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Dec 14 2011

Update: Day 13 – Phantom Pains?

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Well, tomorrow is two weeks since amputation.  Zeus gets his stitches out and gets his first round of chemotherapy on Friday.  Some random thoughts regarding the journey so far:

Greg and I used vacation time and alternated staying home with Zeus the first week after surgery.  He was tightly wrapped with a serious bandage that looked a little like a straight jacket.  The meds kept him mostly knocked-out and he was up primarily when he had to go out or eat.  I was thankful that he peed and pooped the very first day home, and although our little pig’s appetite has been a little off he has mostly been normal about eating.  Of course, we still got no sleep at all because we would jump up every single time he moved.

Starting this week, he has been a little more awake and he seems like he might be having some phantom pains.  Or maybe it is the meds.  The vet finally called me back today with instructions for weaning him off of the meds.  I have WONDERFUL employers who have allowed me to bring Zeus to work with me during the recovery period and keep him in a large crate in my office.  I work for a law firm, so it is a professional setting and I was stunned when they just insisted that he come with me.  I am very thankful that I have been able to have him with me all day to keep an eye on him.

As of this morning, he was a bit wound-up and whining some.  At lunch I took him out for a walk and then adjusted his new doggy t-shirt that we bought after the bandage came off (I enlarged the hole for the remaining leg so that it didn’t bind him up too much when he tried to lay down or stretch).  That seemed to do the trick.  He is currenly snoring so hard that you can hear it all the way out into the hallway!  Come to think of it, he started the whining/crying intermittantly after the bandage was removed.  I wonder if his aggitation has been coming from the lack of pressure on that shoulder?  Maybe a security thing?

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Dec 10 2011

No regrets

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We have experienced that moment of realizing we most certainly made the right decision.

Thursday, 12/8, marked one week since the amputation surgery.  A few worries marked the week, but all turned out well.  In my last entry, I chronicled the spot that appeared on Zeus’s stomach which slowly disappeared the following day.  Apparently it was just bruising or some free blood that accumulated under the skin in that area, as the vet suspected.  Thursday was WONDERFUL.  Zeus was still a bit groggy from the pain meds, but he rediscovered his love of tummy rubs.  He spent nearly the entire day on his back with those three precious legs sprawled in every direction absolutely demanding scratches.  It was so wonderful to see his personality returning.  At one point, Greg was on the mattress in the floor, typing on the laptop and Zeus hopped over, plopped down on top of the laptop, rolled onto his back and looked at us upside down.  In that position, his lips fell open and exposed every single tooth in his mouth.  It was the biggest smile ever.  He stayed that way for the longest time, just soaking up the attention.  It was at that moment that we KNEW we had done the right thing.  Our boy is happy.

Friday started off with a trip to the vet for his first bandage change and the incision is healing beautifully.  Unfortunately they decided to remove the cumbersome bandage/wrap and replace it with just a sticky bandage.  It looked like a pee-pad with sticky edges.  Really… a sticky bandage on a furry dog?  That lasted all of 24 hours before the edges came loose and it was flapping around like a wing on his back.  Then, he decided that he needed to scratch his shoulder.  Greg and I both spilled our coffee diving for him before a toenail could catch that incision so artfully displayed under his “wing”.   Sooooo, back to the vet this morning to have something a little more substantial put on.  Not nearly as heavy duty as the initial bandaging, but something to hold the padding in place.

So, all is well for now.  Of course, we have our moments.  But, we feel that he should not experience any negativity from us so any tears are quietly shed outside on the deck.  Let me tell you, having to go outside to cry when it is mid-winter in the mountains of Pennsylvania provides serious motivation to stay positive!  : )


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Dec 08 2011

Daily concerns

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Well, our day started with somewhat of a scare.  Upon waking, Zeus rolled over for tummy rubs and I noticed a spot in the center of his stomach, right in front of his privates which looked like a spot of blood under the skin (not purple or bruised, just very red under the skin), about the diameter of a small egg.  No swelling or anything else of concern, just a very discolored spot.  Off to the vet which made Zeus VERY unhappy.  The vet ran blood tests to determine if there were any platelet deficiencies, but all of the levels looked normal (some elevations but on levels that they expect to be high immediately following surgery).  Two vets took a look and finally concluded it must be brusing and/or some free blood from the surgery that settled in that spot.  More than once it was mentioned that he may have excessively licked that spot overnight, but I do not think that is possible.  He is sleeping between us and we jump up if he even blinks too hard.  We will see how things look in the morning.

Speaking of sleeping, our entire lives have changed at this point.  Our mattress is in the floor.  Greg and I sleep opposite directions on the bed so that Zeus cannot step off accidentally.   We are alternating days to stay home with him and burning vacation time like crazy.  We have moved a futon mattress into the family room so that whomever is home with him for the day can stay on the futon right beside him.  In place of a wreath on the front door, we have a laminated sign stating “Please do not knock or ring bell.  Injured dog inside.”  And, now, it is snowing and we are trying hard to keep his bandages dry.  I can’t say that all of this is new to us.  Eleven years ago we adopted littermates from a shelter at which I volunteered.  Zeus’s brother, Merlin, had knee issues (left cruciate surgery at age 4, right luxating patella surgery at age 5 and right cruciate surgery at age 8.5).  The recover for those was just as brutal and we became quite experienced at assisting immobile, recovering dogs.  Fortunately, Zeus was always very healthy until this diagnosis.  He never had anything other than his yearly checkup.  Hopefully he will recover well from this surgery and be our happy boy for awhile longer!

Zeus’s bandage change is scheduled for Friday morning and we will get our first look at how the incision is healing.  The vet advises that the stitches will be removed the following Friday and they will start chemo that same day.  So, now I am off to search other blogs for what to expect from the next stage.

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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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Jul 08 2011

Hello Tripawds!

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