October 28, 2010

The Rollercoaster Ride to Arrive at a Decision

It's been a crazy couple of days. I thought people might like to know how we arrived at our decision to have Abby's leg amputated (I prefer the phrase "have her updated to a tripawd") and undergo chemo. 

Everything kind of fell into place after a quick roller coaster ride as follows:
  • Monday afternoon: find out dog has osteosarcoma (via bone biopsy performed the previous Thur). Vet says she'll be in terrible pain and dead in under 6 months if we do nothing. (OK, he doesn't say "dead" - he uses one of the euphemisms like "won't make it," like she's a contestant trying out for American Idol or something.) Says he'll talk to the oncologist and call back Tuesday with survival odds for surgery/chemo route. Mood: very black.
  • Tuesday: find out odds are not great, but misunderstand odds and think they are better than they really are. Mood: charcoal gray.
  • Wed morning: dog gets chest xrayed at vet. No sign of cancer in the lungs! Great news as the lungs are the first place the disease metastasizes. Mood: pale gray. Feeling some hope.
  • Wed morning, late: call for consultation with oncologist. Can't get me in until Wed, Nov 3. Mood: darkening. Worrying about aggressive cancer being given one more week to attack my dog. Call back to ask if I can be on a cancellation list. She says it's not really an option, since the doc will be out of the office the next four days for one reason or another.
  • Wed early afternoon: call vet, worried about one week delay. He says it's not ideal. Also explains how stats are more grim than we thought. Mood: heading to black again
  • Wed mid-afternoon: while looking for an alternative oncologist, the office calls - there's a cancellation! Rush over with the dog. Oncologist is super nice, knowledgeable, answers all my questions before I can even ask them. Abby hugs and kisses him. Repeatedly. He says her xrays look really good and we seem to have caught it early. Seconds the recommendation for amputation/chemo. He explains we may have caught it early due to the location. Most cases are in apparently in the radius bone - the bigger weight bearing bone of the front leg. Hers is in the ulna - the smaller bone that runs alongside. He explains it's such a thin bone, the lump was obvious early on. Just to fully explain our options, he said we could also do a "limb sparing" procedure. Her leg would have been saved - but it would mean 8 weeks of total rest. 8 weeks! For a puppy! He said some surgeons even suggest 8 weeks in a crate. No way would we consider doing that to her. In contrast, most dogs recover well and adjust quickly to becoming a tripawd. And as soon as she recovers from the surgery - hopefully in the 10ish days range - she will be 100% pain free. This is huge, as she is in a lot of pain right now. So, amputation to relieve the pain, plus chemo to hopefully extend her life. Mood: MUCH improved. Feeling kinda hopeful.
  • Wed late afternoon: call vet to get info on last piece of the puzzle, the estimate/scheduling for the update-Abby-to-a-tripawd procedure. He says he'll likely call back Thur as he has to call the surgeon. Calls back within the hour and says the surgeon (usually booked 3 weeks out) has had a cancellation. She can come in Friday. Mood: almost giddy. Everything's falling into place to get on this quickly!
  • Wed night: we make the GO decision. Commence freaking out. Mood: panicked. What the hell are we doing, willingly cutting off our dog's leg?? Friends and family weigh in and scrape me off the ceiling. 
Ultimately, it's really the best option, and I think we are doing the right thing for her. Doing nothing would mean fighting her pain until the end, which would be in sight on the horizon. Now we are hopefully going to end her pain and extend her life. Our ultimate goal is to get her back to Fiesta Island, the huge dog park/beach here in San Diego that she loves. It's her favorite place. If we did not do any of this, she really couldn't go back-not just because of the pain but also because of the risk of breaking the weakened bone. 

I am envisioning a future post that will be entitled: Fiesta Island!! (Mood: hopeful. And maybe still just a little bit panicked.)


  1. I'm keeping a good thought for Abby...she has great parents!

  2. Does this font look crazy huge? (I had to break down and get reading glasses. So, it looks ok to me - sans glasses, that is.)

  3. The font is fine. And three-legged dogs always strike me as extremely happy. Perhaps because they've considered the alternative.

    Hang in there.

    Love, your brother.

  4. Just wanted to say that I found your blog very touching and I'll be thinking about Abby and wishing you all the best. As the very proud owner of a tripawd, I'd like to assure you that she'll be up and running around in no time! My dog came from a shelter and lost her front leg in a horrific manner. Nobody wanted the little abused puppy with a mangled, partial front leg, but I thought she was the cutest thing I'd ever seen. She's never had any problem at all with walking, climbing the stairs or jumping. I have to say that it broke my heart to see her fall so many times when she was growing and learning to run, but now she can keep up with my Border Collie and very seldom falls at all. She is an absolute doll baby and I can't imagine my life without her! You've made the best and correct decision for Abby that will take away her pain and give her the best odds. Don't doubt that - and don't worry that she'll be disabled. She won't be.


  5. Thanks Lisa! That is very reassuring to hear!

    Also, the volunteer coordinator at the animal shelter where I volunteer said they have done the procedure many many times and the dogs (and cats) always seem to recover quickly and get around fine. Here's hoping... And hopping...


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