Our Special Little Cocker Spaniel

Our high-maintenance, yet very loving little cocker spaniel was diagnosed with Lymphoma quite by chance last Friday, April 1, 2016.  He was having a skin tag removed and our vet detected some enlarged lymph nodes.  A quick biopsy and a few hours later, he was diagnosed with cancer.  I’m devastated.  Sara less so.  The kids don’t really get it.

We staged it over the weekend and I met with an Oncologist yesterday to get the low-down.  He’s Stage IIIa with no apparent organ, blood or urine signs of disease.  All lymph for now.  But, lymphoma is 100% fatal and moves very quickly.

If we do nothing, he dies in 4-6 weeks, despite showing no sign of disease as of today, outside of the lymph nodes.

We’ve taken another aspirate from the nodes to look into the flow cytometry of the cancer.  T-cell has a worse prognosis.  If it’s B-Cell, it’s highly treatable with low-does Chemo on the CHOP protocol.  The Oncologist has given him an 80-90% chance of achieving temporary remission, given the variables.  The average remission time is ~12 months, but some dogs make it less and some more.

BUT, the CHOP protocol requires weekly injections of some nasty chemicals for at least 8 weeks, and every other week after that for about 6 months.  I’m waiting on the specifics from the Onco now.  I’ve been assured by the vet that the dosage is very low as they aren’t trying to cure it like humans and that dogs rarely have side effects and live very well for that “year”.

However, he will still meet the same end.  And he’s 11… no spring chicken.  He’s also had a good life and hates visiting clinics.

The cost for chemo will run quite high through some specialists here in New York called Blue Pearl.  ~$10k for treatment and luckily I splurged for pet insurance when we signed up for our own insurance in the US, in 2014.  So out of pocket, we’re looking somewhere between $1500 and $3000 for treatment.  No small feat, but very doable if we put our minds to it.

Sadly, we’ve dealt with more than our fair share of cancer in our family, so we’re all very jaded on the chemo prospect and the prognosis in general.  Cancer is  so very cruel and I’m heartbroken for my little guy.

Is chemo too harsh for our elder Pearson and too much stress/effort for our little family to endure, so far from home?  Will I look back years down the road and regret not taking advantage of the tools at my feet for Pearson to live and enjoy life a little longer?

I don’t know what to do and my stomach is in knots.   We’ve got a bunch of travel for work and vacation coming up and I feel like I’m stuck in a whirlwind of decisions I have to and cannot make.

The vet recommended we start the CHOP yesterday just in case we decide to proceed with chemo… to get the jump on the cancer before it invades his organs.  So he’s had one injection so far – a little slow this morning, but he seems to be no worse for the wear.

A few lifetimes ago, we rescued a dog while living on a grape farm in Australia and ended up having to leave him behind.  I made a vow that I’d do everything in my power to never abandon another dog.


*UPDATE:  We have yet to hear back from the Oncologist on the phenotype Pearson is dealing with.  Again, if its T-cell, it’s a lost cause and we will not pursue treatment.  But we have tentatively decided to pursue chemo based on the list I’ll post below.  Sara and I think long and hard about our decisions and really compliment each other well, with our differing opinions.  As always, I think we’ve made the best decision at the time, given our resources and knowledge of what we’re facing.  That’s all you can really ever hope for.  I also wanted to reiterate, that my above post was not so much about the sadness of losing Pearson (which will be very sad, don’t get me wrong), but more about the feeling in your stomach when you have to make an important decision for a loved one (be it a person, dog or other pet) and the path is unclear.  Will your decision cause more pain or less, is it the right call and how will it affect you and your family?  Also, it’s tough weighing a decision against the general hopelessness that we all feel when dealing with cancer.  Dogs aren’t humans and they don’t last very long, but we feel we at least owe Pearson a shot at dying an old man, on his own terms and after one hell of a summer.  Life has taught us that you have play the hand you’re dealt, as best you can.  We’ll make it memorable for all of us.


**Update: Confirmed B Phenotype.  We proceed with chemo on Thursday the 14th at 9am.