When you get the bad news
I listened intently as the Vet specialist explained what was likely going on. An ultra sound had confirmed a liver mass and the blood panel results were off the charts for liver cell damage, it looked bad. As she explained, I stopped her regularly; I needed further breakdown of what she was telling me. I had so many questions, my unanswered questions were the reason I was there. In my hand I had the proof of a damaged liver; it was the details of it all that I needed to know.
Lets go back a bit, so you can better understand where we are today and how we got here. Luke has had raised liver enzymes for several years; they were only slightly raised but we kept an eye on them in case. In May he had another blood panel done which showed his enzymes slightly higher than his normal range; which was then a worry. While Luke was at the Vet, my Vet did a quick ultrasound on his liver. She came to the front to tell me that although she was not an ultrasound specialist; she was pretty sure there was something on the liver. Her recommendation was to have an abdominal ultrasound done.
We got our appointment in July for Luke's ultrasound. It took me a while to find a place where I could bring Luke in and he would be done at a certain time. Many places have you bring the dog in early in the morning and they sit in a cage maybe hours until they are done. That is not okay with me so I had to find a place where they could give Luke a time, an actual appointment. So we found our specialty Veterinarian facility and we headed to our appointment.
There was indeed a mass on the liver but when aspirated; the sample was benign. Since receiving this result I have done extensive research on the whole liver mass thing. It is quite common to get a benign reading when there is in fact cancer. Not all cancers give up their cells easily so a reading can be misleading. The only way to know for sure was a biopsy; this meant opening Luke up which was not an option at nearly 14 years of age. So we hoped for the best; we would monitor Luke and let the vet know of any changes.
Two weeks ago yesterday Luke had a fall; he was not sick, he simply slipped and fell. But that fall was devastating to him because he was stuck in an extremely uncomfortable position and couldn't get out of it. I found him when I got home; he was sort of sitting with his leg splayed out on either side, crying. Yes, heartbreaking. Luckily I had not been gone for a long period of time. I got him up and he passed out on the couch; it had completely exhausted him. The first few days after the fall were scary; he wasn't eating and could barely walk. I could just imagine what his poor old body felt like. I gave him pain meds to help him through but after a few days I thought a Vet visit was a good idea.
I took him in for a full physical, blood panel and urine analysis. His blood panel results came in and I got the call. I could barely believe what the vet was saying; how could his levels have gone up so much? She (a new vet) recommended an ultrasound and biopsy. Then I explained that Luke had one done only three months earlier; so she said to call the specialist and give her the results, which I did. I also made an appointment to see her which was yesterday. Until our appointment I scoured the internet trying to find anything on the results of Luke's panel; everything pointed to liver cancer.
Her explanation was that it is most likely cancer. Luke is drinking a large amount of water and urinating a lot, it is the liver. The specialist was alarmed by Luke's blood panel and the fact that he looked so good. We had a long discussion on what the next steps were and agreed that the best thing for Luke is to enjoy his life. "Enjoy every minute with him" is exactly what she said. We could open him up to see what is going on, but then what? Then he would have to recover from that; if he even made it through the biopsy. We could do more ultrasounds; "but what we do with the results?" the vet said.
Our dogs live a long time these days; when cared for properly, they easily outlive their wild ancestors. Because of this care, we are faced with illnesses that would never arise in the wild, because they would never live that long. I remember meeting a wolf with Vestibular disease at a wolf sanctuary and asked the woman who worked there "wolves get vestibular disease?" She said "not in the wild they don't, they don't live long enough." That statement has stayed with me.
Luke is epileptic; he has had grand mal seizures for eleven of his fourteen years. The idea that he might make it to the ripe old age of fourteen was something I dreamed about. Well, he made it and he is happy, eating and loving his life. My liver fear was confirmed yesterday; what do I do with this information? What do you do when you get the news that you didn't want? You live life to it's fullest. We came home from the vets and ate chips in my office. Luke loves sleeping in my office and we all LOVE chips. He had roast beef for dinner, his favorite and he ate like a horse. This news has changed nothing for us; we will continue to do the things that Luke loves as we have been doing for most of his life. One of the greatest things in life is watching someone you love, enjoy life.