Merry Christmas

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We planned on travelling to Chicago to spend Christmas with our son and his wife.  Well, we can’t leave two dogs in hospice with a dog sitter, so Ann and Steve went to Chicago and I stayed home with the dogs.  They would return late, the night before surgery.  I started researching hospitals.  Prices were looking like $1,500 per night, minimum, with no guaranteed ceiling.  That wasn’t going to happen, so we made plans to bring Casey home the day of his surgery.  Ann woke me at 5:30 on A-Day and said “Maybe we should put both dogs down together.”  GOOD MORNING!  We talked about it as we fed the dogs and got ready to go, and I convinced her it would be too traumatic to lose half our pack in one day.  Still, I was very concerned about bringing Casey home same day.  The surgery center could not administer fentanyl, and we would be managing pain with Gabapentin, tramadol, and Rimadyl.  Will that be enough?  The surgeon assured me that Gabapentin is very powerful, and we should be okay.  So . . . twelve days from diagnosis . . . here we go.  I’ve got a great video of Ann and Casey walking into the surgery center, and I’ll learn how to add that later.

We were supposed to pick Casey up at 4:30, but at 4:15 they called and asked that we wait until 5:30.  Everything had gone well, but other procedures as well as Casey’s had taken longer than expected.  At 5:15 they called and said let’s make that 6:30.  Of course, we were getting nervous, but were assured everything was fine.  At 6:30, we were escorted to the waiting room and told it would be a little bit yet as Casey was still coming out of anesthesia.  They brought him out at 8 PM.

I was a little irritated until I figured out what had happened.  This is a 501 (c) 3 operation that does general surgery but is primarily a spay and neuter center.  They’d made time in their schedule for Casey, and would be closed for the next five days with the weekend and New Year’s holiday.  Not only had they made time in their schedule, but they stayed three hours late and kept him on IV pain relief as long as they could to help him make it through that first night at home.  Anicira Veterinary Center, you are our heroes.

Here’s Casey, at home after his surgery:

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Now What?

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The vet told us ” A few weeks, maybe two months”.  We were aghast.  Casey was still running and romping and eating and wagging and how can this be?  “This is a very aggressive cancer and extremely painful.  He will likely suffer a pathological fracture and you’ll need to amputate or say good bye then and there.  You could amputate now, but that doesn’t buy much time.”

Stunned, we made our way home, and I told the story on FaceBook.  A friend responded immediately “You might be able to save him.  PM me if interested.”  That’s when I learned about Stereotactic Radiation followed by chemo.  His beautiful white shepherd did that at the University of Wisconsin and saved his leg.  Unfortunately, the leg broke during a follow-up biopsy and he became a TriPaw regardless.  Still, videos indicated he had a great life.  Hmmmm!

Where else can we have this done?  We live in Virginia but have family in Madison.  I reached out to UW first, and the response was outstanding.  A researcher there called me within hours and shared so much information.  They would certainly consider Casey for their program after a CT scan and biopsy, he would receive his radiation treatments and then carboplatin.  It seemed we would be $4 to $5,000 out-of-pocket, plus travel.  That’s a lot of money, and with Christmas just around the corner, the timing was awful.  We didn’t see any studies in our area.  UW referred us to a local oncology center, but they couldn’t see us for three weeks, and the clock was ticking.  Amputation?

A little research and we found Tripawds.  What a wonderful resource, and so many people with so much experience and so much hope.  Everything was spinning, not out of control, but it was unclear how much control we really had.  Tripawds gave us something to hang on to.  Maybe amputation is the way to go.

My neighbor is a veterinary surgeon, and quoted me $3,500 to $3,700 plus for surgery, which would buy us four, maybe six months, but it would take care of the tremendous pain immediately.  What to do?  Jake is already in hospice, living on tramadol and Rimadyl with his back, and now Casey’s in hospice, sharing Jake’s drugs and protecting his leg.  Is it time to send them both to the bridge?  With more research, we found an outpatient surgicenter that would remove the leg for $700, but outpatient?  Really?  Well, a pre-surgery consult was $15 and we may as well talk with them; one of Casey’s weeks has gone by.  We spoke with the surgeon who said Casey was definitely a candidate, but it’s December 21st, holiday hours are limited, and there’s no chance do this until next year.  Two more weeks of “Boy in the Bubble”, really?  We felt so helpless, with the cancer in control.  We need to remove this leg if that’s what we’re going to do.  The surgeon checked the schedule, talked with her boss, and said they could schedule him for the following week.  You might look into a hospital that can keep him overnight.

Here’s Casey’s X-ray:

Casey’s Tale Begins

This is Casey, the day we got the news.  Casey has three brothers, Jake who’s black, Bode who’s brown, and Jet who is golden.  Jake has lumbosacral stenosis and doesn’t walk a lot anymore, but the other three dogs walked about 15 miles uphill and down every week, and Casey was being a pain.  Walks had gotten so slow, with so many flowers to smell.  This was building for a while.  Six month’s ago, we started noticing Casey getting older really fast.  He wasn’t quite 11, so why?  Off to the vet, where we also learned he’d lost about 3 pounds, but the vet figured he’s just slowing down.  Fast forward to December 1st.  we’re on our regular walk and the new neighbor’s dogs are out and barking, and all three of our dogs lunged, hard, and suddenly, Casey has a limp.  Hmmm!  We made it home, but slowly.  Casey’s limp got better and worse, but after a few days off, we were back to walking, slowly.  The slowest walk was two weeks later, and I crabbed at Casey all the way.  He wasn’t really limping, but he was favoring a front leg.  The next night, Ann called me out to show me a lump on Casey’s left wrist.  It was only evident when he was standing, but it was definitely a lump.  A little research and “Oh Crap!”  The next day was Saturday but we were up early and off to the vet.  This picture is from three minutes before the X-ray came back.

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