Saturday, September 13, 2008

Back from vacation!

Buster and I went on vacation the week of Labor Day (6 weeks after his leg was amputation). This was his first trip to the beach. He had an awesome time! He loved the ocean and laying in the sun and exploring! The house we rented was on stilts and he had no problem going up all the stairs several times a day. Every time we left the house, he was running to the door, ready to go.

I'm still so amazed at how well he's doing. He's so happy and runs around just like nothing ever happened. Several people we met at the beach asked what happened to his leg and after I explained, no one could believe it had only been 6 weeks!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Good news!

I got the best news ever at the vet today! They removed his metal sutures over the weekend and everything seems to be totally healed! The air pocket fixed itself and everything seems great! And here's the best news - HE'S RELEASED FROM DOCTOR'S CARE!! I was so happy to see her write those words on his chart :)

I think I've mentioned several times how fabulous my vet is - well today when I picked Buster up, he was dressed in a little moose outfit/coat that she bought him over the weekend! Isn't that awesome? She is truly the best vet ever. I about made her cry when I was thanking her for everything and telling how grateful I was to have had such a wonder doc to take care of my baby! She actually did tear up a little.

When I picked him up this afternoon they said he had done great over the weekend but had started whining/crying this afternoon and the only way they could get him to stop was to hold him. Apparently he was really missing his momma ;) Poor little guy - I bet he's so puzzled by what all has been going on and how often he's been at the vet's lately.

I'm so happy that it's finally healed! It's hard to believe that he had stitches/staples/sutures for almost 4 weeks! It's amazing how well he's done with all this.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Pics - incision & metal sutures (not cutesy pics)

I wanted to post some pictures just to give an idea of the size of the incision (without being too graphic - the area is not very pretty right now). Everyone (including me) has been surprised at the size of the incision. They remove the shoulder joint too so I guess that's part of the reason for the long incision. Also including some pics of metal sutures since I was totally shocked by their appearance.

This picture gives you an idea what the metal sutures look like. See the metal pieces sticking out? Each stitch has two metal ends sticking out. Oddly enough, they don't seem to bother him. They have scratched his neck some where they're rubbing when he curls up. He has about 6 inches (??) of these although the original incision was several inches longer.

He's standing on the "step" I made to help him on/off the couch. Apparently it seemed like a good place to eat :)

The 2 pics below give you an idea of how long the incision is. It goes from the top of his shoulder/back to up under where his leg used to be and down onto his chest. It's a lot longer than I had expected. The original incision is a few inches longer than the part that is now metal sutured (part of it had healed but most of it had to be reopened and metal sutured).

Ignore the demon eyes :)

These are not flattering pictures at all but they give a good indication of the size of the incision and what the metal sutures are like.

Monday, August 4, 2008

He's such a little fighter!!

I'll be so glad when he's off all these meds!! And I know he will be too!

He started off on 5 meds some of which were 2-3 times a day. At first, it was fairly easy to give him the liquid meds (I eventually requested all liquids for this reason). Now he's down to 4 meds (2 of the original ones and 2 additional antibiotics) it's a pill and a liquid in the morning and then 3 liquids at night. He's fighting me like crazy now! It's amazing how much he can fight to be so tiny!!

Check up today - so far, so good

We went to the vet this afternoon for a check up. She said everything looks good. There's a little area that she wishes was a little different - there's some air under the skin - result of the empty space in there. She's not too surprised by it and isn't terribly concerned over...hopefully it will fix itself in time. Based on everything that's happened, she said she's happy with how it looks and how he's doing. She said we're not "out of the woods yet"...last time it took a week before we knew there was a problem with it healing and we're only at 4 days right now...but so far, so good! As long as it continues to look good, she doesn't need to see him again until Monday to take the sutures out.

He's acting so much more like his old self! I can't believe how good he's moving around. He's adjusting so well. He's finally back to eating his regular food too. He got up on the couch all by himself tonight. He even met me at the door over the weekend, wagging his tail!

Friday, August 1, 2008


I picked Buster up from the vet yesterday after work. I wasn't prepared for what the metal sutures would look like. I assumed it would be similar to regular stitches (start at one end of the incision and then kinda sewn through to the other end)...but each of the metal stitches is tied off so there are metal ends sticking out from EACH stitch and the incision is pretty long so that's a lot of ends sticking out. Once I touched the metal ends, I felt a little better about it. They looked like they would be really stiff but they're softer than they appear. Still not what I expected though. And there's a small open area to encourage draining. I don't deal well with looking at regular stitches so this is taking some getting used to. They would prefer I don't put a shirt on him to allow the area to breathe, plus the shirt might get stuck to the metal pieces. The vet also put him on a additional antibiotic. He's now off the muscle relaxer (last dose was the morning of 7/30) and he seems to be doing well without that.

I'm very impressed with how he's doing walking! I think he made a lot of progress over the past just wasn't apparent because he was so bandaged up that he didn't feel like walking. He is walking SO much better now! His appetite was the best last night that it's been since his surgery. And he was quite a fighter last night when it was medicine time - he seems to really be getting his energy back! He also got up on the couch this morning. That's the first time he's done that in a week and a half (and that time he was heavily medicated from the pain patch). He seems to have learned to use the little step I set up to help him up and down from the couch. I'm hoping he does well today while I'm at work. I'm worried about him messing with the area or the stitches. He seems to be doing ok for now though. I hate to put that e-collar on him if I don't need to.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Incision closed again and crossing our fingers!

I dropped Buster off at the vet at 7 this morning, then stopped to take care of something on the way to work. When I was pulling into the parking lot at work, the vet called me. She was already done! She said when she got in there ,there wasn’t much more dead tissue but she removed everything she saw and got down to some good healthy looking tissue. She also cleaned up the edges of the incision (to make a fresh edge). She felt comfortable with closing him up! YAY!! He doesn’t have a drain but they left a small opening at the bottom of the incision to encourage drainage (I’ll need to apply warm compresses to that to keep it open). She closed him up with metal sutures (apparently out of all the ways to close a wound, that’s the least likely for your body to have an adverse reaction to). She’s also going to put him on an additional antibiotic just to be on the safe side. She said for what it is, she’s very happy with how it looked. So now we’ve just got to wait and see what happens. It might heal up or they may need to open it again and go back in. Just hard to say at this point. From what I understand, this is somewhat rare. She consulted with one of the specialists at CVS about this yesterday also (actually the same doctor I saw when I went there prior to deciding to have his leg removed). She said the part that’s a little concerning as that due to all this, there’s a little bit of empty space in his body under the incision…so that may or may not cause a problem but there’s not really anything they can do about that. So I should get to pick him up after work today and assuming all goes well, he won’t need to go back till Monday.


If you've ran across this blog through an online search, one thing you may wondering about is the cost. So I thought I would keep track of all the expenses here as well. Keep in mind I'm in North Carolina and from my experience so far, my vet's rates seem to be a little lower than other vets in my area.
  • $38 initial vet visit 7/3 (exam and needle aspiration)
  • pathology review of biopsy (included in surgery expense)
  • $293 specialist - consults, chest scan
  • $32 morphine patches (2) ???
  • $75.04 specialty meds (3) from pharmacy (optional but recommended by my vet)
  • $725.80 surgery (7/17)
  • $377 emergency vet 7/24 (infection)
  • ?? vet for treatment of complication (7/25, 7/26, 7/28, 7/29, 7/31, 8/4)
  • $61 misc expenses (see below)
  • = $1601.84

  • $20 WalMart - doggie bed - my pups don't have a doggie bed right now because they hang out on the couch during the day and sleep with me at night.
  • $27 Target - 5 t-shirts - the surgeon at the specialist's office suggested t-shirts to keep the area protected
  • $14 Goodwill - blankets and towels...for his bed, etc...wanted to be prepared in case of any accidents (while he was staying at the vet's, he had several potty accidents but never had any at home)
  • ?? special food - baby food (meat flavored), canned chicken, vienna sausages, various types of canned dog food, treats (anything I could possibly think of that he might eat when he didn't want to eat at all)
  • GAS - the amount I spend on gas has probably tripled or quadrupled over this period (additional 80 miles driven when dropping him off and picking him up PER day)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Super Buster

Every time I pick Buster up from his daily bandage change at the vet's, they have a new colorful bandage on, they really outdid themselves! How cute is this?!

Back at home laying in his bed.
Notice he has a piece of dog food that he's keeping his eye on!

so it's not really an infection.....

Infection = I've had that word in my head since this all started last Thursday. The tech at the emergency vet initially told me that was what it was. After talking to the vet again today, I'm clear on the fact that it's not an infection. The culture shows no signs of bacteria. It's something kind of rare that happens for no known reason where the tissue fails to thrive and dies off. My vet has researched and talked to her vet friends and no one has an answer as to why this happens. It just does sometimes. She's so upset that this has happened to Buster and that he's having to go through even more. I know she's doing everything she can to make him better and he gets such excellent care at the vet's.

He went in Monday and Tuesday for a bandage change and cleaning/irrigation of the area. Today, she said she was very pleased with how it's looking. She said for what's going on, it looks really good. She plans to sedate him and go in and cut away as much dead tissue as possible either tomorrow or Thursday. Once she can do that, she'll have a better idea of the status and what to do from here.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Lazy Sunday

Stupid infection.........continued

Friday morning, I planned to call the vet as soon as they opened (7am) - but my vet called me at about 6:50am (the emerg vet had faxed their office the report). She couldn't believe all that had happened. She agreed with everything the emerg vet had recommended and told me to bring him on in and they'll do the first cleaning today and he can hang out there today. So I took him on to the vet and picked him up after work. They put him on a new/stronger antibiotic (Clavimox) and cleaned the area. She was really surprised the infected area was so large.

Saturday morning, I took him back for it to be cleaned again. When I picked him up, the tech said the vet said she felt ok with skipping Sunday (I would have had to take him to the emerg vet since my vet is closed). So I'll take him back on Monday morning and then pick him up after work. The tech said hopefully it will continue to do well and he might not need to go every day next week...maybe we can go to every other day.

Poor little guy! He still seems to be feeling pretty good. I think he's a little bothered by all the bandages.

It's so discouraging this infection happened. Tomorrow should have been the day that the staples would come out - that would have been big milestone on the road to recovery. Instead, he has a stupid infection and we're having to deal with an open wound. I just want him to get better and get past this. It's so sad when he looks at me with his sweet little baby face...he seems so confused by what's going on and why all this is happening to him. I feel so awful about the infection - like it's somehow my fault. Bless his little heart, he's been such a trooper through all this. He's so good at the vet's, even after all this. They always comment on how good he is and how sweet he is. Gidget's been wonderful too. She's usually quite hyper and very curious so I was concerned about how she'd do with him while he's recovering but she's been great...I guess she knows that her brother is a little sick so she's got to be careful around him.

Hoping for good news at the vet's this week!! Hopefully we'll get this thing closed up again this week and be back on the road to recovery!!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Back from the emergency vet

I got to pick up Buster and got home a little after midnight. The doctor said they had to pretty much open the entire incision. They cleaned it out and cut away the bad tissue and then "laced it up". I need to call my vet when they open and then take him in daily until they can close it. After it's closed, he'll need a drain to help it heal properly.

He was still coming out of anesthetia when I picked him up but he seems to be feeling ok this morning.

Gidget is not quite sure what to think of all this...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Nasty infection :(

This morning, I noticed a tiny wet spot on Buster's his shirt (he's been wearing shirts per the vet's suggestion) was about the size of a pencil eraser or maybe smaller. I peeked under his shirt and saw a little wet place next to his incision. I called the vet and she said it sounded fine, that some drainage is normal and to keep an eye on it and let her know if it changed.

I got home after work and when I walked in the door, he got up out of his bed to go potty (they use pee pads) and I noticed that half of his shirt was wet. So I freaked out and picked him up to see what was going on. I was having a hard time lifting his shirt up because it was wet and I was worried about the staples (the incision is LONG) but what I could see did not look I just wrapped him up and we jumped in the car and headed to the emergency vet (regular vet's office was closed). I got to the vet and they took him back, cut the shirt off to examine him and finally I got to go back and talk to the vet. Bottom line is that he has a bad infection - apparently it's common for infections to appear suddenly like this (it had been there for a few days "brewing" but just suddenly became visible). She said in these cases, the infection grows underneath and then comes through very quickly where it finds a weak place (in his case, beside his incision where the staples were going into his skin). Of course I had no idea the names of all the meds he's on so I had to go home, get them, and go back. He's there right now and I should be able to get him about 11:00 tonight. They're going to sedate him, open the area, clean it as best they can, and remove the tissue that's bad/dead/dying. They can't really close the area because of the infection and they need to be sure the infection is gone before they close it back up so I'll have to take him in daily to have it assessed and re-bandaged. Hopefully after a few days, they'll be able to close it. The other concern is that there's not a lot of skin there and what is there is already pulled tight so if they have to cut away much because of the infection, that may lead to other problems.

Poor little guy! He's been through so much. He seemed to be feeling ok though which made me feel a little better. He was very alert and sat up in the car (propping himself up with his one front leg).

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

5 days after surgery & first day home alone

He is blowing my mind with his progress!

This morning (his first day home alone), I had his bed all ready on the floor - since he can't get up on the couch by himself. I put him in the bed and made a big deal out of it hoping he would like the bed since he's not used to it. I walked away for a second and came back and he had somehow gotten up on the couch and was on the top of the back cushions! I was in total shock and he just looked at me like "what mom?". I still can't believe he did all that by himself. The funny thing is that he does this stuff while I'm not looking :) So I just left him on the couch this morning when I went to work.

I came home at lunch because I was worried about him on his first day home alone. The pain patch only lasts 3 days so it "ran out" around 10:00 this morning...the vet had said there was a chance he might be in some pain once it got out of his system. So I took it off at lunch because it was looking loose and I didn't want Gidget to get tempted to play with it (it can be fatal if they lick it or eat it). He ate pretty good at lunch too (still just baby food).

When I got home after work, he seemed more energetic and ate a few bites of canned dog food (the first time he's done that). He doesn't seem to be in any pain....I'm not sure how long the meds from the pain patch stay in his system but so far, so good! He hasn't gotten up on the couch by himself anymore that I'm aware of. He seems to like his little bed though - he's hanging out in it right now! I've been taking him outside at night and he seems to like walking out there better than inside (I guess it's softer and better traction than my hardwood floors). And he went up the side steps all by himself tonight!

And he was super happy to get some mail today from Mama G and family!!

Monday, July 21, 2008

4 days after surgery

I took Buster to the vet this morning and picked him up after work today. They un-bandaged him and had him dressed in his cute little shirt when I got there to get him. Everyone kept saying how happy they were with how he was doing. And vet came me liquid antibiotics (yay - no more force feeding him pills)! She also snuck some special food in my bag that he really liked day...she said it's very nutritious if they aren't wanting to eat much (it was cute to see the vet look to see if anyone was looking and then stick the can in my bag real quick)!

When we got home, I put him down when he walked on the door because Gidget was quite excited and wanted to check him out. After she calmed down, he walked over to the pee pad and went potty! While I was telling him what a good boy he was, I started to put his meds (5) in the fridge and I turned around and he was gone! He had went over to his water bowl and was drinking water! Then I took him in the living room and put him on the couch. I ran into my bedroom to change into my bum clothes and hurried back to find him sitting on top of the back of the couch! A few minutes later, he was done with that and got down on the seat part of the couch....then a few minutes later, he was back on top again! Then back down again - all by himself (and of course when I wasn't looking). Such huge progress since yesterday!!!!!!!

And we don't have to go back to the vet until 7/28 (to have staples and stitches removed). I'm pretty happy about that - driving to Kville seven times in the past week has been a bit much especially with the gas prices!

Some pics from this evening:

Taking a rest break...

Wondering what the heck Gidget is doing.
Apparently she has decided to help mommy with the weeds in the yard.

Gidg loves rolling around in the grass. Buster is a bit prissy and insists on a blanket when outside!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Feeling a little better about things now

ok, I'm feeling a lot better now. Think I had a slight breakdown earlier....I've been trying to be strong and positive but this is really hard. I'm having a hard time getting him to eat and drink. The only thing I can get him to eat is baby food so I went to the grocery store and bought every kind of meat baby food they have. For some reason they gave me antibiotic pills...the other 4 meds are liquid and I'm able to give him those with a syringe but these pills are just impossible. Since he won't eat real food, I can't hide the antibiotics in food. I'm going to ask the vet for liquid antibiotics tomorrow. I forced him to drink some water earlier (with a syringe)...he's just not interested in water either?? That has me a little worried..he's got to drink.

I took him outside tonight once it cooled down and he walked around for a few minutes and pottied! I was so happy! And he started panting so I went and got his water bowl and he drank a good bit of water (the first time he's drank much since he got home). When he was done walking, he came over to where I was sitting on the steps and put his front paw up on the bottom step to be picked up :)

3 days after surgery

Today isn't going as well as yesterday. I feel awful and I'm just so upset. I think he's handling this better than I am. It's breaking my heart to look at his poor little face. I wish I could make him better. I'm having such a hard time getting him to eat and drink. I got him to take his meds last night (all liquids through a syringe) but today I'm supposed to give him his antibiotic twice (pill) and he won't take it. I don't know what to do. I knew there would be good days and bad days with his recovery and today's one of those bad days. I'm just sitting here crying and feeling like the worst mommy ever.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


I found these shirts at Target this morning! Supercute!! I love that they have short sleeves and were only $4.99 and they are travel related. I couldn't resist the Eiffel Tower one even though it's pink :) Too bad Gidget won't wear clothes!
I found cute shirts at WalMart but they were all sleeveless so his incision area would still be a tad exposed.
These protect him nicely and they're just sooo cute!

He's home!

I picked him up at the vet today and he's doing so much better. His eyes are sparkling again and he seems to feel so much better. He walked at the vet's earlier and ate. The girls at the vet even commented on his improvement and how much better his eyes looked!

Once I got him home, he walked a little bit too :) He was looking antsy on the couch so I took him in the kitchen and put him down and he walked over to his pee pad and went potty. He's really improved a lot since yesterday. His mood seems better too. He seems happier and you can tell he's a lot more comfortable.

(blurry pic from my camera phone)

I get to bring him home today!

I'm excited and nervous! I can't wait to have him home. I'm worried about caring for him, h seems so delicate. I hope him and Gidget interact well. I'm sure it will all be fine though. One of my friends said that my maternal instincts will kick in and I'll know just what to do :) Let's hope that's true!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Surgery is over

Buster's surgery was Thursday morning. They called me when it was over and said it went great. He seemed to be resting comfortably. They called me later in the day to say he was doing well - just as they expected. He seemed be in some pain but not too bad. They tried to take him outside but he didn't want to stand or walk. His temperature is great - they're checking it every hour. When my friend went by to drop off his meds and the girl told him that they had been rubbing his head and if they stopped, he would wimper. Thursday night, the vet had someone check on him about 9pm and she called me to say he was doing well.

This morning she called me at 7 and said she was really happy with how he's doing. He still seems to be in some pain but not bad. She took him outside and he stood by himself but acted like he didn't want to and he wouldn't walk. She said sometimes it's harder with little dogs because the bandages are pretty overwhelming and the dogs feel kinda like they can't move because of all that (makes sense - just like with Gidget and how she won't walk if you put clothes on her). This afternoon they called and said he's not eating much though...they've had to force feed him a little. He still doesn't want to walk - they've been using a sling to support part of his weight and he's gone outside a few times and walked just a bit like that. She said sometimes little dogs are a little slower to recover because they're used to being babied...I think that could be very true in his case.

I went to visit after work. They were changing the bandage. I can't stand to look at staples or stitches so I tried not to look but what I saw looked like a lot bigger incision than I was expecting. He was really happy to see his mommy!! I was so glad to see him. I held him for about 30 minutes...he loves being held like a baby and resting his head on my shoulder so he got into his normal position pretty quick :) It was nice to hold him!! He seems to be feeling ok...he seems really alert and very calm. I brought some treats (they said to bring anything I thought he might eat) but he didn't want the treats. They did get him to eat some baby food earlier this afternoon. The tech said she left the little dish of baby food in his crate and then a little later found him sitting in it! He's had a few potty accidents in the crate. I was sad to leave him and he struggled I gave him back to the tech - he really didn't want his mommy to leave!! They were getting ready to close. She decided to give him another shot of morphine before she left just to be sure he was comfortable tonight.

I asked the vet if she thought I did the right thing about deciding to remove his leg and she said yes, she would have done the same thing. That really made me feel better.

Everyone at the vet's office kept saying how sweet he is. I can tell he's been getting a lot of lovin' and attention there. The crate he's in is in the middle of the area in the back between all the offices so he's definitely not all alone. They had the crate all fixed up - big fluffy bed, blankets, and a heating pad for him.

I'm nervous about bringing him home tomorrow. He seems so delicate and fragile! It's going to be really emotional and dogs can totally sense your feelings so I've got to be calm and relaxed about things. That's going to be hard!! I will be sooo glad to have him home!! And I know Gidget will be so happy for him to be back home. I hope he'll eat once he's back home. That part has me a little worried.

I think I had my expectations set a little too high about how he would recover. I thought he would be doing a little better than he is but the vet seems really pleased with how he's doing so that's good. I still can't believe all this is happening. Just doesn't seem right that my sweet little baby had cancer and lost his leg. It breaks my heart that he's having to go through all this.

This is my attempt at a family photo the morning of surgery:

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

I love when his tongue is out in pics :)

Pics - evening prior to surgery

I took Buster this afternoon to get the pain patch put on. They also decided to try to go ahead and shave his leg and shoulder area. They said they like to try to do it while they're awake so they aren't under anesthetia as long. He let them do it so he's ready for surgery tomorrow. I also found out that my favorite vet is doing the surgery (along with another vet). That makes me feel better.
I was worried that Gidget would try to mess with the bandage around his neck (over the pain patch). She's usually very curious but she's totally ignored it. The vet said it can be fatal if she were to lick or mess with the actual patch so I'm glad she has no interest in it! Hopefully she'll be the same way when he comes home on Saturday.

Pics - weekend prior to surgery

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Pain management

If it's possible, I think I love my vet even more! She called me just now and said she's working up his pain management plan. She said she's all about some pain management and there's so many new things out there that can keep them out of pain and it's better to prevent the pain than to try and treat it once they're in pain.

So the new plan is for him to stay there Friday night too and I'll pick him up Saturday...the pain patch they put on Wednesday only lasts 3 days so this will allow them to put on a second pain patch Saturday morning before I pick him up. Also they can keep an eye on him just a little bit longer. This actually makes me feel better since the specialist had planned to keep him through Saturday also. Even though I'll miss him like crazy, I feel better about him being there with the experts.

Also she said there are some optional pain meds (muscle relaxers, etc) that she can prescribe that she highly recommends so I said yes to that too...they cost about $75 and will have to be picked up in Winston. She said "phantom pain" is very common and also there can be a lot of muscle pain from the muscles being cut and also the muscles trying to adjust to the fact that the leg is no longer there.

I'm really happy with my vet - she really seems on top of things!!

Thoughts on amputation

Some of my earlier posts don't really reflect my struggle with deciding on amputation. I was trying to be positive at the time so wasn't really expressing my thoughts about that. I wanted to go ahead and talk about that now.

Coming to the decision of amputation has been very hard. It sounds awful and everytime I look at his little leg, it makes me sad. One thing that helped me was reading stories online from people whose dogs had the exact same type of cancer in the same place and they decided to have the leg removed. I also read a lot of information online about this type of cancer - even prior to having the consult at the specialist - the idea of amputation was in the back of my mind I was slowly adjusting to it - this made my final decision much easier. Also I googled "dog + amputation + recovery" and read through MANY of the websites that came up. It is truly amazing how well the dogs recover. Both my vet and the surgeon reassured me that they recover SO quick from it. It's a routine surgery and will actually be pretty easy on him. The bottom line from my perspective is that it guarantees that the cancer won't return! I'm not going to let this evil cancer take my baby from me and this guarantees that it won't!

The other alternative (tumor removal) has about a 40% chance of the cancer coming back. That seems like such a risk to me. And the recovery from that surgery would be so difficult. I can't imagine how hard it would be to get that area to heal since it's on his elbow.

My main concern in making this decision is guaranteeing it won't come back and also giving him the easiest recovery. That's what led me to decide on amputation.

The cost factor - $650 to have his leg removed (at my vet). $3000-$4000 for tumor removal at the specialist (regular vet isn't comfortable doing that)

During my consult with the specialist, he said that the course of treatment is really dependent on how far I want to go to save the leg - I responded that I don't really care about his leg, I care about his LIFE! I don't mean that in a harsh way. But I want him to live and be with me as long as possible!

My boss had a good comparison about this. When people have cancer, they often have different options for treatments. Some people choose to be more aggressive, some people don't. He compared it to breast cancer - some women decide to have both breasts removed due to a tumor in one breast instead of having a lumpectomy. I can totally understand. If I had cancer, I would be very aggressive with treatment. My mom died of cancer when I was in high school so I believe in aggressive treatment as early as possible.

Also I've found talking to people has really helped me. Talking to my girlfriends and friends at work has made me feel like I'm making the right decision. It's nice to have the support of others!

I know some people may not agree with my decision. But this is my decision and I feel totally at peace with it. There is no doubt in my mind that this is the right thing to do. Many tears have been shed over the past week or so. This decision has been very tough. But I can just feel that it's the right one.

Sorry for the rambling post. Hope this helps to understand how I came to this decision.

I hope this post doesn't receive any hostile responses. Please understand this is a very personal choice and it's my choice to make.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Info from surgeon at the specialist's office

The surgeon from Carolina Veterinary Specialist just called me. I had left her a message yesterday with some questions and had been playing phone tag with her since then. I hadn't called to cancel his surgery with them yet (was going to do that tomorrow).

I told her what had developed earlier today and she said she had heard there might have been some miscommunication. She said she was absolutely comfortable with having the surgery done at my regular vet's office since it's actually a fairly routine procedure.

On her voicemail yesterday, I had asked her two question and she went ahead and responded to those.
  1. I have a vacation planned for six weeks after his surgery and had planned to board him and my other dog. She said that was totally ok and that he'll be fully recovered before then.
  2. I wanted to know if there was anything I should buy or do to prepare. She suggested a comfy dog bed if he didn't already have one and also some tshirts to keep him from licking the area and also just to keep it covered up (already bought all that at Wal Mart tonight).
I feel so much better after speaking with her! She wished me lots of luck and said that Buster is such a sweet dog :)

Change in plans - good news kinda

I decided to start this blog on 7/11/08. I didn't want to go back and tell the story...just wouldn't be the same as what I was feeling at the time. So I'm coping these older posts from several emails I sent to my best girlfriends.
This is from an email I sent about an hour ago.

My regular vet called me today right after I got off work. She said she had called the specialist to check on Buster and he told her that I was having his surgery done there next week because my regular vet couldn't do it (just to backtrack - I had called the regular vet twice and talked to two different front desk girls and they both said the regular vet's office couldn't do the amputation because they have one doc who does that and he's out....also the specialist and the surgeon both seemed surprised that I was having this done there instead of the regular vet - and they both pointed out that they cost A LOT more than the regular vet and they both said that this was a routine surgery so my regular vet could do it - so I had explained about the doc being out at the regular vet's office). So, anyway, the vet tells me that the doctor that is out is the orthopedic surgeon BUT that an amputation doesn't require that type of surgeon and that they do have 3 vets there (including her - and I LOVE HER) that are able to do this surgery. The other plus is that it will be about 1/3 the cost. So I decided to have the surgery done there - still next Thursday. So next Wednesday, I'll pick up his morphine patch at the drugstore and take it and Busty to the vet and they'll put the patch on. Then I'll take him back Thursday morning and drop him off and then pick him up at the very end of the day on Friday. I like that they're using a morphine patch too - the specialist didn't say anything about doing that and it's apparently the most effective form of pain relief. I really like my vet and she has been wonderful through all of this so I feel very comfortable with having this done there. From what everyone has told me and from what I've read, amputation is very routine and really not a big deal like you might think.

I'm so thankful she called them to check on me and Buster!!! I think the front desk girls just didn't know any better though..I'm just glad we got this figured out.

I went to WalMart and bought him some supercute clothes and a sassy little bed. So I think he's ready. I'm still working on getting ready mentally for this but I think he's going to be fine.

While I was in WalMart, my phone died. When I got home and charged it, there was a voicemail from the vet. She said she couldn't call in the prescription for the patch because it's a controlled substance - you have to physically drop off a paper prescription. She said she was going to drop it off for me so it would be ready for me to pick up anytime. How nice of her!

Decision made (7/9/08)

I decided to start this blog on 7/11/08. I didn't want to go back and tell the story...just wouldn't be the same as what I was feeling at the time. So I'm coping these older posts from several emails I sent to my best girlfriends.
This is from an email I sent the evening of 7/9/08:

The chest scan was clear so the cancer has not spread. I talked to both the Internal Medicine doc and the surgeon late this afternoon. They didn't exactly suggest which way I go with this but I felt like by what they were saying, they were in a way suggesting the best alternative (hope that makes sense).

Since radiation is not an option because I can't afford it, that leaves 2 options.
  1. Based on the surgeon's opinion, they can attempt to remove the tumor and estimate a 40% chance of recurrence. If I go that route, the area will be large because they have to remove the surrounding tissue. They don't do skin grafts in dogs but they do something similar called a "skin flap"...that would cost $3000-$4000. It would be a difficult surgery and recovery. If the cancer comes back, at that point, there won't be much tissue left so amputation would likely be the only alternative. And if the cancer does come back, it's possible that it could spread somewhere else like his lungs or chest cavity.
  2. The other option would be amputation - which would pretty much guarantee the cancer won't return. It would cost $1500-$2000 and would likely be at the lower end of that scale based on his size. I talked to the surgeon at length about this and she said it's a very routine surgery that rarely has any complications. Dogs adjust very quickly and are normally back to completely regular activity in 3 weeks or less. She said it's amazing how quick they adjust and recover. She said her take on it is that "god gives dogs 3 legs and spare" - that made me feel better.
So I made the decision to have the leg removed - I want to save his life and give him the best and easiest recovery. That's what my gut is telling me to do. I feel at peace with my decision.

I could have it done tomorrow but I don't feel quite ready yet. So I made the appointment for next Thursday and I should be able to bring him home Saturday. I will be able to visit him twice a day for 30 minutes for as long as he's in the hospital. Him and Gidget will need to be separated when I'm not home (for a few weeks) but he'll be fine being left by himself. He'll be able to walk and get around immediately. She said in about 3 days, they adjust to it and are able to walk around fine. She suggested I get him some cute clothes because it's often upsetting to the owners to see the area.

I ended up talking to a lady on another message board I'm on and she's a vet. She said she's been involved in many amputations and the dogs do very well immediately. She said once they wake up from the anesthesia, they have all been able to get up and walk outside to potty. She said it's like an instant adjustment.

Unfortunately, my normal vet can't do the surgery (they only have one doc that does this and he's out because of a broken leg and they don't know if he'll return). So I'm having the surgery at CVS (the specialist)...meaning I'm paying a lot more than I would at a vet. But I trust them and got a really good feeling from them.

More waiting (7/9/08)

I decided to start this blog on 7/11/08. I didn't want to go back and tell the story...just wouldn't be the same as what I was feeling at the time. So I'm coping these older posts from several emails I sent to my best girlfriends.
This is from an email I sent on 7/9/08:

Went to the specialist this was an Internal Medicine doctor. He said basically the same stuff I had already read online. The cancer doesn't usually spread to other parts of the body but does have a high recurrence rate at the original location. The treatment options would be surgical removal of the tumor (with wide margins), removal and radiation, or amputation. I need a surgical consult to get a better idea of which route to take. From what I've read online and what the doctor said, if you just remove the tumor without radiation, it will usually come back and possibly spread and would definitely be more difficult to remove. The recommended course of treatment is usually removal and radiation - radiation costs $5000-$7000 and would be 5 days a week for 3 to 4 weeks so he would have to stay wherever that place is - I can't afford that so that removes that as an option. With amputation, it eliminates the risk of it coming back and spreading. So I left Buster to have bloodwork, chest scan (to be sure it hasn't spread because that will totally change things), and to have a surgical consult. I should know more later today and should get to pick him up after work.

Going to the specialist tomorrow! (7/8/08)

I decided to start this blog on 7/11/08. I didn't want to go back and tell the story...just wouldn't be the same as what I was feeling at the time. So I'm coping these older posts from several emails I sent to my best girlfriends.
This is from an email I sent the afternoon of 7/8/08:

Update - the specialist called me and they just got a cancellation tomorrow morning at 9:15 so I took it. This has me all to pieces so I'm glad they got a cancellation. It's possible that I may end up leaving Buster tomorrow and they'll go ahead and do whatever we decide to do.

Waiting to see the specialist.... (7/7/08)

I decided to start this blog on 7/11/08. I didn't want to go back and tell the story...just wouldn't be the same as what I was feeling at the time. So I'm coping these older posts from several emails I sent to my best girlfriends.
This is from an email I sent the evening of 7/7/08:

Well, my vet called CVS about getting me in sooner and they can but it costs even more because it would be classified as an "emergency" (either $108 or $180 extra - I couldn't understand her) - WTF?! So I'm going to wait until next vet said that would be ok.

I've been doing a lot of reading and although this type of cancer doesn't tend to spread to other parts of the body, it does have a high reoccurence rate in the original spot. Radiation or chemo is highly recommended which can last up to 6 weeks. From what I've read online, amputation seems to be best because then it can't come back and he would only have to recover once (vs an open wound from tumor removal and then weeks of radiation or chemo). While amputation sounds awful, from what I've read, they recover from it really well and pretty quick. So I guess we'll see what the specialist says in a week. I did call them back and ask them to please make a note and call me if they have any cancellations within the next week.

Pathology results back - it IS cancer (7/7/08)

I decided to start this blog on 7/11/08. I didn't want to go back and tell the story...just wouldn't be the same as what I was feeling at the time. So I'm coping these older posts from several emails I sent to my best girlfriends.
This is from an email I sent on 7/7/08:

The vet just called me with the results. I can't believe all this is happening. I'm getting referred to a specialist (CVS - Carolina Veterinary Specialists) . It's definitely cancer and the usual treatment would be removal of the tumor with wide margins which would be a difficult surgery since it's on his tiny leg. Then there would be a round of radiation. That would be very expensive. An alternative would be amputation of the leg. I need to see the specialist though since the vet is not an expert with this type of thing.

I called CVS and their next appt is next Monday so I called the vet back (and left a message) to see if she can get me in with them sooner. I'm confused now because CVS said they don't do radiation (only chemo). I really need to get in to see them so I can figure out what to do.

My baby might have cancer?!?!? (7/3/08)

I decided to start this blog on 7/11/08. I didn't want to go back and tell the story...just wouldn't be the same as what I was feeling at the time. So I'm coping these older posts from several emails I sent to my best girlfriends.
This is from an email I sent on 7/3/08:

Just thought I would tell you what's going on with my baby. Most of you know that he has this place on his front leg (near his knee) that is about the size of a marble. I noticed it on my birthday. It doesn't seem to bother him at all so I wasn't very worried about it. I took him to the vet this morning and she said she thought it was a mass cell tumor (cancer) but took a biopsy to check. Regardless what it is, it will need to be removed. Since it's pretty big that will be difficult because they won't be able to close the area so it will be an open wound. So when I left, she said she would look at the cells and call me back.

This is from an email I sent Chandra - I don't feel like re-typing right now.
The vet called me back. She said it shows no signs of being a "mass cell tumor" which is what she was pretty sure it was. It does show signs of being a "fibro sarcoma" which is a very aggressive form of cancer. Also could be a hysto-something which is not cancer but is a growth that would need to be removed. It could still be a mass cell tumor although it doesn't look like it. She said she's surprised by what she's seeing - that it doesn't appear to be a mass cell tumor. She said some other stuff but I didn't understand the doctor talk.

Bottom line - she asked me if I wanted to send it to a pathologist ($95) so I said yes. She said she would if it were her dog. So she's going to do that and it will hopefully be back on Monday. She sounded really surprised by what she saw. She said she looked at it before lunch, then went to lunch and came back and looked at it again.

God, I can't believe this. I'm so upset. He's my baby. I don't know what I'd do if something happened to him. He's only 8 and chihuahuas can live to be at least 15!

Please pray for my baby!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

About Buster & Gidget

Buster is an 8 1/2 year old male chihuahua. He's always been in perfect health until he was diagnosed with cancer on 7/7/08.

I have another dog, Gidget. She is an 8 year old female toy fox terrier. They are the best of friends and I've had them both since they were 8 weeks old. Gidget is very high strung and quite hyper. Buster is very calm and laid back - a little momma's boy!