Cancer in Dogs – A Retrospective of Ramius’s Journey – Visiting with the Cancer Specialists
Thank you for reading our continuing series about cancer in dogs, and Ramius’s long journey with the disease, which started in the summer of 2014 and lasted until he passed in January, 2016. When we last left you in Part 1, Ramius had just had a growth around his anus removed that turned out to be malignant.
The next step was to run some additional tests and visit with the specialists at MedVet Chicago, formerly known as the Chicago Veterinary Cancer Center. We set up an appointment with Dr. Jacyln Smith, a Veterinary Oncologist, and she told us more about the type of cancer Ramius had and what our options were. Both Dr. Smith, and Dr. Jayme Looper, whom we would meet in the near future, are absolutely wonderful and would give Ramius the best medical care he could ever have.
Dr. Smith had reviewed the report and analysis from McKillip Animal Hospital and was completely up to speed with Ramius’s recently diagnosed condition and the surgery he just had. She patiently and carefully explained everything to my wife and me and told us what we needed to know.
Dr. Smith confirmed that, with this type of cancer, known as a perianal gland tumor, it could be particularly nasty. However, she also thought there was a good chance that it hadn’t spread yet. And obviously, if it hadn’t spread, that would be a much better scenario for Ramius.
We were relieved and hopeful to hear this. The only way to determine if the cancer had spread was to have Ramius see the Radiologist, and conduct an ultrasound and take X-Rays. After that was done, we would know where we stood and could go from there.
What Was Ramius Thinking?
You have to wonder what was going through Ramius’s mind at this point. He’d just had surgery, but at least that was with a doctor and hospital that was familiar to him. Now, he’s in a strange new building, with a doctor he doesn’t know, watching the concerned look on his parents’ faces as they they have a conversation about his health. Of course, we’ll never know if any of this registered with him. Ramius was always smiling as you can see from his picture, and he always had a great disposition. He was never nervous or agitated.
We set up an appointment to bring Ramius in to see the Radiologist the next day or the day after. As always, Ramius did great with the procedures, and we took him home with us. And then we nervously waited for the results.
A short while later we received a call from Dr. Smith and she unfortunately was the bearer of news we didn’t want to hear. Ramius’s cancer had indeed spread to the lymph nodes.
We were flabbergasted and stunned to hear this. We probably shouldn’t have been, because you never know for sure until the tests and analysis are completed. But still, when we first found the growth, the doctor thought is was probably benign. Then we learned it was malignant we were told it was unlikely to have spread.
Well the growth was malignant and it had spread. Poor Ramius couldn’t catch a break!
Reviewing Our Options
Dr. Smith walked us through our options and next steps. She was very caring and thorough and laid everything out for us. Remember, Ramius was diabetic and just a couple months shy of his 11th birthday at this point. So we basically had two options:
- Don’t treat the cancer and do everything we can to make Ramius comfortable for his remaining days.
- Start treating the cancer. This is an oversimplification and there are many options and ways to do this, but for simplicity, this is essentially what our choices boiled down to.
Well, we certainly weren’t ready to start to saying goodbye to Ramius yet, and even though he was older and diabetic, he was otherwise strong and happy. That’s another one of the odd things we noticed throughout all of this; Ramius never showed us he was in any pain. To look at him, and be with him, you’d never know this awful cancer was ravaging his body.
Another factor was we knew we had great health insurance, and as I’ve said previously, the importance of this cannot be overstated. Treating cancer in dogs can be a very, very expensive proposition. We’re talking tens of thousands of dollars easily. And if your pet isn’t covered by pet insurance, this certainly enters the decision making process. Fortunately, that factor didn’t enter into the equation for us.
Like a lot of times in life, you often have to make your most important decisions with less than complete information. Would this work? Would Ramius respond favorably to this? Is he strong enough to go through it? Are we strong enough to go through it?
What is the right thing to do for Ramius?
That’s really the key question right there. What is the right thing to do for Ramius? And of course, there is no clear cut answer to this question. It depends. It’s about what you think and how you feel. But I believe that as long as you’re always trying to answer the question, “What is best for my pet and my family?” there is no way for you to make a wrong decision.
Of our two options, we wanted to treat Ramius’s cancer. So that next step, and again, you take these things one step at a time, was to schedule surgery to have his lymph nodes removed.
But we also knew that even if the surgery was successful, that alone wouldn’t solve the problem. Some combination of radiation and chemotherapy would be necessary to fully eradicate his cancer. There were different treatment options, some more intense than others, that were there for us to consider.
But first things first, let’s schedule the surgery, which we did. Ramius had his surgery and the removal of his lymph nodes was successful. This was just a couple of days before the 4th of July holiday and we were all planning on going up to our cottage in Wisconsin to rest and recuperate.
And not only that, it would be a quiet time for my wife and me to discuss the different courses of action we could take for Ramius going forward. To this day, we refer to this weekend as the “4th of July Summit,” and that will be the next blog in our series.
Healthy Paws Pet Insurance
This will be a recurring theme in this series, but I urge you to consider getting pet insurance for your fur baby. Any kind is better than nothing, but we highly recommend Healthy Paws. You can read my review of Healthy Paws by clicking on the link below:
Thanks for reading, and please continue to read this series as it unfolds. Cancer in Dogs – Ramius’s Journey – Part III is now online.
And if you have or have had a dog with cancer and you’d like to share your experiences, please leave us a comment. We’ll be sure to get back to you.