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Caira Sue started limping in June. We treated it as a soft tissue injury and it went away for about a week. All of a sudden she woke up one day unable to walk on her right front leg. Xrays were negative. Again, we treated as soft tissue injury. This is a very active dog who jumps and runs with passion. Unfortunately, 2 weeks later it was worse.

Our vet recommended going to UC Davis on July 22 for help with diagnosis and treatment options. It was actually UC Davis emergency that made the diagnosis of “lesion.” She had been in so much pain we went there originally for pain control, of what we hoped was a soft tissue injury. They gave us some stronger pain medicine and sent us home.

Caira was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in her right scapula. It’s the shape of an egg right at the very top point. This did not show up on xray on July 2nd, which means it is fast growing. Apparently, you can have pain long before it shows up on xray, which is why she was limping on and off.

We were filled with such sadness when we first got the diagnosis. Everything I read was pretty much filled with doom. They told us that an amputation would give her approximately 4 months, and amputation and chemo would give her 12 months. We then met with the oncologist at UC Davis. We wanted to do what was right by her, so we wanted to make sure we had all our options in front of us.

The oncologist did a sonogram to make sure that the shoulder was her “primary tumor.” There are no other noticable tumors at this point. He aspirated it to make sure it was cancer and not fungal-it was. He then told us our options. They were not that much different from what the ER told us, except he mentioned a study.

We took Caira, who was now feeling a lot better with the new meds, to Alameda to play on the beach. She was sooooo happy to be there! She was running (on 3 legs-keeping her sore leg up) and jumping for her ball and digging in the sand. She was smiling and wading in the water. We were heartbroken. She’s young and completely healthy, except for this. She loves life! She teaches us so much about how to live in the moment. We spent a long time discussing what our options were. We wanted to make sure that the decision we made was for her, not us. We decided we did not want her in pain at any cost. She does not deserve pain.

Adam called the oncologist first thing in the morning. He told us that once amputated she would be pain free. I have read that dogs practically run the day after surgery because they are so happy for the pain to be gone. This is what the oncologist confirmed. He was also able to tell us that if/when the cancer metasticized it would most likely be in her lungs and she would not be in pain, but would start slowly having difficulty breathing. Then we would know the time had come. He said that in the meantime, she could run, swim, jump and have all her crazy dog adventures.

The oncologist also offered to enroll us in a study. It is with inhalation Gemzar. The theory being that since the cancer metasticizes straight to the lungs, they will “nip it in the bud” before it shows it’s ugly teeth with inhaled chemo directly after surgery. The side effects should be mild or non-existent. They will pay for everything study related, and Caira will get monthly bloodwork and xrays to make sure the cancer hasn’t returned. We felt like this was our best option. The treatments will be done at home and she will have no problem going in to the clinic once or twice a month, as she is already a fan of the people there.

We feel like because she loves life so much, she was really telling us on the beach that she wanted to live. She deserves every adventure we can give her. She lives every moment to it’s fullest capacity. The amputation is supposed to make her painfree, and she will adapt within 1-2 days. She’s already been walking for 3 weeks on 3 legs. We all agree that if she has more pain, then we will put her to sleep. We can’t see making her suffer. We couldn’t see putting her to sleep now though, when she has such a love of life and everything we read tells us she will do really well (and be painfree) on 3 legs.

Pop and I took her to the clinic today for pre-op (Adam had to work). She stayed with us and wagged her tail and leaned against the surgeon while she talked to us. When the assistant went to lead her away she jumped up and licked Pop on the cheek. They went around the corner and I heard the lady say “oh! you want to go back, ok.” and she came back around, tail wagging, and bumped her head into my leg (like she always does to greet me, or say she’s happy) then she looked up at me, tail wagging and smiled. She then turned and walked back around the corner with the assistant. I left her with Adam’s Popeye t-shirt for comfort and strength during the night. Silly sentimental schmuck, I know.

July 26, 2009. We picked up Caira Sue¬† post-op. The surgeon came out and told me she probably broke a record for recovery. There were no complications during the surgery. She was still a little screwed up and “drunk” from the anesthesia plus pain meds. But she was happy and wagging her tail when she saw us. Adam stayed in the back of the car with her while we drove home. She appeared excited to be home, but a little hesitant about all the steps on the decking. Not to worry, by evening she had them mastered.

July 26, 2009-Aug 2, 2009. Recovery. It’s a long hard journey. Ok, mostly for us who whince at every little yelp or whine. We want them to succeed so badly! We had to keep reminding ourselves that it was major surgery she had been through. I wish I had access to while going through this stage-it would have made life a lot easier! Actually, looking back, our girl did quite well. Every day it was a little more, and then one day I open the door for our “walk” in the backyard and she takes off RUNNING after a squirrel! I shouted “wait! your staples!” Right.

Aug 3, 2009. We went to the park to help Caira’s and our spirits. It worked! We found a quiet corner and enjoyed the sun and wind. We brought a ball….and she proved to herself just how awesome she really was! What a superdog! If I can get pix to load, I will.

Aug 4, 2009. Half the staples out. Miss Caira Sue is a shining star at UC Davis. We picked up the nebulizer and the Gemzar. She is used to the “hood” she needs to wear while getting treatments. Unfortunately, she is afraid of the nebulizer! I have to spend some time with it just running in the background to get her prepared. I’m wondering if anyone else has been through this kind of study, and if they have any tips. Will do a search through the forums once I figure this site out!

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   Mr WordPress wrote @ August 6th, 2009 at 11:21 pm   

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   admin wrote @ August 7th, 2009 at 9:31 pm   

Thanks for sharing Caira Sue’s story! We look forward to following her blog here, and hope others have some input about Gemzar.

Jerry’s vet at UC Davis was Dr. Stepnik. The whole staff there is just awesome!

   jerry wrote @ August 8th, 2009 at 6:45 am   

Caira Sue, you rock! Yep, those UC Davis people are GREAT!

There is another Tripawd here, Tika, who is on Interleukin-2 liposome inhalation therapy. Talk to her pawrents and find out how they are helping her cope with the nebulizer. Good luck!

   cairasue wrote @ August 8th, 2009 at 11:44 am   

Thanks, Jerry! We are working with Dr. Rodriquez and Dr. Skorupski. They are wonderful. Dr. Nordquist and Dr. Beam did the surgery. Actually, everyone there is grand.

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