Cancer in Dogs – A Retrospective of our Beloved Samoyed Ramius’s Battle with Cancer
In This Entry – The Cancer Returns
Thank you for reading our continuing series about cancer in dogs, and our beloved Samoyed Ramius’s long journey with the disease, which started in the summer of 2014 and lasted until he passed away in January, 2016.
When we last left you in Part VII, we discussed Ramius’s physical therapy and rehabilitation process. Today we will talk about the unfortunate return of Ramius’s cancer.
If you’ve been following along in our series, you know that up until the summer of 2015, Ramius’s recovery had been going great. He was cancer free, and though he had his issues with mobility, it wasn’t anything we couldn’t overcome. We were expecting that essentially, we’d be dealing with an aging, cancer free Samoyed, and we were perfectly fine with that.
But things changed in the summer of 2015. One day, while we were attending to Ramius, my wife Pam noticed another growth near his butt, which of course, is the same region where he had his original cancer. Our doctors had been pretty confident that his cancer was at bay though, so at first, we remained hopeful. Perhaps it was just another benign growth that coincidentally occurred in the same area of his body.
That was certainly our hope when we took him to the doctor but unfortunately, it wasn’t the case. Though the vets didn’t consider this a recurrence of his cancer per se, it nevertheless was a tumor that we had to deal with.
Of course, we were devastated when we heard this news. We took Ramius to the hospital for more X-Rays followed up with a meeting with the surgeon. In short, the surgeon thought that this tumor would not be particularly hard to remove given its location. But the X-Rays also revealed a surprise. Ramius had somehow torn ACL’s in all of his limbs. To this day, we have no idea when that could have possibly happened, but nevertheless, they were torn, and it was obviously a factor in his decreased mobility. The surgeon explained that with a younger dog, we might consider reconstructive surgery on his limbs, but that at Ramius advanced age and declining health, that didn’t make much sense. And we agreed.
Still, as you read about last time, this would also help to explain why Ramius’s mobility had declined so significantly, and much more so than anybody had thought. In addition to everything else he was dealing with, our poor baby had torn ACL’s to boot! Ugh!!!
Knowing that we couldn’t deal with the ACL issue, we turned our conversation back to the removal of his tumor. Though the surgeon didn’t seem to think removing it was the problem, the issue is always, was the question of whether or not it had spread. The X-Rays alone couldn’t reveal that, it could only be ascertained through an ultrasound and/or an MRI. And an MRI is something that would require anesthesia for Ramius, just like his surgery. Putting a dog of Ramius’s age and condition through general anesthesia once again was concerning, but twice would be almost out of the question.
What to do?
Not only would that obviously be very hard on this body, but with each instance of general anesthesia, his mobility was likely to deteriorate even further. So the doctors were very careful about discussing the pros and cons of this option with us frankly. Our surgeon, bless him, even had the discussion about if we should opt for the surgery at all given Ramius’s age. It’s a discussion that must be had at a point like this.
The doctor was really sweet and did an excellent job of really taking away the feelings of guilt he knew we must be going through. All pet parents who love their fur babies at some point start to feel guilt about whether or not we are doing all the right things, or are we doing too little, or too much, etc.? It’s an emotional roller coaster.
And the surgeon advised that even if everything was successful with the removal of his tumor, that still might not give us much more time with Ramius. He shared a personal story of his own dog who he loved and who went through a similar life threatening situation. He told us candidly that you never get over it. And I’ll never forget when he said, “I miss him every day.” My wife and I thought about it, and looked at each other and replied, “We’re not there yet.”
So with that, the decision to move forward had been made. But now, how to deal with surgery, radiation, and an MRI that required at least two rounds of anesthesia and would be too hard for Ramius to handle? Here’s where we as a group came up with an ingenious solution. We decided to do all three procedures at once! This would mean Ramius would only have to undergo general anesthesia one more time, and we could get the tumor removed and all of his tests completed in just one shot. Now, as you can imagine, this required a lot of coordination with all of the vets involved in doing the surgery, ultrasound, and MRI. But thankfully, all of the vets were able to come together and work out this imaginative solution seamlessly.
So here’s how it worked. Essentially we set up a series of checks and fail safes to take Ramius through these procedures step by step.
Step 1 – Surgery to remove the tumor
Step 2 – Ultrasound to see if it spread to certain parts of his body.
Step 3 – MRI to determine if it spread to parts of his body not seen by the ultrasound.
The trick though was, we weren’t going to put Ramius through anything more than what was necessary. In other words, if the surgeon revealed that the cancer was much worse than we thought, we’d stop there and not do the ultrasound and MRI. Same thing with Step 2, if the ultrasound revealed the cancer had spread too much, we wouldn’t put Ramius through the MRI.
We worked it out so that after each step, the relevant vet would call me and we’d discuss what was discovered and if we should proceed to the following step. It was sort of a “go or no-go” for launch type thing after each step.
And that’s how it went. After surgery, the surgeon called and said he successfully removed the tumor and we were ready to move to Step 2. After the ultrasound, the radiologist called and said the cancer hadn’t spread and we can do the MRI. Then after the MRI, the neurologist called and said that too was all clear.
Our Ramius made it through! And so did we. Woo-hoo! He spent the night in the hospital for observation, and, trooper that he was, he did just fine. Pam and I went and got him the next morning to bring him home. It was another ordeal, but one that left Ramius happy and healthy. At least for now.
Now we prepared for what we knew would be a much tougher rehab and physical therapy challenge. The procedures did weaken his mobility as was to be expected. Still, we knew we could handle that. But what we didn’t know then, was that in 6 months time, we’d be faced with another health crisis. And unlike the others, this time was different.
Pet Health Insurance
As I’ve discussed, none of Ramius’s treatments would’ve been financial feasible if he didn’t have great pet health insurance. I continue to urge all of you with dogs or cats to please consider getting Healthy Paws Pet Insurance for your fur baby. Please click on the link below to read my review of Healthy Paws Pet Insurance so you can learn more about them and if they’re right for you. Spoiler alert – they are!
Ramius’s physical rehab, in-home care, and his final cancer diagnosis will be the subject of Part IX in our continuing series which will be COMING SOON.
If you’ve been enjoying our series, please share it with any pet owners you know. Especially any pet parents that are dealing with a fur baby battling cancer.
And if you have, or have had, a dog with cancer and you’d like to share your experiences, please leave us a comment. Remember, you’re not alone. We’ll be sure to get back to you. And we promise, the next installment will be coming shortly.
Thank you for reading!