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(Behr’s mom writing) Wow, what an emotional roller coaster we’ve been on for the last few weeks with Behr!! 

After a routine vet visit in December for accupunture for Behr’s spine, I was finished and waiting for some paperwork in order to leave. I sat down in the waiting room with Behr standing around in front of me while I happily chatted with other dog owners.

As usual, when people find out how old Behr is, they ask how I’ve managed to to help her have such a long and healthy life, I start telling them things I’ve learned through my researching medical literature. Well, in the middle of this conversation, my world suddenly came crashing down with a sickening thud!! Behr just happened to look at me (her head eye level since I was sitting)…and then she yawned. That’s when I saw the TUMOR in her mouth, hidden by her tongue. I was stunned.

Having lost my prior dane (and other animals as well) to cancer, I suddenly felt like a cold dark cloud of fear had enveloped me. I couldn’t even see out of it and was struggling to remain calm. We were rushed back in to see the vet again. The only good news she had at the time was that at least it didn’t look like melanoma, but only a biopsy would tell us for sure what this was.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, while the vet had been doing acupuncture on Behr only minutes before, we were discussing some neurological symptoms Behr was having. We decided that I should take her to the neurologist and ask if he saw anything serious enough to need an MRI (under anesthesia.) She (Behr’s vet) warned me that this would be really risky for Behr, however, and she advised against it if not necessary. Now here we were discussing a biopsy under anesthesia….the very thing we were trying to avoid!!

That started a whole round of vet visits to the neurologist, dental surgeon (because the tumor was in her mouth), and other veterinarians to decide what to do. The neuro didn’t think her neurological symptoms were worth the risk of 45 minutes under anesthesia for an MRI.  He did, however, caution about the high risk of death due to her age and other factors, as well as the risk of permanent paralysis if her neck wasn’t properly supported during and after the surgery.  All of the vets suggested full removal of the tumor under anesthesia. The dental surgeon even said she might need a large portion of her lower jaw removed. Ugh! That broke my heart even more.

What made this whole thing like torture for me was that Behr seemed oblivious to what was going on. She was totally happy and playful. She literally wants to play A.L.L. day long! She still gets zoomie runs, still goes for hikes, and otherwise has a good quality of life. I just couldn’t risk her becoming paralyzed or dying for something that might possibly not even be life threatening. We did not know for a FACT that this was cancer yet. I knew I couldn’t live with myself if that happened. Obviously, the risk is valid if it’s the only way to try to save her life. I have had animals need emergency surgery and I took that risk. Interestingly, twice in my life I made a decision against all medical advice that ended up saving lives. Once was for a prized horse of mine, once for my son. Cancer is frightening, for sure, but it’s usually NOT an extreme emergency. You can pause briefly to make a clear decision and often go with your gut instinct. (I worked for a while in cancer research…) 

So, after a TON of research about options, I decided that maybe cryosurgery was the way to go, IF I could find a vet willing to try it.

I learned some VERY interesting things about cryosurgery and cancer. I had to keep in mind how very TRICKY cancer can be. It kind of fools the body into thinking it’s harmless so the immune system won’t fight it. “No problem here, immune system. You can leave us alone now.” 

However, more than one report suggested that cryo might stimulate the immune system to fight the tumor. For example, one human study showed that cryo killed tumor tissue and the immune system would finally attack it.

I’m not a veterinarian OR an oncologist, but from what I was reading it sounded like having cryosurgery would be far less risky and if it ended up being cancer, cryo might trigger the immune system to fight it. That seemed like a good plan for Behr, and I decided to pursue it.

The main veterinary surgeon using cryo for tumors was Dr. Martin (Marty) Goldstein in New York. He is the vet that many famous celebrities like Martha Stewart and Oprah take their dogs to for serious issues.

But, it wasn’t really reasonable  for us to go all the way across the country, so I searched for a vet closer than New York. FINALLY, after much searching and even help from other vets searching, I found the option we would choose. Dr. Betsey Hershey, and integrative veterinary oncologist (cancer doc) was only about a 5 – 6 hour drive away. She is integrative, which means she ALSO uses hyperbaric chambers, herbs, and other more natural forms of healing in addition to surgery and chemo. While she was in a neighboring state, this was more practical and affordable for us to attempt. Every conversation I had with her staff before we drove there was simply amazing!! They are incredibly helpful and compassionate.

The plan was a consult on Monday with possible cryosurgery on Tuesday, hopefully done with only a mild sedative. When Dr. Hershey walked into the (beautiful!!) exam room, she came over to Behr, sat down on the rug next to her and took her time petting her and putting her at ease. I’ve NEVER seen a vet do that! Wow!

Unfortunately, she told us the tumor was too big for just cryo, but that she might be able to cut it down to a smaller size and then cryo the base of it. We were sad, but figured it was still the way to go.

Then she had an idea! Since Behr was being pretty co-operative, she offered to squeeze us in sometime THAT day if we could wait. She would attempt a biopsy WITHOUT ANY anesthesia!!! Before you panic (like we did), she said the tumor had very little nerves anyhow. SO, if Behr would co-operate, she would reach in and slice off a chunk for a biopsy…with no risks!

It worked!!!!  Behr came bouncing back from the minutes long procedure happy and acting as if nothing had happened, even though her mouth was a bloody mess. We were amazed!!

Here’s what it looked like AFTER the biopsy. You can’t see the whole thing, but it arises from the bottom of her lower jaw and extends upward toward her teeth. AFTER Behr's biopsy

 

I could’ve danced out of Dr. Hershey’s office I was so relieved!!  What an amazing, kind, gentle, and considerate doctor she had been! Her staff couldn’t have been more understanding. She did a great job hiring such a compassionate team. No wonder all of the people in her waiting room raved about her. There was a large table in the foyer covered with recent thank you cards that said a lot about her as well. I kept reading things like, “The other vets said our dog only had a few weeks/months to live, but you gave him/her YEARS more, and they were happy dogs until the end” Same with the Yelp reviews. (NOTE: I get absolutely NO financial or other compensation for this review. It is purely written out of gratitude)

The result of the biopsy has now come in. GOOD NEWS! Not cancer! We have the option of leaving what is left of her tumor there and see how fast it grows and if it eventually is a problem for her to eat. Then we would have to talk about surgery. 

After weeks of crying about the possibility of losing Behr when she was still so happy and playful, we were done. Now I could cry for joy. There is still sand left in the hourglass.

Again, I do understand what it’s like to walk an animal through cancer. I’ve done that with my prior dane, a cat, horses, and even some birds. I’ve been there, and it’s a VERY crummy place to be.

For anyone currently going through a cancer ordeal with their pet, my heart breaks for you. It’s simply not right that our dogs are now getting cancer at super alarming rates. They are the canaries in the coal mine, telling us that something is very, very wrong with our environment (food, water, air, etc) and that we need to make some serious changes. 

So, for now, we have some more time left to enjoy our little Behr Behr. We value those moments and are grateful for every one of them. It’s easy to get wrapped up in our day to day lives and forget how SHORT our dogs’ lives usually are. We don’t know how many “tomorrows” we have left with them. I know I’m trying to remember to do as much as I can with Behr TODAY, instead of telling her “Maybe tomorrow I can___”  (take you for a long walk, play with you, let you just enjoy sniffing everything, etc.)  Lets, as a group, start celebrating today with our pups, while we have them.

Remember the hourglass. Once the sand is gone, it’s not coming back.

 

clear glass with red sand grainer

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Saturday, April 26th, I turned 6 months old. Yay!

To celebrate, Mom and I were going to have a day together outside, complete with photos with her new camera Dad got as a surprise for her. I was pretty excited, since mom hadn’t been feeling well for a while and I missed playing outside with her and going for hikes and stuff. Besides that, I feel real important, like a movie star or something when she takes lots of photos of me. She even had some fun things to dress me up with, like cool princess things

So, Dad went out of town to have breakfast with friends and mom fixed my breakfast. Yum. When they fix my food, I sometimes sit at the edge of the kitchen and drool even, ‘cause I can hardly wait for my “foodies.” As usual, I woofed my “foodies” down in a matter of seconds, even tho they do funny things to me, like putting a big chain in my bowl to try to slow me down. They’re so silly. After I eat, they have another silly rule that I have to go to my crate and take a little nap and not run around. When I wake up, then we can play.

Well, it was my special day, and I was super excited, so after eating, I got a sudden case of the “zoomies” and raced around the house until mom tackled me and put me in my crate. Darn. I decided that I was a big girl now and didn’t need a nap, so I started playing in my crate…jumping and rolling around. I was having a little party in my crate! Mom caught me and made me stop. Darn again.

A few minutes later, something bad started to happen to my tummy. I got super sick and started throwing up, and then it got worse….I don’t remember what happened then. Mom said she grabbed me out of my crate and I was drooling, unable to stand, and had diarrhea. She called the emergency animal hospital told them she was bringing me in. I guess the doctor said it was really bad, and they were going to have to do surgery. Poor mom was in the waiting room crying, calling Dad, and praying I would survive. Miraculously, right before surgery, my stomach apparently untwisted and I became instantly better!!!! I guess her prayers were answered, and everyone was real surprised!!! You should have seen mom’s face when I came walking out with the vet! When I got to go home, they told her I had to lie down quietly for 3 days and eat a bland diet and take some medicine. I have to tell you, tho, this REALLY scared me a whole bunch. I don’t even TRY to run around anymore. I’m really good and just go straight to my crate for my nap, no tossing and turning, no protesting. I’m just glad to be alive right now. I’ve really settled down a lot since “The Big Scare”, too.

I did still get my new leopard toy for my 6 month birthday. Mom took some pictures of me with it for you.

She also found a really funny dish called the “Slow Down Dish” that I have to eat out of now. It’s like a weird maze, and I have to work hard at getting my food out of it. I eat REALLY SLOWWWWWLY now.

So, that’s how I celebrated my 6 month birthday. Not what we had in mind, but I’ve learned my lesson, believe me. I’m just happy to still be here with my Mom and Dad, and to be in a home where I’m loved, in spite of the things I seem to get myself into. Mom says we probably make our vet’s mortgage payment, whatever that means. Glad we can help the vet out. So, hopefully Mom and I can still have that special play time one day soon. Sorry Mom and Dad for worrying you, and honest, I’ll really try to be a good girl when I eat now. I love you both 🙂

♥ Behr Behr

PS from Behrs mom: Gastric torsion kills almost 40% of the dogs who get it, and very quickly. We are most fortunate to still have our little Behr Behr. Again. We are also very happy that after having her only a few days (and seeing how rambunctious she is) we decided to buy pet insurance for the very first time. We send our claim forms to them in bunches, overwhelming the poor agent handling our claims. This whole incident seems to have settled her down quite a bit, tho. Its like she has a whole new respect for life.

As a side note, her brother, Legacy, was at his first show the same day (with her sister, Fame). In between shows, he vomited 2 entire rope toys that his mom didnt even know he had eaten, whole, and shes a veterinarian. (and the breeder we got Behr from) She was thankful she didnt have to do surgery on him on the same day as Behr almost had to have surgery. Wild bunch of pups, needless to say!! 🙂

Our sweet little Behr Behr has been unable to write today because she has been in the hospital. I (mom) worked all night in the E.R. and came home to find her lying in her little bed looking quite sad. She normally jumps up to greet me and play, but not this time. She vomited and refused water to drink (she normally drinks volumes of water!).

We rushed to to the animal hospital who ran tests on her all day. Turns out that somehow she has found a little piece of fabric (source unknown) to eat, which has caused a partial blockage. Because it is not a complete blockage, we are giving it a little bit more time to see if it passes or if she will need surgery 😦

Friday will be the deciding day. We certainly do not want her to have to have abdominal surgery at such a tender little age. She will turn 12 weeks on Friday (Jan. 18th).

Please keep her in your thoughts and prayers. Hopefully she will be back up and writing about her exploits soon!!

Thank you,

Behr’s mom and dad

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