Friday, March 11, 2016

Brisbane's Cancer Treatment

On Wednesday, Brisbane's tumor went from annoying to serious. The outside lump grew an entire centimeter in one week. Inside his mouth, the mass got even bigger. It started getting in the way of his teeth, got infected, and on Wednesday started bleeding a whole lot. Did this bother Brisbane? Not particularly.

I've always said I wouldn't do tons of unpleasant treatment to try to keep a suffering animal alive, but Brisbane isn't suffering. I had thought the tumor would be painful, but it clearly isn't bothering him much because he happily chews bully sticks with great enthusiasm even when he's bleeding everywhere.

So we're doing palliative surgery to remove as much of the mass as possible. This definitely won't be a cure, this type of cancer is very invasive locally and makes a mess of things, with tendrils all over the place. There may be some nerve involvement, and he could lose some facial control on that side. He will definitely be losing at least one tooth in the process, and that's just fine. Heck, he could lose that eye and it would be fine.

This surgery is all about balancing cancer removal with recovery difficulty. The goal is quality of life rather than cancer eradication, so the vet won't be trying to get good margins. Only as much as can be removed with a short and easy recovery.
best dog ever
I spent a lot of time this week worried that this was the end, that Brisbane's quality of life would get so bad so fast that I would have to say goodbye way too soon. I don't want to put him through painful treatments and make him miserable in order to prolong his life. I just want him to be happy and comfortable.

Is Brisbane happy right now? Hell yes! He is the happiest dog. On Tuesday we went to our first Barn Hunt class and he got to search piled up bales on hay for rats safely hidden in plastic tubes. Most of the dogs there found the rats because they expected to get a food reward for their efforts. Brisbane's reward was finding the rats, each time he located one he would pounce on the tube with glee and ignore food entirely. A few days before that we went out to practice herding and he screamed with delight at the sight of the sheep. A couple of weeks ago we went lure coursing and he ran as fast as ever.  His appetite is great, he loves doing tricks, and aside from the tumor he is a very healthy dog.

So now we're going to fight the cancer in order to keep him happy. He will be hospitalized for a few days so the vet can monitor his recovery and better tailor the treatment plan. We're trying high-dose vitamin C because there are apparently some promising studies, it's inexpensive, and won't make him feel sick or hurt him if it doesn't work. The vet has also been reading studies on experimental treatments involving injecting the tumor itself with chemotherapy drugs. We are hoping that this type of treatment will help slow the cancer down for a while without making Brisbane feel sick.

Keeping him happy is the entire point, and when he can no longer be kept happy I'll know he's ready to leave me. In the meantime, we have a GoFundMe set up to help with his vet bills. We're getting donated chemo meds so the bills aren't going to be crazy. We would appreciate as many shares as we can get, please help Brisbane keep being awesome if you can!

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