Our precious Sweetie is now recovering from a surgery in which a tumor was removed from her tummy. She had this surgery on Tuesday, and she is on her road to recovery.
Sweetie is nine years old, and she has been a part of our lives since she was one year old. But approximately four years ago after picking Sweetie up from the groomer, I noticed a tiny, approximately five-millimeter bump on her tummy which had been nicked by the groomer’s shears. It was a little bruised and just appeared to be something akin to a very small hernia.
As this bump, or protrusion, began to grow over a relatively short period of time, I took her to a local veterinarian. At this time it was probably about the size of a dime. The veterinarian examined her, pressed on it a couple times, noticing its tendency to push back into her tummy, and then diagnosed her as having a hernia. Her treatment at that point in time was to just observe it and, as long as it didn’t bother her or change in any way, it was okay to stay. I definitely agreed, as the bump really seemed harmless and a surgical procedure at that time seemed too drastic.
So years passed and Sweetie’s “hernia” never really changed much, except occasionally when she decided to stuff herself full after stealing Darby’s food. It’s really quite funny. I pretty much free-feed my girls. They have their small bowls, each in their own crates, and the bowls hold about two cups of Nutro dry food. When they empty, I will fill them up, usually refilling every night or every other day. But Sweetie is quite the sneaky one. When Darby’s not around, she will empty Darby’s bowl, all the while keeping her very own bowl filled to the rim, in case of emergency, I guess.
So on the days when Sweetie would make her steal is when I would mostly see this bump on her tummy kind of protrude enough to where it looked almost uncomfortable. And Sweetie’s tummy has always been quite the conversation starter. It is just kind of funny to see this small, petite dog with a big “belly button.” Oh, Sweetie, you are so adorable, my love.
So Sweetie spent this past weekend out of town with us enjoying her exciting adventure with the Flames, and come Monday morning we noticed her tummy bulge had doubled in size, was red and inflamed, and made her incredibly uncomfortable. We knew something was desperately wrong. We made an appointment immediately with a new doctor, who saw Sweetie that morning.
After examining Sweetie, our veterinarian stated this large bump appeared to be a tumor. At this point my heart sank and I quickly added that she had been diagnosed with a hernia about three or four years ago, hoping to convince myself and the doctor that a tumor diagnosis must be some kind of mistake.
So we continued to talk about the various possibilities, the potential outcomes, and we both agreed that surgery was Sweetie’s next step. On Tuesday at approximately 9:30 am my sweet girl was handed over to her Guardian Angel Dr. Christopher Berg, after I placed a kiss on her head and breathed one last smell of her soft, curly brown hair.
At approximately 11:00 am, Dr. Berg removed a ping pong ball-sized tumor from her abdomen, an inflamed tumor filled partially with liquid, and hopefully partially with fat. We are awaiting biopsy results, which I will receive on Friday. Sweetie’s umbilicus was completely intact; there was no hernia.
Our family is so grateful, so blessed to have found this young, fresh Dr. Berg, who was graciously referred to us by my friend Lesa. He is the best veterinarian I have ever met in my life. You will never find a doctor more caring, more informative, or more sensitive. He is very knowledgeable, and when observing him, you know he absolutely loves his chosen profession. Any questions I had I knew could be answered at any time with just a phone call. His office staff is awesome, and we were also given a tour of his outstanding state-of-the-art facility. Sweetie is in the best of hands.
So Sweetie went home the same evening as her surgery, wearing a stomach bandage and a little, stretchy medical t-shirt to keep her comfortable. As I sit here now writing to you, she is snuggled in her blanket resting comfortably with some pain medication. Earlier this evening I put her outside on a towel to see if she wanted to walk on the grass. I turned and went to another area of the backyard to take some pictures, looked back soon after, and she was gone. Not very far, though. She decided she needed to get a drink and cool her legs off in the pool.
I often struggle to find words to describe Sweetie to others, and I never seem to grasp words to explain how wonderful she is. I usually just say she is just like having that favorite stuffed animal in your childhood come to life. She just wants to be held in your arms at all times, but you must be petting her at the same time or she nudges you to make sure you do. She loves everyone, and is faithfully loyal to Nick. They have had a special bond since the day we brought her home. Every family member and friend that is touched by Sweetie becomes her friend for life, and there are often jokes made that she may be leaving in someone’s purse if we are not careful.
Sweetie has received amazing prayer and support from all of our family and friends for her speedy and healthy recovery. She has her very own loyal fan club, for sure.
If you would like to read about how Sweetie came into our lives, you may click here.
All of these pictures were taken after her surgery. As you can see, Darby has been very concerned and protective of her best friend. I will update this post as Sweetie recovers.
It’s a brand new day for my little girl.
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Sweetie’s Update: May 4th, 2009 ~
Sweetie’s pathology report has found that her tumor is a mast cell tumor, grade II, which is not the benign lipoma we were hoping for. Here is an excerpt from the pathologist’s report, and then I will explain further:
“This particular mast cell tumor was classified as a grade II tumor primarily because it has extended beyond the dermis and is moderately infiltrative, and as such technically falls into the grade II category. It is, however, well differentiated cytologically and has a low mitotic index, and may carry a more favorable prognosis than the majority of grade II tumors, as predicted by the original study by Patnaik.” (Patniak Scale for determining grade)
Now, with Sweetie’s tumor being a grade II, she has a 15 to 20 percent possibility of another tumor occurrence within her body over her lifetime.
But what gives our family hope is the second sentence in the pathologist’s paragraph above, which Dr. Berg clarified would even lower her likelihood of recurrence. The pathologist also stated that there was complete excision of the tumor; even more good news.
To explain further, mast cell tumors originate from a dog’s mast cells. These tumors include both benign and malignant types. It is unknown why a particular pet may develop this type of cancer, but these tumors are considered common, occurring in about 90 dogs for every 100,000. This is still a very small number in the overall population, but it is very high compared with other tumors.
Dr. Berg and the oncologist have agreed an abdominal ultrasound and an aspiration biopsy of the inguinal lymph node, among others, is our next course of action. If those diagnostic tests are clean, Sweetie will be checked for recurrence every six months. Thankfully, the oncologist also concurred that Sweetie’s tumor may be graded and treated as a grade I tumor.
I would like to end this update on this remarkable note:
Mast cell tumors release histamines upon agitation or disturbance. In other words, they ulcerate and become larger with rubbing, repeated touching, or any type of movement that irritates them. Sweetie’s long weekend at the Flames soccer tournament involved so much love and attention, lots of holding and cuddling, lots of picking up and kissing. She wore a t-shirt that perhaps rubbed and irritated her tumor, too. All of these occurrences, I believe, led to the ulceration of her tumor once we arrived home. This discovery then enabled Sweetie to receive the proper diagnosis she deserved and to have the life-preserving surgery she desperately needed.
Sweetie’s Flames friends saved her life. They are her Guardian Angels, too.
(This is Sweetie before her tumor removal surgery at the Flames Santa Clarita Tournament. Her surgery was performed just days after this picture was taken.)
Aside from a well-healing, two-inch incision on her tummy, Sweetie is now 100 percent Sweetie; eating, running, barking, loving, doing all the wonderful things that Sweetie does. And we are so happy for her.
I will update with testing results as I receive them.
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Sweetie’s Update: May 13, 2009 ~
Sweetie had her abdominal ultrasound completed on Tuesday, and there are wonderful results. All of her internal organs appear normal, no masses to be seen, and no abnormalities. Her lymph nodes are normal size; therefore, no aspiration biopsies were performed. She will return to Dr. Berg in three months for a checkup.
Our amazing little girl looks and feels great, and we are grateful for every day spent with her. I never thought we could love Sweetie more than she has been loved throughout our years spent together, but we just do. She has an even deeper place within my heart. And sometimes there will be moments scattered throughout my day where I will just see her doing something so cute, so sweet, so Sweetie, and I will just smile.
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Sweetie’s Update: September 16, 2009 ~
Sweetie was given a clean bill of health at her three-month follow-up appointment with Dr. Berg on August 10th, 2009, and as of today she continues to remain tumor free!