Registered: 1518272021 Posts: 2
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Lucy my 11 year old Border Collie has had quite a month! I was hoping to share and see if anyone had any experience in this situation and any opinions are so appreciated. I expected Lucy to be around to the ripe old age of 15+ and I want to do everything possible to get her as close to that as I can. I have had her since she was 3 months old and she is a truly special dog.
About a month ago we took Lucy for an Ultra Sound to see if she had bladder stones (months of recurrent UTI's). Unfortunately and in a crazy way fortunately they found an unexpected tumor in her intestine (no bladder stones). What a whirlwind. Long story short we went to surgery after staging her with X-Rays of her chest, Abdomen, bloodwork, and a Fine Needle Biopsy. They did an exploratory and found the tumor to actually be in her cecum. The size was approximately 2.5 centimeters. They removed her entire Cecum and now we are almost 3 weeks post op. It was a rough few weeks but she is back and eager to get in the car and to explore like she used to do daily. The Dr. has released her activity restriction and said we can do stairs and walks just no off leash running. I am making her stay off stairs for another week because I can't stop worrying about her (to strict I know).
We had a meeting with the oncologist on Thursday when we had her stitches out. Bottom line is it was a sarcoma - a GIST tumor. Low Grade 1. There is no sign of spread on x-rays or during the exploratory, lymph node is clear (they did take one for biopsy) and blood vessel of some sort I believe, margins were clear were it was cut out. The only negative ( I guess could be very negative ) is that the GIST tumor did make it to the outermost layer (Serosa ) of the Cecum. So even though the margins are clear it does touch things. So she is at risk. There is a possibility that a cell could have dropped somewhere or made a move when it touched something and that is currently microscopic IF it is there.
They gave us 2 options. The Cancer doctor did say his thought is her demise will be of something else in her old age and not this. He is very well known and very big in the Animal Cancer world. We lucked out to be close to this hospital.
Option 1. Is the conservative approach. We Ultrasound every 4 months for 1 1/2 years. If nothing has shown up by then it will not and it is all over.
Option 2. We start her on Pallidia (anti-cancer pill). She will take this Mon, wed, and Friday for 6 months. The hope is if there is something there we kill it and it never grows. I know there is weekly bloodwork involved with this for about 4 weeks then every few weeks. The medicine I am sure is not cheap. I am guessing from a few people at the hospital it is around $350 ish a month for pills plus cost for the bloodwork.
I am going back and forth on these options and I just can't make myself follow through on one. We have about 1-2 weeks to decide if we are going to do option 2. Her insurance was wiped out with surgery and it will be a very expensive 6 months but if it is right I would do anything for her.
I keep thinking how horrible it is to put her on this chemo treatment if nothing spread. I know they say it is fairly safe with mild side effects. Normally gastrointestinal if they have any. Because it is a pill every other day if for some reason she can not handle the pills we just stop. It seems like I would be feeding her poison for 6 months and not be sure she even needs it. If we go conservative and something grows then the easy answer is to start the pill then.
I asked his recommendation and his answer is how much risk do you want to take. I know they cant really tell you what to do but I wish they would. I tried to find info online on this situation to see if any dogs had the cancer grow to an outer layer and not spread and am having a very hard time finding anything. Apparently it is rare to have caught this so early.
We would love to hear any advice, experience, opinions you may have. It is so great to be able to communicate with other dog lovers. Only we can understand how important these animals are to us.
THANK YOU for taking the time to read this. __________________ Shelly Brown
Registered: 1517902953 Posts: 423
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First off, let me say how sorry I am that you’re having to deal with this. Cancer is a rotten disease, and it is very scary when we get that diagnosis. I will give you some thoughts, but this is, obviously, very much your decision and I am not a doctor. So take this however you want.
My own dog had mast cell tumors, and my mom 10 years ago had a rare form of cancer in her abdomen. Between the two of them, I did quite a lot of research, though I am not an expert, it’s just research as far as your average Joe can get on Google. Most of what I’ve read on cancer has led me to more natural approaches. Natural approaches seak to heal the whole person and the imbalance that started the cancer to begin with. The fact is, if Lucy grew this one cancer, there is something that went wrong in her body to cause it to grow. So even if this one cancer does not come back, that imbalance may manifest itself in other ways down the road if it is not dealt with.
Chemotherapy will not correct that imbalance. It’s job is to poison the cancer to kill it, but it does not know the difference between a cancer cell and a regular cell, so it poisons the entire body with it. Many vets promote Palladia as a “safe” chemotherapy drug, because that is what the drug company tells them. And maybe compared to other chemotherapeutic drugs, it is safer. But any drug that requires regular monitoring of your pet’s blood is not “safe” and innocuous. They are monitoring your pet for a reason.
When you use Palladia, you, the one giving the pill, are not supposed to handle it with your bare hands. You are supposed to ideally wear gloves and wash your hands after handling, because some of the medication can end up in your body and there can be toxicities. You cannot break or crush the tablets because the powder can go into the air and be inhaled. Your dog’s waste is considered toxic and should be disposed of in bags or at the least kept in an area away from other animals and people. If she vomits, the vomit is considered toxic, and care needs to be taken cleaning it up. Gloves should be worn. Areas with urine should be irrigated with water. You can read more about it here: https://www.drugs.com/vet/palladia.html
So all of this to say, it’s not a safe drug. It is toxic and has risks. All chemotherapy drugs do. When my mom was sick, one thing I found out was that not all cancers respond to chemotherapy. In fact, relatively few do. This is why sometimes we hear of a person who did great with chemo and many others who did not. I think the big question to ask is, does Lucy’s cancer respond to Palladia? If it doesn’t, then why give it to her? Many oncologists recommend chemo beacuse it is the treatment option available to them, not because it actually is effective. Or sometimes they will consider a chemo drug “effective” because the cancer did not come back for 6 months, even though the animal died at the end of that period. Most studies on drugs like Palladia are short term, they don’t seem to go beyond a year.
I’m not saying the above to discourage you, it’s just so you can see another part of the picture. IF money is tight, herbs and homeopathy are cheaper than drugs. So I would look into those no matter what you choose. It also is a good idea to look at diet. Most integrative vets recommend no longer feeding kibble to cancer pets. They typically recommend homemade or a good quality raw diet. Even that done right can be cheaper than chemo treatment. You may also want to consider limiting your dog’s exposure to everyday chemicals, flea and tick preventatives, and dewormers.
This is something you have to weigh the pros and cons on. The ultimate question is, how would you feel if Lucy did die and you did not try Palladia? Or conversely, how would you feel if you did try Palladia and she had a side effect from that drug or her cancer came back after using it?
In my case, I did not use Palladia with my dog. My dog’s cancer was very aggressive, the Palladia would only have given her a couple of months more, if that. Even though dogs may handle chemo differently than humans, I am glad I chose not to use it in my case. I also expected to have my dog 15 years. Losing her at 10 yo was devastating, and I was shocked when she died that young because of how healthy she had been otherwise. But I don’t think those months on the drug would have been very enjoyable. If it could have given her a year or years, it would have been worth it. But, it would not have in her case. She did not have clean margins with her surgery though, and she had a higher grade of cancer. Lucy’s cancer sounds much, much more treatable and positive. I am very glad for that!
These choices are never easy. We just don’t have all the answers and have to choose based on best guess. I don’t envy the position you’re in, and have been there myself so I know how hard it is. But I would look into other options as well so that you have more of a complete picture instead of only a partial. If there are any holistic vets in your area, perhaps consult with some of them. Talk to the oncologist more too if you need to. Whatever it takes to help so you can feel at ease with your decision. But ultimately, make the decision you can best live with if everything ends badly. Not that you’re expecting a negative outcome! It’s just, if a pet dies, there are always what ifs, no matter what we did. But you’ll want the decision that gives you the fewest what ifs, worse case scenario.
I hope this helps in some ways! The decision making is hard. Many hugs to you and Lucy while you’re dealing with this. Hoping for the best possible of outcomes and many long years ahead!
__________________ Val —Loving Riley, Rosy & Axl always 🐾
Registered: 1521517958 Posts: 1
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Dear Shelly, exactly two weeks ago I lost my beloved Nala to cancer. I haven't stopped searching for information about cancer and grief and, to be honest, for anwers. There are a lot of things I regret doing and not doing, but before Nala was even diagnosed with an extremely aggressive brain cancer. Let me tell you my experience, here in Mexico, where we don't have neurosurgeons for dogs or cats, maybe for horses and other bigger species.
The first vet, the one who performed the CT scan, told us about radiation. We asked for a second opinion and the second vet suggested chemo. We didn't know what kind of cancer Nala had, so we would just be giving her an experimental treatment, because there is not a single vet who could perform a biopsy to know the type of cancer. All we knew is that the brain tumor was huge and it had already spread to Nala's neck and shoulder. Nala had terminal cancer and just a few more months to live,
After giving it some thought, my mother and I agreed that radiation would be extremely stressful and even risky for Nala, because she would have to go to the hospital and through anesthesia every few weeks and we didn't want her to experience any more stress. So we both agreed that chemo didn't sound so stressful or risky and Nala took the first pill. But the following 10 days were... well, hell.
Nala's defenses became so low, that she caught parasites. We were prepared and started the treatment for parasites immediately, but for about three days, Nala had diarrhea, she was vomiting every few hours and she was a little weak. And I say a little only because the cancer itself had already weakened the strongest, healthiest dog I ever had.
We had a second appointment for chemo already scheduled, but we cancelled it. It was clear to us that Nala had a very hard time with the first pill. Enough was enough. Nala should spend her last days filled with love and joy, not with pain and suffering, and as we know, chemo lowers the defenses and thus, patients on chemo are prone to get infections out of nowhere, even if they have been the healthiest ever, as Nala had been. We didn't want her to suffer many weeks to gain a couple months, we chose quality over quantity.
After we stopped chemo, Nala went back to being herself. She was a little stronger and she was eating just fine. We changed her diet to a keto-diet. Many doctors and vets believe a ketogenic diet can help even reverse cancer. Just withdrawing sources of carbs and introducing more protein and fibre can work wonders, they say. Just the day before yesterday I found this awesome video on Youtube, which explains a lot about cancer and diet
I sincerely believe there is no harm in changing Lucy's diet and help her fight cancer in any way you can, especially when changing her diet could even improve her life, even if the tiny cancer cell never grows or spreads. Nala didn't make it to her fifth birthday and God knows she was a super healthy dog, but my dear Schatzy and Khali lived up to 16 and a half and 14 and a half years old. Back then, we didn't know we were feeding them a keto diet mixed with their kibbles, consisting in chicken, rice, tortilla and vegetables such as carrots, chayote and zucchini.
As Val said, the decision is yours and only yours. Don't take my story as if I'm all against chemo. I know for a fact that it can work wonders in some types of cancer and Nala's was so different than Lucy's that I couldn't tell you what I would do. I'm sharing Nala's story just for you to know what to expect and to encourage you to try alternative treatments. If you go with chemo, a keto diet would even help Lucy's digestive system and defenses when they are weakened by chemo! Nala looked perfectly healthy until her last breath because we didn't let her skip a meal even once and because her diet was so good, that the only thing wrong with her was the tumor in her neck that left her quadriplegic, not even the one in her brain...
So... I hope you give keto diet a try and I wish you and Lucy the best and shall we see her next birthdays filled with love and joy!