosis was pancreatitis, though he thought something else might be going on due to her bloodwork. We went into two days later for an ultrasound and the whole world shattered.
The vet said he suspected stage III stomach lymphoma. Her prognosis? Not good. Especially if we couldn't get her to eat. If we did IV chemo we could optimistically have a year with her left. But most likely 3-6 months. I was by myself and that was all the information I retained. I spent the rest of the appointment holding myself together. Not because I didn't want to cry in front of the vet, but because I didn't want to stress Harley out by crying. I was given a bag of medication and sent home.
I rolled the windows down in the car and cried the whole way home. I figured if Harley had her head out the window, she couldn't hear my sobs.
I nearly collapsed out of the car when I got home. It was awful. Absolutely the worst feeling in the world. Because how do you explain to a dog that she's going to die? We went inside the house and I put Harley on the couch with me and just held her. Trey and I stayed up with her and just wanted to spend time with her.
I felt so guilty going to work. Leaving her home alone. We arranged to have our dog sitter come by and check on her, mostly because I was terrified she would die while I was gone and I would come home to her, by myself.
One of the medications, a steroid, started to get her feeling better. We were told this would happen, and it would allow her to eat and get her strength back, but it wouldn't cure the cancer.
We got a referral for a specialized practice with an oncology center and waited. I felt sick the whole time. How late is too late? How come I didn't know she had this? How could I have let her get this way? I felt like a horrible dog mom. I felt incredibly guilty. I cried every single day.
Harley is not just my dog. She's MY dog. She knows me. It's almost as if she can read my mind. When she hears me laughing she comes to see what we're laughing at so she can get in on the action. When she hears me crying she lays down next to me. She has been by my side through the worst parts of my life. Some days I cried so much on her that her hair was soaked. But she didn't care. She loved me and I loved her.
The day finally came to take her to the oncologist. It was a really nice place. The room was nice, not stuffy. I guess they want you to be comfortable when they tell you your pet is going to die.
Harley had a barrage of tests. We were there for hours. She was poked, prodded, xrayed, ultrasounds, needle aspirations.
And guess what.
They did not think her test results and symptoms were consistent with cancer. Her cells were fine. Her ultrasound unremarkable. Her xrays-well, that was a different story. They did a chest xray, which was consistent with pneumonia. The previous ultrasound we had from the hospital showed thickening of the stomach wall. This was due to acute gastroenteritis. My baby did not have cancer. She had some other things, but curable things! We just needed to get her on antibiotics and watch her while she ate to check for aspiration (which is what they said caused the pneumonia).
We have xrays in a couple of weeks to check for improvement and then bloodwork and another ultrasound after that to make sure nothing has changed. But oh, I cannot tell you how worried we were. I was not, am not, ready to lose her. And I'm so glad that she's back to her normal self and still has a lot more time with us.
A few weeks ago we noticed a bump on Briony's belly. Thinking it was just an inflamed nipple (maybe Harley had bitten it or something), we didn't really worry too much. Then it got bigger, and harder. So in the middle of all of the Harley's stuff (and some other personal stuff that we'll talk about later), I made an appointment to take Briony in.
Once again, I was by myself when I received bad news.
I am never going to the vet by myself again.
The vet stated that she thought it was a mammary tumor. Since Briony was older when she was spayed she has a higher risk of developing these. At this point she didn't know if it was benign or malignant, but recommended we remove it and send it for testing. UGH.
Can we please catch a break on our dogs??!!
Briony has been diagnosed with osteosarcoma of the mammary tissue. This is a very rare cancer as it's a bone cancer found in the soft tissue of her mammary gland. We did have the whole tumor removed and we have clear margins. The initial xrays showed nodules on her spleen so we started chemo. At her last xrays there were no nodules on her spleen and she is doing great!
She seems to tolerate the chemo well and is doing very good with eating, drinking, etc. We are hopeful that she will be with us a little longer.
Harley, on the other hand, is very sick. A couple of days ago she had some cysts on her neck. They opened up and began bleeding. We took her to the vet and she suspects fibrosarcoma and believes that's what is causing her discomfort eating and drinking. We are waiting on the results from the pathology on the masses.