So the news is as good as it could be considering the circumstances. A routine dental cleaning leads to the discovery of a mass on Misty’s tongue. After a torturous FOUR days waiting for results, I got the bad news.
And so the journey begins, again... Could life really be this brutal? The odd thing is that Samantha was diagnosed in January 2007, she passed away January 2008 and now Misty was diagnosed January 2009… I think I am just going to skip January next year…
But what I found out today was as good as it could be under the circumstances. The mass was smaller than was originally thought and so we are going to skip surgery and instead radiate the heck out of it. Even though all her blood work looks good, we still want to avoid putting this 13-year old dog under anesthesia more than we have to! Misty’s lungs also looked good and we did an ultrasound to make sure the rest of her organs looked good. (By saying "we", I mean the vet did the ultrasound and I took out a second mortgage to pay for it... j/k. I would have paid twice as much - can you really put a price tag on your pet's life? Treatment is far more reasonable than most people think!) The vet also aspirated (?) her lymph nodes in the area to check to see if the cancer has spread. I’ll know more on that later and even if it has, we won’t alter the treatment plan. For now, she is other-wise healthy and the only worry I have is the %^@ malignant melanoma.
I am a big fan of finding the silver lining in every situation and I think that the (only?) silver lining in losing Samantha to cancer last year was that this time I knew what to do, who to talk to and what questions to ask to increase Misty’s chances. I immediately asked for Dr. Rosenberg, the world’s best Veterinary Oncologist (!!!). Although, it wasn’t anything personal, but I really didn’t want to have to find myself in her clinic ever again… but here I am. HOWEVER, there is NO other place I’d want to be in treating a pet with cancer. Her reputation is well earned and she really is the best of the best (cue Top Gun music). She is forthcoming, honest, caring and the best chance any pet has of beating this disease. http://www.vetcancergroup.com/.
There is also a fabulous article about her in the Orange County Register http://www.ocregister.com/articles/cancer-rosenberg-people-2045783-hailey-vcg. After you read it you’ll understand why, before Misty’s regular vet even finished saying “malignant melanoma,” I was interrupting him to tell him I was going to switch Misty’s care to Dr Rosenberg. VCG worked me in on Monday, less than 48 hours after Misty’s biopsy results came back. Time matters in these situations, another lesson learned from Samantha’s treatment. I am considering a second career in veterinary oncology, as a veteran, a self-appointed expert and with Google as my database, I know lots of big words now….
Anyway, so Misty will go in for her first radiation treatment tomorrow. She’ll need a total of 6. She is also getting a vaccine which is supposed to prevent/treat Melanoma (depending on what studies you read and what it is “approved” for) so she’ll be getting that every two weeks for a total of 4 shots. After that she’ll go in for six-month booster vaccines and two-month check-ups. Dr Rosenberg told me it was all good news and I have every reason to be relieved and cautiously optimistic! Plus, she hasn’t lied to me yet, even when the truth was hard to hear.
The radiation shouldn’t be too taxing on Misty. We are only doing six treatments and only hitting the tongue and lymph nodes so it is a small, concentrated area. However, that is not to say it will be pain free. I know February will be rough and Misty will feel some significant discomfort. Dr Rosenberg explained that the radiation burns will make it uncomfortable for her to eat for a few days/weeks and that we’ll manage the pain with pain pills. It’ll be hard to see her hurt, but I think discomfort for a few days will be worth the tradeoff of adding months (or possibly years!!) to her life. I hope I am making the right choices for her.
Beyond the radiation and the vaccines, I’ll just have to be vigilant. Like skin cancer in people, I think I understand that it can come back in the same place or other places. Unfortunately, it tends to be quite aggressive in dogs, but I think we found it early enough and so for that I am blessed!
So THANK YOU for all the kind thoughts, prayers and patience with my tears. For 13 years Misty has been my constant companion, friend, life force and given me unconditional love, of which I was rarely deserving! Go hugs your pets!