Archives for posts with tag: brain tumor

Last night, Saturday December 15, 2012 around 7:45, I lost my best friend. Tonight will be the first night I am in my bed completely and utterly alone. I just feel numb.

She’s been declining pretty quickly ever since her medicine needed to be reduced because it was no longer working.  The tumor inevitably grew and the symptoms worsened as new ones showed up.  The worst was sporadic paralyses. At any time, completely randomly, either her front legs or back legs would stop working and she would crumble to the ground like someone stuck in wet sand. In my research of all the symptoms, this was not one I was expecting. It was the hardest to witness. It happened the first time on Wednesday with her back legs. Then on Thursday with the front. Friday she was sitting on my lap at work, I answered a call and she somehow lost balance and fell to the ground.  She didn’t/couldn’t even try to get up and my heart broke. I knew it was time.  I had originally scheduled for her euthanasia on the 21st.  I knew she was getting worse and I never, ever wanted her to suffer. At that moment, I knew while she could have continued to fight for as long as she could, she didn’t and shouldn’t have to continue this. There was no chance of a cure and to prolong this would have meant she would inevitably suffer. That afternoon I called her doctor and told him tomorrow would be the day Sophie would end her fight.  I left work and promised myself and her that we would have the best remaining hours possible. We did.

Our afternoon in the park.

Our afternoon in the park.

We went to the park near my house and I let her off her leash.  She took off, little legs locked and prancing as though she was in a dog show. She ran around in circles as I took a million photos and ran alongside of her. She leaned her head back to catch every bit of sun the day had left.  I could tell her was getting tired so I put her back on the leash and let her lead the way.  She took me to the tennis courts where we used to play games of fetch until I was the one who got tired.  She never lost energy.  I sat on the cold concrete while Soph ran around in circles.  She had lost interest in games of fetch and all toys in general over the last few weeks. I ran around with her a little more and knelt down.  She came over and game me a bunch of kisses and I started to cry.  We walked home and I sat on the couch and she cuddled up next to me and went to sleep.

Love.

Love.

Later that night I went out and bought a filet mignon.  She had about three dinners that night.

Last walk in Wissahickon. One of her favorite places.

Last walk in Wissahickon. One of her favorite places.

The next day, my boyfriend, my roommate and her dog, Sophie and I went to Wissahickon Park. Soph has been going on walks there since she was a lil pup. She never displayed many pug characteristics and I attribute her sense of adventure to her Boston side.  We walked along the path, Sophie leading the way again.  She led us off the trail by the stream where I let her off the leash again. (Illegal, I know. I really didn’t care right then.) She pranced all around the sandy trail leading the four of us wherever she wanted to go. She was the boss. We walked four miles.  She was having a good day and seemed to be having a great time.

We came home to relax and spend our last few hours together.  She took turns cuddling everyone and the hours flew by. It was time to go. We drove down to the city and I let her sit on my lap.  She perched her little paws up on arm rest and pressed her face against the window.  Halfway there, I put the window down so she can stick her head out.  Never quite being a fan of that, she did it but faced backwards instead.  Such a goof.

We made our way in to the building as I tried to remain as calm and collected as possible.  I had decided a long time ago that when this awful day would come, I’d donate her remains to the neurology department at Penn. Due to the location of her tumor, a biopsy was too risky and not possible. I always saw this awful death sentence with somewhat of a weird silver lining: the hope that from studying the tumor once she passed would be able to help another pet, family or even human. She would be helping someone which gave some peace to this disgusting, unfair illness. We made our way up to the private rooms where we would be explained the procedure and what to expect. The doctor took Soph for a few minutes to complete his exam and returned her to us.  We held her and told her we loved her. I spent a few minutes with her by myself and told her what I needed her to hear. Everyone came back in the room and I knew I couldn’t delay having this done.  I would’ve sat in there forever. The doctor injected her with a sedative to relax her.  It set in and she nuzzled her head into my arm. She looked up at me with those big, round eyes. I felt she knew and, with that look, she was telling me it was going to be ok. She rested her head on my arms and I held her.  The doctor gave the second injection and within a few seconds, she was gone. With my heart heavy and my face soaked, I told her I loved her and that she was ok and she was going to help someone else. I kissed her head and the doctor took her away.

My last picture of Sophie. Sticking her head out the window; feeling the cold December air.

My last picture of Sophie. Sticking her head out the window; feeling the cold December air.

I spent the car ride home in silence. I didn’t have anything to say. I still can’t really talk to anyone; only those that were there. My heart hurts. My whole entire body hurts. I miss her more than I ever thought was even possible. I would give anything to have her back but I know that’s not the way this thing works.  Sophie was my best friend.  She was a terrible, little brat at times. She was hilarious.  She made most of the people who saw her smile.  She taught me that I’m going to be a great mother someday. She taught me unconditional love. I was so incredibly lucky that she picked me that day that I just went to look at some pups. She loved me and I loved her more than I ever knew I could love anything. She may not have been cured and even though this disgusting disease took her life, she beat cancer in a way.  I am so proud of her.

I will miss her. Every single day.

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When I agreed to have Sophie treated with radiation therapy I was presented with another option: to enroll Soph in a clinical trial at University of Pennsylvania’s veterinary hospital which is where she was receiving her treatment.  After hearing all the details I decided to enroll her.  The purpose of the study is to collect data on a side effect of radiation called oral mucositis.  OM is similar to a sunburn.  It causes redness and inflammation as well as sores which can make the patient feel uncomfortable. The study analyzes the research collected to see how OM develops and progresses and how it affects the dog’s behavior.  She is given an activity monitor on a collar to wear before the study begins, during and for a month following the study. I have to fill out surveys on her activity and pain (if any) levels and how she is doing on a weekly basis.  In addition to her prednisone, she needs to take a “mystery drug” for the first 2 weeks.  Dogs can either receive the a) antimicrobial and an anti-inflammatory, b) the antimicrobial or a placebo, c) a placebo or an anti-inflammatory or d) a placebo.  She has been placed in a group where she either receives a placebo or an antimicrobial. After the second week all dogs received both the antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory.  There is zero additional risk with the study and her participation can either help her (depending on if she is on a drug that can help the OM) or help others in the future.

Sophie has become a little love bug with the folks at Penn but has developed a new habit as soon as we get in the car.  She usually would pop up to the window to check things out and then lay down and go to sleep.  On long car trips I would forget she was back there because she is so well behaved and quiet.  While still quiet, she now pops up to check what’s going on and just stays there and looks around.  I’m curious to see how long this lasts as well as what Penn discovers about OM.

If your dog has been diagnosed with cancer and you are interested in the study you can check it out here: http://research.vet.upenn.edu/ClinicalStudies/CurrentClinicalStudies/tabid/4518/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/24/RadiationInduced-Oral-Mucositis.aspx


A little confused as to why I am asking her to sit down when there is sooo much to look at between West Philly and Bryn Mawr.

Taking it all in.

A few days after her diagnosis she was feeling playful. She's chasing this super annoying blob looking toy (as seen in the header) we affectionately named "octo-mom." Nowadays, Sophie only really plays with the loudest, most annoying toys but I have to let it slide because I'm just happy she's playing and being her silly self.. I snapped this shot as she was trying to catch octo-mom. She did.

One of the first pictures taken of Sophie. In her food bowl, naturally.

First and foremost, thank you.  Thank you for reading this and keeping us in your thoughts.  You have no clue how much it means.

For those who aren’t completely familiar with my/our situation, here it is in summary.

May 28th, 2007 my four-legged best friend was born.  Cue the eye-roll… it’s totally fine.  She’s always been a handful, especially with her health problems. Sophie has always been a funny, goofy dog.  She has never been clumsy.  March 2011 I started noticing weird things: she would bump into doorways, walk straight into your legs and body check anything in sight.  A few vet visits and a trip to the ophthalmologist later, glaucoma and other vision problems were unfortunately ruled out.  I say unfortunately because what we learned later was so much worse and that leads us to where we are today.  The ophthalmologist recommended a visit to the neurologist and tests were done to figure out the issue. An MRI showed a large mass in her brain stem. It could not be determined if the mass was a GME granuloma or a brain tumor.  At this stage both were bad outcomes but even though GME (short for Granulomatous Meningoencephalomyelitis) is a horrible autoimmune disease, it was better than a tumor.  I found one of the best neurologists all the way up in Boston and we paid him a visit.  He delivered us the bad news: Sophie has a primary malignant brain tumor and without radiation, will have anywhere from one to four months left.  With radiation, she can have eight to 12.  I’m hoping they’re wrong and doing everything I can to help her beat this.  Sophie began radiation therapy yesterday.  We’re in it now.  This is Sophie’s fight; my fight to not give up on her.