There comes a time when you just HAVE to make a call. Despite uncertainty, you have to make a decision. We are now at that fork in the road….
On Saturday, February 11th, I thought I found another mass on Lilly’s neck. Not near her throat, where the previous tumor had been removed, but on the muscular area on the left side. Hysterically, I groped her and found what I thought was another bump under her left front leg. When I called the vet, they suggested waiting a bit, and bringing her in for another aspirate, if it didn’t go away. I watched, felt, and obsessed frequently as the tiny lump under her leg came to a head, whew! Just a clogged sebaceous gland or other boo boo! I couldn’t find the lump on her neck at all….poof – gone!!! I attributed it to an overactive imagination/paranoia on my part and said a silent prayer of thanks. I continued to check on it, of course, but there was simply no trace of it.
On Friday, February 17th, I again thought I felt the lump on her neck. This time, I gently manipulated it. My new-found knowledge of mast cell tumors has taught me that when a mast cell tumor is manipulated, it changes. This immediately became larger. My heart sank. Since her surgeries, Lilly has had no recurrence of tumors, which is an excellent thing! She has been continued on prednisone to suppress her immune system, to inhibit additional growths and complications from the histamines that mast cell tumors excrete. She has been doing so well, she was scheduled to take her TDI Certification Test in March. We were committed to continuing on – focusing on the future and allowing Lilly to work to her full potential, which is so clearly therapy work.
On Saturday, February 18th, we were in to have the mystery lump aspirated…our worst fears were confirmed. Always the optimist, I had convinced myself that Lilly had been able to dodge a bullet and her AgNor was incorrect, perhaps she was actually a Grade 2 and there would be no recurrence. This mode of thinking just made the positive aspirate results all the more difficult to comprehend and actualize. My head was spinning and I felt as though I had been hit in the stomach. The vet suggested immediate removal of the mass and a course of ccnu chemotherapy. I balked. Each progressive surgery seems to have an even more protracted recovery. Combined with the fact that Lilly’s past hasn’t been the greatest, I certainly don’t want her to think that her life here is just a different KIND of torture! Reeling from the news, I told the vet that we would be in on Monday with a decision. I researched ccnu over the weekend, but was almost certain that surgical removal was not going to be an option for her. I spoke to close friends and family about it, to make sure my thought processes were logical. Yet another radical surgery, where two inches of musculature would be removed to ensure that only healthy tissue remained, was simply is too much, too soon – and for what??? There has been no cessation of tumor growth.
On Monday, February 20th, we were at the vet’s office when they opened. I had decided to go with chemotherapy, but not the surgical removal. However, we saw a different vet, who disagreed with the original protocol. She has done research on mast cell tumors and their current therapies. She thought Lilly would benefit from a new cancer drug called mastinib. She, too, thought that continued surgeries were no longer an option for Lilly. The side effects of the mastinib were thought to be much less dangerous than that of the ccnu, which can cause liver damage in some dogs. As we talked, cost, of course, was discussed. I was originally told that the cost would be about $200.00 per month, not including the blood work and office visits that she would need. I told her to go ahead and order the drug and I would pick up another training client or two.
On Thursday, February 23rd, I got a call from the vet tech to tell me that when she went to order the drug from the manufacturer and it was much more expensive than had been previously thought. The cost was going to be more like $401.00 per month. They wanted to know if I was still okay with that. One of my favorite sayings, “In for a penny, in for a pound”, immediately came to mind. I would pick up an extra three or four training clients a month. I could just get a second job, outright, if I could get approval from my current job. But I was resolute that Lilly’s contribution to those less fortunate, absolutely HAD to be realized, or all of her suffering was for naught. Lilly WOULD become a therapy dog…I know that is her purpose, something she would LOVE to do, and am determined to make that happen for her.
On Friday, February 24th, I got another call from the vet tech informing me that the dosage of the drug was calculated incorrectly, and Lilly’s drug costs would actually be more like $578.00 per month! WoW! Now wondering how manageable this is going to be, I requested a written estimate, including all labs, associated therapies, office visits and estimated length of therapy. The low estimate is $717.67, but the high estimate is $1,001.96 per month. She will need at least 13 weeks of therapy!
Needless to say, this puts a whole different spin on things. Now, our focus is going to have to be raising funds for her treatment. Many are now questioning my judgement and reasoning. However, I feel compelled to right a wrong. I feel, strongly, that Lilly has been wronged on many levels. I said in a previous blog, “ I would never do anything to jeopardize such an extraordinary energy, for fear of tempting fate by forcing the unnatural extension of such a phenomenal rare gift. While I don’t want to waste the awesome vitality that has been entrusted to me, by not taking every advantage to preserve it, neither do I have a desire to force it to burn beyond its time, for fear its brightness would diminish and spoil.” I stand by that statement. I just HAVE to give her a chance……after all she’s been through….she deserves at least that!!!