Our Tennessee Dutchess' Fight With Mast Cell Cancer
If love alone could have saved you, you never would have died.
Dutchess - what a sweetie. We got her as a pup and she immediately won our hearts, and destroyed our stuff... but we loved her anyway. Funny thing though, she got stung by a bee about 2 years old and her whole body just welted up, face swollen, eyes swollen shut. Emergency vet and some antihistamine and she was back to normal. This happened on and off whenever she got bitten by a bug.
At the age of four, she came in the house with her face covered in mud from chasing the moles in our backyard. The next morning, it seemed as if she may have been bitten, because she had a little red mark right at the base of her left nostril. We cleaned it, put medicine on it, and tried for a few weeks to heal it - but it just got worse. Looked like a few little ulcers, bleeding and weepy. Finally, took her to the vet.
Yes, it was a mast cell tumor.
Inoperable because of its location (devastating news), halfway in and out of the nostril. Surgery would involve removing part of her muzzle - something we were not willing to do. So, she went on a regimen of Benadryl (3 per day) and Prednisone (2 per day). The tumor went down, but her weight exploded. Vet thought she would pass away from the side-effects of the pred, so we upped the Benadryl and lowered the pred and just went up and down as the tumor dictated. Her weight went back to normal and she was back to her active, thin, muscular self.
Then, about a year later, another tumor on her leg. This time, surgery - healing was a horror for her (swelling, drain had to be inserted, etc). Vet told us to expect more tumors. She was originally diagnosed with the muzzle tumor at 4 years old and given life expectancy (because it was not operable) of perhaps one more year.
Yesterday, Tuesday August 20, 2013, SIX YEARS after her diagnosis and five years past her prognosed lifespan, we had to put our sweet Dutchess down.
She collapsed last week and we thought she was going to die right there on our bedroom floor, but a few hours later, she was up and eating and back to her old self (which was kind of slow-going anyway).
However, Monday night, she seemed sad, weak, different. I just knew the end was coming. We all laid with her for a while, gave her lots of kisses, and went to bed.
The next morning, she would not get up at all, wouldn't raise her head, eat, drink, etc. Again, we laid in the floor with her for a few hours until the vet opened. As we were getting ready, letting our son say his goodbyes, I went to the front door to open it so my husband could carry her out. I turned around and there she was, standing wobbly behind me...saying maybe, "I'm up, momma. I have to pee." So we helped her outside, she stumbled down the back steps, peed and pooped (completely normal looking, by the way). We gave her some water, which she lapped up greedily but while she stood there drinking, her legs were wobbly, shaking and she keep lifting her back feet up off the ground like they were hurting her. Our hopes were up a bit, until she turned around and nearly fell over. She was trying so hard to show us that she could stand, but she couldn't. She started to vomit the little she took in.
From experience with other dogs, all of us knew, even our son, that it was time for her to go home. In my hopeful selfishness, I didn't want to take her because she was up - she was trying! She may have another rebound, like before, right? My son (13 years old, got Dutchess for him when he was 3) said through his tears, "Mom, she is suffering, she is hurting. You need to take her now."
So, we did, my husband and I. She tried a few more times to stand in the vet's but could not for more than a few seconds. The vet said the tumor could have metastasized to her lungs, and that is why she was having trouble breathing, or it could be her heart from old age or many other things, but that he was amazed that she was even still here 10 years in. He said he could give her something for pain and maybe she could have a few more good days, but my husband said absolutely not. He would not prolong her suffering anymore...no matter how much we wanted her to stay.
So, I sat on the floor with her, my husband beside us, as she laid her head in my lap. The first shot, sedative, quickly knocked her out. Snoring like she always does - the second shot went in slowly and she stopped breathing maybe 30-45 seconds later. Very peaceful, very kind. We hugged her and kissed her for 15 more minutes - she didn't seem dead, just very asleep, but I could not hear her heart when I put my head on her chest. She was warm and cuddly and soft - like always. We left her there, with a blanket on, and went home.
I have been crying for two days because I miss her so very much...but I would never have let her suffer one day more. She was such a perfect dog, she didn't deserve one more minute of pain for all the love she gave.
I am so thankful to God that He gave us five more years with her than what we ever expected. Every day she showed any sign of weakness, we thought - is this it - and it never was, until yesterday. We loved her every second of every day that she lived. I posted her picture on Facebook and said, "If love alone could have saved you, you never would have died." She was more than loved by me, my husband, my son and our three other dogs (a pug, a Pyrenees and a rat terrier). She lived a happy, carefree (with a little surgery and lots of drugs) and very hugged life. So many kisses, so many wiggles, so many boxing matches with my son, cuddling on the couch, pouncing on moles... Worth every second of crying I am going through now.
To those of you who are dealing with this diagnosis, believe and have faith that God knows when to take your baby and He will tell you when it's time. Pray for more time. It may be one year, or it may be five years. But even one day with a Boxer is a gift, so consider all the time you have with your Boxer - a gift from God. They truly give unconditional love and have so much love in their hearts - you can see it in their eyes. Dutchess just gazed at us with love every day. She lived to be one month short of her 10th birthday and I am thankful for every one of those days.
I have compassion for you - those who are going through this!! I feel so thankful for having her in my life and I wouldn't trade those 10 years for all the money I spent on her (which was a lot). I would have paid a million if I could have taken all of that cancer away for her. Treasure your time with him/her. You have no idea how little or how much time you have - just love.
(Submitted Thursday, August 22, 2013)