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Being 4-legged is so overrated…

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Chloe with 4 legs!

After graduating from college armed with my bachelors of science degree in aquatic biology, I was looking forward to living with my dog again during the summer at home.  Those first two weeks were wonderful, long walks, runs, playing fetch, but it all changed on that June day at our city dog park. My dad and I had met up with one of my long time friends and her two dogs and we all stood as watchful parents of our 4 dogs exploring the premise and fellow 4 legged fur balls. It wasn’t until my dog Chloe was trotting away from me to smell a curious piece of grass that I noticed her two back legs didn’t match in shape. Her left leg had a noticeable bump the size of a flattened tennis ball protruding from her “calf”, which to my knowledge didn’t exist a few months ago when I was home for spring break. I immediately had a sinking feeling in my stomach and knew something was wrong…but not how very serious it actually was.

Two days later Chloe and I were at the vet for a physical, blood test, and aspirate (fluid sample of the tumor) to determine 1. her overall health and 2. a basic idea of whether the tumor was benign or cancerous. The vet could not give a defnitive answer, so I would just have to wait almost a week to find out the prognosis.  Being the curious person I am, this did not stop me from exploring the possibilities myself. Therefore, I set off to browse the most accessible source for knowledge…Google. I had learned that the most common possibilites for tumors on the leg included benign things like fat accumulations (lypomas), inflammation from an injury (hematoma), cysts, to more serious things like skin cancer and bone cancer. I had tried to convince myself that since the pictures of skin cancer and bone cancer tumors online did not resemble Chloe’s tumor and that there were more options for benign tumors, that it was most likely nothing to worry about. However, no matter what I read, I still had that sinking feeling about her condition.

It wasn’t until after a wonderful afternoon of reconnecting with old acquaintances that I went home to find my mom had been notified about Chloe. It was cancer. The paradox to this news was that her blood tests revealed she is in near perfect health. A “healthy” 9 yr old dog with a cancerous tumor…I guess we caught it early. What type of cancer you ask? A rare type known as spindle cell sarcoma. It took me forever to find information on this because it is uncommon for dogs to develop. This was the best and most informative site I eventually found http://www.nativeremedies.com/petalive/articles/canine-spindle-cell-sarcoma.html# Basically it is a soft tissue sarcoma that affects the layer under the skin called the mesoderm including connective tissues and smooth muscle.  After more research, I found it is pretty much impossible to remove the tumor from the leg since there needs to be a “clean margin” of non cancerous tissue around the excised tumor. Being on her back left bony “calf” I had a feeling she most likely had to lose the leg.   A few days after the news, the vet wanted to see Chloe again to do a biopsy of the tumor, take a chest xray, and take a sample from the lymphnodes in the knee in order to confirm the prognosis and to determine whether it had spread. Luckily in everything I had read and had learned from the vet, this type of cancer grows slowly and therefore was most likely confined to that area.

During the next few days while we waited yet again for results, I started to contemplate what would be best for Chloe. We had a dog Bonnie who over a decade ago was diagnosed with lymphosarcoma (cancer of the lymphnodes) and my mom went the whole 9 yards, chemo and everything to fight that. In the end, even after months in remission, the cancer had spread to her lungs and she had to put her down. Not only that, but the treatment was pricey… I had decided that it would be better to have a healthy 3 legged dog than a terminally ill 4 legged dog. While on my trip to nor cal to visit my grad school and townhouse, the vet called with news that basically confirmed this notion. He outlined the different options Chloe would have such as radiation, chemo pills and of course amputation. After he so thoughtfully explained in full what the pros and cons were for each I simply asked, “So basically the cancer could spread with radiation or chemo?”. The answer, yes. Then I inquired about the cost, “So in the long run is amputation cheaper and a better option?”. Another yes followed by an explanation that while chemo or radiaiton would help to preserve the leg, it would not a guarentee that the cancer would ever “go away”. In addition, if her condition worsened she might have to get an amputation anyway. As I stated before I had already got it in my head that amputation would be best for her considering what we went through with our other dog… He did inform me that since she is at a healthy weight for her size (large breed mix 70lbs) that she is a good candidate for recovery if she were to have an amputation. More good news considering.

After talking with my parents and telling them that I would like to go ahead with the amputation even though it would be expensive (I argued not as expensive as the other options), I would be willing to use money in my savings to pay for at least half of her procedure. I then arranged for her surgery to take place the day after I got back from my previously booked vacation, a mere 2.5 weeks away. I could have had my dad take her and pick her up after her surgery, but I learned that the first two weeks are critical in her recovery and I decided it was important that I be there.  Because I have the summer off, I have the ability to stay home with her all day to take car of her since both my parents have to work. So waiting was the best yet most nerve racking option. The vet did caution that owners get emotional over the loss of their pets limb, but in all honesty I did not feel there was another adequate option to completely “remove” her type of cancer. For me it was a no brainer, leg off cancer gone. Other people also asked about Chloe losing her limb and I joked “Well I am not the one attatched to her limb”.  For some reason, I didn’t had any doubt or concern about whether or not this was the right decision. Certainly I am not physically attatched to her limb as I joked, but looking at the big picture of her future I wasn’t super emotionally attached either.   Yes disabled for a short time, but eventually she will be her regular goofy and playful self. I know that it will be a struggle for her to “get back on her feet” but I will be there every step of the way. My dad seems more emotionally attatched to her limb than I am about this, but I keep reminding him that she will recover and she will be healthy again.

The fiasco of trying to fly home before Chloe’s surgery was yet another bump in the road…


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Posted by on July 31st, 2010 at 1:52 am


2 Responses to “The story behind my now 3-legged Chloe”
  1. 1
      admin says:

    Thanks for joining and kicking off Chloe’s blog with such detail! You certainly have the right mindset. Chloe isn’t emotionally attached to her leg either. She just wants to be free of the pain.

    Best wishes for for a quick complete recovery. we look forward to following Chloe’s three legged adventures.

  2. 3
      etgayle says:

    welcome chloe!! i too had a soft tissue sarcoma (on my front right leg). it had spindle cells too, and was very entwined in my wrist, so i lost my leg in february. after five rounds of chemo, i’m enjoying the good life, moment by moment. can’t wait to hear more about you…how about some pictures??? hope your surgery goes well, and you bounce back quickly.

    gayle