This page is dedicated to those who have or are fighting their battle against cancer. Please click on a photo to read about their experiences as written by their loving pet parents. You may find these tributes to be both heartfelt and heartbreaking at the same time. They will also provide some comfort because you’ll know that you are not alone!
Thinking back on it all, I would have to say, that the realization that Kyla had cancer, and not just any cancer but Stage III Lymphoma, was to say the least, quite a shock. It was not that I didn’t believe the doctor; it was that I couldn’t believe I had missed all the warning signs. I felt as though, as her protector, I should have seen it coming. For weeks, maybe months, I would notice odd things occurring to Kyla. Because she was in pretty good health at the time it was easier to dismiss these things as not related. She has Cushings disease which is well controlled, some benign bladder tumors removed and some joint issues, but, by and large, still relatively healthy in my eyes. So with these oddities that were occurring, the lumps, the excess shedding and the excessive panting, my brain didn’t make the connection. I knew that some round lumps were just fat and not a problem and perhaps that is why I let things go for so long. It got to the point where her she became listless and I noticed a large lump under her chin and it started to affect her breathing. She has lots of loose fur and some wrinkles there as she is 14, so I didn’t notice the lump at first. I usually went for the ears when petting her.
So on that fateful weekend last summer, I took her to the VRCC and had her examined. It didn’t take long to confirm the doctor’s feelings, and they took samples and kept her overnight, so they could do a complete work up and give her support as her Cushings disease adds an element that prevents what they would normally give her to treat a lymphoma.
But it was that realization, having to leave her behind, carrying her collar and leash back to the car, that I found myself not wanting to think about her dying, but having to think about it anyway. I kept kicking myself for not noticing the signs and symptoms earlier. When I picked her up the next day, her tail wagging, from the IV therapy, I realized that while I may have brought her in later than I think I should have, the important thing is that I did bring her in and got the wheels in motion to put her back on the track to recovery.
As it turns out, Kyla underwent chemotherapy a few days later and responded so well, that her lymph nodes went back to normal and she wound up in full remission rather quickly, with no side effects. Since then, almost 10 months ago, she has gone in and out of remission, and has had a good quality of life.
I cherish the things we do together, the walks, sitting on the deck, just being close to each other. I don’t know how much longer she has; I don’t really want to think about it.
I’m not kicking myself any more however. The next dog of mine in the future that has anyone of her symptoms, I’ll know what to do. Kyla has taught me so much.
by Gary Carlton
Roscoe P. Coltrane, XXVI
12/2/95 – 8/29/08
After a summer filled with uncertainty, on August 22nd, 2006 we were given the sad news that our black lab, Roscoe was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. We were told that he would probably live for 1-3 more months. He was 10.5 years old at the time.
It all started earlier that summer when we noticed one of Roscoe’s eyes was very watery and swollen. He had to travel to Vienna, VA to have an MRI and surgery to determine the cause.
A tumor was putting pressure on his eye. Unfortunately, they couldn’t get to the cancer, determine the exact type, or treat it, because of where it was located. All we could do for him was to make his remaining days as comfortable as possible. So that’s what we set out to do.
We were concerned about whether or not he would suffer, and how would we know when it was time to take him in, if it got to that point? Our wonderful vet, Dr. Lori Elliott at Shady Grove Animal Clinic said that if he was in intense pain, we would see it in his eyes and know.
Roscoe was prescribed steroids to stop the swelling, along with painkillers. Every time he had a bad day, we’d get the sinking feeling that it was the beginning of the end. But then he’d have some good days. What a roller coaster. I prayed every day that he could stay with us as long as he was comfortable. We did not want him to suffer. But I really wasn’t ready to let go of him.
The drugs made Roscoe super hungry and thirsty. To help him avoid gaining weight, we fed him canned vegetables with a little bit of dog food, because it is lower in calories. He ate 4 cans of vegetables each day! And he loved rice cakes for snacks.
Holidays and milestones came and went, and Roscoe hung in there—for two more years. He began to lose his muscle mass because of the drugs and well, because he was old. In January 2007, we started taking him to ‘Paws to Swim’ in Rockville, VA. He swam in the pool every week to build his strength. It helped his quality of his life tremendously, and I believe the length of his life. ‘Paws to Swim’ was so wonderful to Roscoe.
Roscoe had many medical issues and side effects since being diagnosed—arthritis, loss of muscle mass, and surgeries to remove growths and tumors. But through it all, he was such a trouper and maintained his spirit. He was worn and tattered, walked like an old man, had his good days and bad—but Roscoe was still Roscoe. Dr. Elliot confirmed along the way that emotionally and spiritually, he was still Roscoe.
I hope that Roscoe brings hope to those with pets who have cancer, other medical conditions, or just old age. Every little thing that you can do to make their life more comfortable and to show how much you love and appreciate them gives encouragement. Whether it’s laying rugs on slippery floors, putting heating pads on them, massaging them, installing ramps, or modifying their diet—you are doing all you can do, and most importantly they get the love and care they so deserve. As long as they are not suffering, your love and attention along with continually improving medical advances can beat the odds.
I am so very thankful for having Roscoe in our lives and for the two extra years that we never expected. He is our super dog. He was an encouragement and a joy to me, every single day.
In July 1997 I went to a no-kill shelter in Cutler Ridge, Florida looking for a companion. A skinny, white-with-black-spots fox terrier-mix was in an outside pen with 5 other dogs; she was hanging out by herself in the back, but when I walked up she slowly approached the front of the pen. When I asked them to bring her out for a closer look, she stuck to me like glue. So I had to bring her home, because she had chosen me! We named her Scooter, and over the ensuing years she has grown from an extremely shy, nervous young dog to a member of the family who knows she is loved.
In July 2009, I noticed Scooter pawing at her face and licking her feet, leaving a small reddish stain on the sheet she was laying on. I checked her paws but there was no sign of a wound. I looked in her mouth, and there was a marble-sized mass on her left, lower jaw. I thought it was an abscessed tooth, but was perplexed because she had eaten her dinner like normal.
I took Scooter to her regular vet, Dr. Carroll Garland at Goochland Animal Clinic. She said it was not an abscessed tooth but some sort of tumor that would need to be removed. She suggested an x-ray to determine if the bone was affected, but sedation was needed to make sure the film was clear. We scheduled the next day for an x-ray and possible surgery. The x-ray showed that the bone was not affected so Dr. Garland proceeded to remove the tumor and send it off for analysis. Scooter came through the surgery very well and enjoyed her special, soft food for the next few days.
The next week the lab analysis came back and it was the absolute worst – oral melanoma, one of the most aggressive cancers for canines, almost always fatal. When Dr. Garland gave us the news, we were devastated, but she said not to give up hope, that great strides had been made in treatments using radiation and chemotherapy – she suggested I bring her back in the next day so she could check her lungs and lymph nodes to see if it had spread. Those tests and films looked like it had not yet spread and as the lab analysis rated the aggressiveness of the tumor as a 3 on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the worst) she offered to call Dr. Nancy Gustafson at The Regional Veterinary Referral Center
to consult with her. Dr Gustafson agreed to see Scooter so we made the next available appointment.
Dr Gustafson examined Scooter and reviewed all the test results. She thought she was a good candidate for treatment; even though she wasn’t exactly young, other than the melanoma she was otherwise in very good health. She took her time explaining all of our options and costed them out for us. Basically, we were looking at surgery to make sure that all of the tumor was removed including removing some of her jaw bone, then 6 weekly radiation treatments to her lymph nodes. A small dose of chemotherapy was suggested in conjunction to increase the efficacy of the radiation. Also Merial had developed an experimental vaccine just for oral melanoma which required 4 bi-weekly injections, then boosters every 6 months thereafter. Studies suggested that good quality of life could be extended for up to 2 years. My husband and I discussed the large commitment of time and money (RVRC is almost a 2 hour drive one way) but Scooter is such an important member of the family we really had to pursue treatment. And we decided that if we were going to do anything, we might as well do everything!
Since then the news has all been good. Dr Kevin Stiffler at Veterinary Referral & Critical care in Manakin-Sabot did a wonderful job with her jaw surgery. (While RVRC certainly has surgeons, Dr Stiffler was more conveniently located and came highly recommended) He was able to get clean margins on the surgery without cutting all the way through, thus leaving a ‘bone bridge’ so her jaw remains stable. Dr Gustafson and her staff were wonderful to Scooter as well as to my husband and me, and Scooter never showed any ill effects or sickness from the radiation/chemo/vaccine treatments. All of the doctors were fabulous about communicating with each other, and even calling us to check up on her. Finally, in December 2009 we took Scooter back to Dr. Garland for a 3 month checkup including chest x-rays: the tumor site, lymph nodes and lungs were all clear. While there are no guarantees that the cancer won’t return, and we have been warned that it probably will, I am convinced that if we had not pursued the treatment that she would be gone by now. Therefore every additional day we have her is a special gift to be treasured!
While treatment allowed Scooter to have an additional 19 months of good quality life with her family, sadly she passed on to the Rainbow Bridge on February 23, 2011.
Susan Bennett, CFA is a Financial Advisor with Morgan Stanley Smith Barney in Richmond, VA
Our 7-year old yellow lab, Charlotte, was diagnosed with Cushing's disease this past spring. If you're on this website, you are like me.....our pets are not LIKE family....they ARE family.
In hindsight, Charlotte starting showing symptoms around late summer 2010. Her personality was just not as 'bubbly'. She seemed depressed and lethargic. Around October we noticed that she just could not get enough to drink. Then she started urinating in the house regularly - which was just not like her. Around Thanksgiving 2010, we took Charlotte into her vet for testing. Her urine checked clean and blood work looked great. There were no medical reasons to proceed with further expensive testing at the time.
Throughout the winter, Charlotte became extremely lethargic. All she did was lay around and sleep (except for meal time, of course....she never missed an opportunity for a meal). The excessive drinking and urinating worsened. Then in March 2011 we noticed that looked absolutely skinny. Her spine and all bones were protruding - even in her face and head. So we took her back to the vet in late March for more testing. This is when Dr. Loehr (Town & Country Veterinary Clinic) agreed that SOMETHING is wrong.
Dr. Loehr found her blood work to be normal. She had a slightly low heart rate, but she showed high levels of protein in her urine at this time (which was NOT the case in November 2010). His initial concerns were with either diabetes insipitus (not a sugar diabetes) or Cushing's disease. He leaned toward diabetes insipitus because she was not showing common symptoms of Cushing's disease, such as pot belly and hair loss....weird. We started measuring Charlotte's water intake. We found that she was drinking up to 6 quarts a day, which was 2-3 times the normal amount for a dog her size. She had also lost about 10 pounds of critical muscle mass - hence, the protein in her urine. She trialed an oral medication for diabetes insipidus. This actually curbed her water intake but had no effect on the levels of protein in her urine.
By the end of April, Charlotte started showing neurological symptoms. She had been having random tremors (asleep or awake) for about 2 months. Then within about a 2-week span of time, she went paralyzed on the left side of her face, the tremors increased, she circled incessantly to the left, and started losing her balance when walking. By Easter, she looked like a walking zombie! Watching her degrade so dramatically and so quickly was heartbreaking and frustrating with no diagnosis. Many things had been narrowed out, but we still had no diagnosis.....
Her vet admitted that he had done all he could do and referred us to Dr. Lori Rios with Veterinary Referral & Critical Care, a veterinary internal medicine specialist in Goochland, VA. Dr. Rios performed a thorough ultrasound of Charlotte's abdomen and took lung x-rays. She wanted to look for any tumors on her adrenal glands (another form of Cushing's disease) or any other abnormalities/tumors. The x-rays and ultrasound looked normal. But she was highly concerned with Charlotte's neurological symptoms and suggested an MRI of her brain as soon as possible. So with Dr. Rios's assistance, we got her into to see veterinary neurologists at NC State Vet School within 2 days.
The NC State neurologist performed a physical and neurological exam. They really were amazing to watch! They definitely agreed that an MRI would be necessary, which was performed same-day. The neurologists did not even wait for the radiology report from the MRI.....they could easily see a large-sized tumor on her pituitary gland and immediately diagnosed her with pituitary Cushing's disease. As heartbreaking as this was to hear, we were almost relieved to just have a diagnosis and were reassured when we found there was something we could do. Apparently pituitary tumors shrink well with radiation treatments. We were given the option to do a 3-day radiation course or a 16-day (recommended, more effective and longer-term). Obviously, we opted for the 16-day radiation treatment. Otherwise, she was probably 1-2 weeks away from death.
So within 2 business days, we had Charlotte admitted into Oncology at NC State to start her radiation treatments. She received about 15 minutes of radiation for 16 business days, coming home for weekends. It was an exhausting and stressful time.
We could not have been happier with the persistence and sense of resolve with all of her veterinarians - including Dr. Frederick Loehr, Dr. Lori Rios and Doctors Schwartz (NC State Veterinary Neurologist) and Pruitt (NC State Veterinary Oncologist). I am so pleased to say that 6 months after completing her radiation treatments, Charlotte has made a complete turnaround. Her facial paralysis and neurological symptoms have gone away. She is back to her normal weight. She drinks normal amounts of water and has stopped urinating in the house. But most importantly - she is back! Her personality, sense of humor and desire to play are back - stronger than ever.
We know that the tumor has just shrunk, but will grow back. We were told that the average prognosis is 3.5 years. We do intend to have a follow-up CT scan performed of her brain to show an "after" shot of the tumor. This is not required, but we are curious and this is our fur child. I don't know how much longer we will have Charlotte, but we hope she lives a full, happy life. I am mother of the year, I'm sure. We can sleep at night knowing we did any and everything we possibly could. Although this may sound cheesy, Charlotte truly is the sunshine of my life and deserves everything we have done for her to save her life.
Charlotte attended her first FETCH event on 10/30 at the Mutt Strut. There, she met Mike, Tom, Joanne, and the other amazing people involved with FETCH a Cure. Charlotte could be a poster dog for FETCH and is a living example of how FETCH a Cure can impact the lives of pets and their families. We were fortunate enough to come up with about $10,000 of unbudgeted funds last-minute. But we were lucky; many people would not have that ability. So from Charlotte and me - we appreciate everything FETCH a Cure stands for and we look forward to our involvement with future FETCH events as long as Charlotte can participate!