it’s taken me a few days to be able to process the events of last week and this is my attempt to get them on paper, albeit in a discombobulated fashion so please bear with me.
i’m not sure exactly where the beginning is so i’m going to start with carly’s oncology appointment last tues. carly and ronan both see the oncologist monthly and each gets an infusion for pain control and to hopefully maintain bone density. carly has been doing great, completely pain-free and not limping, but her tumor had grown considerably in the last few weeks. she checked out great but there was concern about how fast the tumor had grown and how long she would be with us.
now that you’re armed with that knowledge hopefully i can just spit the rest out in chronological fashion and it will make sense…i hope you have a comfortable seat. feeding carly is like feeding a wild animal – she becomes slightly unhinged, jumping, barking and drooling, and has to eat in a closet by herself or no one else would have any of the food. at breakfast wed morning (the day after her appointment) she was at about 75% carly power. i assumed maybe she was starting to get painful so i started her on pain meds and we went about our day. when dave told me that night she hadn’t eaten dinner the alarm bell sounded…carly does not miss meals unless it’s dire.
because she had no other symptoms the assumption was the pain had suddenly increased exponentially, which wouldn’t be odd with bone cancer…it is actually more odd that she hadn’t had pain. she hadn’t been taking any pain meds prior to the morning so i upped the dose and we hoped we could get it under control. with bone cancer survival is based on pain control and hoping the bone doesn’t break…so we needed to get this pain under control. thursday morning she wasn’t any better and didn’t eat breakfast and talking to the oncologist didn’t give us a pretty picture. we upped her doses and knew if we couldn’t get the pain controlled by friday or saturday it was going to be time to let her go.
i need to step in here and note that thursday morning i started looking up pneumonia in irish wolfhounds (presents differently than in other dogs and needs different treatment) because something didn’t seem right. to me carly seemed like she felt like crud, not like she was in pain and with no other symptoms i was just stabbing in the dark. after talking to the vet i put that notion aside; she had bone cancer, which is an incredibly painful disease, and her tumor had grown 5 cm in the span of a few weeks…of course she was in pain. so we waited and hoped that the pain meds would suddenly, miraculously start working. by thursday night nothing had changed and as i was going to bed i was absolutely certain something else was going on. i was awake the rest of the night researching pneumonia, worrying and crafting a text to our vet that, because i’m somewhat sane, i was able to stop myself from sending until the reasonable hour of 7 am. because our vet is an absolute gem she didn’t brush me off and told me to bring her right in for a chest xray.
it’s now friday morning, carly hadn’t eaten since wed night, she was miserable but with no other symptoms. dave and i both agreed we weren’t going to put her through another day of this so if this pneumonia goose chase didn’t pan out we were going to let her go.
friday ended up being such a convoluted, rollercoaster day of events and emotions i’m not going to move to bullet points just to get you through it.
- lung x-rays were clear and x-rays of her leg showed the bone actually still had good integrity and was not broken.
- i was pretty much certain she had pneumonia and we needed to get her on an antibiotic cocktail pronto and the x-rays did not dissuade me (i read countless times that by the time pneumonia shows on x-rays in wolfhounds it may be too late). because she’s awesome our vet called the oncologist, who works at a specialist hospital where they could treat the pneumonia, and told her we needed to listen to my gut and look into this further.
- i rushed her to blue pearl where dr. lucas, her oncologist, examined her and felt pretty sure she didn’t have pneumonia. she trusted me when i insisted she was feeling crappy, not painful but her assumption was that the cancer had spread.
- we decided to do run a blood gas and if that was normal it wasn’t pneumonia and likely the cancer had metastasized to the liver or kidneys and it would be time to let her go.
- the blood gas came back normal (my gut is apparently not that accurate) but there was a small chance it could be pancreatitis so we could do a blood test and if pancreas enzymes were normal it was likely cancer. we could also do an ultrasound which would show us for sure that the cancer had spread. as an aside here we’ve been spending an uncomfortable amount of money on the monthly treatments for both dogs and money hasn’t been a hot commodity here so cost at this point had to be factored in. by this time dave had joined me and we decided that we would do the ultrasound so we knew for sure and we prepared our heads that we were likely going home without carly, even though nothing about that felt right…it did not seem like carly’s time.
- we were put in a room with her while they prepared for the ultrasound. we talked to her, we loved on her, we took what we thought was our last picture with her…we did all the things we’re used to doing at the end. we both tried to wrap our brains around what a carlyless life would look like.she had the ultrasound and the tech that brought her back to us gave us a little teaser “the cancer hasn’t spread” but that was all the information she had. by this time we had no idea what was going on…i lightly threw out “she probably has an obstruction” but we moved on and waited.
- dr. lucas came in and damnit if she didn’t have an obstruction. we realized carly had been chewing a toy tuesday night and that was likely the culprit. my immediate thought was “let’s get her into surgery” but she’s a 9-year-old wolfhound with bone cancer who is not stable and the estimate was $7,000 which we really couldn’t make happen.
- we all agreed the best way forward was to push fluids and hope that cleared the blockage. we’d give her 24 hours and if she hadn’t passed it we would let her go.
- dave and i went home, battered and bruised, with just a little hope she may pull through. it was probably about 2 pm at this point. at about 4 pm dr. lucas called and said carly was clearly feeling a lot better, she had just pulled a tech across the room, but she still hadn’t passed anything.
- at this point we realized we were now in a situation where, if carly didn’t clear the blockage, we were now going to be letting a more carly carly go and that was not going to work. we certainly weren’t going to put her to sleep because we couldn’t afford surgery. there was no way for us to reconcile that in our heads and hearts.
- we employed a hail mary, called our regular vet and asked her to do the surgery (for 1/7th of the cost), transported carly from the emergency hospital to our regular vet and stayed there (holding her foot) while she had surgery. you can see how anxiously i'm awaiting the first look at her intestines...
i can’t express enough how thrilled i am to tell you by 10:30 that night we were driving home with carly in the backseat. she had a simple blockage, her intestines were pink and beautiful and she came through surgery with flying colors. she is sitting here next to me and exactly a week later is about 90% carly. for the last week we’ve been walking around in a stupor muttering “carly’s here.”
none of this was about losing carly…she’s got bone cancer, we’re clear each day is a gift at this point. it was more about a very strong feeling that something didn’t feel right, that this was not carly’s time. it wasn’t denial…we’ve made that decision for too many dogs at this point and been completely at peace with it. it’s about trusting your gut and advocating for your dog (but don’t let your gut lead you astray with details - i put way too much energy into trying to diagnose her rather than just trusting we didn’t have the pain diagnosis right and letting the vets take it from there).
carly has had a rough 6 months; back in june she had emergency surgery after bloating with torsion and also required a splenectomy but recovered beautifully. it’s hard to believe that out of all the illicit crap she’s eaten it would end up being a sanctioned toy that almost did her in but my girl is like a bright light that won't turn off…she’s a force of nature and i’m going to take all the time with her i can get. life without her will be much less colorful.
the toy that couldn't beat my carly...