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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.