Back at end of last year, commentor Paul C shared the tale of his dogs Sugar & Sam. He was kind enough to send an update this weekend:
The cardiologist at Georgia Veterinary Specialists ordered a CT scan and verified that it was a lung tumor and that she needed surgery. I gave her a bath the day before (photo above)… They removed one lung lobe containing masses, another that shared an airway with the affected lobe, and sampled her lymph system while they were in there.
Dogs are amazingly tough. She went in early on a Tuesday morning for surgery. They wouldn’t let me visit her that day to avoid agitating her, but I visited on Wednesday. She had a huge bandage all around her body, and the anesthetic had made the vestibular syndrome worse, and she whined continuously for an hour and a half while I tried to calm her. Then she finally napped for a little while.
When I told my sister this, she said “Well of course. She had to tell you all about it first, didn’t she?” That she did. The techs said everybody in the back loved her, and I can believe that. She’s the sweetest dog ever.
That was Wednesday. On Thursday, I went to pick her up and bring her home. She came roaring out of the back, climbing all over me while I was trying to sign the discharge papers, and when she got home she immediately picked a fight with her brother. Two days after major surgery, with a suture almost half way round her body. No way people could do that. If it were me, I’d still be whining.
She’s really been kind of a handful. I was supposed to keep her inside and not running around, but she’s acting like she’s two years old again. When my wife went out to rake leaves, she circled the family room for two hours trying to be let out. She keeps showing her brother who’s boss. It was a hard job preventing her from tearing her sutures before they could be removed the right way.
On February 16 she finally got the sutures removed. I also consulted with an oncologist afterwards. She has an adenocarcinoma. He recommended chemotherapy on a three week cycle. The first week she gets cisplatin, which takes all day, and there is a 5% risk of nausea. The second week is off. The third week she gets vinblastin, which takes a half hour and carries no risks. Dogs who don’t get this therapy live an average of 6 months. Those who do live an average of 18 months and some live very much longer, years longer.
He said there were two very big factors in her favor. It was a big deal that the masses were restricted in the one lung lobe. Had they spread, that would be very bad. And it was a huge deal that her lymph nodes were clear. Basically, we seem to have caught the cancer while it was localized. I interpret this as meaning that she has a reasonable chance of living toward the long end of the probabilities. Maybe I’m dreaming.
But this seems to me like all up side and no down side. The only down is a 5% chance of throwing up once a month. We can live with that to reap the benefits. She completed the first cycle yesterday and was a little mopey after the first drug but didn’t seem particularly sick.
This has been unbelievably expensive. I am so glad that I thought to purchase pet insurance a couple of years ago. I will always have that going forward. I would have done it all anyway, but this has made it much less stressful (at least, it will when they send the first reimbursement check). But I would have organized credit cards and tax returns and whatever resources I could muster to do this. It is the right thing for Sugar and so it is the right thing. She is full of life still. I can’t let her go when that is still true.
And she’s my best friend. Right now, late at night, she is lying in front of the back door, struggling to keep her eyes open, and watching me, making sure I’m ok.
Making sure I’m ok. I love my little girl.
I’m trying to accommodate myself to the fact that she is old and she will be gone eventually. But for right now, I have to do the right thing for her. She was there for me during some hard times, including the death of my dad last year. So now I get to be there for her. And it was so heartening, for those few days after she came home from the surgery, when she was acting like she was two years old again.
That girl loves you, Paul. The grin in that last pic is priceless.
Hang tough S&S, Paul and bride. Glad to know it’s going well.
Ack! Sugar looks a lot like my dearly departed Sugarfoot I lost last year. Best dog I ever had. She used to sleep in rain too. To be reconnected with your dogs after all that time is too, too, wonderful. Good for you and good for them.
Via Salon, AP:
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – Hundreds of people from the United States and Canada want to adopt an Oklahoma dog that survived an attempt to euthanize it.
Thanks, Paul. Made me weepy, then happy.
Sugar is a good girl.
Welcome home Sugar. Live long and prosper. To the whole family.
What a great story. I love Border Collies. I really want to have one, but I don’t have the time or space. And I know having a BC but not having the time or space for one is just a recipe for disaster.
I’m glad to hear Sugar is doing so much better!
Thanks for the update and I’m glad Sugar is home. The picture of Sugar smiling says a lot.
What a nice dog!
She’s beautiful and she’s with people who love her. That’s just about the best.
Yea for Sugar! Thank you for the update.
If you are not already bombarded with information pick up
Pets Living With Cancer
we found it to be a great resource.
Good luck with Sugar. She’s so beautiful and you are too.
Nice story to start the week.
Am glad Sugar’s with you for a good while longer!
My husband and I spent our vacation to France funds on chemo for our Border Collie and it was the best investment we’ve ever made; it bought us 8 more wonderful months with Gus, who died almost 7 years ago, and who we miss daily still. I’m so glad Sugar and bro and you found each other (twice!).
Wow. Thanks for the update, Paul C. YAY!, for Sugar. Clear lymph nodes is a really good sign. I’m sure you know that there are anti-nausea drugs that can help Sugar should she come to need them. Best wishes for a positive outcome.
I’ve taken one dog through chemo and one dog through radiation therapy. The “rightness” of these decisions lie deep in the heart of the human companion that has to make them. So, you done good, and done the right thing.
@stuckinred: If you thumb through your copy of Pets Living With Cancer, you’ll find my buddy, Shadow, on page 49.
My Felony has lymphoma and was one of the rare dogs that can not tolerate chemo–oceans of puke and utter misery. We completed one month of a six month protocol and almost lost her in August. However, we did some good and she’s in her 7th month of remission and she is very, very fat and spoiled.
She’s in doggy hospice and has a vet that makes housecalls so no more scary hospitals. We are enjoying our days together.
What a darling doggie, and what a great story. Here’s wishing you all many more happy years together.
Thanks for the update! I’m so glad the cancer was localized, and that chemo isn’t bothering her too badly. I’m absolutely certain a lot of her resilience comes from being with you and her brother, knowing she is safe and adored.
This has been such an amazing saga. Movie material, actually: I think you should seriously find an agent and see if any studios might be interested.
What a gorgeous doggie. So glad her surgery went well and she’s got a good treatment plan and good prognosis. Thanks for the update. She’s gorgeous and it’s so obvious she loves you.
a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q)
I can’t say it any better than this. Possibly because I’m weepy now.
My poochie had one lobe removed last February, went through chemo and had a good year. He has a couple of new tumors (small) which we are treating and he is doing well. The chemo never bothered him except made him a bit sluggish at times. He did have some secondary occurance at the time so it seems your doggie is in better shape. He is already around 14 (the vet says) in any event, and we rescued him almost 10 years ago. If I knew how I would post a picture.
Anyways, good luck. And I am now trying to get ready for the inevitable conclusion, but really dreading it.
Didn’t have insurance, it is incredibly expensive, and we never even considered not going for it. It helps to see all of the other “crazy” people at the clinic.
Could you folks who have had pets that were treated for cancer give some idea as to the cost? I see “expensive” and other descriptions, but can anyone post numbers? Low five figures? High four figures? A range? I ask because King is getting older–10 this month–and stuff happens, and while I have pet insurance, I know from experience that it will cover about half the bill. And half of five figures can still be five figures.
I just want to be prepared. I am also hoping that if I prepare for it, it won’t happen. Because it’s only the stuff I don’t expect that happens. I keep telling myself that, anyway.
You Don't Say
Sugar is beautiful. I hope you many, many years together.
I live in Canada and didn’t go to the cheapest place (out of town university) due to convenience so this may indicate the higher end.
diagnostics – around $1000
surgery all in – around $5000
initial chemo – around $1500
second chemo (now) – around $2500
everything else – around $1000
Note: he also suffers from joint instability in his shoulder so treatment has been a bit complicated due to finding coplimentary medicines and treatment protocols.
I have spoken to other people and they indicate comparable amounts.
@stuckinred: Thank you. I’ll do that. Borders sent me another 40% off coupon so I’ll stop by there and see if they have a copy.
@Kristine: For me, so far:
1. Initial diagnosis and treatments around $1700
2. Surgery about $2500
3. Oncology treatments about $700 per cycle for four cycles.
So call it a total of about $7-8000. My insurance pays 90% of the cost after a $200 deductible with a $12000 cap.
Yay and further best wishes for Paul C and Sugar.
Lung tumors were the culprit that took our beloved Bruno–he was too old when diagnosed to survive the treatment described here. When you two defeat this bastard disease the both of us will be here, cheering!
From one lung cancer patient to another–love, love, love Sugar.
Good dog, Sugar. Good dog.
@pjcamp: Sugar is beautiful. I’m glad to know that the surgery went well. What a happy, loving girl she is.
Our Ranger dog (Lab mix but looooong black hair) was hit by a car at 7 months, I watched in horror as the tire rolled over his chest.
But he was fine! for 3 days, then his pink gums started turning blue and he couldn’t lie down.
Local vet says not what gets hit, but diaphram gets ruptured. Surgical vet says surgery will be expensive and he can’t know what’s what till he is in there.
Rangers intestines had entered his chest cavity and were crowding out his lungs. He could’nt breathe.
Two hours and many many tears and frantic phone calls later, Dr comes out of surgery. Rnager is sahved and stitched from throat to penis. His diaphragm was “shredded”–if he made it through the night, he’d be 50-50. Dr wanted us to send him to emergency all night vet hospital to monitor; we couldn’t afford, so he told us how to do mouth-to-mouth and what to watch for.
We did shifts; he’d open his eyes now and again, and looked right to the depths of my soul, sigh and go back to sleep. Next day the vet was impressed with his oxygen levels. Told us he would never be the mad-running-fast fast fast dog he had been.
Long recovery short, he’s now 10, gorgeous, runs and runs like the wind, wrestling with the youngest of our six rescues.
Dogs are amazing at recovery when they know how much they are loved.
Go Sugar go!
@pjcamp: Which insurance company are you with? I have ASPCA. Cheaper premiums, but I suspect I may take the hit with their version of ‘customary charges.’ So far, they have covered about 50-55%.
Obligatory PUPPEH!! And border collies are toughies. Jack has been kicked in the head several times by a horse and is still his energetic teenaged puppeh self.
It is an unbelievable tale of you and Sugar, for sure. So much needless suffering. I sure am hoping the chemo gives her more years with you.
Oh, this story has lifted my day for certain. Best to you and yours, Paul!
Thank you, Paul C., for the update and much love to Sugar.
Wow, what a gorgeous dog. I can see why you’re head over heels or her. She is so lovely. And what a lucky girl she is to have a wonderful person such as yourself to love and care for her. Border Collies are truly magical dogs. Best of luck to you guys.
@Kristine: I tried to post a reply earlier but it looks like it vanished.
I use PetFirst but it was kind of by accident. They partnered with Kroger and I saw a flier while standing in the checkout line. It was almost an impulse buy because I knew my dogs were getting older.
If I had it to do over, I’d do a little more research. PetPlan, which is partnered with the Humane Society, has a little higher ratings on PetInsuranceReviews.com. It may be kind of a wash between them, depending on your needs. One treats all breeds the same while the other charges different premiums for different breeds. One has an annual and a per incident cap while the other has only an annual cap.
I can’t really complain at the moment. They paid up on the first filing without issues except for wanting to see the last year of medical records, which is reasonable.
Premiums run me just under $80/month for two dogs which isn’t too bad.
@pjcamp: Thanks for the info. My ASPCA accident/illness policy is running me a little under $50/month for my two hooligans, but it went up because of a couple of claims last year. It started at around $29/month for both. They won’t cover GI issues for King since pre-ulcer gut was a preexisting condition.
They’ve been fine. Quick to pay, and filing claims is simple.
@ed_finnerty: Thanks for the info. To tell you the truth, that total is a half to a third what I thought it would be.
I hope your pup is doing well.
@pjcamp: @Kristine: I have Pet Plan and i think they are wonderful
@dsc: Ranger is as awesome as Sugar.