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Waving a white flag to the universe ….

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Wow – it was a day. I’ve waited until it was officially over to speak of it – so as not to temp fate to add the dreaded third event to this nasty time period.

1) Went to the vet for chemo consultation.

2) Had an appointment downtown.

3) Upon leaving appointment – witnessed a pedestrian / vehicle crash.

4) Several hours later – HAD a car accident myself !! (darn, darn, darn !!) – Having trouble concentrating these days.

First of all, at 9:00 am, Sophie and I went to the vet clinic for consultation about getting Chemo. We were told that Sophie’s tumor (soft cell sarcoma) is unique even among that grouping – and that there is no way of knowing if the cancer has spread beyond the lymph node. The vet suspects that cells have spread through her lymphatic system. She told us that the type of tumor Sophie has may respond better to radiation therapy – but, again, there is no way of knowing. She says that even if we go ahead with the chemo, that there will likely be no measurable improvement, and that Sophie likely has somewhere between 4 months to 8 months – a year at most. For a 12.5 year old Golden, however, that’s a pretty old age without cancer. So – in reality, can I expect much more than that?

On the one hand, the vet said that if it were her dog, she would go ahead with the chemo; and on the other hand, she said that there would not likely be any measurable difference. I am a bit confused by these two seemingly dichotomas scenarios. Hedging her bets? She – the vet – stated that this would definitely not be a matter of curing Sophie’s cancer. So – if it’s not going to make a measurable difference in life span – and will, presumably, have some negative impact on her quality of life – if only a little – is it worth doing?

Any thoughts out there ? I’m beginning to wonder if I did the right thing by Sophie by amputating her leg …. which is something I swore not to do – don’t ever look back and second guess. I made the best decision I could make with the information and resources I had available at the time – with the best interests of Sophie in my foremost thoughts.

Thank you to all of you who are willing to share their thoughts and their journeys. It is so helpful to those of us coming down this path after you.


Tana and Sophie

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9 Responses to “Waving a white flag to the universe ….”

  1. Hi Tana

    What a brutal day you had.

    A large part of our consideration for Catie’s treatment was for sure based on her age – she just turned 6 in November. When we started with the chemo, we knew it wasn’t to “cure” the disease. All the literature I’ve read, and confirmed by both the surgeon and the oncologist, indicates that with canine bone cancer, undetectable mets are usually already present in 80 to 90% cases at the time of diagnosis. The chemo treatments are simply to try slow their growth and buy Catie some time. She’s had two treatments so far; her third is scheduled for Monday. Had she had severe negative reactions to the chemo I seriously suspect we may have re-thought even that course of action if extending her life span meant a cost of being really, really ill.

    One thing I know for sure – we don’t regret the amputation. Catie was in so very much pain and the amputation, despite the post-recovery period which really wasn’t as bad as I anticipated (because that’s what I do – hope for the best and expect the worst) immediately relieved her discomfort. No. Let’s be honest – you could tell by her eyes the pain was agony.

    It sounds like Sophie has been rid of the discomfort of her tumor and she’s been happy. I don’t think, really, you need to torment yourself with those kind of doubts.

    No one can make this decision for you. As you said, twelve and a half is a pretty good old age for a golden. Sophie’s already been through a lot. The unknown is a scary scary path. We want guarantees, that’s for sure, but when dealing with illnesses, human or canine, science is still inexact. Without those coveted promises of certainty, the bottom, painful line is that you’ll have to rely on what your gut and heart tell you as you weigh all the options and reflect on Sophie’s quality of remaining life. There’s no guilt here, no blame here, no matter what path you choose. You simply have to be at peace with it yourself. The worst times are those tormenting trying-to-make-a-decision moments. That’s when my stress levels spin out of control and I feel like I’m on a speeding treadmill going nowhere; I usually feel better and breathe again once I’ve settled and committed to a course of action, no matter what it is.

    You’ll know what’s right for you and Sophie. I’m guessing, if I’m reading correctly between the lines in your post, you already do.

    Contact me any time, Tana.

  2. Thanks, Carmen. Yes – it’s true – Sophie has been much more comfortable – no doubt. And she has more energy and she is happier – you can see it in her eyes – so, no, I don’t have strong regrets about the amputation. I am leaning toward not doing the chemo – as obviously you picked up. Bill, on the other hand, is guilty-ridden about not doing the amputation earlier – when there may have been a better chance at getting more of the cancer out. It will take some more pondering, discussion, soul-searching – and hugging with Sophie – to make this decision.

    Take care – and thank you – really. 🙂

  3. Go with your instincts, whatever they are, and without guilt over decisions made, or not made, in the past.

  4. Tana,
    I’m so sorry for what you are going through with Sophie, especially with the ‘not knowing what to do next’ plan.
    I’m glad no one was hurt in your car accident either!! YIKES!

    Feel free to tell me to keep my nose out of your business, but if there isn’t going to be any measurable difference, then why do chemo?

    Here’s why I say that…my 8 year old, shep mix, Rugby was eat up with cancer and I didn’t even know it. One morning he wouldn’t take a treat. That’s was my tip-off something seriously was wrong. Within minutes, he collapsed. I rushed him to the vet and the vet didn’t even know what was wrong. I left him and he died right afterwards. My world seemed to come to a halt that day because of the shock; he was happy just a couple of hours earlier!

    Had Rugby given me a signal he was dying of cancer I would have went to ends of the earth to save him. I would have tortured both of us to give him one more day of life! I would have made him miserable and would have taken away precious moments of happiness.

    But instead…I get to look back and say moments before his heart bled out he was being his silly goofy self making me laugh. He knew I’m tormented when Comet is sick and he probably knew to not give me a clue he was sick. I’m thankful that I got to enjoy him right to the end.

    I know my circumstances were different because I didnt know. So let me apologize for speaking what I feel.
    Whatever you decide IS the right answer.

    Comet’s mom

  5. Oh Tana, I’m so sorry that you have to go through this – it’s very confusing and conflicting indeed. I remember when I asked one of the vets if Mackenzie’s age (because she was only 7 1/2 when she was diagnosed) could give her a better chance for survival, they told me no. Age is not a a factor – it’s all about the cancer and its aggressiveness. I remember feeling so shortchanged because Mackenzie was so young. Then I read about other tripawds who are even younger (like Carmen’s Catie).
    Even before her cancer diagnosis (we lost another dog to lymphoma when she was 10 – diagnosed at 9 – which at that time I thought was too young) I used to think, I’d be very happy if Mackenzie reached the age of 10, knowing that such a high percentage of large breed dogs are lost before the age of 10. And then I get the bad news at 7 1/2. I’m amazed and truly admire the fact that your Sophie is 12 1/2 – a true blessing. I envy that. I guess what I’m trying to say is that Sophie has led an incredible loving life with incredible loving pawrents and whatever you decide to do is the right thing to do. As Comet’s mom and Carmen say, follow your instincts….
    You’ll also find on this website that even those pawrents who lost their tripawd shortly after the surgery, are not regretful that they did do the surgery. So doing the amputation was a good decision and it’s giving life back to Sophie. Which she has right now.

    My heart goes out to you and hope that whatever decision you do make brings you peace. We are thinking of you. Kami

  6. Thank you,Carmen, Kami, and Comet’s mom, for your thoughts and sharing your experiences with me.

    I know we are so blessed to have had our dogs for so long – Keaton was 14 years old when he passed (Feb 9th this year) and Sophie is, as you know, 12 1/2. Even our cats are living very, very long lives – Milly was 19 when she passed away this past summer (July 2009), Chester is 17. I never take their good health for granted – and am grateful beyond words that I have been so fortunate as to share their lives for so long. As long as they are able to enjoy their lives, do the things they love to do, I will do whatever it takes to support them and keep them healthy. Withholding any kind of treatment that might possibly be helpful feels morally wrong to me. They are my children – my furry children.

    And so, I need to ponder some more, and talk to the vet once more.

    Thanks again.

  7. I did mean to add in my initial post — with Catie, there were significant difference in the “median survival” rates between doing chemo and not.. Three to six months without chemotherapy versus perhaps a year.

    If we had been told there were no “measurable differences” between doing chemo and not doing chemo in terms of survival rates we would have chosen simply to keep her comfortable for as long as possible..

  8. Hi Tana,
    Yes, I got similar survival rates that Carmen did doing the chemo or not doing the chemo with amputation. It is measurably different in Mackenzie’s case too. I’ve been thinking about your post and I can only imagine how confusing and perplexing this all is for you so completely understand how you must ponder this some more.

    I’ve found that a lot of these doctors are giving their best guess and that there are so many unknowns because every dog is different and every dog responds differently. To top it off, many of the studies that are done are done with small sample sizes, which makes it even tougher to understand these statistics and the accuracy of them. It’s certainly a catch 22 – damned if you do , damned if you don’t. But damn – it just sucks no matter which way you look at it! (excuse my words of expression ;).

    You have our utmost support for whatever decision and path you take. Thinking of you. Take good care. Kami

  9. Thanks Kami, and Cometdog’s mom, and thank you, Carmen.

    I still haven’t made a final decision – Sophie’s dad (Bill) – and I have not had a chance to get together and talk about this. I am leaning heavily to NOT going through the chemo. He is leaning towards “hedging the bets” and giving her the chemo – just in case there is some benefit.

    Meanwhile – Sophie is so happy and playful – she is fun to be with, and I am very, very grateful to have this time with her.

    Thank you again for your thoughtful comments, and sharing your stories with me.


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