It’s hard to tell exactly what the x-ray is revealing,” said Dr. Laura Beck, our primary vet. She was sure it was suspicious, but not obvious enough to be diagnosed as osteosarcoma. Dr. Beck suggested forwarding Sammy’s x-ray to a radiologist for a second review. On Sammy’s 14th birthday, March 1, 2018, Dr. Beck called to share that the radiologist also felt the x-ray was inconclusive. Dr. Beck and I agreed that all other symptoms supported the diagnosis of osteosarcoma (significant limp, swelling and pain to the touch in the affected leg).
After hearing Sammy’s preliminary diagnosis of osteosarcoma, I lost hope. I can’t say it any other way. I didn’t know much about osteosarcoma. I did know it was a painful, aggressive and ugly cancer. I was sure it would be days or weeks before she was gone – a month at most. I threw my emotional hands up in the air and decided we would simply keep her comfortable. For me that meant keep her comfortable at home, dose pain meds and wait for the pain to take her. All the while, managing the experience for Sammy and the rest of the family.
Sammy is the eldest member of my large and happy pet family. Cora is my eight-year-old Bernese Mountain Dog. Cora became my baby as a puppy does not know life without Sammy. Henry is my seven-month-old Bernese Mountain Dog who loves his big sister Sammy. They wrestle together, and Sammy does a great job of keeping her sassy puppy in line. Let’s not forget the two cats and Sammy’s step brother, my boyfriend’s hunting dog.
During the first few days following the preliminary diagnosis, I spoke often to my good friend Beth. To say I spoke may be a stretch. I rambled, ranted and blubbered. She knew osteosarcoma far too well and understood everything I was experiencing. During these early days Beth gently offered to share Sammy’s x-rays with Dr. Shiu. I’d heard Dr. Shiu’s name through many circles and knew he was an incredibly skilled oncologist. On a Sunday evening I forwarded to Beth Sammy’s x-rays, asking if she’d pass them along to Dr. Shiu. My hope was to get his feedback on the x-ray and to find out if there were additional or other pain meds Sammy could take to minimize her pain. That was all I was looking for.
Two days later – it was a Tuesday – Dr. Shiu and I spoke. He shared options. What the next steps could be. Dr. Shiu was very clear – Sammy won’t be cured, but we could do some things in addition to her pain medication to make her more comfortable. He suggested bringing Sammy in for an evaluation. And it so happened that Dr. Shiu had an opening three days later – on the same day I’d be heading to Madison from our home in Appleton.
After expressing to Dr. Shiu my gratitude, I hung up the phone. A massive sense of relief came over me. Although there were many unknowns, I had more information. I knew I was in good hands.
My next call was to Beth. “We’re coming to Madison,” I said through tears. “We’re coming to Madison.”