Devastating Diagnosis - Lung Cancer in My Chocolate Lab
(White Lake, MI)
It has been a rough 4 days for me and my 11 1/2 year old beautiful chocolate lab Lucy. About 1 month ago Lucy lost her appetite and stopped eating. We did not think much of it initially as she has always been a finicky eater (strange for a lab) -- sometimes going a couple days without eating or just eating one meal. She had been eating really well -- a full two meals a day for a long time -- even when we left her for a week for a family trip to Disney in November.
When she stopped eating, we did what we usually did, trying to coax her to eat with treats in her food. She also was acting a lot more lazy which we attributed to age. After a couple weeks of coaxing her to eat something, I really noticed that she looked really thin and has lost what seemed a lot of weight. I took her to our vet. We had always kept her on the thin side to avoid hip and other issues. Her normal weight was around 61-62 lbs. Last May when I took her for her yearly check up, she weighed 58 lbs. I attributed the difference to being weighed in the Spring having lost her winter weight (I usually took her to the vet in February with her winter weight on). She was down to 52 lbs on that visit. Everything about her check up was fine - no pain, blood work perfect, urine fine, stool fine. Our vet recommended the next step was to take x-rays or do an ultrasound.
We decided to wait and try a different food and see what would happen. I bought some canned food that she loved. Ate every drop. Over the next few days we fed her that and mixed it with her dry food and she was doing great. I could tell she had put a couple pounds back on. Then she started to pick around the dry food so we went just to the can, then she stopped again. These were her only symptoms - lack of appetite and the weight loss. No cough, no wheezing, nothing.
I took her back to the vet last Thursday and had a set of x-rays taken. I was shown one large mass on the front left lobe, 2 other medium sized masses and at least 1, maybe 2 small masses in her lungs. Our vet told us that because of the advanced state in the chest cavity that there likely was nothing that could be done other than to make her comfortable. She offered to refer to an oncologist, but I refused at the time. We decided to start her on prednisone. My vet told me one advantage in finding out was we could cherish the time we had left. I was devastated. I switched foods again and she has been eating again thankfully.
Lucy was my birthday gift back in November 2000. A wonderful 10 week old puppy at the time. She has always been there for me, sleeping with us, playing with our kids, taking walks, playing catch (I taught her how to run pass routes and threw little plastic footballs to her) and her love was frisbee. I was full of grief wondering if we had done these things enough, and I can't stop thinking what it will be like not to have her. She does not sleep with us anymore - choosing to sleep under the bed even though she can still get up on it.
I decided to take her to an oncologist today. We had our visit and she confirmed the diagnosis. She was up to 55 lbs. The vet told me she had no function left in the front left lung lobe. We discussed alternatives including chemo and alternative medicine. Surgery is not an option due to the number of masses. She believed, based on the large size of the one mass, that the lung cancer was primary and metastasized to the other areas of the lung. I don't see the real value in putting her through tests to confirm or dispute this. We have decided to just let nature take its course and hope we get as much time as possible. I firmly believe in quality over quantity, no matter how much it hurts me.
I was told that predicting a time was hard, that additional x-rays would need to be taken to measure how the tumors have grown in the 5 days since the other set. Otherwise, if it is an aggressive cancer, we could expect 2-3 weeks up to 2 months. If it is slow, maybe up to 6 months. I am optimistic that given she has no other symptoms that maybe we'll get the max. I will make it the best time she ever had no matter what. We have been going on walks (albeit short ones) every day. I even pulled out her old favorite frisbee (I had put it away for the last year or so because of arthritis issues after we would play) and threw some to her. She looked like she was in heaven (of course we only got about 7 throws in before she got tired, but we loved it).
As I write this she is sleeping on the couch next to me. I thank you all for listening as just writing this has been helpful to me. I have been having an incredibly hard time with it all because she is such a sweet dog that she does not deserve this. She deserved to go on her own terms of old age years from now.
We haven't told our kids (one is 9 1/2 and twins that will be 7 in a few weeks) about this yet and I welcome any advice on when and how to handle that.
Thanks again. I have included a picture taken the other day.