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Mercy's Story

Mercy's story of cancer and amputation.

Mercy's Story

Tribute

November 26th, 2009 · 6 Comments · Uncategorized

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downsized_1117092107aJust a quick blog to post my tribute to Mercy, and of course all of the furkids lost prior and that I’m sure I’ll have the misfortune to part with in the future.  The picture isn’t that great.  This is an hour after I got it. The quote is “A heartbeat at my feet”.  Some people may not be big on tattoos… but this was a part of my healing process.  I got it a week after I lost Mercy, and as it heals, so am I still trying to heal.


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Mercy didn’t make it

November 10th, 2009 · 13 Comments · Uncategorized

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Without details, because I can’t bring myself to discuss it since it just happened an hour ago, Mercy died in ICU. I just wanted to let everyone know. She just kept getting worse, and crashed. They weren’t able to get her back. When I can bring myself to do it, I have an XS ruff wear harness, new, for anyone who can use it. She never got to wear it. I’ll post it when I can.

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3rd day postop

November 7th, 2009 · No Comments · Uncategorized

We had a bad night last night and this morning.  We kept having the same thing we had at noon yesterday, where we’d try to get up and start screaming and throw ourselves backwards and writhe with no real reason.  I took her to work this morning and put a new fentanyl patch back on her and give her an injection to keep her comfortable in the meantime.  Discontinuing the tramadol for now, it wasn’t working quite well enough.  After that, we had one more little episode, but not quite as bad, and because we decided to try and race across the house to meet someone.  Hopefully it will keep her more comfortable for now.  I brought home another pain injection just in case we have another rough night waiting for her patch to kick in, since it takes 12-24 hours.  In the meantime, she managed to take a nice deep nap for a little while with the assistance of one of those grand little comforts.

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When I first got her, she stole a stuffed wolf I was given, and so… I gave it back to her today.  Both of them are showing their age, but the little comforts are important.  Hopefully tomorrow is a better day since I have to work again on Monday.  Thankfully, I have the benefit of being able to take her to work with me.

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2 Days Postop

November 6th, 2009 · 3 Comments · Uncategorized

Mercy’s first day certainly went better than expected, and last night was good, too.  The air mattress deflated on us, so I just gave Mercy my pillows and we camped on the floor.  We slept pretty well, waking up at 3am for one of our pills.  This morning she was acting pretty restless, so I took her for another “carry” around the block, and took her to work with me to show everyone how well she was doing and pick up her Tramadol for later today when her fentanyl patch comes off.  I noticed that she is acting pretty painful on her left hind leg today.  I’m hoping it’s just a combination of compensation and balance working new areas, and/or that her left leg is the one that gets held on my hip when she wants to be carried.  As much as I can, I’ve been making her lay down, not get carried and not walk to try and give that leg time to recover.  Maybe I’ll heat pack it later tonight when it cools off outside.  Around noon, we curled up on the couch together, her as close as she could get to me on my chest.  She ended up cradled between my left arm and chest on her back sleeping.  After the nap, I started worrying about how I could help her get up from this precarious position, when out of nowhere I see her incision site trying to move feverishly, and she starts trying to roll backwards and cry and really freak out and scare me.  I’m not sure if the pain of trying to move it caused the reaction, or if this was our first experience with phantom limb pain.  We are getting ready to pull off her fentanyl patch, perhaps it’s losing efficacy and that’s why she’s acting a little more depressed today.  I’m crossing my fingers that the transition to pills will go smoothly, but I’m a bit scared.  All I know is that I don’t like it when her “wiggle butt” is broken, and I hope tomorrow brings a better day.  Can’t say that I wasn’t warned that we would have our ups and downs the first couple weeks.  I was just hoping her 2nd day would be as fantastic as her first.  I would really like for her back leg not to be hurting her right now since that was one of my biggest fears about the amputation, is that something would happen to another leg.

On the bright side, one of my other concerns, how she would tackle the obstacle of having a bowel movement, was addressed at 3am this morning.  We had to run outside quickly and she did the best “this? this is old news” job ever.  Looks like we’re getting the pottying down pretty quickly.  Mercy is definitely proving to be a somewhat independent and strong girl throughout this.  She certainly doesn’t want help, and is braver than I am through it all.

Happy Friday, everyone.

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Mercy’s Amputation

November 5th, 2009 · 2 Comments · Uncategorized

Yesterday and last night were probably some of the worst moments of my life; talk about anxiety.  Mercy had her surgery yesterday, although it almost got rescheduled… I’m not sure I could have gone through this nightmare twice.  They still got her done for me, though I’m not sure that’s better.  They wouldn’t let me back in surgery at all to see her, so I clocked out of work and paced the floor for hours waiting until I could see her again.  I was so nervous, every part of my body hurts, and I haven’t slept in 48 hours.  They said the surgery had no complications, but it still shocks you the first time you see the dog you’ve had for nearly 10 years all of a sudden only have 3 legs.  Even as a vet tech, I wasn’t prepared for the emotions this whole experience flooded me with.  I was a wreck yesterday and last night.  Especially last night when her and I were the only ones awake and she was so scared.  She was on good pain meds, but I think being very disoriented,missing a leg, and probably even still a little sore, made for a rough night.  She was up all night breathing rapidly and crying.  At least, crying if I wasn’t petting her.  Being with her wasn’t enough, touching her wasn’t enough, had to be petting her.  So despite no sleep the night before surgery, I was up all night reassuring her.  We set the alarm for 3am to give her some more pain meds, and she ate a little bit of wet food.  Very few things get in the way of her appetite, at least!  We said good morning to the rest of the furkids around 4:30am.  Mercy was a little bit grumpy.  And I think one of them is the reason for my air mattress deflating.  Mercy and I set up last night on the floor on an air mattress, with her in her favourite bed, swaddled in about 3 blankets, and a brand new heating blanket since her temp was a little low after surgery.  With water, syringes, warm damp washcloths, a thermometer, etc. to make sure we were prepared for the night.  There may also have been a popsicle at some point, but shhhh, that was under the table.  Come 6am, Mercy was feeling much better.  The crying had gone from the hyperventilating whine it had been to more of a “can I move?” noise.  I think she has to potty.  That was the first time her and I got brave enough to try picking her up, and I set her down, and she stood on her 3 legs for awhile.  Not brave enough to walk yet, and we haven’t pottied yet because we can’t walk.  I pulled her IV catheter this morning, so she has one less obstacle in the way of learning her new 3 legged shuffle.  We’ve been getting up every so often this morning to do some “standing” and to go for a carry around the house.  We might go for a short carry around the block or down the street a little later to get some fresh air.  Her incision is still “oozing” a little, which is normal.  Once it stops, we’ll be putting her shirt back on.  The poor girl is missing all of her hair except her back legs, her butt, and her head.  Everything else has been shaved off from surgery and ultrasound.  If we can’t manage to get to potty before this afternoon, I might try and help her out a little.  In the meantime, she is finally sleeping comfortably (thank goodness), and I might just use the time to catch up on the sleep I haven’t been getting.

All I can say is… it’s a good thing my coworkers love me, because I was a holy wreck yesterday at work.  I owe a lot to all three of the vets that worked yesterday to get Mercy’s surgery squeezed in, besides a rash of emergencies that nearly postponed it.  I was so worried about my little girl yesterday, I don’t think my gratitude showed.  I know it didn’t, unfortunately.  Mercy and I will have to thank them somehow.

Thank you all for your well wishes!

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Happy Halloween!

October 31st, 2009 · 2 Comments · Uncategorized

Mercy's Halloween costume

Mercy's Halloween costume

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The Ultrasound

October 29th, 2009 · 6 Comments · Uncategorized

Monday, I took Mercy’s sutures out of her incision from the mass removal 2 weeks ago.  That felt like an effort in futility – removing sutures from a leg that’s coming off in, now, less than a week.  For whatever reason, it just felt like the routine thing to do, so I did it anyway.  This incision is healing well.  Much better than the last one.  Also, got back the results of her radiology consult for her chest xrays, no pulmonary mets! Hooray for little steps!  Tuesday, her new shirts came in the mail.  One is a pink one with, what seems to have become out motto for the moment, “Cancer took my leg, not my life”.  The other, a gray one with “Cancer Survivor”.  Tuesday also brought a cold front down from Alaska and the beginning of some incredibly cold weather for a little spoiled shorthair dog, so we broke out the winter clothing a little early this year.  Walking around the block in her snazzy hot pink coat and her halloween bandanna definitely gets some looks.  Today, we had another visit to the vets office, so what better way to show up so close to halloween than in a witch costume!  Mercy looks so cute in her hat and dress.  She had to take it off quickly, though, to begin her examination and sedation prior to her ultrasound.  For the ultrasound, we had to shave halfway up her sides, all of her abdomen, and a spot on her left shoulder.  In addition to her left front leg from the mass removals, and the shaved spot on her right front leg from the IV catheters, she’s looking a little risque!  At 1pm, the doctor came with the ultrasound equipment, he came down from Tucson, 1.5 hours away to see her.  The results of the ultrasound were… not bad, but not good.  There is nothing that seemed to alarm either of the doctors, or prevent us from continuing with the amputation next week, but there were a few “oddities”.  She had a small lesion on her spleen, which they believe may be normal geriatric changes.  She also had a very odd round cystic “thing” not attached to any of her organs, just *there* near her kidney.  Neither of the vets knew what it was.  Everything else looked okay, which is good.  We’ll be repeating her ultrasound in 3 months to check to see what’s going on with what we did find.  The visiting vet wasn’t able to palpate or locate her prescapular lymph node with ultrasound, so we weren’t able to send a sample in to check for metastasis.  Chances are, since noone is able to find it, there’s nothing to worry about; however, we’re going to see if we can find it during the surgery and remove it to err on the side of caution.  After the ultrasound, we wiped as much of the ultrasound “goo” off of her as possible (I can’t stand that stuff!) and I took her home.  We’ll be wearing shirts regularly for awhile now!  Between the cold front, not having any fur, and soon losing a leg, it’s regular shirts for awhile.  So now we’re curled up on the couch with a faux mink blanket, some mac’n’cheese and some B horror movies courtesy of the upcoming holiday.  Mercy is still recovering from the sedation.  Oh, how she hates sedation, but at least she’s sleeping now.  Also, just received her new ruff-wear harness in the mail.  We’ll be sizing that correctly tomorrow when she’s not so wobbly.  We’ll also be getting a bath tomorrow to get all the residual “goo” off, and to make sure she’s ready for her surgery next Wednesday.  Saturday will hopefully be a halloween costume contest for the dogs, then rest for a few days… at least for Mercy.  Wednesday will come to soon for me, and yet not soon enough.  As much as I’m not looking forward to the amputation, it’s going to come, and I’ll be glad when it’s over and we can recover together.

Wednesday, here we come…

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The little things…

October 22nd, 2009 · 5 Comments · Uncategorized

When you’re a high anxiety person like myself, it’s the nights that get rough, when the sleep just doesn’t come because your mind just won’t stop racing.  Of course, as of late, the racing thoughts have all been Mercy.  Thoughts about what we’re losing, what we’re gaining.  The worries.

Once I made the decision to go for the amputation, I’ve taken a LOT of pictures of my girly with her 4 legs.  In doing so, it reminds me of the little things she does that she won’t be able to do, or will have difficulty doing now.

I’ll miss the way she has always “spazzed” and “crawled” when excited, moving her front paws in ways that are hard to describe.  Without both paws, this probably won’t be possible.

I’ll miss playing with her with her favourite toy (or my hand) under the blankets, watching her dig them out.

Watching her dig to make her bed before laying down.

Watching her play with and/or discipline the cats.  I could never get to them fast enough when they were being naughty, and she learned when she was allowed to go tell them off.  She never hurt them, but she sure gave them what-for.  I’m afraid she won’t be able to keep up anymore.

Watching her wash her eyes.  Like a cat, she would lick her paws and wipe at her eyes to keep them clean.  I won’t see that anymore.

Balancing and laying on the back of the couch.  She’s always done this.  It’s her favourite perch to sleep on.  I’m afraid she won’t have the necessary footing and balance to do this anymore.

I’m going to miss so much, all the little things I took for granted before.  I keep trying to convince myself that we’ll gain new little “perks” when she turns this new page in her life… but I can’t help but feel sorrow for what will be lost.

The worst part about the late hours, when my friends, family, even Mercy is asleep, is the miserable thoughts of what could go wrong.  Knowing how horrible and disoriented she gets after anesthesia.  More than many of the other patients I see.  Hoping the pain management will be enough to help her stay comfortable.  Being afraid to touch the surgery site.  Being unsure how she’ll respond to having a leg, and shortly thereafter, being without it.  I’m afraid for the first wobbly steps, or the first time she wipes out.  As a surgery tech, I haven’t decided yet whether to be there for her recovery, like usual.  After her mass removals, I’ve held her until she was ready to go.  I don’t know if I’ll be able to watch her with the confusion of the anesthesia, and the confusion of the amputation.  It’s going to make me cry regardless, and just thinking of the ifs, and the images, and all my worries make my stomach turn.  Which makes me feel ridiculous, since I’m a vet tech and should be stronger for this, and with all the condescending “it’s just a dog” that gets tossed around.  She’s my baby.  My coworkers keep reminding me that it’s going to be harder on me than it is on her, and I hope that’s true.

Unfortunately, the things that go bump in the night aren’t always kind.  I wish it wasn’t 2 weeks away.  I wish it was time for us both to be done with the operation and on the road to recovery.  It’s still all surreal to me. 9.5 years ago, I would never have believed that the adorable little puppy would become this strong, awesome, senior tripawd.  After her surgery, I hope to inspire our clients whose pets are diagnosed with cancer.  Like Baby, a chihuahua whose owners are on a fixed income and struggling with trying to treat their dogs cancer with limited means.  They’re concerned with amputation, and I’m hoping that Mercy will be able to show them, and others, that it truly is better to hop on 3 legs than limp on four.

In the meantime, the milestones Mercy and I have to wait for are,

NLT 10.26.2009 (hopefully) should have the radiology report back confirming there are no pulmonary mets.

10.28.2009 Sutures out from her last mass removal surgery.

10.29.2009 Abdominal ultrasound and ultrasound-guided aspirate of her prescapular lymph node.

11.03.2009 Fentanyl Patch placement.  Hopefully should already have the results about whether there has been any metastasis to the lymph node and whether we need to take that too.

11.04.2009 Amputation.

I’m also working on supplies that might make it easier for her after her surgery.  She already has an e-collar from her mass removals, and is using her soft-sided travel crate so she’s less likely to get hung up or bump herself too hard.  She already has shirts available, and more on the way.  Not that they’re necessary, but why not?  I’m going to measure her and order her the recommended Ruff Wear harness.  I’ll be setting my bed up on the floor so that she’s comfortable and I don’t have to worry about her trying to get up and down the bed.  Over the next couple weeks I’ll be trying to think of other things to make the transition more comfortable for both of us, does anyone have any recommendations?

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About us!

October 22nd, 2009 · 3 Comments · Uncategorized

I’m just going to borrow my first real blog post from the About section I just typed up, because it’s a good place to start.

Hello! I’m Ashley, Mercy’s mom, and I’ll be writing on behalf of her… as a result of her lack of opposable thumbs. And of course she’s too busy running around like a mad woman and sleeping to do it herself. A little about myself, I’m a 24 year old veterinary technician, mostly specializing in surgery. I spent majority of my time at work, studying for work-related things, spending time with my own furkids, and playing around online. In addition to Mercy, I have a 3 year old domestic longhair tuxedo cat named Mouse, and a 6 year old domestic longhair tuxedo cat named Tippin. We aren’t here to talk about the cats, though.

Mercy is a miniature pinscher (though slightly large, so we call her a maxi-pin), born March 12th, 2000. Her cancer story starts in November, 2008 when we found the first lump on her left front leg. We started with a fine needle aspirate to take a sample of cells to send to the lab, which came back as nothing. By December, she was undergoing surgery to debulk the mass (due to the location, it was impossible to get good margins) and send it in for a biopsy to the lab. It came back as a grade I Fibrosarcoma. Next came leg radiographs, chest radiographs, and a visit to the oncologist. The oncologist said the only options were radiation therapy, or amputation since there was no way to get clean margins. They strongly recommended radiation therapy; however, it would cost close to $10k, I would lose Mercy for 3 months since she’d pretty much have to live in the clinic 1.5 hours away. She’d have to be anesthetized daily (and she feels so horrible after anesthesia) and have an open wound for the duration, with only a 75% success rate after 3 years. Which admittedly is a fairly good prognosis, but the cost would be extravagant to me, and I didn’t feel it would be an ideal situation for my babygirl. The other option was amputation, but we were told that due to the low metastasis rate, we should hold off until the tumor returned first. Then began the bloodwork and radiographs every 3 months, and the monitoring her leg every day. She did a lot of limping that year. We were told it could be tumor remnants causing it, or tightening of the incision from the surgery causing it, or the dissolvable sutures. The incision took forever to heal, which was most likely a result of the tumor tissue. By September 2009, the limping was worsening, for no known reason, and during an in depth exam at the clinic, I noticed another lump, further down her leg. Once we found that lump, her limping stopped. Apparently it was her way of telling us something else was wrong. The process began again. First, the needle aspirate, again with no conclusive results. Then the surgical debulking, again unable to get clean margins, and the tumor was infiltrating surrounding nerves. The conclusion this time? A grade II mast cell tumor. A call back into the oncologist gave the same results, only this time the prognosis was slightly worse, due to the grade and nature of the tumor. Again, unable to do the radiation on the first tumor, let alone the second tumor, we’ve opted for amputation. Two types of cancer in one leg is enough. It’s time to sacrifice the leg to save the life. After all, dogs are born with 3 legs and a spare.

This starts the beginning of a new chapter. We’ve taken 3 view chest radiographs, which on initial inspection look normal, and have been sent to a radiologist for further examination. All of her bloodwork came back relatively normal for her age. She’s scheduled for an abdominal ultrasound October 29th, with an ultrasound-guided biopsy of her lymph node to check for metastasis. Then November 4th is the date when my Mercy becomes a tripawd. Even being a vet tech doesn’t make it easier – in fact, sometimes it’s more difficult. It’s one of the situations where I’d rather be an owner than a vet tech.

In any case, I’m very excited to come across this website today, and hope to keep an updated blog on Mercy’s progress… if only to keep my mind preoccupied so I don’t go (more) insane. Please feel free to ask questions, leave comments, what have ya!

Thank you!

Ashley and Mercy

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Hello world!

October 22nd, 2009 · 1 Comment · Uncategorized

I’m slowly working on figuring out the site since I’m new to it.  I’m working on getting the banner to stop uploading fuzzy, and then I’ll work on more information about our story! In the meantime, Mercy and I are going to take a walk around the block.

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