This article was copied from our blog, http://saveanangel2day.blogspot.com/
My name is Kristie Sullens. My husband Johnny and I live in Metairie, la with 2 dogs that we love like children. Johnny and I were married in New Orleans on 7/11/2001; just 6 short years after getting together.) Romeo was the ring bearer and Angel was the flower girl. 2 weeks after tying the knot Johnny found a lump on Angel’s belly; he made this discovery during their daily Poochie Pilates session.
We immediately contacted our trusted family vet, Dr. Janet Tosh @ Clearview Animal Hospital www.clearviewvet.com. Dr. Tosh got Angel in right away and ran some blood work to try and diagnose the lump. She started Angel on 2 medications; 1. Antibiotics to take the swelling down. 2. Drug to help with stopping cell regeneration in case it was a mast cell tumor. The following week we received a call from Dr. Tosh’s office; they said the tests came back negative for cancer, so to stop the 2nd medication. We were to continue the antibiotics & contact Dr. Tosh if the tumor persists. 2 weeks later the lump had been slightly reduced, but it was still very noticeable. The most alarming part was Romeo’s constant pestering. Romeo is very laid back, so when he started fussing over Angel's tummy 24/7 we paid attention. Angel returned to the clinic so that they could get a deep tissue sample of the lump. 4 days later the tests came back and Dr. Tosh called to give us the news; Angel tested positive for cancer and she would need to begin treatment ASAP!
Dr. Tosh referred us Dr. Catherine Garon of Riverlands Animal hospital in LaPlace, La. I composed myself, held back a tidal wave of tears and immediately called Riverlands Animal Hospital www.riverlandsanimalhospital.com ; they set Angel up for "staging" the following week. Angel, Johnny, Romeo & myself went to Angel's appointment as a family. Dr. Garon began talking to us about “quality of life” and she expressed sincere empathy about our situation. Dr. Garon explained that 5 year old dogs aren't supposed to die, but unfortunately when dealing with lymphoma, the past has offered little options. The doc could give her chemotherapy, but radiation was not an option due to the location of the tumor. This meant we'd be able to buy Angel 6 months to 1 year of life, 6 months of that is chemotherapy. It’s not uncommon for dogs to relapse during chemotherapy. The fortunate dogs make it up to 6 months after the chemotherapy has ended. Every time a dog relapses, the remission times get shorter.
Fact: 98% of dogs who receive chemotherapy alone will relapse within 6months to 1 year; only 0-2% survives. These statistics are unthinkable! Especially since dogs are affected by cancer 3 times more often than humans.
Johnny and I were in shock to say the least, and that’s when Johnny asked the doctor about a cure. With so many advancements in science he just knew that there had to be something out there that could save Angel’s life. The doc ran a few more tests to “stage” Angel; this is where they tell you if the cancer is stage 1-5, 1 being the best. When the doc came back she looked frazzled & excited. She said, “You wanted a cure, you got it!” While we were waiting for Angel, the doc was calling her colleagues around the country. They all came to the same conclusion; the only cure for canine lymphoma is a Canine Bone Marrow Transplant. North Carolina State University began offering this procedure to the public in 2008.
Our hopes soared when we heard about this wonderful opportunity save Angel! The doc told us the procedure costs $16,000, then Johnny asked how long we had to raise the money. The doc said the treatment is available to dogs that are in remission for the first time, so if all goes well she can receive the cure at the end of her 25 week chemotherapy protocol; all did go well and that's why we are here! Once chemo is stopped there are no guarantees. That’s why we are thrilled that BMT (Bone Marrow Transplant) and chemo are back to back; this leaves zero time for relapse.
What followed next were a series of tests to qualify Angel for the procedure. The shaved areas on her body are from treatment; chemo slowed her hair growth so that’s why they are still there. The shaved area on her chest is from the bone marrow aspirate (needle into bone); this was necessary to determine if she was a B-Cell or a T-Cell patient. Angel is a B-Cell which is ideal because it responds beautifully to the procedure.
The shaved areas on her belly are from the ultra sounds & echo they conducted to check her organs; they do a final check on March 18, 2010. The shaved areas on the front of her legs are from where they administer the chemotherapy. Each week is a different drug; Angel hasn’t had any bad side effects from treatment itself, only from the prednisone. The protocol she is using is the Madison Wisconsin Protocol-Short which lasts for 25 weeks. During chemo Angel was on prednisone, omega 3’s and occasionally she was put on Anti-biotic. We believe that chemo gives her super human strength ;)
Angel was diagnosed with stage II lymphoma and began chemotherapy on 9/24/09. When Angel arrived for her 2nd week of chemo her white blood cell count was too low to administer treatment. The doctor assured us that this is what chemo does and we would pick-up week 2 the following week.
Week 3 we went back & Angel was in complete remission after only 1 treatment!! This was amazing news and we were very excited to say the least ;) We would continue treatment until the end of the protocol, but Angel is in remission! The tests came back and confirmed that Angel is a perfect candidate for the bone marrow transplant, let the fundraising begin! Now, Angel is nearing the end of her 25 week protocol; it has been extended by 3 weeks. One of the reasons that chemo isn’t very effective on animals is because the vets won’t make them sick. After dealing with Angel not being able to take care of herself, I find this commendable. The doc can’t explain what is happening to them, so the animals won’t want to come back. Plus, it’s awful to see an animal in a position where they can’t take care of themselves. Angel couldn’t hold her bladder while she slept after starting the prednisone. I could tell how bad it made her feel to potty in her bed, and it broke my heart! Once the 28 weeks are complete, the preparations for the transplant will begin. The doctor will begin getting her stem cells prepared for the surgery; we were warned that Angel is at risk to become ill. It doesn’t happen to every dog, but sometimes these medications make them nauseous or dehydrated, causing hospitalization.
That is how Angel was dignosed and how we were informed about the cure :) I'll be posting many more updates to this blog, our facebook page http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000390876073 , & our website http://www.save-an-angel.org/
Thank you so much for reading this :) Please pass us along and help us Save-An-Angel!!
We purchased pet insurance for the 1st time about 4 months before Angel was diagnosed with cancer. Unfortunately, we didn't purchase a "Cancer Rider" when we enrolled, so what they covered was minimal. We used V.P.I. or Veterinary Pet Insurance. V.P.I. has paid everything they said that they would, somewhere around around $440 ish. Angel was renewed for the essentials, but she'll never qualify for full coverage again.
The message we are trying to send is simple; if your dog is young, insure them to the hilt. If your dog is old and hasn't ever had problems in the past, then maybe its time to give pet insurance a quick look-see. Honestly, pet insurance companies are just as sneaky as human insurance companies, but that's ok! Because having insurance could be the difference between life and death for your dogs. Please learn from our mistakes. Don't let a few bucks be the only thing standing between your dog and their health.