Sammy’s Story – First Oncology Appointment

It was Friday morning. We woke early, piled in the car and made the trek to Madison. It was time for Sammy’s consult with Dr. Shiu. As I watched Sammy limp into the office, I prayed for relief. Relief for us both.

While we waited for Dr. Shiu, I prayed he’d say Sammy had an injury and not cancer. I prayed he’d say it was something other than osteosarcoma – anything else. It took only moments for the original diagnosis to be confirmed, then the if/then options came. Amputation if the cancer had not spread. Palliative care if it had. The options for palliative care – radiation, bone strengthening, chemotherapy, pain medication.

I’m a person who in crisis needs as many details as possible to process next steps. As Dr. Shiu spoke, I peppered him with questions. While my head and heart were spinning, I was certain of one thing – any decision about Sammy’s care was mine. Dr. Shiu and his team were not there to tell me what to do. I wasn’t obligated to a particular treatment protocol. I could (and would) do only what was best for Sammy to care for her physically and emotionally.

We decided on three procedures for that day – a biopsy for an additional confirm of osteosarcoma and put Mom’s data-loving mind at ease, a CT scan to determine if there was metastasis in Sammy’s lungs, and a bone strengthening treatment called Zoledronate. Zoledonrate would be administered while Sammy was under for her biopsy.

Sammy happily headed back with the staff and I distracted myself with errands. I was putting an incredible amount of trust in this team. Although I was nervous and uncertain about so much, I knew we would have a better sense of where this cancer was and support the bone that was causing so much pain.

I received a call that Sammy was ready to go home. I rushed to the clinic, eager for information. Dr. Shiu had pulled cells for the biopsy, the results of which we’d have in a few days. He invited me back to his desk to review the CT scan. He did not see any obvious lung mets, but we’d know more after a radiologist reviewed the CT. Until then, we’d see how the bone strengthening treatment worked and increase one of Sammy’s pain medication.

I left that day feeling settled. Not calm but settled. There were still a few things we didn’t know. Once we had the CT results back and biopsy confirmation we could confidently choose her care. I met some amazing people in the medical staff and others who were at the clinic waiting for their appointments. I felt like I was part of a family. A family that would have my back. A family that understood. A family that held a badge of honor that none of us wanted but wore proudly.

That night at home as Sammy settled in, I knew I would do for Sammy what was in her best interest. I felt Sammy and I were closer than ever. That Sammy knew I would do anything for her. That her trust in me was stronger than ever. That I was stronger than ever. And stronger than I ever knew.



Sammy’s Story – Getting the News

On a fall day in 2009, my then husband sat down across from me in my home office. He shared that he’d run into a former work friend earlier that day. That friend and her family had come to a difficult decision – it was time to rehome their five-year-old Golden Retriever. The family loved their dog enough to know they didn’t have proper time for her and she could have a different life with another family. My former husband had been wanting a dog and I could see this was important to him. Soon after, we went to meet Sammy. On November 2nd, 2009 – my 37th birthday – Sammy joined our family. Little did I know she would be my greatest gift.

Sammy is a spirited, talkative, sassy girl with a huge personality. She loves to hot lap around the yard, bark at me for anything and everything and is a master food stealer. I’ll be honest, she’s driven me crazy more times than I care to admit. She’s tested my patience. She’s made some days very frustrating. Even today she continues to keep me on my toes.

In late January 2018 I had a sense something was happening with Sammy. There weren’t significant symptoms. Maybe it was Mommy Instinct. A few weeks later Sammy developed a limp. I chocked it up to Sammy being a senior dog who enjoyed a good wrestle with her puppy brother. I cut her activity and waited for it to resolve. It did not. On February 27th – two days before Sammy’s 14th birthday – our primary vet shared her preliminary diagnosis. Osteosarcoma.

This is our story. A story of a pet parent and her senior dog. A story of managing her illness, enjoying life, maintaining normalcy for the pet family and the human family. A story of unbelievable pain and incredible joy. A story of appreciating each day and taking a journey one step at a time.