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?