On 8/18/16 we found out that my sweet 11 year old boy has lymphoblastic leukemia. It all started the Friday before that, he did not want to eat his kibble, but did eat wet food for a couple of days then he had a high temp so I decided to take him to the vet. The first suspicion was lymphoma because of blood work results. The next day he was seen by an internal medicine special who gave us the leukemia diagnosis, this was the report:

No murmur was heard.  The femoral pulses were strong and synchronous.  The lungs were clear.  The abdomen was not painful and no masses were felt.  The peripheral lymph nodes were all moderately enlarged.  The temperature was 102.7 and the weight was 50.7 pounds.

Cytology:  Peripheral blood smear.  There is a marked lymphocytosis with the majority of the cells, lymphoblasts.  Mitotic figures were present.  The neutrophil count appeared normal. There was apparent thrombocytopenia.  Prescapular lymph node- There is an increased population of lymphoblasts seen.  There were occasional mitotic figures present as well.

A:  Lymphoblastic leukemia

P:  discuss
       1-  aggressive chemotherapy- may be able to extend the life by 3-6 months, but unlikely to live much longer than this
       2- prednisone- may be able to extend the life by 2-12 weeks
       3- euthanasia

My heart broke into a million pieces the second I heard about this horrible diagnosis. Being 11, my first instinct was to not put him through the pain of chemo and all the nasty side effects and try the prednisone instead. Several people in the veterinary field agreed with my decision. No one recommended chemo really.
Some times I find myself feeling guilty about not trying chemo. Explaining to my brain the multiple reasons why I chose steroids instead but the "what ifs" haunt me :(

My sweet boy has been on prednisone for 10 days now, he seems comfortable 80% of the time. It has increased his appetite and thirst big time. He's eating and drinking a lot and also peeing a lot which is expected with prednisone. Although he pants a lot he can still sleep comfortably. He still enjoys his walks but we can't do more than 10 minutes at a time. I do notice he is becoming weaker and there's definite weight loss even though he's eating normally. In the recent days his skull has become very visible, as has his spine.

The anticipatory grief has been a nightmare. I cried like I have never cried in my life the first week. I have been able to find some peace knowing that I have been a great dog mommy since I adopted him 7 years ago. He has always been treated with nothing but love and respect. My fiance and I have been extra loving since the tragic news. We take him to have frozen yogurt, he comes to work with me every day, we took him and his 2 fur sisters to the beach for 2 days, he gets breakfast in bed, sleeps with us. Anything he wants he gets.

I was obsessing about his final day, about how painful making that decision is going to be for me. I decided, everything is going to happen in our home, in his bed surrounded by his family that loves and adores him. I'm going to have him cremated. I'm keeping his ashes.
My therapist told me to take one day at a time and stop obsessing with the future. So I'm trying to enjoy every day I still have with this amazing creature I love so much.

I have been reading a lot about his disease and about grief and how to cope with it now and when he's no longer physically with me. Some things make me break down in tears, some things help me feel better. There is no right or wrong. I also know it's important to be kind and good to yourself too in a situation like this.
I feel guilty too, if for any reason I find a moment of happiness. It feels wrong, it feels inappropriate.

I just wanted to share what I'm going through right now.
Has anyone else dealt with this diagnosis?
Any advice on how to deal with the heartbreak of dealing with something like this?
Pittie Momma
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Pittie's Momma,

I have no personal experience with the leukemia that your sweet boy is going thru. I can only add in what DID happen to me.

I lost my Emma to lymphoma. It was sudden. It was tragic. At the time, we thought we were dealing with a possible thyroid issue.

I did not get the chance to say goodbye. I brought her in on 06-15-16 for more testing, and I didn't know that I would not be leaving with her on that particular day.

That day will haunt me for thes rest of my life. At least for now, that is how I feel.

Whatever happens from here, you have already gotten the chance that I never did. Even though it may appear to be cruel that you are now aware of his impending rainbow bridge date being around the corner, you said it yourself:

 My fiance and I have been extra loving since the tragic news. We take him to have frozen yogurt, he comes to work with me every day, we took him and his 2 fur sisters to the beach for 2 days, he gets breakfast in bed, sleeps with us. Anything he wants he gets.

I can say that I treated Emma so great, that everyday WAS like her last day. And it's true. I was such a "bad" doggie parent. She always got treats, vanilla ice cream, sushi, a ritz cracker here and there, etc..

But I still wish I could have known ahead of time when her rainbow bridge day was going to be. I wish I could have pre-grieved while she was still alive. While still in her presence.

I think you are doing an awesome job, regardless on whatever you decide.
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I'm so sorry for the diagnosis you received of your beloved. It's heartbreaking to get a cancer diagnosis.

My kitty was diagnosed with bladder cancer. She already had stage 3 kidney disease. I thought I had more time with her. We started a conservative treatment using an anti inflammatory and she seemed great the first day, but not so great the second and then things spiraled and we were in the ER by the second night. I brought her home and the hospice nurse came and then two days later the hospice vet came and we made the decision to let her go. She had declined rapidly, stopped eating, and could barely walk.

I had also planned on having a consult with a surgeon, but we never made it that far. The hospice vet believed there was possibly cancer somewhere else in her body and that we were fighting a losing battle.

Chemo does wonders for some cancers and does nothing for others. Age is also a factor. Someone told me that cancer is usually accompanied by other problems and that has been my experience with both my kitties who were of advanced age.

I wish I could give you the magic formula for how to deal with this. You are doing great by having a plan for when the time does come - and you will know when that is.

Make sure you tell your sweet boy everything you want to say. Look in his eyes and pour it all out leaving nothing unsaid. That advice was given to me by the hospice nurse and it's exactly what I did with my beautiful Carma cat.

Our animals just want us to live in the moment with them so your therapist is right. Try not to divide your attention between past and future if you can help it. You will be greatful that you really experienced his life with him instead of worrying about what was to come. It isn't easy, I know.

Sending you a big hug and wishing you well.
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My heart goes out to you and your sweet pittie. We lost our 9 year old pittie Tank 2 months ago to cancer. It is gut wrenching. The only thing that has helped me was to cry when I felt the need to, and try to keep myself busy. I'm still struggling tremendously 2 months later, but they say it gets easier, and I'm praying it does.

Just give your baby extra love and attention from here on out, which I'm sure you are. Make sure they know how much they are loved, and let them do all the things you never did. (We let our big boy Tank lay on the couch, eat ice cream, etc in his last few days).

Praying for you during this hard time <3
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