This is a very long story, but one which I hope will bring some comfort to you dear souls who are grieving the loss of your beloved pets.
This story is about my precious baby, a German Shorthaired Pointer named Jetson.
Jetson and I are true soul-mates. I adored that dog with every fibre of my being and I still do now. He passed away on June 2nd this year, following complications from lung cancer.
It all began 2 years ago, when Jetson was admitted to hospital to have a large tumour removed form his spleen. As it turned out, he had to have his spleen removed as well, to save his life. I asked the surgeon to remove a golf-ball sized 'lump' from Jetson's chest wall. I'd had cells taken with a fine needle prior to the spleen surgery, and they had indicated as 'only' fatty cells. The surgeon told me, as she was closing Jetson up, that he'd begun to get pale under anesthesia, and she didn't want to risk him, (he was 10 1/2 at the time). Therefore, she again took a fine-needle aspirate, which again showed 'only' fatty cells. I was told verbally, and in writing on Jetson's discharge sheet, that there was 'nothing to be concerned about'. Me being an ordinary girl, and the vet being, well, a VET, I took her at her word, and believed that a fine-needle sample was able to be taken as gospel. With Jetson being over 10 years old, and having had a life with many health complications and surgeries, including removal of several lipomas (fatty lumps), I chose not to put my baby under any further stresses of surgery.
Forward 12 months. Jetson had recovered extremely well from his splenectomy. The tumour was benign. However, the golf-ball sized lump on his chest wall had increased in size to now be similar in size to a grapefruit.
I took him in to his vet, and had a biopsy done at my request and suggestion, and the results came back as positive for a 'soft tissue sarcoma'.
My baby had cancer. :-(
So, I went into fix-it mode. 'What do we have to do to fix this?' I will do whatever it takes. Jetson's 'every-day' vet did not want to perform the surgery, as the tumour removal, along with the necessary healthy tissue margin removal, required the hands of an expert, as the deficit would be so large that a skin 'flap' was needed to be created from the hip area to enable the surgeon to close.
I know this sounds complicated enough, but what was to follow is overwhelming, and this is most difficult for me to put into words. The specialist did a CAT scan on Jetson, to ascertain how deeply the tumour had penetrated his chest wall. As it turned out, the surgery was majorly extensive, and ultimately, Jetson went into a coma. He just did not regain consciousness.
When I was phoned with the news, I was absolutely devastated. That dog was my world, my reason for being, I adored him. I would be damned if he was going to die in that hospital. So in I went. What confronted me was truly indescribable.
Jetson was seizuring, throwing himself all around the place, but at the same time not awake or coherent. It looked as though half his side had been removed. He had tubes coming out of his chest and nose and throat. Now I am a pretty strong girl, I can handle a lot, but this was my baby, and he was in a wretched state. He was screaming and screaming. I was beside myself, all I wanted to do was help him.
I was helpless.
I stayed with him, and laid with him, stroking him and talking to him. It was so utterly terrible to see him like that, unresponsive and seemingly dead.
Each day for two weeks, I travelled over an hour to be by his side and try as hard as I could to wake him up out of his coma. Sometimes it seemed as though it was going to be alright, and other times he seemed to deteriorate. I was NOT giving up. The surgeon was happy for me to continue my vigils, and hold on to hope as long as I wanted to. However, he could give me no real prognosis, as no other owner had pushed for so long; they mostly made the decision to let their babies go to sleep.
I knew, somehow, that my Jetson wanted to be here with me still. Indeed, one day, whilst I was laying by him, and talking to him as I did, I said; "Jet, if you have to go, I understand. It's ok if you can't fight anymore. But Mummy needs to know. Please please tell me." I swear, as God as my witness, at that VERY moment, Jetson opened his eyes and stretched his legs. Only for a few seconds, and then went back into his deep sleep.
I KNEW IT. He WAS going to make it.
I asked Charles, the surgeon, to contact an animal neurologist in the States, as there are none here in Australia where I live. Charles did that and was told that Jetson would have suffered brain damage caused by hypoxia ( lack of oxygen to the brain) during surgery or recovery. Brains have an incredible ability after injury to regenerate the pathways for messages to travel wherever they need to.
Jetson finally woke up out of his coma, and even began eating and drinking. The moment I received that news was honestly the happiest moment of my life. He was AWAKE!!
What a challenge it was to get him well again. After I brought him home, I placed a mattress in the living room, so as I could carry him out to toilet with relative ease, as the door was right next to where his temporary bed was.
Now I'm not sure if you know much about Pointers, but they are not what you'd call 'small' doggies. And Jetson, well, lets just say he liked his tucker, and was just a tad overweight, coming in at a whopping 40 kilos, which I think would be around 70 pounds. Because he had suffered brain injury, he couldn't walk when he first got home. I had to carry that big baby out to the toilet. Many many times per day....and night. Boy was I happy to do that. To be entirely truthful, anything I had to do for him was just a pleasure...I was overwhelmed to have him home!
Physio was another challenge. The hip area, where the skin had been pulled together so very tightly, was impeding his movement greatly. He was quite cranky with me when I poked and prodded and stretched and massaged, but he put up with it all like the gentleman he was.
One night, he just decided it was time to start walking!! I cannot tell you how happy I was. All of this from a dog who had been knocking quite vigorously on death's door.
The only residual issue was that he was only walking on 3 legs, simply refusing to use the left hind, which was tight from the surgery. So it was off to the pool twice weekly for swimming sessions. After 3 months of vigilance, Jetson finally began using his bad leg. I was overwhelmed. Everything was perfect. He was absolutely normal neurologically, and barring a slightly stilted walk, and a few scars, he was great physically as well.
This June, almost one year after his cancer surgery, I arrived home to find Jetson labouring with his breathing.
At that moment I knew it. I just knew it. The cancer had spread into his lungs. The week before I'd had a dream that someone I loved had cancer in their chest and was not able to be saved. There was no hope anymore. My husband and I had decided that our baby deserved to go with dignity. No more surgeries, no more painful procedures, no more pain.
We brought Jetson into the emergency centre where he'd had his surgery last year, and they x-rayed his chest, the results proving what I already knew. The cancer from his chest wall had metastasized into his lungs, causing fluid retention and distressed breathing. We were given the option of draining his chest, but that would've given him days or hours. We would not put him through any more. Not for our sake.
We stayed with him in the clinic, on his special bed which we'd brought in. He deteriorated drastically within an hour, and we really were left with no other option. I laid down beside him, spooning him, rubbing his ears and holding him and telling him "I love you, I love you, I love you." My husband was sitting in front of him and they were gazing into each others' eyes.
Then he went to sleep.
It was very very peaceful. But I was devastated. We had fought so very hard, my baby and I, and we lost the battle anyway. He just could not fight for us anymore.
There is one thing, though, that I keep with me. Jetson's case is extremely unusual. Charles, his surgeon, has used the case to educate and inform other vets and furparents all over the world. Especially the 'coma' part. Jetson came out of that coma against all odds. He fought a most courageous battle.
Charles has used this to tell others to NEVER GIVE UP. Believe in your convictions, leave no stone unturned. Jetson has saved not a few other furbabies' lives with his legacy. Because of him their parents have not given up, and they have been given a chance to live even when the odds are against them. I know it's not possible or even probable in every case, but even if it helps one furbaby, then it was all worth it.
The other thing is, and this is from me personally, always always follow your gut. Cancer is a hideous disease which can sometimes be cured if found early. If I'd have done my job properly, I'd have pressed the issue with Jet's original vet and not just taken her word that a fine needle sample is concrete. IT IS NOT. I personally don't believe it's worth anything at all.
As for me, well, I am still grieving terribly. I miss Jetson more than I can even say. I am extremely grateful I have found you all here, and that I have found the Rainbow Bridge. It , you, have saved my life.
Thank you for listening.
This is Jetson 'cuddling' my cat Keith. The picture was taken 2 days before he passed away.