This is Percy. I picked him up from the Irving Animal Shelter in 2011 with the intention of being a “temp foster.” He loves to sing. He’s takes orders from my Chihuahuas. He eats my blinds. He’s scared of thunder. He’s a great snuggler and he’s changed the minds of many of my neighbors who used to be scared of pit bulls. He loves carrots (with hummus only) and pulling the stuffing out of my couch cushions.
And he has cancer.
Several months ago, I noticed a soft lump forming on his belly. Percy has gotten fatty lipomas before and they usually went away on their own, so I just kept an eye on it. Then a few weeks ago, while Percy was laying on his back, I saw what looked like a testicle in his scrotal area. It felt harder than the mass on his stomach so I made an appointment with the vet for that week. I thought maybe it was an undescended testicle that had made its way down.
At his appointment, the vet also agreed the stomach massed looked like a lipoma and the scrotal mass could be an undescended testicle. To be sure, she did a fine needle aspirate on both masses and sent them off. I was told I’d get a call the next day with the results.
The next day, I did get a call. I should have known it was bad news when they wouldn’t tell me over the phone. I made an appointment to come in and discuss the results.
I thought the worst words I could hear was “It’s cancer” but I was wrong. The worst words are “Actually, it’s two types of cancer.”
The mass that I had assumed was a fatty lipoma was actually a mast cell tumor. The harder mass that I thought was an undescended testicle was a soft tissue sarcoma, and the initial tests show that it was a higher grade sarcoma with a “fairly high degree of malignant criteria.”
Did I mention he had some sort of growth in his mouth too?
The next step was “grading” the cancers. Percy got blood work, x-rays, and an ultrasound to determine if/how much it had spread. Amazingly, the cancers were pretty well contained and there was no metastasis. We were clear for surgery to remove the masses and, if everything went well, the cancers along with them.
On the day of the surgery, August 24, I dropped him off and I was surprised at how well he behaved. At the two prior vet visits, Percy was extremely anxious and had to be sedated to do the imaging. I started researching homeopathic treatments to avoid using harsh chemicals to soothe his anxiety, and ordered some hemp/cannabidiol (CBD) oils, capsules, and treats. I gave Percy a dropper full of CBD oil before we left for our visit and that seemed to help.
A few hours later, I received a call from the surgical team. They discovered that the sarcoma mass in his scrotum was contained in a testicle. This piece of news was a bit worrisome, as it could mean that he had another testicle in his abdomen. While the ultrasound and the x-rays did not show another large mass, if the testicle was there, it could also have a small tumor or develop one later.
They asked if I wanted them to do an exploratory surgery while he was already under, so that they could see if the other testicle is there and if so, remove it along with any masses.
I said yes.
A few hours later, I received another update. Percy was off the operating table and waking up nicely. The surgeon did not find a second testicle, so there are a few scenarios why that could happen: a) he was only born with one testicle and it never descended; b) he was born with two testicles and only one descended and whoever did his neuter surgery could not find/did not look for the other one; c) he was born with 2 testicles, both did not descend, one got cancer and the other is still hidden in the fat layers of his abdomen. (Yep, she said she saw a lot of fat in there.)
The surgeon did say given what she saw and what the radiologist saw in the imaging that she is very confident there is no second testicle. However, since nothing in life is guaranteed, it could be an issue later but I will continue the CBD supplements to hopefully keep Percy healthy and tumor-free for years to come. I was able to pick him up and bring him home the same day, which was a huge relief because I didn’t want him to be away from home overnight.
Today, August 25, 2017, is Percy’s 6-year “Gotcha Day” anniversary. I picked him up from Irving Animal Shelter with the intention of fostering him temporarily. He was only intended to stay with me for a few days but he has become such an important part of my life. I love him, along with my other four dogs, with everything I have.
Right now, Percy is still sleeping. The sedation from yesterday’s surgery must be taking a while to wear off because he’s not had any interest in food but he’s drinking, walking, and going to the bathroom with no problems. I keep checking on him to make sure he’s comfortable and to whisper to him how much I love him.
I wanted to share his story because I was completely blindsided by his diagnoses. I wasn’t prepared, emotionally or financially, for these procedures but I am a lucky woman, blessed with family and friends who came through with donations and words of encouragement, and it’s only through their kindness and generosity that Percy was able to be diagnosed and treated within a few weeks of noticing the second lump.
I encourage you, if you have any questions at all about his tests, the surgeries, the cost, the process, or anything else, please comment below. I’ll do everything I can to address questions in my follow-up posts. My goal is to make this experience have a positive outcome. I do believe Percy will beat the cancer and live for many more years, but I know that’s not always the case. Several friends have told their stories to help me be prepared for worst-case scenarios and with their permission, I’ll be compiling their experiences to create even more information for those who might be facing this for the first time.
If you prefer to email me directly, please send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll do my best to answer asap.
In the meantime, please say a little prayer for Percy as he recovers from his surgery. And for me. To say this has been stressful is an understatement, but I am so grateful for all the help I’ve received.
To be continued!