October 3, 2011

Meet Roy...

Roy is our 6 year old mutt. A Corpus Christi special. With curly whiskers, a scar on his nose, and cute white and tan spots. The best snuggler you'll ever meet - he spoons. The kind of dog that will play fetch endlessly. The go to baby hoover. The dog that showed up as a stray at my first job at a vet clinic. The reason I  broke a lease - so that I could take him home. Who I'm pretty sure gets personal enjoyment in slipping the tongue to anyone caught off guard. Such a people pup. Who happens to have a great time digging in mud... Total energizer bunny.

About a month ago I was walking the dogs and noticed an almond-sized lump on Roy's bum. I got side-tracked and forgot to look at it more closely that night. The next day, one of our lectures was given by an oncologist who happened to mention dog booty cancer multiple times. Cue vet student paranoia. We went to a local vet the next day and they sent us home with a week's worth of antibiotics and orders to come back for surgery if the mass didn't go away. Well, it didn't go away. I found myself in the library looking through all of the reference books to see what it could be. Despite Roy being relatively young and a mixed breed dog, I kept coming back to a type of malignant cancer. Extreme vet student paranoia settling in. I immediately walked over to the small animal hospital at school to schedule an appointment to get some answers, trying not to start crying as I talked to the receptionist. A particularly friendly liason from the Dean's office happened to be walking through the small animal hospital as I was leaving, who proceeded to ask if everything was ok. Nope. Cue embarrassing break down in the middle of the lobby. He let me walk off without explaining myself which I was grateful for. I wasn't ready to talk about it. And I didn't even know anything for sure, just my vet student paranoia at this point.

We went in for our appointment a couple days later and they did a full exam and fine needle aspirate of the mass, which gave them a look at the types of cells that were in there. A perk of being a vet student and taking my pet to the teaching hospital at school was that I got to go to the back and help them run the tests. They were having trouble reading the slides they made from the aspirate, so they were calling in oncology to take a look. There was that word I was sort of expecting, but really hoping not to hear. Oncology. I was glad that I had prepared for the worst and been through the emotions of accepting that our 6 year old mutt dog, our little Roy, could have cancer. The oncologist was nice enough to look at the slides while I was there. I tried sitting in the room and waiting, Roy was busy snoozing and I felt like I was about to explode pacing back and forth in the small room. Eventually the oncologist came back in with the news that there were some concerning cells in the aspirate from Roy's mass. No longer paranoia, becoming a reality. We went to talk to soft tissue surgery and made plans to have the mass removed and sent off to histopathology, where they could look at the tissue under a microscope to figure out what it was for sure. After a fun weekend running and playing, I dropped him off at the clinic and they took him in for surgery. They cut the mass out and sent it off to histopath. 

Bea and I were about to head out the door for school when the surgeon called a couple days later . They had gotten the histopath results back. The doctor explained that the mass they removed contained malignant cells. Roy had perianal adenocarcinoma. They did not get all of the tumor with the first surgery. Roy would need an additional, more invasive surgery to get the rest of the malignant cells, as well as an abdominal ultrasound and chest radiographs to make sure it hadn't spread to other parts of his body. His doctor explained that without the second surgery, the mass would almost certainly grow back and would not be operable at that point because it would come back as a more aggressive tumor and would very likely spread to his lymph nodes or other organs. 

What to do. The estimate we were given for the second surgery and diagnostics was a lot of money. Here we were in the position that I had been on the other end of so many times working as a vet tech at an emergency clinic. Huge estimate given to someone that you knew loved and wanted the best for their pet, but had to consider the reality of the situation as well. We have student loans. We have a baby. We try very hard to be thrifty. I called Mark and told him the news. I could barely even get the words out. After I hung up the phone I sort of lost it for a minute - the first time I have really cried in front of Bea. I felt so bad because I could tell she was scared. Get it together mama.  I went to class which was probably not the best idea as I sat there swollen faced wiping away the tears that I couldn't hold back. The thought of our super spunky pup, who loved to play more than anything, deteriorating and slowing down was so so sad. Sitting through veterinary pathology lectures was not exactly comforting.  Mark was worried and asked me to meet him for lunch. We met at the house. We were sitting at the table, quiet and sad. I'll never forget what Mark said - I know some people think it's crazy to spend a bunch of money on a dog. But Roy isn't just some dog. He's our dog, and I don't care what people think. - Mark always knows how to make me smile. He is an amazing man. 

Roy had the abdominal ultrasound and chest radiographs. Everything came back clear,
the cancer hadn't spread to other parts of his body.
Roy had the second surgery to remove the rest of the tumor. Everything went well,
the histopath came back clean.
The oncologist said there was a 90% chance that surgery will be curative.
We like those odds.

We will have to do some additional ultrasounds of his lymph nodes over the next year to make sure that there aren't any cancer cells growing, but we have high hopes that Roy is cured. Nothing now but our Roy boy with a new scar, a pretty funny haircut, my newfound knowledge of booty cancers, some first hand experience to better understand my profession from the other side of the table, and an even greater level of love and admiration for my husband. 

And a new perspective next time Roy goes digging in the mud...

Good boy, Roy.

1 comment:

  1. Aw this made me cry! Im so glad hes ok and you were able to gey the 2nd surgery. Ive definitely been there too and it is so hard. i think i will always choose to spend the money even if it means i have to eat ramen for months. those kiddos are definitely worth it! Love you roy!!!- megan h