Literally, right now, Pofi and I are in my home office and he is lying on my foot. My sweet boy became a Tripawd dog one month ago yesterday at the age of 11.5 and the result of a malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor in the brachial plexus. A mouthful, isn’t it? Essentially, a soft tissue sarcoma located on the nerves in his armpit. Had to be painful, but boy, did he mask it well. At this very moment, he is not in pain – not at all. His personality has come back in force and his mobility is great, which it has been since we came home. We are beyond lucky in this regard. Confession: against all the rules and doctor’s explicit orders, he has been going up and down stairs since the night he came home, 48 hours after amputation. He would not be talked out of it despite all my preparations to keep him in a confined area and sleep downstairs with him. He was just going to stand all night until I agreed to let him go upstairs to our bed where he has slept all his life. For the first few days, of course, I did control this activity with baby gates and doors and limit it and oversee it. He’s a big lad, so there was no carrying him and especially given the pressure that would put on his surgical site.
He is a Lurcher – a cross bred dog with Greyhound or Saluki in the mix and was likely bred for mushing. He is also quite clearly has a lot of sled dog in him – likely Malamute based on size and also those silly DNA tests. He ran like a Greyhound. Like the wind. Like poetry. And he is, though I am, of course, biased, magnificent looking.
This is Pofi, who is named after the small town in Italy my mother’s parents hailed from, climbing a tree. Yes, climbing a tree. As a younger dog, he was not only greased lightning, but he was sure footed and graceful.
Tree climbing Lurcher, St . Patrick’s Day, 2007
Tomorrow, I will be dropping him at U of MN Veterinary Medical Center for a CT scan under anesthesia, which fills me, again, with dread. The post amputation pathology showed us no love, no mercy. The tumor was uncharacteristically large, aggressive and not “well encapsulated” – translation, poor and incomplete margins – and it had enveloped part of a rib and destroyed a lymph node (both removed in addition to the limb, the mass and atrophied muscle). Graded for these reasons Stage III of III with regional metastasis. “We didn’t get all the cancer,” were my surgeon’s words, tinged with her regret and empathy. It cannot have been easy to tell me that after the earlier misses on this hard to diagnose cancer and then the recognition of what this was with the hopeful caveats (from several vets) that this type of tumor was generally slow growing, localized and rarely metastasizes. Amputation is often considered curative…
Not for us, though. Radiation treatment is considered most beneficial if we are hoping to prevent or delay a local recurrence (which is highly likely if not inevitable) given his case. It would be a hardship, not just financially, but a difficult treatment for my loving homebody of a hound to be dropped off every weekday for 18 to 22 radiation sessions. He will hate it. But it could give us so much more time. First things first, though. We want to know if the metastasis was only regional or if it is also “remote”. If possible, tomorrow’s imaging will also give the radiation oncologist what she would like to see in terms of mapping the interior scar from surgery to plan radiation treatment, but he will be positioned for a good look at another lymph node in the chest and the lungs (which were clear per x-ray one month ago). If mets are in either place, it has traveled via the bloodstream and it is a whole new ball game. We are currently on Metronomic Chemotherapy, which he is tolerating well, and were considering radiation, but I would take that treatment off the table if we have lung mets. He will not spend these summer days in the hospital chasing a future that is cast in complete doubt by presence of cancer in the lungs.
But right now, I just want this day, with a happy, tail wagging, bouncy Tripawd and perfect weather to last forever. Not a moment of regret on the amputation, except I wish it had happened sooner.
About a month after his last visit to the dog park, Pofi returns as a Tripawd
Today we will go to the Airport Dog Park as we have nearly every weekend for years. We went back for his first visit in a month or so on May 21 and he had a wonderful time.
We went yesterday and all who met him were delighted with his smile and his attitude. Most could not believe he had only had the amputation a month earlier. The leg was so painful in those final weeks, he had stopped using it altogether and, though he works much harder with three legs than four good legs, he is much happier and more energetic now that he doesn’t have to cart that thing around with him.
He beams – and he thinks he is king of the world again. He picked out a giant English Mastiff for some sport right away yesterday and even put his right front leg up on the Mastiff’s back! I thank that dog and his owners for their patient indulgence, but it made me so happy to see him being so sassy.
This is a sign of how good he is feeling, how pain free he is. Other signs are my shoes and clothing being absconded with from my walk in closet and ending up on a dog bed. And the attempts at counter surfing and begging to lick my cereal bowl in the mornings.
I just want this to last forever. Can’t it?
Another sign of how well he feels – hoping for a taste of Daddy’s beer, 5-19-16