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Zuko's Journey

The diagnosis and coming to terms with it all

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Hi everyone! My name is Jane and just yesterday we received the biopsy results that confirmed that my handsome boy Zuko has osteosarcoma.

So, lets start from the beginning..

About a year ago he was out running around, playing with his sister Keiko and when he came back was severely limping. I brought him to the vet, an x-ray was taken, and we were told he had partially teared his CCL. We talked about my options which was either surgery or have it heal naturally. With money being tight since I was just a college student working part time, my vet at the time advised that many dogs heal just fine without surgery. So, for the next few months his activities were greatly limited which meant no more running around, jumping on/off beds, couches, or in/out of cars. He was also started on joint supplements (which really helped!). I brought him to the beach as much as I could so he could swim around. After a few months he was using the leg as if nothing every happened! he did have a weird gait after but he was using the leg just fine.

Fast forward to about 1.5-2 months ago, I noticed Zuko starting to favor his left hind leg and that he was hoping around. I thought he may have fully torn his CCL this time and since I started working at a vet clinic as a tech I just brought him into work with me! He was sedated and a few x-rays were taken. Upon looking at the rads, my vet and another tech noticed small abnormalities in the distal end of his femur but unsure of what it could be. They started to spit out terms like osteosarcoma or osteomyelitis and I start to internally freak out but still trying to keep my composure as I continue my shift at the clinic. He advised that Zuko be on Rimadyl for the pain and then take new rads 3 weeks later to see if there were any changes.

The meds definitely helped a lot! He was still limping and not putting much weight on the leg but he was walking around better than before. I tried to be as optimistic as I could, thinking that he’ll be perfectly fine but I tried to prepare for the worst. After 3 weeks I brought him back to take new rads. It was a monday and I was working a full day shift at the clinic. I brought him in with me, was sedated again, took the rads, and waited for them to come up on the computer. In between getting the clinic ready for opening and assisting in surgeries, I took a peek at his rads and saw that his femur definitely looked worse than before. When my vet looked at the rads and looked at me and said it looks like osteosarcoma I took a breath. I was in shock but I knew I had to just get through the day. We had talked about doing a biopsy before we did anything drastic so that was done right away. I’ve seen all kinds of surgeries working at the clinic and being an summer intern at Michigan State University’s Vetward Bound Program but seeing my boy on the table while my vet tried to get a bone biopsy was something I could not handle. I almost fainted in there!

For the duration of my shift I was just in shock but during my drive home I balled my eyes out. I just couldn’t believe that this could happen. I brought him back in the next day and did a chest x-ray (no sedation this time, he was a good boy!) and I actually got some great news! It hadn’t metastasized to his lungs! Since then, I’ve been staying up all night doing research and reading up on what to expect and how to prepare. I stumbled upon this amazing website filled with people who share my troubles and was also so fortunate to come into contact, through a mutual friend, with someone I can talk to about their journey and who has helped me start mine.

As I waited for the biopsy results to come in I began to accept and come to terms that Zuko has cancer. However, as much as I have tried to prepare and accepted that he had cancer, when the biopsy came back confirming his diagnosis, it was like life just hit me. It all just feels so much more real. Now, everything is in motion and his amputation will be on April 16, 2017. 3 days from now he’s going to lose a piece of himself and he’s never going to get it back and even though I know its for the best, it’s still so hard to take in.

I still cant believe that he’s only 6 and has to battle through cancer. He’s supposed to have more years ahead of him, more years for me to spend with him, and to live til he’s 15! He’s never been over weight. He’s always been healthy, active, and just so in love with life so why him? I’ll never understand that but I do know that even if this is the hardest decision I ever had to make, it is the best decision I can do for him. He is strong and he will power through this with that big smile still on his face.

As far as what I have changed since the we suspected cancer, there have been a few things. I bought him raised dog bowls so he doesn’t have to bend down to eat – I’ve actually been holding his bowls while he eats/drinks or sometimes he would eat/drink laying down. I started him on a grain-free diet, changing his dog food to taste of the wild and adding some steamed broccoli, sweet potato or pumpkin, and boiled chicken in some of his meals. No more raw hides or baked treats as I’ve read that cancer loves sugar and I’m not taking any chances. He’s also in fish oil and joint supplements as well. I have also read some things about doing holistic methods in conjunction with chemotherapy that has really helped like Artemisinin and cannabinoids but these are still some things I have to discuss with my vet.

3 days til the big day! I’ll keep you posted.

Meanwhile, here are a few photos of my handsome boy and his beautiful sister Keiko 🙂

Zuko and Keiko after playing catch!

Zuko and Keiko at the beach!


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3 Comments »

  1. kazann Said,

    April 23, 2017@ 3:47 pm      Reply

    Look at how happy your dogs are in these photos. Rest assured Zuko will be even happier when that painful leg is gone.

    Hugs to you and the dogs,
    Kerren and Tripawd Kitty Mona

  2. Pat Said,

    April 24, 2017@ 5:29 am      Reply

    My Jack Russell rescue Jackie is a few months further along, having her back leg removed in early January after being diagnosed with a fairly aggressive mast cell issue. It is a pretty awful decision to have to make, but you have to look at the big picture and as long as you’re doing the right thing, there can’t be any second thoughts. Jackie was just a little over 6 when diagnosed, so with a little luck, we’ll have 10 more years together. The thought of losing her at 7 or 8 drove our decision. I can happily say that she hasn’t missed a beat. They sent her home the day of the surgery (actually not a bad thing although she was in some pain until around 2 a.m. – being home I think was a better environment than being overnight at the vets as we had better ability to nurse and baby her) and she was more or less recovered within 2 or 3 days. She was walking half an hour after the surgery. Other than a couple of things (e.g. we have to help her scratch her right side, and she’s a little tentative about jumping up on things), she’s as lively and happy as ever. Our frisbee playing is going well, albeit at a little shorter distances than before. It’s amazing how quickly and how well they adapt. Squirrels still need to be vigilantly on alert when she’s around. Hang in there, Zuko will still love you and you will still love Zuko. Like they say elsewhere on the site, the dogs are really just anxious to get back to playing. You’ll be surprised how quickly the recovery will be. You’ll be best friends forever, good luck with everything. This is the first time I’ve posted on this site, isn’t it a terrific resource? It really helped me as we made our decision.

  3. otisandtess Said,

    April 24, 2017@ 10:58 am      Reply

    It is a really hard diagnosis, especially since our dogs seem otherwise happy, healthy and full of life. The first two weeks post amp are tough. But you will be amazed at how quickly Zuko gets back to being Zuko again. The entire tripawds community will be thinking about you and your pack!


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