Dog Dealing with Malignant Melanoma
I rescued 2 lab mixes in the spring of 2004. Ruby and Diamond :). Awesome dogs, wonderful, sweethearts.
On Dec 20, 2012 my wife left for work, and 20 minutes later Diamond woke me up. I got up and found Ruby laying in my walk-in closet, which was odd. I called her name to go eat and she wagged her tail but didn't move otherwise. I walked to her and helped her get up, and she stood up on her own, but then stumbled slow down the hall, then collapsed. I panicked. I got dressed as quick as I could and got her in the car. The nearest emergency vet is 10 minutes drive, and she died half way there. My vet thinks she had a freak stroke and died peacefully. She thinks Ruby just felt tired and fell asleep and died. This was absolutely brutal.
But now I have an even worse situation. Exactly 4 weeks after this happens I find that Diamond has cancer. I got overprotective of her when Ruby died and took her in to get fully checked over. My vet noticed a small growth where her incisors are on her upper jaw, but thought nothing of it. I was gonna have dental cleaning done anyway so she took it out and had a biopsy done . It came back malignant melanoma. I immediately lost it in the vet's office.
The vet was caught completely by shock also. The growth was pink and healthy looking, she didn't expect this. Nevertheless, I got referred to an oncologist for her. Had a CT Scan done, and they saw nothing in the lymph nodes but wanted to do a cytology on one of them. That came back suspicious but inconclusive, and high recommendation for removal and biopsy.
(start my rant)
So going back a minute, we had a consult with the oncologist. And she said of course, there's no cure, no guarantee on anything, there's data which is absolutely useless, and I don't even know why they tell people this data. I mean honestly, these studies are done on a sample size of 5-10 dogs at a time, in all different stages of cancer, and all different ages, and breeds. I mean my Goodness why don't you just lie to me? It'd be easier to deal with. Instead no, you tell me she has 6 months to live WITH EVERYHTING WE CAN DO based on garbage data. I mean, I literally got upset about that in the office. I'm an engineer and in my field there is ALWAYS an answer, or a solution. It's very hard to accept that there is no guarantees, no answers, no promises, no nothing. Oh and by the way, it's gonna cost you a fortune, so put a price tag on the life of your dog.
(end my rant)
So the oncologist recommended an aggressive jaw bone removal surgery and removal of the lymph node, as well as the vaccine to slow the progression. So today I met with the surgeon and went ahead with these 2 things, because it seems to be the best option that I have to give Diamond the longest life she can have in the most comfortable way.
I have read some other stories of people that couldn't afford to do anything or chose not to, and just the terrible suffering the dogs go through without this stuff, it just sucks. I know that Diamond may still face this but I just felt like I had to do everything I could possibly do to give her the best chance.
Based on the fact that the growth was found in the front of the mouth, and was pea size, and that it wasn't obvious that the cancer got to the lymph node (although I'm sure I will find out in 10 days that it is there), but is in small amounts, the oncologist thinks she has a great case and it is very early, and has a good shot to live on the high end of the data averages.
So that's where we are now. She's at the vet now, getting surgery tomorrow, I'll be able to bring her home the next day, and then it's just keeping her on the vaccine and seeing how long she lasts I guess.
I am very angry still about things. I am still hurt I lost my first baby, and now I'm angry that there's nothing more I can do, there's no answers, there's no good studies to help make decisions, no data. It is so frustrating. I don't deal well with that kind of thing. When an expert in the field says "I don't know", I can't accept that. How do you not know anything? You're a specialist! I mean honestly, what am I paying you for? I am angry but I am starting to just understand that this is the way things are. But it doesn't make it any less frustrating.
I would love to read some positive cases if anybody out there has any, maybe a dog in similar situations that lived 2+ years after they were given the "6 months with the vaccine and surgery" speech.
Thanks for reading.
(submitted Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013)