Staff Pet of the Month

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Hello Everyone! My name is Oreo and I would like to welcome you to East Ridge Animal Hospitals new website. I am an 8 year old border collie mix and I would like to share with you my battle with cancer. But first I would like to tell you a little more about myself and how I ended up with the best mom anyone could ask for.

In 2003, I met who would be my new mom right at East Ridge. I was staying at the hospital for a while until a local rescue organization could place me in a forever home. At the time, my mom worked as a kennel attendant so I got to see her everyday. There must have been something about me that she just couldnít resist because she gave me a second chance at life, and little did we know at that time there would be a third and fourth chance as well.

Some of you may know my mom from visiting East Ridge with your beloved pets. Her name is Renee and she is now a vet tech who strives to take good care of all the animals that come into the hospital. She would like to share my story with all of you because she knows first hand what some of you may be going through or have gone through with a pet that was diagnosed with cancer.

Cancer is a word that none of us ever want to hear when it comes to ourselves or any of our loved ones, including the four legged furry ones! Unfortunately, it gets some of the best of us. I hope my story will help those who have lost a pet to cancer or who have just been told that their pet has cancer to always think positive, keep the lost in your thoughts and cherish everyday that you have together.

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In 2005, when I was only 5 years old, my battle with cancer had begun. I started to lose a lot of weight very quickly and I was just so tired all the time. If any of you know border collies, we never lose steam, we always want to romp and play with something or someone. Anyhow, my mom realized something was wrong with me considering I could never sit still and I was now sleeping constantly. I started to have accidents in the house because the cancer was making me so thirsty. I felt so bad about this, but I just couldnít help it. At this point, I couldnít even think about food, even my favorite treat wasnít appetizing anymore. So it was off to moms work so she could check my blood to see if we could figure out what was going on. Sure enough, I was very anemic and my kidney function test was very low. Dr. Lefler, one of my favorite doctors, recommended my mom take me to have an ultrasound of my belly. She made an appointment for me to have the pictures taken at Hilton Animal Hospital. We saw the doctor in July 2005, and I knew it must not have been good news because my mom was crying a lot. I heard her say that I had a large tumor growing in my belly that needed to be removed right away. The day after we received the bad news, I was rushed in to surgery with Dr. Balonek. At first we thought that I was going to have to have a kidney removed, but once Dr B (moms nick name for Dr. Balonek) started surgery we found that it was actually in my small intestines. Whew, was my mom relieved! I would still have both of my kidneys. Dr. B. removed the large tumor from my intestines along with some extra tissue and then it was onto recovery. As we waited for the biopsy results to come back, my mom tended to my every need. I had to stay in the hospital for a couple of days and boy was it so hard to be away from my family. After 2 weeks of recovery, I was feeling back to my old self and able to visit the park with my sister, Sadie, again. Besides car rides, the park was one of my favorite things to do with my mom and sister. Oh! and food never tasted so good! I eventually gained back all the weight the cancer made me lose thanks to a few of those extra treats I loved so much.!

After a week of waiting, the biopsy results came back and again it was not great news. It was a rare type of cancer of smooth muscle called Leiomyosarcoma. There is not to much known about this cancer, but my mom was doing everything she could to learn about it. She found out that this type of cancer can be slow to metastasize, but it was cancer so we knew there was always the possibility that it would come back somewhere. I did have to have my blood monitored regularly and I had to have ultrasounds taken of my belly a lot, I got to know Dr. Bostley at Hilton animal hospital quite well because he would do my ultrasounds every 3 months for the first year and then every 6 months, then once a year. We started to get happy after there was no recurrence at 2 1/2 years, we really thought we beat it. But then, wham, almost 3 years to the day from my first diagnosis and surgery, I noticed my mom was very upset again. Probably more this time than the first time. In July 2008, we went to see Dr. Bostley again and I heard talk that it had finally shown its ugly face again, this time it was in 2 lobes of my liver. My mom just didnít know what to do. She put me on steroids just until she could figure out what my fate would be. Does she put me through another very risky surgery or does she just make me as happy as possible until I succumb to this terrible disease. At the time, I was only 7 and feeling pretty good. I was not feeling ill at all, and my appetite was great! I was drinking a little more than normal, but other than that, I was good! Park time was the best because I got to swim, run and met new friends, but my mom knew it wouldnít last long. She started to do research again and finally decided to make an appointment with an oncologist at Cornell University to see what they thought about my cancer. Of course the first time it was removed, we had a good 3 years so we kept this in the back of our minds. We thought "maybe, just, maybe, we could get time like that again".

A week after we found out the bad news, we were off to Cornell. We had a lot of fun but it was very nerve racking for my mom. My mom, my sister Sadie, my cousin Charlie and my aunt made the trip to Ithaca. I loved this ride because I got to hang my head out the window almost the whole way there! We arrived at Cornell just in time for my 10am appointment with the oncologist. After a good exam (I like to call it "the rub down") by the doctor, they gave me this stuff that made me feel really sleepy so that they could get a sample from the tumor in my liver. We knew that it was most likely the same type of cancer, but we had to check anyway. After a few hours of rest, I was released from the hospital and able to go home. I was still a little sleepy on the way home, but I tried to get my head out that window for some fresh air as much as possible. They told my mom that it would be at least 1 week before we would get the results back. In the meantime, I got to go to work with my mom and sister everyday and on lunch we would get some good food and then go to the park. My mom called me her permanent back window fixture because I just loved all of the fresh air I got hanging my head out the window, I even got pretty good at rolling the window down myself. My mom eventually realized that she could lock the window so I wouldnít roll it all the way down, she was always so worried I would fall out! I even rolled it up on myself one day, Boy was that scary! My mom tried to take us to a new park everyday so that we wouldnít get bored of the same one. My absolute favorite was Ellison because I met so many new friends there and I loved to bother Sadie when she was in the water playing!

As the time got nearer for us to find out the biopsy result, my mom started to get a little more anxious. She called the hospital and talked to the oncologist who told her that the test was inconclusive. She did however recommend surgery considering my background. We couldnít get an appointment for surgery right away, but we didnít have to wait to long. We went back to Cornell on August 5th and my surgery was scheduled for the following day. We stayed in a really nice hotel that allowed pets and of course my whole support team was there with me again. I was a little nervous being away from home at first, but I was so tired from going to one of the local parks that I fell asleep almost right away. I had to be at the hospital very early in the morning, and even though I was very scared, I tried to be tough for my mom. I saw her crying again as they lead me away from her at the hospital. It was a scary trip down that long hallway, but my doctor there was really nice and comforting. Her name was Megan and she had just graduated from Cornell and was working as a resident when I had to have my surgery. They gave me that stuff again that made me really sleepy and they took more pictures of my belly and my chest to make sure the cancer did not spread anywhere else. With a clear chest film and results from my CT scan, I was off to surgery. I donít remember to much, but I remember waking up and feeling so scared. I was so dizzy from the medicine and I was in a place that I really didnít know with people I didnít know. I didnít see my mom anywhere and I really missed her so much., I just wanted her to be with me, but she couldnít because I just had surgery and I needed my rest. The doctors stayed in touch with my mom to let her know how I was doing after my surgery. Even though I was scared, I was still so tired from the medicine that I finally fell asleep. Like most hospitals, I didnít get to sleep much because the technicians checked on me every hour to make sure I was doing ok. In the middle of the night they noticed I had some bleeding from my incision area so they had to wrap my belly.

The day after surgery, I felt so weak. I didnít know what was going on. I wasnít weak from the medicine anymore, this time it was different. The doctor said that my gums were very pale and the wrap they put on me the night before was full of blood. This made the doctors very concerned. The doctor called my mom right away and recommended that they go back into my belly to see what was going on. Of course my mom was not going to give up on me, so back to surgery I went! When the doctors got back in there, they found that I was bleeding from the surface of my liver. The doctors were able to get the bleeding under control, but I did need multiple blood transfusions because of how much blood I had lost. They kept me under heavy sedation afterwards so that I would not get to excited during this crucial healing time. It was touch and go there for a while so the doctors recommended that my mom come and visit me. When she got there, I was so happy to see her but I couldnít really get up because I was so tired. I just rested my head in her lap and she just pet me until I fell asleep. I wish she could have stayed with me, but she had to go. She came back and visited me every chance that she could during my 5 day stay at the hospital. The doctors wanted me to stay so long so that they could monitor my blood and check my blood pressure regularly. My mom felt better about leaving me because the ride home would have been too stressful for me.

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When I was finally able to go home, I was so happy to be out of there. It was a long trip home and this time I slept most of the time. When I got home, I had a big welcome from my sisters. I was so happy to see them as they were to see me. I never slept so good in my life. My mom had really comfy beds for me and Sadie and we all camped out in the living room until I was strong enough to do stairs again. After a couple of weeks of recovery, I was again back to my old self. Me, my mom and my sister Sadie did everything together we did something new almost every day. But sometimes, all good things come to and end.

Things were going so well for all of us, life couldnít be better but then, seven months after my liver surgery, my mom noticed that I had a slight cough. This made her very nervous and inside she knew what could possibly be causing it. I noticed I was starting to get very thirsty again. So my mom immediately took me to work with her to take x-rays of my chest. She knew right away that her assumptions were right, it had spread to my lungs. My mom was devastated!!! I had multiple nodules in my lungs but they were still quite small. She asked Dr. Balonek how long he thought I had left and it was only a few months. She felt so helpless! She was not going to risk putting me through another surgery, especially when it involved my lungs. Of course she was my mom and she didnít want to just sit around and do nothing, so she started to do research again. She found this great website called tripawds. It is a site were people can share their experiences with other people who have pets with cancer. Most of the dogs had to have limbs amputated due to bone cancer, hence the name tripawds. She found some very good information on this site. She learned about a therapy that some people were getting very good results from. It was called metronomic therapy. Some people also may call it anti-angiogenesis therapy. It does not make the tumors go away, but it keeps them at bay by not allowing the blood supply to the tumor continue to proliferate. Basically, if there is no blood supply, there is no nourishment to the tumor, and the tumor cannot grow as quickly.

Although she was very excited about this therapy, there was a lot that she still had to learn. Of course with any type of therapy, there are always drawbacks and she wanted to know all about them. She contacted the leader in research of this particular therapy at the Animal Cancer and Imaging Center in Canton Michigan to more about it. Even though they did not know a lot about the type of cancer I had, they did say that metronomic therapy would be worth a try. After finding out the correct medications and dosages, I was started on the therapy. I had to take low doses of chemo, a non-steroidal anti inflammatory and doxycycline daily. My mom liked this treatment because we could do it right at home. Every morning, I got to take my medicine in really yummy treats! Because of the type of chemotherapy drug that was used, my mom had to watch for any changes in my urine. Apparently this type of drug can cause bladder issues. I always wondered why my mom would follow me around with a little dish and wait for me to urinate. She also had to make sure that the non-steroidal wasnít causing any problems with my liver or stomach. Of course there was no problem with my appetite, I got all kinds of good food. My mom spoiled me! Of course my sisters loved it too because they got pretty much everything I got!

Of course as we all know, all good things must come to an end. Just 2 months after starting the therapy, I had a new development. One morning I couldnít keep my balance at all. Every time I would stand up, I would just fall over. Everything seemed to be spinning around me. My mom rushed me to emergency because she just did not know what was going on. They recommended that when we got to her work that she check some blood work. So once we got to her work I was having blood drawn. As soon as the results were in we knew exactly what was causing my weakness and collapse. My blood sugar was only 39. Some of you may not know what the normals are, but this is very low. My mom learned that this particular type of cancer can release an insulin like substance which causes it to burn up all the glucose in my body. Now on top of everything else, we have to deal with hypoglycemia. Does the bad luck ever end! Things seemed to be going so well, and then we were stopped dead in our tracks. Because of the hypoglycemia, I had to be taken off of the therapy and put on a steroid to hopefully control the low sugar. My mom also had to feed me puppy food because of the protein content and complex carbohydrates like potatoes, macaroni and brown rice. Of course I didnít mind getting all of this good people food.

Of course, steroids can only do so much for cancer. I started having repeated episodes of low glucose levels even with all the complex carbs and steroids. My mom knew it was getting close to the time that she was going to have to say goodbye to me. I was starting to get very weak again and I always felt so dizzy. It was getting harder for me to breath even outside in the cool air. Running was a thing of the past and I had no energy to even hang my head out the window anymore. My mom hated to see me like this. She always told herself that in order to judge quality of life she would pick 3 things that I absolutely loved doing, once those things were gone, she knew it was time.

Sadly, we had to say goodbye to each other on May 18th 2009. She knew it was the right decision but she is so sad. I know she did everything should could possibly do for me and I will never forget her for that. That is why I know she is the best mom I could have ever asked for!

Here is a little poem that I think would bring some relief to some of you who had to go through this. It is never easy to goodbye to a loved one. But know in your heart that we are always grateful for the life we had with you and also the hard decision you had to make in the end so that we would no longer suffer.

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An Old Dogs Poem

If it should be that I grow frail and weak,
And pain should keep me from my sleep,
Then will you do what must be done,
For this, the last battle, can't be won.

You will be sad I understand,
But don't let grief then stay your hand,
For on this day, more than the rest,
Your love and friendship must stand the test.

We have had so many happy years,
You wouldn't want me to suffer so.
When the time comes, please, let me go.

Take me to where my needs they'll tend,
Only, stay with me till the end

And hold me firm and speak to me,
Until my eyes no longer see.
I know in time you will agree,
It is a kindness that youíve done for me.

Although my tail its last has waved,
From pain and suffering I have been saved.
Don't grieve that it must be you,
Who has to decide this thing to do;
We've been so close, through these years,
Don't let your heart hold any tears.


"Don't Grieve Too Long"

Don't grieve too long, for now I'm free.
I've followed the path God has set for me.
I ran to Him when I heard His Call.
I swished my tail and left it all.
I could not stay another day,
To bark, to love, to romp or play.
Games left unplanned must stay that way.
I found such peace, it made my day.
My parting has left you with a void.
Please fill it with remembered joy,
A friendship shared, your laugh, a kiss.
Oh yes, these things I too shall miss.
Be not burdened with times of sorrow.
I wish you the sunshine of tomorrow.
My life has been full, you've given so much,
Your time, your love and gentle touch.
Perhaps my time seemed all too brief.
Don't lengthen it now with undue grief.
Lift up your head and share with me,
God wanted me, He set me free!
Author Unknown

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Phone: 585-467-2120

Fax: 585-467-2018

Email: eastridge.ah@gmail.com