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Metastatic oral fibrosarcoma

Discussion in 'Diseases & Illnesses' started by tofu pup, Jul 7, 2019.

  1. tofu pup

    tofu pup Moderator

    Aug 28, 2009
    Brooklyn, NY
    Hi Forums friends - I've debated making this post for a while now, as it's not about a Sheltie, and as this doesn't seem to be a health issue that is common in Shelties. I ultimately decided to make a thread because I think the information could be helpful to other people.

    To cut right ahead to the spoilers: our good little eleven-year-old Betty Cocker developed an oral fibrosarcoma (soft-tissue cancer) in January 2019, and despite our best surgical efforts (and the slim statistical likelihood of metastasis), we discovered in April that it had spread to her lungs. On April 15th we were told to expect one to three more months with our girl. However, as of July 7th, Betty is still with us and still feeling good.

    Because the primary tumor site (on her lip/gum) was very painful for her, and because she was overall in excellent health and condition, we opted for palliative radiation at the Animal Medical Center here in NYC. This entailed weekly treatments for four weeks. The palliative radiation was an awesome, awesome choice: it was expensive, and driving her from Brooklyn to the Upper East Side of Manhattan every week was not fun, but the end result is that her oral tumor is no longer painful or ulcerated. The goal was to halt the oral tumor so that it wasn't life-limiting, and (knock on wood) we've achieved that.

    In mid-June, we noticed some itchy bumps on her skin, like bug bites. It turns out that this is a very rare metastasis of the fibrosarcoma to the skin (!), but her oncologist is confident that this will not be life-limiting, either. We are currently trying to address the itchiness with Prednisone; it's only been a few days but I think it is helping.

    Eventually, sooner rather than later, the lung mets are going to catch up with her and the disease is going to win. But for now, she is loving life and is mostly asymptomatic. She had a chest x-ray on 7/2/19 that showed no growth in the lung tumors since April - a HUGE win!

    She has been on pain medication (NSAIDs Metacam or Carprofen, GABA-analogue Gabapentin) throughout. We had her on a a few different antibiotics (Clavamox, Clindamycin, Cephalexin) before the radiation really kicked in and we were no longer concerned about secondary infection. As of 7/7/19, her only prescription medications are Gabapentin and Prednisone.

    We also tried Palladia, which is an immunotherapy drug that has been shown to slow or stop tumor growth in some cases. Unfortunately, it can have some gnarly systemic side effects, and ultimately we had to discontinue it after about a month, because her white blood cell count went low. (As of 7/2/19, four weeks after discontinuing Palladia, her WBC is back to normal - hooray!)

    Other supplements she receives: Phyto-Flex for her joints (she's been on this for years), turkey tail mushroom powder (supposed to have cancer-fighting properties), and CBD oil (legal in our state and supposed to help with everything). I have no idea if any of this is working, but she certainly seems relaxed and happy, so maybe the CBD oil has an effect!

    We find ourselves in the rare position of knowing that we don't have much time left, but having a dog who feels good and can enjoy all the earthly delights we offer her. Because she's always had some degree of separation anxiety/distress, we promised her back in April that she will never be left alone again (which has been easy to keep as Mr. Tofu Pup works from home). She sleeps next to me every night (in a special "sidecar" bed that we rigged up for her), receives snacks on demand, was able to spend a week up in Maine with me, continues to enjoy long walks, and is outrageously spoiled.

    I'll keep this thread updated, in the hopes that it will help someone else who has a dog with this or a similar condition. If anyone has questions (now or in the future), let me know and I'll do my best to answer.

    The photo is from 7/4/19, when we all went out for ice cream. You can see the place on her jaw that looks "funny", from the original surgery, tumor progression, and radiation changes. But here she is, still kickin'!
  2. Chris

    Chris Premium Member

    Feb 25, 2008
    Northern Virginia
    I'm impressed by Betty's and your determination to enjoy every last minute. We are experiencing much of the same with Bitsy, who was supposed to succumb to lymphoma three years ago. I can see she's gettin gthe best treatment available, and I'm so glad it's bought you all quality time. Love to you, Megan, and to Mr. Tofu Pup and Betty!
    Sandy in CT likes this.
  3. Ann

    Ann Moderator

    Feb 25, 2008
    Western Connecticut
    How wonderful that Betty has rallied so well and is loving life, Megan! Thank you for posting this. There are so many avenues to take now for treating cancer, and I'm glad you hit on one that worked for Betty. Checkers also takes turkey tail mushroom powder and some Chinese herbs, along with a holistic protocol formulated for her by Dr. Charles Loops in North Carolina who specializes in holistic cancer treatment, that seem to be keeping her cancer at bay. We don't know why these holistic meds work, but they do. I wish for you many more months and years of happy tail wags with Betty!
    Sandy in CT likes this.
  4. trini

    trini Premium Member

    Nov 13, 2013
    upstate ny

    I am so sorry you are dealing with cancer in your beloved Betty Cocker...but what a trooper she is! Thank-you for posting...sharing information is so important as it will help anyone else who might now or someday be facing the same situation.

    May your sweet girl have a lot more happy, comfortable, ice cream days with you. I know this is never an easy time and my heart goes out to you.

  5. KarenCurtis

    KarenCurtis Premium Member

    Jan 30, 2010
  6. Sharon7

    Sharon7 Premium Member

    Oct 31, 2009
    Southern California
    Oh dear, Megan - to think you got your diagnosis about when Brooke got hers - and how supportive and kind you were when you were facing your own challenge with Betty. :hugs

    I am so glad to hear you have bought good quality time. We know first hand the challenges this entails - and you've done it all, it seems. We used the mushroom supplement as well, it had been tested specifically on Brooke's type of cancer - hemangiosarcoma.

    I send along my wholehearted best wishes for lots more good times with Betty Cocker. They are such amazing troopers, it's a blessing that they don't have the mental anguish that human patients do. Hug her tight, eat lots of ice cream, sear all the good times into your memories.
  7. tofu pup

    tofu pup Moderator

    Aug 28, 2009
    Brooklyn, NY
    Thank you all so, so much. I have learned a LOT over the past few months... about this type of cancer, about metastatic disease, about palliative care and being an advocate for your dog. I still have a lot to learn.

    It means a lot to me have so much loving support here.


    Chris, that is amazing... I can't believe it's been that long. I know that Bitsy Boodle is showing signs that her time may be coming soon, but I am so so glad that she has had those three years with you.
    Chris and Sharon7 like this.
  8. Sharon7

    Sharon7 Premium Member

    Oct 31, 2009
    Southern California
    We are here; to listen, sympathize and support while you go down this new path. My one word of wisdom is, it is never quite the ending scenario you thought it would be, at least in my experience, so try and live in the moment and not project too much into the future. Easier said than done, I know.
  9. take4roll10

    take4roll10 Moderator

    Aug 31, 2009
    New York
    I'm so sorry that Betty is going through this. What a lucky dog to have such wonderful pet parents. It sounds like she is doing very well considering everything and I hope she continues to feel good for a long time. Hugs to you and Betty!
  10. Caro

    Caro Moderator

    Jan 14, 2009
    Canberra, Australia
    I am so sorry. Another beautiful soul with cancer, it's just heart breaking. I am glad to hear you are getting some extra time with Betty and that she's coping pretty well, those extra hugs are the moments to remember, but it is still so unfair.

    Is it because we all started on here at similar times, or is it a particular age (10-11yrs), that we are seeing so much cancer in our fur-kin?

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