The ups – and downs

We are fourteen days post-amputation, and in many ways can hardly believe how amazingly well our sweet Stella Belle has adapted to life on three legs.  My husband and I were so very concerned that she would struggle, that she would be in pain or that she just wouldn’t “get it.”  As it turns out, many of those concerns were unwarranted!  On the up side…Stella can get up on her own without assistance, she can stand hop around in short stints and seems to be reacquainting us with her former, sassy self.  She can potty without assistance.  With that said, on the down side…we are still seeing evidence of fatigue (she tires easily and sleeps a lot), discomfort (particularly in the evenings), anxiety (at times restless and wanting to avoid visitors) and attachment (she is constantly checking to make sure we are still near her). As a result, we have continued to give her some pain medication as a precaution against soreness, etc.  And in turn, that more than likely is making her sleepy.

We worked with the people at Ruffwear, and found Stella a booty to wear on her remaining hind leg.  Once we found the right fit, the Summit Trex booties are proving to be a lifesaver!  No slipping on our hardwood floors, and on the occasion of the strange rain storm last week, no dirty, muddy paws or wet socks!  Stella doesn’t bother with the booty…she’s very patient in letting us put it on her every morning.  She wears it all day – along with her Ruffwear harness.  She’s a walking advertisement for Ruffwear, for sure!

Stella had her stitches removed on day eleven.

We have not yet gone for a walk – primarily because of some of the “down sides” detailed above.  She has, however, been to the groomer!  We decided that while a bit risky, the professionals can bathe her faster and more efficiently – and ultimately more safely – than we can.  So now she’s shiny and smelling great!  The groomer did manage to knock away a couple of remaining scabs from her incision – and those sites got a bit pink the next day.  We used a little hydrogen peroxide, Bactine and Neosporin two times a day for three days, and now everything looks great.

On day twelve, we returned to discuss the results of her tumor biopsy and the “next steps.”

Stella’s oncologist explained that the tumor variant identified via biopsy is so rare that there appears to be only one published account of it – and that is in a human patient!  It is believed that the rarity of the variant is the result of her osteocarcoma arising from the site being irradiated, in the past.  While the oncologist doesn’t believe that it will mean the cancer will behave any differently, she isn’t sure – so on the up side…perhaps the cancer will not behave as aggressively.  On the down side…it could behave erratically, and ultimately more aggressively than otherwise known variants.

We discussed chemotherapy, and my husband and I decided to proceed with that treatment, immediately.  On the up side, Stella is strong, she has progressed steadily and isn’t otherwise ill.  We’ve come this far.  We cannot stop now – if there is a chance of prolonging an improved quality of life.  On the down side…just as for everyone else, we have no idea how Stella will react to the Carboplatin.  Throughout this journey with Stella, it has been our goal to make her life as comfortable and love-filled as possible.  Any threat to that is unacceptable, unless no other more human choice exists.

In preparation for her first chemotherapy infusion, the oncologist suggested that we do an ultrasound of Stella’s belly.  Surprisingly, through all the treatments and scans, both locally and at UC Davis, no one had ever thought to do an abdominal ultrasound.  To date, there has been no, visible, indicator of metastasis and the biopsy of the lymph nodes in her amputated leg showed no evidence of metastatic disease.  This step was precautionary. On the up side…it confirms her health.  On the down side…it shows evidence of metastasis that was otherwise undetected.

Unfortunately, Stella’s abdominal scan showed a relatively large mass in her spleen.  The oncologist advised that we biopsy the mass to determine whether it was, on the upside…benign, or on the down side…a cancerous spleneic tumor.  She did specify that, more than likely, if it was a cancerous tumor it wasn’t evidence of metastatic disease;  however, there would be no point in proceeding with chemotherapy if Stella was suffering spleneic cancer.

The biopsy was performed that afternoon (Wednesday, September 16th).  On Thursday, we learned that the mass was benign and that Stella is good to go, to begin chemotherapy on Monday, September 21st!  BIG up side!

So, we are bracing ourselves for what is to come…hoping for the up side…no side effects, but preparing for the down side…a few, hopefully manageable, ones.  We are watching our sweet Stella very intently right now.  In the morning and afternoon she seems so alive and joyous, but in the evening, so uncomfortable, so anxious and upset.  We talked as a family, and have agreed that we move forward as long as she shows a will to gain strength and stay with us.  Any feedback on this experience – the ups and downs – is greatly appreciated.

As is much luck and love for tomorrow’s first chemotherapy infusion.  We are, on the down side…scared and worried, but on the up side…holding faith that Stella’s strength and resilience will carry her (and us) through.

Stella Belle
Stella Belle sunning herself on the back deck.  Day 14, post-amp.