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Keep on smiling and f**k cancer

Okay, so everyone has their flaws, right? Some dogs eat poop, some chew furniture, some chase cats… well, I’m a diehard paw licker.  Always have been. So when my front right leg started to hurt really bad, I couldn’t figure out what to do about it, so I just started licking… and then, since I was licking the bad paw (couldn’t reach the ouchy spot), I started licking the other legs! It made sense at the time, I swear. Pretty quickly, my paws were all red and I was limping worse than ever before. I couldn’t even go for walks on soft dirt without my booties.

Mommy and Daddy were really concerned, so they brought me to the vet. She thought that maybe my allergies were to blame, but after a few weeks of various treatments, everyone decided they weren’t. She also thought I was maybe just out of shape, so I spent a few months in puppy PT.

Next trip, we found out that my vet was moving away, and I started to see a new doctor. He listened when Daddy said that I seemed to be licking and limping on the right front paw more than the others. The xray he took came out negative, so he suspected I had strained the paw and gave me carprofen. That helped, but not completely. Winter came and went, and I tried to put on a happy face.

When my old lady sister, Roxbury, went to the vet in January, 2017, I went along for the ride because Mommy and Daddy didn’t feel quite right about my visible discomfort and weird behavior. By then, I was antsy and unenthusiastic about life, and had started gnawing on the bad paw… it really hurt, and I was depressed nobody seemed to have a better solution!

A full assessment of the paw, including aspiration for cytology, all came back negative. We all agreed that something was wrong, but nobody knew what. The vet thought maybe I had been having anxiety about my crazy little brother, who Mommy and Daddy rescued against my better judgment around the same time my leg started hurting. The vet agreed to another xray anyway, just to be certain. After all, Phineas is insane but I tolerate him pretty darned well.

As it turned out, the xray was negative again, BUT while the vet tech was in the back room with me, he couldn’t help getting investigative. He pushed all over my paw, and then started to push on my leg. Suddenly, he pushed on the bad spot and I screamed! Not only did it hurt horribly, but he finally understood! We rushed back to Mommy, Daddy, and the vet to show them for sure that I wasn’t stressed about my brother after all (annoying as he is!). The vet did cytology on the bad spot, and soon enough he returned to announce that I had CANCER! We were all shocked! Within days, I went for a biopsy. During surgery, the vet was able to remove a 2.5″ tumor that had been hiding, wrapped around my medial nerve near the carpal joint. He felt hopeful, but was also guarded about my options until pathology results came back. I was just happy to get a little reprieve from the pain.

In the meantime, Mommy met Amber, a Tripawd Hero who visits her job as a therapy dog. Amber and her mom introduced us to Tripawds and told us that, if I did need amputation, I’d still have a great chance for a great quality of life. Yay Tripawds!

A few days later, we learned that good margins of resection and a diagnosis of a grade 2 hemangiopericytoma led our vet to believe that additional treatment didn’t seem necessary. We all hoped for a surgical cure, but after surgery I continued to lick, gnaw, and limp due to surgery-related neuropathy that didn’t seem very responsive to medication.

Repeat cytology in April showed no cancer cells, so we were forced to accept that I’d probably be that way forever. Amputation due to neuropathy wasn’t an option, although I gladly would have given the bad leg away! We were all begrudgingly starting to adjust to our new normal when, on July 1st, the old pain started up along with a visible lump right under my carpal pad. When Mommy walked by, I held up my leg to show her. She took my paw in her hand and asked, “what are you trying to tell me?” She started to massage my leg, and then she noticed the lump (as seen below in this not well posed picture). Distressed, Mommy and Daddy got me an appointment with the vet as quickly as possible.

The morning of July 3rd, cytology found the same cancer cells as before, indicating that the hemangiopericytoma had returned. Given that this type of soft tissue sarcoma generally recurs more entrenched and locally aggressive, Mommy and Daddy were hesitant to attempt another resection without chemo and/or radiation. They were wondering if maybe I would be better off without the stupid bad leg after all. I mean, look, I didn’t even use it!

The vet referred us to an excellent radiation oncologist for more info, and he called Mommy and Daddy that same afternoon. The oncologist expressed similar concerns, worrying about the additional neuropathy or functional loss a necessary pre-treatment debulking could cause. He also felt that, given one recurrence, even if I endured the debulking, 14-16 sessions of radiation, and maybe chemo, the cancer could still return. In his words, “if a radiation oncologist is recommending no radiation, that should say something”. He also said that, given the location and type of cancer I had, an amputation would offer a 95% chance of cure. So all that said, my mommy and daddy scheduled me for July 10th to finally cut the bad leg off once and for all!

To quote Climbers Against Cancer’s founding badass, John Ellison, “Keep on smiling [and] fuck cancer.” …tripawd life has got to be better than this, right?

My life before cancer

I don’t bother talking about my life before Mommy, but the short story is that I was found wandering in a field in a suburban city in New England. The shelter I lived in for 5 months was full of the nicest people who gave me food and love, but they didn’t have any funding for most medical care. I mostly sat around in a crate, waiting for anybody to come find me. I first met Mommy in January, 2012, when she came to the shelter to look at a different dog. It was love at first sight for me, so I decided that instead of barking like all the other dogs, I’d sit suuuuper close to the front of my crate and wag my tail until she noticed. It worked! Here’s my barely-contained excitement when the animal control officer brought me out for my test walk with Mommy!
This is me on my adoption day! I was so relieved to go home! Mommy says I had really bad Lyme disease, and I could barely climb into her small car. The shelter told her I was around 1 or 2, but I’m a few years older than that. I just have boyish good looks, I guess!
This is my first time sleeping on Mommy’s bed. I’ve been nesting ever since!
Between chronic Lyme and allergies, my paws have always been a little sensitive. With my booties (I’ve since upgraded to Ruffwear), I’ve been able to adventure in style and comfort!
I’ve even completed a few 5k races with Mommy!
After Mommy brought Daddy home, we all decided to move west to California. I’ve been on so many adventures with them!

Here’s a few more pictures of my adventures!

At the end of the day, though, I’m a total cuddly couch potato!

Even though my paws have been tender and my hips have grown arthritic, I’ve been a happy, laid back guy from the moment I found my forever home. That is, until the day my leg turned bad…

Meet my Family!

This is my 15 year old sister, Roxbury! We call her Meeps.
This is my wild outside cat sister, Callie! She loves me but she hates Phineas!
This is crazy Moo, back when we first adopted him. He looks way more handsome now, but I like this picture of us together!
This is Chia! He likes to sniff my butt, so we don’t have any normal pictures of us together.
This is my stinky little brother, Phineas. He only pretends to like me, and he howls a lot. And he eats poop. Mom and Dad say he has a traumatic brain injury, but I think he’s just a jerk.
This is Daddy’s dog, Zaia. She’s been living with Grandma and Grandpa ever since their dog crossed the rainbow bridge. She’s a Carolina dog!
This is Symphony! She crossed the rainbow bridge last year, but I love her enough to share with you.
This is Figaro! As you can see, he’s a total weirdo. We don’t take pictures together because he tries way too hard to play with me. No offense, but I don’t want to wrestle with a 900lb doofus!
This is Daddy!!! I love him sooo much and I’m so glad Mommy let us keep him!
And this is Mommy! She’s my best friend!
Loki's Tripawd Journey is brought to you by Tripawds.