It has been some days now that our beloved Lucky’s Heart stopped beating . I am finally ready to share my final thoughts about this short and tragic Journey. I have had much time to think back and look at what happened in those 9 weeks of Lucky’s battle with Lymphoma.
Had I known then what I know now, I may have done many things very different and some things not at all. This was my first encounter with such a deadly cancer. I have had many dogs in my life and was never aware of how common this particular cancer is in dogs. I have gotten a crash course on this topic and it breaks my heart to know now what I didn’t know then.
My mind was clouded with panic and with a desperation when I heard the diagnosis of lymphoma. I did not take the time to explore options or to find out what the real statistics of survival were. On the day I got the call with the initial diagnosis it did not take me but one second to agree to the first dose of chemo out of sheer panic. Knowing nothing I acted out of emotional desperation to save my puppy.
After picking up a seemingly happy Lucky and a drastic reduction of lymph nodes within just a few hours, my hope and believe into the treatment went through the roof. I completely jumped the gun thinking we are on the way to beat this. What a huge mistake.
I listened to the advice of specialists who, of course were very encouraging, and gave me a lot of hope, when the reality is quite different. Instead of investigating and researching myself, I chose to hear what I wanted to hear rather than finding out the truth. I did not make an informed decision when opting for chemotherapy. I did not know enough about the long term outlook or what to expect. That decision came out of a panic to save my puppy. I started living day by day, desperately trying to save my puppy. Had I taken a little time I may have opted differently.
I carry a big burden and much guilt about some of the choices I made for Lucky along the way. I believe now that I made unwise choices trying to save her, when I had the best of intentions. Hindsight is 20/20 but I want to share our story to help someone else who may find themselves in a similar situation. I made decisions based on my own needs to have her in my life, not based on what may be best for her.
I was willing to try anything and pay any amount to save her, when in reality, there was never any chance of beating this cancer short of a miracle. I chose to ignore and failed to acknowledge the fact that the purpose of chemo treatment was not to beat the cancer, but to provide for a better quality life a little longer (questionable). There are a few times in my life where I prayed very hard for a miracle, and these 9 weeks was one of them.
While Chemotherapy can make a difference in people, in pets and in our case with Lucky, it is not used to fight cancer. It is used to provide a little more time as long as quality of life is maintained. The end result is inevitable. While there are the very few miracles and exceptions, and we prayed Lucky would be one of them, for most pets this cancer kills.
I was tremendously encouraged by the immediate response to the first Chemotherapy, although it was not the initial protocol drug, it was a “Rescue Dose. I am wondering now, had Lucky’s initial Chemotherapy Drug been from a Protocol, she may have not responded due to the aggressive nature of this cancer in young animals.
After the initial Rescue Chemo, I am certain now, subsequent drugs never worked again, and only gave the cancer cells a chance to adapt to the drugs she subsequently received much quicker. This was later pretty much confirmed by the Oncologist. We wasted all this time injecting her with drugs that also started killing her good cells in every part of her body. It breaks my heart to think that by saving her with pharmaceuticals, the very same drugs also killed her slowly by destroying her good cells. Is this really compassionate treatment for our furry friends?
She became a guinea pig for Chemotherapy protocols, as it was changed every week after the 5th chemo wasn’t working. Coming out of remission so quickly, after only 3 weeks, should have been a big hint, but again, i did not want to give up on her and was encouraged by the Specialist. Now I know that nothing after the first 3 weeks could have saved her, unfortunately I did not know anything about anything.
Nothing slowed the progression of lymphoma for Lucky. Since chemo drugs not only attack cancer cells but also every healthy cell in the body, I believe that the last dose of chemo killed her rather than the cancer. A few hours after the last and once again new protocol chemo drug, her breathing became more difficult and a few hours later she had a suspected heart attack in the back of my truck, on the way to the Family Veterinarian. I have to live with ill guarded decisions for the rest of my life but someone else may make better decisions based on Lucky’s Story.
Having Lucky seen by a Vet I did not know when I saw the swollen Lymph nodes on her belly. My regular Vet was booked so we saw someone else in his office. A new guy who sounded very green. He diagnosed her with a bite on her belly and sent her home with antibiotics, when it was obvious that is was not bites. He had taken a sample and sent it in for testing. I know what a bite looks like and this was seriously misdiagnosed. I kept on questioning my family Vet about his Helper Vet’s Diagnosis on Monday and Tuesday. He finally called me on Wednesday with the test results of suspected Lymphoma. He finally referred me to a specialist, almost a week later. I also found out in my last conversation with my Vet that he had never seen Lucky that day, when he claimed before that he had consulted with his helper vet at the time she was there and implied he agreed with his incompetent Helper Vet on diagnosis and treatment. There were other signs before that I was not at the best Vet office. Unfortunately I ignored them since I never needed more than basic care. I also remembered that a few months earlier, I took Lucky in for a removal of an external growth, which this Vet told me was nothing to worry about. Now I wonder if that was not true. What if it was a cancerous growth and by simply removing it caused her cancer to spread and thrive. Too late now but needless to say, I changed Veterinarian Office one week before Lucky died, to be closer to home and to be in the care of someone more competent.
I immediately made an appointment with the specialty clinic for the next day. I did not check what facility we were referred to by our Vet. Assuming that we were referred to a Cancer Specialist I never questioned the Specialist. You would think when your dog is diagnosed with suspected lymphoma cancer, your Vet would be referred you to a Cancer Center. Not my Vet. Thinking my Vet sent me to an Oncologist, I never asked for her specialty. I found out at the last visit and 6 weeks into the treatment that she was an internist. When she recommended to see an Oncologist I was completely blind sighted. That is not so say that internists can not treat cancer, but in our case, I felt Lucky got cheated. With an aggressive cancer like lymphoma, she should have been in the care of an oncologist from the start. Only after 3 weeks and 3 chemo treatments did not work, was I referred. Very upsetting. I felt, while the internist was very carrying and compassionate, we should have not been there for our case.
Not listening carefully to the Oncologist. In my initial meeting with the Cancer Specialist, she made it very clear that this looks like a very aggressive cancer and survival was very slim. She told me the option of a different protocol and once again I only heard what I wanted to hear for my sake. We went ahead with the chemo and I should have noticed taht it wasn’t working. I called in several times with my concerns about Lucky’s declining health and was told to give the drug time to work. It was clearly not working, but I did not want to see it and was still hopeful. While Veterinary Oncologists mean well, there is also huge money involved. Thousands of Dollars, most often tens of thousands of dollars within a very short period of time.
Fourth and Final Mistake
Lucky was not doing well and on Monday morning. I went to the Cancer Center with a heavy heart. I saw a new doctor, highly talked about by other patients in the waiting room, and after a short discussion I decided it was time to let go. I asked the Vet to give her some sedation to make the ride home more comfortable and called my Family Vet that I was on the way. My biggest fear was to miss the signs and for her to suffer. I have been there with my beloved dog “Mozart” and swore to never let that happen again.
While I was on the phone to make arrangements, Lucky got up and hinted that she wanted some cookies. By that time she has started to refuse much of the variety of foods I tried to offer her over the weekend. She ate several cookies and looked at me, and it was not that look. If you ever had a pet near the end you know that look you get when they tell you it’s time to let go. Well, it wasn’t. I called the Specialist back in and told him I wanted to give this last protocol a try. We went home that day, but in the afternoon the breathing became more difficult for Lucky. I was still hopeful but throughout the night it became apparent the inevitable is near.
At seven o’clock in the morning, Lucky came into my bathroom for the last time and that is when she gave me the look, and I knew. From then on her health started declining by the minute. I was frantic to not let her suffer but my Vets Office was still 30 minutes away from opening. The emergency room was just as long away to get to. We woke the children to say good bye and I carried her to the SUV and placed her in the back with some soft blankets. I had just driven out the gate and up the hill and I heard 3 heartbreaking yelps coming from Lucky and then Silence. I felt like time stood still. I knew she was gone. My sweet puppy was dead. I was not able to hold her in her last seconds, and my mind went blank but I kept talked to her the whole time, all the way to the vet. When I opened the back and saw her lying there as if she was sleeping with open eyes I felt so very helpless and lost. One of the technicians had just arrived and helped me carry her inside. It felt surreal.
I made arrangements to have her cremated that morning and went home completely devastated and with a broken heart. Everything was a blur and it was hard to process what had just happened. I meant to give her every chance of a life and now she was gone. I meant to do everything right and I felt like I had done everything wrong.
It took me 2 weeks to finally sit down and write this final Chapter of Lucky’s Journey with Lymphoma. There was a lot to think about. I was painful to finish this Chapter because it is so final.
I have to believe now that Lucky wanted to come home on Monday one more time. That she did not want to go without saying goodbye to the children, who she loved so much. She held on throughout the night to wait for the children in the morning. Just a few minutes after the kids hugged her and said their goodbyes she let go and Crossed over the Rainbow Bridge. She died hearing my voice comforting until the end, in the car she always rode in, and not in a cold Vet Office room. I am trying to find some comfort in the amazing memories Lucky helped us to create, which will forever live on in our Hearts and Minds.
Everything you read is my personal experience and my personal opinion. Lucky’s Story is not intended to diagnose, advise on treatments or to pursuade you in one way or another. It is simply designed to create awareness of this devastating disease that does not only affect children and people, but is very common in puppies, dogs and other pets. Lucky’s story is heartbreaking as she was so young and lived only 9 weeks from diagnosis to death. I hope by having taken the time to chronicle her Fight with Lymphoma, I can help someone else to understand how complex and confusing this situation can be. Making the right decision is not easy when you are emotional and desperate.
What life with our pets is all about clicked for me one week ago when i ran into a neighbor while walking my other 3 dogs. She used to have a beautiful Boxer and shared her story with me. She lost her dog to lymphoma as well and we shared our stories and experiences.
As we parted she said something that made me feel very sad yet helped me understand my guilt, my conflict, my self-doubt, my ill guarded decisions and confusion. She said: “I never gave chemotherapy a thought as a treatment option. There is less than 1% survival rate if you vet your source of info and get it from the right place, and I know what these drugs do because i am a Pharmacist. I treated with Prednisone, he lived for 9 months and he slept away in my arms at home. Where would you rather die? At home with your loved ones close or in a cold hospital room? At least Lucky was in the car she always rode in, with you close, she passed away hearing your voice and she went quick it.”
You know what stuck in my head? I KNOW WHAT THESE DRUGS DO! She did not have to elaborate, I knew what she meant. Even the little I knew about Chemo and side effects, I knew what she was talking about. Much of her talk gave me comfort, but I will live with the guilt forever that by my emotional decision for Chemo, I may have done much more harm than good and ultimately I may have shortened Lucky’s Life.
Now I know what I would do. I would rather spend the money working with a Vet specialising in Nutrition, Immune Boosting and Strengthening Therapies, Supplements and Treatments in Conjunction with Steroids and my Vet. I had a referral to a Vet specializing in this kind of supportive treatments but never got the chance to meet. I would make every day the best day of my pets live as long as there is a good quality of life because our dogs live in the moment.
The past is not on a dogs mind, the future is not a concern, the NOW is what’s IMPORTANT. Brushing the coat, a little massage, a cookie, that walk through the park is what our pets are most grateful for. Our attention and love is what they crave. Not what might happen tomorrow or what happened in the past. A great lesson we can learn from our beloved Pets.
While I will continue to support research and THE HOPE FOR A CURE, at this time the reality is, THERE IS NO CURE!
Here are some things I learned through this Journey with Lucky:
- DON’T PANIC.
- DON’T RUSH TO DECISIONS if it is not an immediate and life threatening condition.
- TAKE SOME TIME TO RESEARCH for yourself.
- Get your info from NON BIASED SOURCES and sources WITHOUT FINANCIAL STAKES in it.
- TALK TO PET OWNERS who have been there.
- ONLY MAKE DECISIONS with a CLEAR MIND.
- EXPLORE ALL OPTIONS.
- DON’T MAKE DECISIONS out of PANIC or DESPERATION.
- LEARN EVERYTHING YOU CAN ABOUT THE PROS AND CONS OF MEDICATIONS AND TREATMENTS.