Maggie is a wonderful basset hound that came to visit me at the vet clinic for a routine exam on August 21, 2013. She hadn’t been eating quite as much as normal and had lost some weight, but overall she seemed to be her normal self. The concern was actually more for her housemate, Toby, a beagle with a dental abscess. During Maggie’s exam I found an abnormality and recommended a radiograph (x-ray) be taken to get some more information. Just as I suspected, Maggie had a large tumor on her spleen. There are a number of things that can cause the spleen to be enlarged, but in an older dog, they usually are not good things. After discussing options and doing some additional blood tests and radiographs, the decision was made to go forward with surgery to get some answers.
During Maggie’s exploratory surgery on August 23, 2013, I performed a splenectomy (removal of her spleen) which was very friable and falling apart in my hands. It weighed over 4 pounds! I looked around for any other signs within the abdomen that would indicated that there was metastatic cancer, but did not find anything. Samples were submitted to our reference laboratory for histopathology to find out what we were dealing with. When the results came back, there was bad news. Maggie had stage IV (out of V) T-cell lymphoblastic lymphoma – an aggressive type of cancer that effects the lymphatic system. Without chemotherapy, with the use of prednisone, survival time is usually 4-8 weeks from the time of diagnosis. With doxorubicin alone (a type of chemotherapy) they average 10-11 months. With the CHOP protocol from UW-Madison survival time is usually about 2 years.
After crying and talking with Kay, Maggie’s mom, the decision was made not to do chemotherapy. I can’t say that I was happy with this as chemotherapy could make a big difference in Maggie’s survival time, but during our discussion, I understood the reasons why this wasn’t an option for Maggie’s family. I prayed. Maggie’s family and friends prayed. We all cried. We have talked about what to expect and what to watch for as the disease progresses and spreads.
Now, we wait. Maggie has outlived the 4-8 weeks survival time without chemotherapy. We are now 13 weeks from when she was first seen and the mass was found. She is eating, running, playing, and back to her good old self. Maggie has defied the odds. We know that she will likely have her lymphoma rear its ugly head again, but for now, we are relishing the miracle that is Maggie, one day at a time.
Maggie doesn’t let her disease stop her. She lives and loves like she always did. If only we could all experience the joy of living each moment.