Yesterday, I got the confirmation I did not want. The oncologist consulted with the pathologist, who cut several more sections from Alec’s liver biopsy and indeed – finally – found the suspected hemangiosarcoma. Stage III, because it has been found in multiple locations. It boggles my mind to think we received three benign biopsy results. Just a couple days ago, another doctor told me it was “good news.” If only I knew biopsies were so unreliable, I could have demanded they retest the sample, especially the first one. If only, if only.
She wanted to get him in right away for his first chemo treatment, so I dropped Alec off at 8am this morning. His blood levels were good so they proceeded with the treatment, a new drug protocol with which she has been working and seeing results. The protocol is one dose of Vinorelbin a week for 3-4 weeks to start. She has seen survival times of between 2-3 months to a year. Big window there. I can only hope it is successful in extending his good quality of life as long as possible. This is a nasty cancer and the average survival time after diagnosis without medical treatment is mere weeks. Early detection of hemangiosarcoma is important, but early detection is difficult because clinical signs do not typically appear until the cancer has advanced. Throw some false biopsies into the mix and well, there you go…stage III hemangiosarcoma in a dog I thought was in perfect health.
The reason I am writing this without hysterically crying is I am exhausted. With Ali out of the house this morning, I found I did nothing but cry. It has been so hard. I do not want to cry in front of him (sometimes I can’t help it, but usually I can stop myself quickly). With him gone this morning there was nothing to stop me and it was bleak. My friend Steve called in the middle of this and I cried to him for about 45 minutes. I had not talked to anyone but doctors in a couple days and it was nice to hear from someone, to cry to someone, to utter all the terrible thoughts going through my mind (although not nice for him – I know it is hard to witness a friend in so much pain). Yes, it is difficult to write about this, but I feel so alone right now, and writing here makes me feel some kind of connection because I know at least a few people are reading. And I know people care about Alec, even who have never met him, because we have received so much kindness and support on here in the past.
Now it’s time to get Alec’s dinner together, complete with 8 different powders, potions, and oils, and then snuggle with him while I read the second of the two books I picked up yesterday, both by Shawn Messonnier, DVM (I read one of his books previously and liked it: “8 Weeks to a Healthy Pet”). Last night I read “The Natural Vet’s Guide to Preventing and Treating Cancer in Dogs.” Dr. Messonnier is a holistic vet who practices integrative medicine, which combines conventional and complementary therapies to manage cancer. It is a good resource. The other book is “Unexpected Miracles: Hope and Holistic Healing for Pets.” I could do with reading some hopeful stories right now, so that is on tonight’s agenda.
Finally, in case you are not familiar with chemotherapy for dogs, they do not get sick like people do. This is because the doses used are much lower. The goal in animals is palliative not curative – in other words, not to cure the cancer but to manage it for as long as possible. Quality of life is the ultimate focus. There are occasional side effects (most commonly nausea or diarrhea) though these are usually only seen in 10% of dogs. Of course, quality of life has always been my number one priority with Alec…since the day I adopted him. I have tried so hard. Oops, here come the tears. Time to shut that thought down.
I have the diagnosis I didn’t want, but now it’s time to move forward and (say it with me) hope for the best.
My continued (and seemingly futile) attempts to get a decent picture of me and Ali by myself…I took this one yesterday using the self timer on my camera. I am hoping this weekend a photographer friend will come by and take some (good) pictures of us together.