No one was happier to see Spring arrive last week than Millie. It has been a really miserable Winter for her (with a few exceptional days when she got to go swimming, of course!).
Back in December, I had taken Millie to our hometown vet to get her teeth cleaned and get a benign lump removed from her chest. I had been putting it off for months as I didn’t want her to miss out on enjoying all her normal outdoor activities. The vet called during surgery to get permission to also remove a molar that had gone bad, as well as a small tumor she discovered on her rear paw. Millie was pretty miserable that first night, but quickly bounced back within a couple of days to her old self.
The Monday after Christmas, the vet called with the results of the pathology report: Good news- the large benign chest tumor was indeed benign. Bad news- the little paw tumor that nearly went unnoticed turned out to be a mid-grade malignant Mast Cell tumor. My baby had cancer!
The vet referred us to a veterinary oncologist in Chicago who ran some test to confirm that Millie’s cancer had not spread beyond her paw, so she advised to amputate Millie’s toe rather than do radiation.
I didn’t know which way to go, and during that time, my work life was also in flux with a sudden request to go out to Tucson to fix a client project. So, I decided to bring Millie and the RV with me and look to have Millie treated in Tucson.
After a few weeks of getting settled into a new routine in Tucson, I finally got going on finding new vets for Millie. The first vet we went to was very nice, but after examining her, he advised that the amputation surgery was really beyond his capabilities, but said Tucson had an excellent veterinary oncologist in town so he referred me there.
Millie and I arrived to Southern Arizona Veterinary at the beginning of February and were seen by the chief oncologist, Dr. Mary K. Klein, 2 of her residents, and their oncology surgeon, Dr. Mary K. Quinn (hmm, are all their vets named Mary K?). Well, aside from the names, I was immediately impressed by the expertise, warmth, and compassion of both doctors and staff. After examining Millie, the doctors concurred with the Chicago oncologist and suggested toe amputation as the most effective option. So her big surgery was scheduled for
Feb. 13th and she’d need to stay overnight until Valentine’s Day.
She was feeling no pain her first night back home with all the nice pain meds the surgeon had prescribed. By the next week, she had gotten a spiffy new purple bandage and was ready to celebrate Mardi Paws!
At the end of February, Millie got her bandage off and stiches out and was walking around like nothing had happened. Unfortunately, the pathology report was not as cheery. There were still some lingering cancer cells that the surgeon was just not able to remove. So, Millie would now need radiation after all.
The following week, we began a grueling series of daily visits for radiation treatments. The first few days, Millie was happy to jump in the car every morning to go for a ride. After each treatment, the nurses and techs spoiled the heck out of her giving her plenty of tasty bones and yummy canned dog food for breakfast. But by the second week, Millie was less enthusiastic about the daily ordeal, and by week three, I literally had to drag and pull her into the car. No dumb blonde dog here!
By the last week, the skin on her paw was so raw and sensitive that I had to put a bootie on it when walking her. She also now had to start wearing the big uncomfortable plastic collar to further protect her paw. Just before her final two treatments, the pain got so bad that she also had to have a large rectangular section of fur on her back shaved off so that a Fentanyl pain patch could be applied.
But Millie is one tough dog! She’s now finished with radiation and growing some pretty new pink cancer-free skin on her paw. We’re staying out in Tucson a few more weeks so the oncologist can do more follow-up checks. Keeping our fingers (and paws) crossed that we’ll be able to leave for home before Tucson temps break into triple digits!