Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Give Cancer the Paw: All I Wanted Was for Dylan to Die of Old Age

I am joining Jackie's blog hop on Giving Cancer the Paw . My story is a tribute to my first Cardigan Welsh Corgi, Dylan.

I am not going to re-hash what I wrote in that earlier post. I didn't even mention his cancer in that post. And there is a good reason. He beat it!

Here's his story:

At age 14, Dylan was still a pretty spry old man. He was still going for nice long walks, he was perky and happy. One day, we noticed a raw spot on his lower lip. It sort of looked like his upper canine tooth was rubbing that spot into a sore. We kept an eye on it for a while but it wasn't getting better, and, in fact, it looked worse. Despite being the lead in to the busy holiday period, we knew we'd better get him to the vet and have it looked at. They agreed with us it looked odd, but wanted to take a conservative approach, so we treated it with antibiotics and a topical ointment. Ten days later there was no improvement whatsoever so we opted for a biopsy to be done. This is no small decision with a 14 year old dog, but he was in apparent good health, so he had the pre-op blood tests, and then had a small surgery to remove some tissue. The sample was sent off to the lab and we waited. Just five days before Christmas, we got the news. Dylan had cancer, a rare and fortunately slow moving lymphoma. Luckily, the prednisone (a steroid) he had been taking in small doses for his IVDD had probably been helping to retard the cancer. The vet explained our nothing and let cancer take its course (Dylan was, after all, an old dog already), or up his prednisone dosage to try to further slow the cancer and maybe buy some more time, or third, they could refer us to a veterinary oncologist. John and I both felt it was worth at least meeting with the oncologist to hear what they thought.

We met with the vet sometime after Christmas, and she explained to us the protocol she would use to treat Dylan if we so chose to go forward with it. She never tried to talk us into or out of treating him. She listened to our concerns, such as not wanting to put Dylan through chemo hell when obviously he was an old guy with a limited future in the best of circumstances. She explained that often dogs did not suffer the same discomforts that we humans did while going through treatment. He would not lose his fur, nausea would be minimal, and being a dog he could happily live in the moment and not brood on the diagnosis. And of course there were no guarantees. With no treatment he would probably live 6 to 9 months more, with treatment it could possibly buy him a couple of years. Truly, when your dog is 14, what more can you ask for? All I knew was that I wasn't ready for him to leave my life. Damn it!  I wanted my dog to die of old age, not from some nasty disease!

So, we opted to treat him. Luckily for Dylan (and us), his chemo came in pill form. At first he took his pill every week. He would sort of lay low for a day, not much energy, not very hungry. But that was it. The next day he would seem like himself. Little by little the dosage was spread out, once every two weeks, then once a month. He also took other drugs to help his organs withstand the assault that chemo is. By the end of a couple of months, the sore on his lip started to shrink! By the time his 15th birthday rolled around in July, he was determined to be in remission! The sore was GONE! There was no telling how long it would stay away, but at 15 he was cancer free! He was no longer in danger of dying of cancer, he was in danger of dying from being so freaking old!

And that's exactly what happened. Dylan lived almost another two years after finishing his treatment. He missed turning 17 by a mere two weeks! We helped him across the bridge when it was obvious he was ready to go. In the very end, it was his kidneys that gave out. Cancer did not take his life. We had won, even in the heartbreak of losing our old man.

Lots of people thought we were nuts for treating his cancer. Why spend so much money on an old dog? And I can see where that thinking comes from. But for me the answer was simple: LOVE! We both loved that dog like crazy. He had been our faithful friend for so long, he deserved to get all of the years of life due him. Luckily, we had the financial resources to go forward with the treatment. It was expensive. There is no denying that. This was way back around 2000 or 2001, so I can only imagine what the cost would be now. I hope I never have to find out! Jimmy and Wilson are strictly forbidden from getting this awful disease!

A sassy boy right to the very end!


  1. Hey - you changed your header - I like it!

    I'm glad you fought that cancer. Sometimes that works out really well. Sadly, when my Shadow was diagnosed with cancer, it was a really aggressive type and so I opted to just keep her comfortable. I was so heartbroken. She was supposed to go peacefully in her sleep at the age of 20 instead of 14. I already had a talk with Blueberry about this and told her she isn't allowed to get the cancer either. ;)

  2. Hooray for a Beating Cancer story in the hop! That's so great that you got so much more good time with him! When our Bailey got cancer at age 12, our only real option was to do radiation. I wish we could have had that at-home pill option! We would have gone for it! But Bailey HATED going to the vet so we didn't want to put her through that. We only had 1 more month with her. But it was a good month and we spoiled her rotten! Our wish for Rita is that she'll hit OLD AGE. Hopefully at least 16!

  3. What a happy cancer story. There are so many sad ones and almost everyone is touched by it in some way or other. What a happy lookin' bloke Dylan was and how lucky was he to have such a loving Family, aye?

  4. Thank you so much for sharing your story and that hopeful message. Dylan is such a doll! Thank you for joining GCtP hop!

  5. Our Daisy had cancer. We'd like to kick Cancer's butt!

  6. Such a sweet story and such a good outcome. We weren't so lucky with the chemo and Becca - she got really sick so we stopped it after only a few doses. She lived only 4 months after her diagnosis, but we made the best of them. Cancer is a bitch isn't it.

  7. What a great story, I'm glad to hear he had such a good outcome after all that. 17 is amazing for a dog, I'm so glad he was able to kick cancer's stupid butt.

  8. i love this beautiful story so much. my cocker spaniel is 15 years old. he taught me so much about life and also made me more aware of senior dogs.. i think they are awesome and will forever have a special place in my heart. they deserve to be healthy and happy and live out their lives xx

  9. Oh, that was a FABulous story! And what a handsome fella!! I am so glads he beat the evil 'C' into oblivion and gave it the middle paw it deserves!
    Thanks bunches for sharing!
    Ruby ♥

  10. What a wonderful story. Dylan was a handsome fellow. I am so glad that you had more time with him. Your story put a huge lump in my throat. ♥♥♥

  11. We are so pleased it worked for you and Dylan. Also happy that it gave you so much more time because the treatment worked. We sadly had no such choice as Ancient Pip went down hill in a matter of a week and it was clear something was wrong but at 16 plus we had no options but to make sure she was not in pain. We miss her too and we know Dylan always has a place in your heart. Have a tremendous Thursday.
    Best wishes Molly

  12. Way to go on beating cancer, Dylan! He was a handsome guy. And lived a long happy life.

  13. I've lost 2 to lymphoma and then took my own trip to cancerland....CANCER SUCKS!

  14. That's an amazing story! I'm glad to hear that chemo is not as hard on dogs as it is for people. I did not realize this and so learned something new.

  15. A wonderful story!!! People thought that we were crazy to treat K for her aggressive cancer... but she was only 8, and all that we wanted was for her to live into old age. Alas, it was not to be.

    We once had a miracle like yours. Our 12-yr old yellow lab, S, had a GI obstruction. They did surgery to remove the blockage, and they found cancer in his spleen and liver. They removed his spleen, and took out a piece of his liver. Despite it being a bad kind of cancer, we'd accidentally caught it really early. He lived another 2 years, and died of something else. A miracle, just like your Dylan.

    In my opinion, your heart usually tells you whether to treat or not. We have doggy health insurance (super good insurance) so that $ won't make our decision. It really gives us peace of mind (they paid for almost all of K's treatments, which totaled around $15-20K - the only way that they made me mad was by not paying for euthanasia because they thought it was a "separate event from osteosarcoma" - ridiculous - but I was too sad to fight them).


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