I was first introduced to sarcoma in 2008 with our beloved Rottweiler, Sadie. At five years old, she had a chronic limp that was coming from her shoulder. In July 2008, we learned that she had osteosarcoma, aka bone cancer. This type of cancer is common in large breed dogs, so it wasn’t unusual, just bad luck, I guess. The prognosis was poor. Amputation would be required, along with chemotherapy. Ed and I made the tough decision to put her down rather than have her in pain, which she was. On July 31, 2008, I experienced my first loss due to sarcoma.
Around this time of year in 2011 (in fact, according to my Facebook memory feed today exactly), I would have my second meeting with sarcoma. Eight years ago today, August 14, 2011, we found out that Ed had synovial sarcoma. Unlike large breed dogs, sarcoma overall is very rare in humans. There are 50 different subtypes of sarcoma, and it is complicated to diagnose and even more challenging to treat. Most of you reading know the story of my husband, and how sarcoma chipped away at him at every turn. We had such hope and tried many, many treatments, often with horrible side effects, ultimately to no avail. On February 3, 2013, my husband lost his life to sarcoma. This loss was my second to this disease.
And here we are today – almost to the day of Ed’s synovial sarcoma diagnosis, I have received a call from my vet about my sweet and sassy Zena. I noticed a small lump near her elbow joint on her right rear leg several weeks ago. She didn’t seem to be in pain, and she even let me touch her bump and rub it. No pain to the touch and she wasn’t even bothered by it, except for a slight limp on occasion. But this lump wasn’t going away, so I did the prudent thing and took her in to see the vet, my friend Michelle, owner of Duvall Veterinary Hospital. Being an incredibly thorough vet, she wanted to take x-rays right away. I looked at her and said, “Michelle, if this turns out to be osteosarcoma, I am going to lose my shit.” She responded, “I know. That is why we are taking x-rays right now. So we can rule it out.” X-rays came back, and she confirmed that this was likely not osteosarcoma, but whatever it was she had not seen before and was presenting odd. She would send the x-rays out for further review and let me know what the radiologists think it might be.
A day or so later, the radiologists were baffled, but then again, had ruled out – not entirely, but highly unlikely — osteosarcoma. There was still a slight chance, but the presentation was not osteosarcoma for several reasons that I won’t detail here. So we went to manage it with anti-inflammatories (think Advil for dogs) to see if that helped, and it did. She didn’t seem to be in pain, but the lump was not going away. Once off of the anti-inflammatories, I noticed her starting to limp more, and to my eye, the bump appeared larger. After much discussion with the vet aka “Dr. Michelle,” we decided it was time to get a better view of what was going on inside, so we scheduled what I will refer to as a needle biopsy. Michelle would get samples of the tissues and bone that was protruding and get a better read.
On Monday night, the phone call that she didn’t want to make, and I didn’t want to hear arrived. I heard it in her voice the minute she said: “Hi, it’s Michelle.” I asked, “Am I going to lose my shit?” and she replied, “Yes. It’s sarcoma”. Michelle knows everything that I went through with Ed and Sadie. She knows where my head is during this call. And she knows it’s not right – any of it.
We went onto talking about the pathology results, how odd of a presentation it is, how she baffled everyone. She’s healthy and not in pain – sounds eerily familiar to Ed’s diagnosis, and frankly throughout his entire 18 months of being sick. We’ve discussed treatment options, next steps, the what if’s, etc. We left the call with her telling me to have a glass of wine and absorb it all. Time is of the essence though so we do have to move fast if we are going to treat aggressively.
And so here I am. Numb. Angry. Because this rare fucking disease has now impacted me personally three FUCKING times. It doesn’t feel very rare to me. Doesn’t feel like I should keep getting the “short straw” in the bunch.
I will keep everyone up-to-date on the decisions that we need to make. They are shitty to even more shitty, basically amputation or pain management. We are still not sure what type of sarcoma this is as it is presenting in a very unusual way. Because of this, we are doing some extensive testing of the biopsy tissue from last week. I’ve been right at every turn with what my instincts are telling me, and my guess is I am going to get a call from Michelle saying it’s soft tissue sarcoma (STS) which technically is what Ed had (Ed’s STS was specifically synovial sarcoma).
I am angry that my sweet Sadie had her life cut so short from this fucking disease.
I am angry that my wonderful husband had to suffer so much pain and anguish from this vile fucking disease and whose life was cut way too short from this disease.
And now I am angry that my salty, sassy and sugar-sweet Zena has to face this fucking disease. ANGRY.
Sarcoma has taken way too much away from me, and I am just tired. So tired of it. FUCK SARCOMA and FUCK CANCER.
Sharing with love and heartbreak,
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