…The nice man’s voice trailed off as mum let out a gasp of horror and began to cry. Those few words changed our lives forever.
It’s now time to talk about the difficult stuff, the stuff that I know is still hard for my mum. It feels like only yesterday that we found out I had cancer…………
Mum returned from her honeymoon to the news that I had hurt my back left leg. My dad thought it was from tripping over some rubbish in the back yard as I chased possums. Mum took me to the vet on Friday 22nd July 2011. The vet thought it might be a cruciate ligament but she couldn’t be sure and suggested an xray.
After discussing it with dad neither of them thought it was my cruciate ligament so mum got a second opinion. The second vet didn’t think I needed an xray and put me on Rimadyl and strict rest. He thought the problem was with my hips and that made more sense to mum and dad than the cruciate ligament diagnosis. With the Rimadyl and rest I seemed to get better before having a relapse. With further rest I began improving again only to have a second relapse a week or so later. My vet saw me during this time and was giving me weekly Cartrophen injections. Of course I did my best to pretend that I wasn’t in any pain even though the constant ache was beginning to take its toll on me. Crunch time came when I fell while mum was towelling me dry after a bath. I couldn’t help but scream out in pain, it was excruciating. Poor mum was beside herself, feeling so helpless. The worst of it only lasted for about 30 seconds but I know my screams still haunt mum today.
Mum knew that something needed to be done so our vet referred us to a specialist. We had to wait almost two weeks to see him so mum started researching wheel chairs because she was convinced that arthritis and/or hip dysplasia was the problem! She told me I could be the first doggie in our area to have my own set of wheels! After the nasty fall my leg had become swollen and I no longer wanted to put any weight on it. For all intents and purposes I was already a tripawd. It should have been a hint to mum of what was really going on but for some obscure reason that continues to haunt her the possibility of cancer was something she had not considered.
When mum and I went to see the specialist she wasn’t prepared for the diagnosis. The specialist took less than a minute to suspect osteosarcoma and an xray confirmed it (he was 99% certain). That was Thursday 1st September 2011, the day mum’s world collapsed around her. I, of course, didn’t understand that I had just been given a death sentence. I just knew that my leg was hurting and my mum was really upset.
Would an xray earlier on have detected the cancer? Quite probably or maybe not because it was apparently fast growing. We will never know and its best if mum keeps herself away from thinking about it. What’s done is done. In this I wish she would be more dog because I know that she has tortured herself a lot about it. She has always been so particular about my health and couldn’t understand why she hadn’t suspected bone cancer earlier, why our vet hadn’t suspected bone cancer. I wish I could take away her feelings of guilt. I know they still gnaw at her soul.
(Note from Karen – I don’t need to tell anyone who has been told “I’m so sorry but I think your dog has osteosarcoma” how devastating those few words are. I burst into tears as the specialist delivered his news as delicately as he could. I wrote in my diary that night, “I am shell-shocked. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Why did I not realize sooner? The guilt is overwhelming, the tears of grief gut wrenching. I was not prepared for such news. It was just arthritic legs and hips…. or so I thought. She is so fit and healthy and full of life. How could she have cancer? It isn’t fair. She loves life to the full. I never imagined cancer taking her from me. She is meant to grow old with me. I am so angry. I love her more than life itself. I feel I have let her down. I should have realized sooner that there was something sinister lurking inside. She trusts me to look after her and I have let her down. I am inconsolable.”
When I got home from work that fateful day Magnum was eager to go walking and I thought “what the hell! Let her have some fun. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring”. That night she didn’t sleep in our bed as normal. She didn’t seem to want to move from her bed on the floor. I suspect the pain in her leg had been exacerbated by the trip to the vet and getting the xray without sedation (the specialist said there had been a bit of a tussle to get Magnum’s leg in the right position for the x-ray). I slept on the floor with her. It was a restless night, partly because she was in pain but also I suspect because she could smell my fear (and I was drenched in it!).
Before leaving the specialist I already knew that I would proceed with amputation. My vet (who is a friend) had come with me to the appointment and agreed that Magnum was not a dog ready to die just yet. She still had more living to do, so much more to teach us, so much more love to give and receive. We were not going to go down without a fight.)
My dad was overseas when I was diagnosed with osteosarcoma. He had been over there for a month. He was due back home on 2nd Sep (a Friday) so mum opted to schedule the surgery for Mon 5th Sep and give him a couple of days with me before the operation. I know mum was torn with her decision, feeling she was letting me down yet again. I was glad to see dad, but it was tough. The pain had been getting steadily worse since the fall after my bath and I had given up trying to hide it, my eyes said it all. I wouldn’t have been able to go on much longer if it hadn’t been for the amputation. Thank Dog that amputation was an option for us. I don’t think my mum would have been able to cope if we had had to say goodbye then.
I’ll write again soon about the big op. Strangely enough it was the easiest part of our journey. It bought us precious time together and while it wasn’t as much time as we had hoped for it was enough for mum and I to love each other and to love life like we had never loved before.