I have been living with the knowledge of my sweet Arwen’s osteosarcoma diagnosis for 5 days now. While I discovered the Tripawds site that first day my dog was diagnosed with bone cancer, I chose to wait until today, Arwen’s surgery day, before posting anything. Had I posted sooner, even just a day ago, my tone would have been much angrier. I am guessing I am not the only dog parent to feel overwhelming grief and anger immediately following such heartbreaking news. But Arwen is successfully out of surgery, and I am able to glimpse some hope of recovery.
Arwen is our 9 year old, 100lb Saint Bernard mix. My husband and I adopted her from a rescue when she was 6 weeks old, and our hearts broke on Friday when we found out she has osteosarcoma. We first got a hint something was wrong on May 5 when Arwen started limping with her left, front leg at the end of a 6 mile hike. It went away whenever we rested her, but intermittently came back. We had a vet appointment on June 1 and were given glucosamine tablets. It didn’t help. She was placed on anti-inflammatories. No difference. On July 6 we did xrays, and a slight abnormality was seen on her front left leg by the shoulder. It could only be seen from one view, and the radiologist and vet could not agree if it was something or nothing. Repeat xrays were done on July 27. The abnormality was clearer, but my vet thought it was a bone cyst because Arwen had no pain in the shoulder at the area of the abnormality. She recommended I go to an orthopedist to be sure, and he agreed with her assessment, though he offered to do a CT scan to try to verify. But he thought it was likely a coincidence and not the cause of her limping, which we were all thinking may be tendonitis. I passed on the CT with a plan to do repeat xrays in the future.
Arwen went on vacation with my husband and I in Montana and Idaho 2 weeks ago. She didn’t limp the whole week until right before we took the 6.5 hour car ride back to Oregon, and she was so uncomfortable during the drive she couldn’t lay in one position for more than 5 or 10 minutes at a time. She had a vet appointment and xrays done again on September 9. Her abnormality had grown and now, because her shoulder area was painful to the touch, they thought it was more likely to be a bone tumor than a bone cyst. A bone biopsy was done with an orthopedist on September 10, and her path results came back as osteosarcoma on September 13th.
We were told if we amputated Arwen’s leg, it could give her 3-5 extra months of life. If we followed up with chemotherapy, we were told we could get her 9-12 extra months of life. We were also told that at the time of diagnosis, osteosarcoma has almost certainly always spread to other parts of the body. The vet explained that the cancer’s appearance in the lungs is what usually kills a dog, but it tires them out more than causes them pain. The pain comes from the primary tumor site in the bone.
I am grief-stricken that my future with Arwen has likely been cut short, and that she had been intermittently limping since May and we are just now, in September, diagnosing the cancer. I keep going in circles in my mind over what Arwen’s odds might be if we could have just realized what was going on with her sooner. I will always wonder about this.
Today, on September 17th, Arwen had her left, front leg amputated.
While choosing to amputate a limb from our beloved pet wasn’t easy, we were immediately certain it would be the right choice. Arwen’s leg will never get better. The limp won’t go away. It will only get worst. And the pain will become harder and harder to manage with pain meds. I know this. Yet it is so hard for me to imagine my large dog doing all the things she used to do with a front leg missing. I am devastated for her, and hate that I can’t explain to her what’s happening.
My husband and I picnicked with Arwen at a river spot a couple of times this weekend, a sort of last hurrah as a quadraped. The wait for the amputation surgery is terrible. We didn’t get any sleep last night (well, Arwen did). I kept imaging worst case scenarios. I hated leaving her at the vet office this morning. She is so happy and normal. Besides the limp, which is very slight now that she’s on Tramadol, she has no symptoms. She is playful and cuddly and energetic. I hate giving her new pain, even if it’s temporary.
The worst part of the wait today was waiting to hear how her chest xrays were. The orthopedist recommended they be done so we can know if the cancer has metastasized there yet. When we got the call that the chest xrays were clean, I was so happy. A weight has been lifted from my chest. Then Arwen went into surgery for about 90 minutes. The orthopedist says she did good, and she’s currently recovering. They recommended we not visit her while she recovers overnight, as she could overexcite when she needs to rest. It’s so hard, but the veterinary staff has been so nice and helpful. We are so anxious to get our baby home tomorrow where she belongs.
Tomorrow will be a new journey with our pupper who is now a Tripawd. But my husband keeps insisting that she doesn’t need a fourth leg because she has us. I hope he’s right.
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