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Dec 06 2011

The story begins

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I joined this site for advice and support during the recent amputation of our baby’s leg and had no intention of starting a blog.  However, early on in this journey we experienced a situation which I feel is very important to share, if for no other reason than to make anyone reading this blog truly process and think about the information provided to us rather than to make rash decisions.  I will try to be brief.

Our Zeus is an 11 year old mixed breed dog.  In July 2011 he developed a limp which was immediately checked by our vet.  X-rays showed no concerns and the conclusion was a tendon injury.  After laser therapy and a couple of weeks of down-time he recovered but the limp came back the next month.  We thought he re-injured the tendon and again opted for rest.  He mostly recovered again, but in early November the limp returned with a vengeance.  X-rays showed a considerable difference from those in July and osteosarcoma  was suspected.  A biopsy was performed that afternoon which confirmed “aggressive” cancer but was unable to determine the type of cancer.

While waiting on the biopsy results, I read everything I could find on osteosarcoma.  Every article that I read stated that, upon confirmation of cancer, the next step is x-rays of the lungs to check for metastasis.  As most of you know, it is assumed that the cancer has metastasized, but becomes a question of whether the mets are visible on x-rays.  By most accounts, if the lung x-rays show mets then the prognosis is poor and chemo will likely not be beneficial.  If the mets do not show, then it is assumed that they are micro and that chemo will provide some benefit in treatment and prolong good quality of life.

Here is where our story has a twist and I hope it will make newcomers to this experience think twice.

Upon receiving the biopsy results the vet suggested either x-rays or a CT scan to check for mets.  Money is not a issue when it comes to our baby, so we opted for the CT scan as it is supposedly better.  Our vet advised that he did not see anything on the CT, but it would be sent to a radiologist for review.   A few days later the vet called with the devastating news that the radiologist reported a lesion on a lung and a lesion on the liver.  Without further biopsies, the lesions could not be confirmed as cancer, but it is likely cancer.  Obviously, this led us down the road of thinking “the mets are visible so chemo will likely not help.”  We thought we were part of the unlucky bunch that would only have, according to the statistics, three or four months (or less) with our baby.  Additionally, we couldn’t leave the leg on due to the immense pain and the risk of it breaking just during walking and causing even more excruciating pain.  Was it fair to Zeus to remove the leg and go through the pain and recovery when he would only just recover before succumbing to the cancer?  I will admit that euthanasia was on our minds.

Then something occurred to us.  All of our research indicated that if mets are visible on X-RAYS, then the prognosis is poor.  But, we had a CT scan.  It is more sensitive.  Is is possible that it is so much more sensitive that it picked up abnormalities that x-rays would not?  In other words, if we had done what most people do and had the x-rays instead of the CT, would the lesions have been too small for a typical x-ray to pick-up?  If so, that would put us within the statistics that say chemo is warranted and we may have much more time with Zeus.

We asked our vet the very specific, direct question:  If we had done x-rays instead of a CT scan, would you have seen these lesions or are they small enough that they would not have shown on x-rays?  His answer: I don’t think I would have seen these on x-ray.  And, if we had done x-rays we would have only looked at the lungs and would not have checked the liver so we would not know about the suspicious spot on the liver.

So, are we being punished (for lack of a better word) because we spared no expense and chose the CT scan?  I realize that there are no promises, no givens and no guarantees for any dog diagnosed with this nasty disease.  I do not believe we are grasping at false hope.  We realize we may still lose this battle very quickly.  But, there is a HUGE difference between (1) thinking that you have only a couple of months and that amputation and chemo will, according to all research, do little or no good; and (2) thinking that you have some basis for fighting this and maybe getting much more precious time with your loved family member.

We chose to believe that the lesions were too small to have shown on an x-ray.  That puts us in the category of amputating, giving chemo and hoping that it buys us a year or two.

For anyone new to this, please consider the above seriously.  One question changed the whole entire ballgame.  One question made the difference between our decision to fight or to let him go now.  I hope and believe we have chosen correctly.

Well, that is the beginning of our story.  Zeus’s front leg was amputated on 12/1/11 and so far he is doing well.  Chemo starts in a week or so.  Keeping our fingers crossed.



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7 responses so far

7 Responses to “The story begins”

  1.   etgayleon 06 Dec 2011 at 7:36 pm     Reply1

    it’s a bumpy road. hopefully zeus continues to heal and has many, many good times ahead. we too know the feeling of ‘self doubt’ or even the pain of self flagulation, where we wondered if we made the right decision. the past is gone, keep enjoying the ‘now’ that you are living with zeus. there is no date stamp on his butt.

    charon & gayle

  2.   adminon 06 Dec 2011 at 9:22 pm     Reply2

    Thank you for sharing this important story! We’re glad to hear Zeus is doing well and look forward to hearing about his progress.

  3.   jerryon 07 Dec 2011 at 4:23 pm     Reply3

    Wow. This is an experience that no other member has shared here. Thank you.

    Honestly, I believe that information is power. This, coming from a pack where we didn’t want to do x-rays at all after surgery, because we just didn’t want to know if mets had appeared. Today I believe we might have done more to have the information we needed to make good choices for our pack. I dunno. Maybe.

    Always remember that there are no “right” choices when it comes to cancer, just the choices that work best for you. If you had only done the x-rays, you would be blissfully ignorant, just like most of us who come back with clean rads. Sometimes, ignorance is indeed bliss.

    Now that you have the information, run with it, do what you can to make yourself feel better about coping with cancer but never forget that what’s most important is living in the Now, as Charon says.

    P.S. Would you mind if we wrote a Tripawd News Blog post about your experience? Please email us at jerry-at-tripawds-dot-com if that’s OK. We’d love to share this with as many folks as possible. Thanks.

  4.   zeuspodon 08 Dec 2011 at 12:52 am     Reply4


    Thank you for the encouragement. We know that every single moment with him is a blessing and we cherish each one. We absolutely do not mind you sharing this experience. I, too, believe information is power and if our experience can help someone, then that is wonderful.

  5.   maggieon 15 Dec 2011 at 3:24 pm     Reply5

    Thank you for your story. Good luck with your pup…sounds like recovery is going well.

    Tracy, Maggie’s Mom

  6.   Kateon 03 May 2013 at 7:40 pm     Reply6

    What breed is zeus? My dog looks very similar and was just diagnosed with a spindle cell tumor on her front right leg. Ct scan set for Monday.

    •   zeuspodon 03 May 2013 at 8:14 pm     Reply7

      Hi Kate. Zeus was a Husky mix. Sorry to hear about your dogs diagnosis. This is a great site for both information and support. Wish you the best of luck.


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