As I type this, our sweet old girl, Lily, is in surgery. For cancer.
In all the years I’ve had dogs, Lily is our first cancer diagnosis. Our sweetest girl is almost 13 years old and has myxosarcoma. I had two choices: leave it there in her leg or take it out.
Initially, the decision was easy: TAKE IT OUT!
Over the weekend, though, I had second thoughts. Maybe I was rushing to surgery for selfish reasons. I don’t want to extend her life at all costs — I want her to live as long as she can while she’s happy and healthy. Was I putting her through surgery for selfish or selfless reasons? I want to be selfless when it comes to making decisions for her, but I realize how hard it is to be objective when you’re deeply in love with a dog.
I mean, she’s already a senior girl.
How many good years would she have left if she never got cancer? I have always hoped for 15 good years, but now that it’s only two years away, 15 seems so young. Would she likely die of other age-related causes before the cancer could take her? In other words: was I doing this surgery to make her life better? Or mine?
The weekend prior to her surgery, I had to go to Charlottesville, VA, for Levi’s neuter. I would be gone for a couple days so I took all the dogs with me. My home base for the jaunt was my parent’s place about an hour east of Charlottesville. After I dropped Levi off for his surgery and returned to the lake, I took my dogs to the water and had the pleasure of watching Lily turn into a puppy again in the warm sunshine at Lake Anna. She jumped, she spun, she butt-tucked it all over the yard, and gave Nemo a run for his money.
I laughed at her until my sides hurt and my face was sore from laughing so hard.
Back to reality: She’s an otherwise healthy dog — blood panels look good, no significant arthritis, or other compromised systems, which makes me think maybe we are doing the right thing. So, she’s undergoing surgery. Hopefully it’s the right decision, but good golly it’s hard to be the one making the decisions!
Obviously every dog’s case is different, but we faced the same decision with our 13 year old Golden who had a growth in her abdomin. We decided on surgury, and afterwards she was like a new dog for about a year. We were pleased with the decision, because her life was very good during that time. Unfortunatey the cancer returned and spread rapidly. Essentially, we bought a wonderful year with her. Doesn’t sound like much, but with a dog’s short life, a year is a long time. Hope Lily does well!
Mary Hunter @ Stale Cheerios says
How did Lily do during the surgery? I hope she’s recovering well!
Laurie Luck says
Thank you so much for asking, Mary. She did great! I need to post an update! Thanks for reminding me to do that! 🙂 All her drains have been removed, the staples are out, and the margins were deemed clean and clear! Fingers crossed, the Big C is gone!
Mary Hunter @ Stale Cheerios says
Yay! So glad to hear that the surgery went well and that she is feeling better. Hope they were able to get all of the cancer.
Andrea Burling says
Can you provide an update on Lily?
We’ve been in the midst of a similarly agonizing situation with our older (12 ½) years old) beloved Golden Retriever, Luke, who has myxosarcoma. His tumor was fairly large when first discovered about 4 months ago. But…given Luke’s age; that his tumor was low on a back leg; that he showed no signs of pain or impact on functioning; that he already has mild rear-end arthritis, hip dysplasia, and atrophy; and that myxosarcoma was described to us as “low-grade,” “slow-growing,” and having a “low (10-15%) lifetime risk of metastases”, we decided to “wait and watch” and do periodic re-checks with the oncologist. Our thinking was that we would assess how fast the cancer was growing, give him as much time as possible on 4 legs, and not act unless/until the tumor started to cause pain and/or significantly impact functioning and then make a decision re: amputation.
Well, unfortunately, we did a physical exam re-check with Luke’s oncologist last week and his myxosarcoma has acted “atypically” and “moved up his leg” such that he now has at least two more tumors – one right above the first tumor and another in his groin. So the option of amputating may already be out of our hands. Repeat testing (x-rays and ultrasound) and a repeat surgical consult would be needed to see if this is even still possible.
But…We’re still not sure that it’s in Luke’s best interests to amputate even if we can. While he is experiencing a mild impact on the range of motion in his affected leg now, he still appears to be in no pain. We’ve had a tripod Golden before, so we know they can adjust fairly quickly and live well. But our prior tripod, Jake, was much younger, at age 4, and didn’t have arthritis, etc. when we amputated. We’ve also talked to quite a few people who’ve had older large dogs with similar problems who’ve chosen the aggressive treatment option and it hasn’t gone well (e.g., cancer in a tail, amputated tail + a month of radiation at a cost of $33K and the dog passed 2 months later). These things have left us thinking we shouldn’t amputate and instead should do a version of dog-hospice and help Luke live pain-free with 4 legs for as long as he can…
Laurie Luck says
I’m so sorry to hear about Luke’s diagnosis. It’s so hard deciding what’s best for our older guys, isn’t it? So far, fingers crossed, Lily’s myxosarcoma has stayed away. It’s just been a year, though, so I can’t really be confident in saying “it’s gone for good.” I keep a really keen eye on that area, and all over really, and she gets checked anytime a new lump or bump shows up.
Lily (knock on wood, silly but I still do it) is friskier now than she’s ever been. She’s our resident wild woman. I know she’s in her twilight years so I do count every day we have her healthy as a lucky day.
It’s not an easy question, treating an old dog. I wish you the very best of luck. Keep me updated on your Luke, would you?