During the first week of January, I noticed a hard lump on Holly's front right leg. It was new. So new that it wasn't there a week prior when I gave her a bath and groom. I watched it for a day or two, but didn't like how it looked...it wasn't painful, but it was odd shaped and hard. I called my vet...my vet didn't like the looks of it either. So, in addition to the acu and chiro she got that day, she got a full exam, full blood workup and had a needle aspirate of the mass. She looked and felt great, bloodwork was beautiful, but the cells from the mass were indicative of a sarcoma.
We scheduled a surgical removal of the mass with the plan to take 3cm margins and to send in the mass to find out what kind of tissue it was. When my vet called with the results of the surgery, my heart sunk. The mass she removed was unusual looking and it had dozens of tendrils reaching down into her her bicep muscle. They couldn't be removed. Holly recovered from the surgery just fine...she was all ready to go for a 10-mile hike the next day...but I was a wreck waiting for the results of the tissue biopsy. Four days can be a really, really long time to wait.
The results were bad. Really bad. The tissue was called a Myxosarcoma. It's a rare soft tissue sarcoma that can be very aggressive and grow very, very quickly, especially after being excised via surgery.
Aggressive. Rare. Cancer. Shit.
My vet consulted with the vet that runs the oncology unit at Washington State University's Veterinary Teaching Hospital and 2 weeks after surgery I drove there for a full consultation for Holly. The news they gave me wasn't what I wanted to hear, and I was pretty unprepared to hear it. They don't see many cases of Myxosarcoma. They called it rare. So rare that they couldn't give me any meaningful statistics on prognosis. The good news was that the CT Scan didn't show any obvious signs that the cancer had spread elsewhere. We caught it early enough that was still localized to her leg. The initial mass was removed, but given that those tendrils could not be removed, we know that there are still cancerous cells that were left behind.
They gave me 2 options for treatment. First, treating her with localized radiation at the site of the initial mass...18 treatments in 24 days. I'll talk about this one in a second. The second option was the "do nothing" approach...metronomic chemotherapy, which is daily pills given at home, and then we cross our fingers that it will slow the cell growth down enough to prevent it from creating it's own blood supply again. The problem with this approach is that considering how fast the initial mass grew on her, it may not work for very long...it will still grow and spread, most likely to her lungs first. The liklihood she would make it past 3-6 months was probably slim.
The good news is that she is a great candidate for the first approach to work...localized radiation. She's healthy, very fit, has excellent bloodwork, the mass was localized and only a Grade 1. Radiation treatment could work to put her into remission for at least a year, possibly longer. The drawback is a logistic biggie...she would need to get daily radiation for 3.5 weeks, except on weekends, at WSU, 4.5 hours away from home. How the hell could I possibly pull that off? And I haven't even mentioned the cost.
But they were offering me a huge amount of hope for her. And not just pointless the-glass-is-half-full optimism or false hope...real, genuine, this-can-work hope. How could I be offered a really solid chance at remission and not take it? (I will not say "cure" because until there is one, that's a full-of-crap word). I knew that if I didn't try, I would lose her in a very short time and then beat myself up over it for years afterwards.
But how? After lots of crying and talking to some great friends, I was starting to realize that I might be able to actually pull it off. It took A LOT of planning and asking for help. I'm not too stubborn or proud to ask for help when I need it...and thankfully I have some really, really amazing friends that offered it. And not just offered, they stepped up and helped me grab this shit with both hands.
I don't trust anyone to determine if the treatment would make Holly miserable, so I could not just drop her off at the huge veterinary teaching hospital for 3.5 weeks. That meant I had to be over there during the week, so I got permission to work remotely during the week days. A friend is taking care of Danee (Little Dog just loves her Auntie Kim!), other awesome friends are caring for my house and kitties, and I found a super cheap extended stay motel.
And there you have it...hope for Holly. She has a hell of a team in her corner, and I'm grateful to say, so do I.
I thought I couldn't be anymore lucky to have been given this chance for Holly from my friends..from my extended family. And then they took it up a notch.
A long time agility friend has an awesome dog collar business on Esty called Freya's Studio. She makes beautiful collars and gorgeous collar bling. Holly and Danee rock their beauty daily...
Bree is amazing. When she heard about Holly's cancer, she offered to donate a whole weeks work of collar sales to the cost of treatment. Wow. Just, wow.
Then...my friend Tonya created a You Caring site to allow a way for anyone who wants to donate to Holly's treatment expenses. http://www.youcaring.com/pet-expenses/help-kim-with-holly-s-cancer-treatment-expenses/304947
There are no words to express how grateful I feel towards these ladies, and those
all those that have chosen to donate to Holly and me. Seriously, I'm crying
I don't know what the future holds for Holly. But Team Holly is working towards making sure it's a good one. I will try to post weekly or more on how her treatments go, and of our adventures in Pullman, WA. Wish us luck.