Saturday, April 28, 2007

Getting diagnosed with Osteosarcoma (OSA)

As a single woman, Kerby has been the love of my life for the past 10.5 years, since I adopted him from the Atlanta Humane Society. He's "da Kerbs", "the Man", "MY Man", "my son". His eyes are so expressive, they stare back at you, they speak of his love. His eyes are what drew me to him. His eyes are windows to his beautiful soul.

Kerby has been an incredibly healthy dog ever since I got him. "Strong as an ox" his vet said after his extensive 7 year check up. He literally looks and acts and plays like a 2 year old dog. Who would have thought this .... and so quickly .....

In March, we noticed his breath had a bad odor. I chalked it up to old age, bought the fresheners to add to his water but it wasn't helping.

Friday April 13, 2007
Gave him a dog bone to perhaps help with any tarter that may be in there. Noticed some blood on the carpet. Hmm that's weird.

Saturday April 14
Noticed dark bloody saliva dripping and the stench of what seemed like a dead squirrel coming from his mouth. Took a wipey on my finger, put in his mouth and out came globs of blood. Looked into his mouth and there it was .... a huge growth in the upper back part of his cheek. What the heck???? Scared & crying, I rushed him to the ER vet who looked alarmed, said this needs to come out asap but since we don't have a laser, go to your vet tomorrow and get him checked.

Sunday, April 15
Called the vet asap and got her 1st appt at 12pm. The vet said it doesn't look good. Looks malignant because there's white spots on the growth. Did the chest x-rays and looks like it's not in the lungs - ok that's good so far. But come back tomorrow for the surgery to remove the growth.

Monday, April 16
Woke up, took pictures of him, dropped him off at the vet who operated that morning. "Debulked" the tumor. Got the call at 1pm. She said he did well in surgery but it's worse than what they thought. Found 3 tumors: 2 were 2x4cm and the other was behind his back molar. It's aggressive. Let's do the biopsy to find out essentially what kind of tumor it is (aka, how bad the malignancy is). I hadn't even heard the "C" word yet (cancer). But I researched, and researched, and researched all night for the next 2 days. Cried each time I read. I read it all for what I thought was oral melanoma (self-diagnosing is not a good idea folks) but at least it gave me some basis. None of the scenarios looked good - less than 1 year survival at time of diagnosis for the size of tumor it is/was.

He's my baby ... he's so healthy .... how could I have not known ....

Kerby was still acting totally fine but a little drugged the 1st 2 days after surgery - Rimadyl for pain, Clavimox for anti-biotics and Trimadol for something else, I forgot. But he was still chasing his cat brother around the house, jumping, playing, and yes even eating fine. I think he'll always eat fine :-) I tried to think positively that week. He still looks well, acting normal, giving kisses (most important :-)

Sunday, April 22 at 11am
In an already crazed morning, his vet called me. Biopsy results came in Kerri. Kerby has Osteosarcoma Maxilla. I didn't even know how to spell it - I even asked her how. I wrote down what she said: it's located in the worst spot, way in the upper back of his jaw. It was not noticeable, hence why it took so long to discover. She must've researched before calling me because she told me the average life span is about 6 months. I wrote that down too. Cancer. 6 months. Very rare spot for bone cancer. 6 months? Average? So he could have more than a year ..... She made an appt for me to take Kerby to one of the only oncologists in metro Atlanta at the GA Vet Specialist

I cried all day, I called everyone I knew, and everyone who loved Kerby for the past 10 years. I wanted them to know he's really sick. Ya see, to know me is know Kerby. He is loving, sweet, playful, grouchy at times, loves people MUCH more than other furkids, always has a toy or tennis ball in his mouth, does this crazy funny bark with the ball in his mouth, crawls into corners and growls at the walls (I got him at 2 yrs old - sounds like an early child developmental problem he never worked on :-), he hugs me with bear hugs and naps on my shoulder JUST like a baby, he spoons with me on the couch, sleeps at the foot of the bed .... he's just "The Kerbs". My beautiful son. My heart ached. I was numb. I was in a fog. But I picked myself up the next day and researched once again.

That's when I found there actually IS a website/chat room for owners of bone cancer dogs Who would have "thunk" it. Boy has it helped me with research, stories upon stories, information, prayers.

Tuesday, April 24
I took Kerby to see Dr. Hamilton, the oncologist at GVS. 3 more xrays showed the cancer did NOT spread to Kerby's chest. YEAH! GREAT NEWS! However, let's run a CT scan to see exactly where to operate ...... WOW, the call came in at 3pm. Kerri, the cancer has invaded Kerby's orbit. Huh? That's the eye cavity. Oh. Kerri, the eye cavity will not be able to hold his eye. What does that mean, doc? Kerri, we will probably have to remove his eye. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Not Kerby's eye!?!?! What? They truly are the windows of his soul. Just as mine are to me. Kerby, they're going to take your EYE out! The onc gave me 2 options: 1. just radiation which he'll lose his eye eventually b/c eyes don't take well to radiation=6 months to live. Or 2. Partial maxillectomy (removal of upper jaw) + his eye, then chemo=18-24 months to live. Wow.

Have you ever had to make a decision for your child that depended on their LIFE? I am 37 years old. Unmarried. Kerby is my child.

I needed help. I needed advice. I needed to HEAR stories, not just read stats. Through emails, I met other pet owners of bone cancer dogs. Chris (Kassa), Penny (Pooba), Erin (Jasmine), Tami (Dancer). I spoke with Christina in San Diego. I got 3 more opinions. I called Colorado State University who provides free advice (970-221-4535). I heard from the oncologist at UGA who read of only FOUR articles with Kerby's exact surgery-to-be (partial max + eye removal). I spoke with Kara who's a vet at UPenn. I then spoke with THE MOST IMPORTANT factor in my decision .... My Kerby.

I was told to let Kerby know what's going on and to have a heart-to-heart chat with him. Ok, I held him in my arms while he sorta slept - but you get the picture. I literally spoke aloud .... Kerby, you have always been a fighter. You've always been healthy. You've always been happy and active. You are strong. Kerby, I think we can do this, together. Whatcha think baby boy? Huh, love of my life? Hey, Kerbs, we'll be okay. Did I tell you I listened to all those pet owners on the website, the other oncologists, my friends ... and they all said to go ahead .... you will be more resilient than a human ... you will learn to chew on the other side of your mouth. You will bump into walls at 1st, but will learn to live, play and run with just one eye. OK MOM, I will be strong.

After my chat with Kerby, I called GVS Wednesday night, the 25th, and made the appt for his surgery. May 2nd.

Sat/Sun April 28-29

The next few days I just stayed with him as much as I can, looking into his eyes - both of them. I bathed him, brushed him. Took him to the park both weekend days, he ran around, loved it. I loved it.

My heart is aching again now that the weekend is coming to a close. Kerby is acting ok. He's wanting to be alone a little more though. I heard that from some other pet owner. Man, he does not even know he's having surgery! He does not appear to be in any pain. Oh, he's still taking Rimadyl 2x a day (25mg each). Maybe that's helping if he is/was in pain? Anyway, we're going to sleep now. Sweet dreams my Kerb, many prayers that God will take care of you!


Chris (Kassa) and Ernie said...

Prayers and crossed paws you beat this fight with the beast. Prayers your beloved Kerby doesn't have too much pain.

We are thinking of you.

Chris(Kassa) and Ernie.

Perpendiculous said...

Kerri -

Arianne, Alex and I are with you and Kerby and we send our prayers out to the universe for peace in your decision and 24++++ months of tailwagging for the little guy.

We love both of you very very much.


Angie said...

Keri -

Many, many prayers are with both you and Kerby!!! We pray for your strength and Kerby not having too much pain.

Lexi and I love you two very much and please let me know if there is ANYTHING I can do for you.

Love ya,
Angie and Lexi

Anonymous said...

Hello I'm Paul - "The Kerbs Dad"
Since Kerri has been in china for the last two weeks I have had him. She got him checked out at the surgical specialist center on Abernathy Rd. before she left. Stated that nothing could be done for Kerby. As Kerry, it's tough to swallow. The sist in his mouth got to be the size of a plum on the side of his head and who knows how big in his mouth due to he could't open it. In just 3 quick days since I had kerb he was done.It happened so quick and before you know it. He was foaming at the mouth and tried to feed him and all he did is lay in his food which was terrible for 2 reasons. First is shock and 2nd is it was alpo gravy that I drained thinking he could lick it up.Friday I made "the choice" but 1 mile down the road I couldn't continue due to a crying fit and couln't see. Well thank GOD that traffic is bad on fri. in Atlanta. I brought kerby home and the pressure was on. Anyone who knows me well knows that is when I work best. I called a paramedic dan who is known as the healin man. He was kind enough to come over and look at kerb and he was back the next day with prednisone?,tree tea extact,and raw beef. I followed his unorthodox requests due to kerby was already set up for "the choice". After I saw Kerri spend $300 on a check-up teusday and no other options, I prayed... and four hours later Kerby wagged his tail. 24 hours later Kerby was -like making a recovery. It is 7 days later and the sist is GONE and he is barking at every sound and licking like cournel sanders. He is still weak from the chemo. and the ostio but the turn around was truly amazing thanks to Dan. Again, Thank you Very Much from th e bottom of my heart!
P.S. Dr. Hamilton, I hope that when your time comes, they do not send you home to starve to death like almost happened to Kerby.It looks like "the Kerb" will die with DIGNITY!

Ralph said...

Paul and Kerri,
I am a regular on the BCD list and was a touch nervous when I did not see Kerri post.

Thanks for providing the update and being able to handle the pressure situation. I know Kerbs thanks you, too.


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Anonymous said...

OMG, I know how you feel! My 12 year old German Shepherd was "coughing" a bit... I took him to the vet, VCA. They didn't notice anything wrong. I took him again; the other vet looked into his mouth and saw a tumor. She said you could either do surgery now or get a CT scan but it may require radical surgery. I was SHOCKED. He had been healthy his entire life! I decided to do the initial surgery,and of course, they said it was much bigger than thought. It seems vets are so willing to do the "initial surgery" without telling you that you NEED to find out if it's bigger. Otherwise, you're just WASTING YOUR MONEY!! We decided to go ahead with the radical surgery so he had part of his lower jaw removed including several teeth. They shaved the side of his head and there was a huge scar. I was shocked. Over the months he gained his energy back and seemed 'normal.' I decided to take him back for a "recheck" months later and he had another one growing this time on his UPPER JAW

Anonymous said...

Hi Paul we are going through a similar situation with our shih tzu and I'm wondering how you gave dans concoction of prednisone tea tree extract and raw beef to heal Kerby. . I'd like to try it if it worked.