Though we wanted to share some of our vacation highlights and photos with you today, we're still getting our arms around everything since we returned home from the trip. Most notably, we've been getting a handle on the treatment of Mel and Lulu's medical issues. And to be completely honest, each time I sat down to start writing about the vacation, I really couldn't concentrate, typically because I had the sweet head of one of our pets nearby that was just begging to be scratched.

When we left for our trip we did so with some trepidation. Lulu and Mel were both recovering from their respective surgeries, and we hadn't heard the results of Lulu or Mel's pathology report from the removal of their two mast cell tumors. Talk about bad timing for a vacation. Fortunately, we were able to head out of town knowing that both Lulu and Mel were being cared for by people who loved them and would look out for them.

Knowing Wendy would be a wreck on vacation if we got bad news, I arranged with the vet to email me with the results when they came in. My plan was to share the results with Wendy if they were great. Otherwise, I planned to quietly make arrangements for when we returned.

The diagnosis of mast cell tumors meant that we needed to wait on the pathology report to assign a grade before we'd know the severity and next steps in treatment. When dealing with mast cell tumors, the possible outcomes are grade 1, grade 2, and grade 3. Grade 1 is the best case with about a 95% cure rate, but it is somewhat rare in its classification. Grade 3 is the worst, and is often considered terminal because of the extent at which the tumors metastasize, often to vital organs. Grade 2 is the most common, and it is often classified into a "low grade 2" (which is closer to grade 1), and "high grade 2" (which is closer to 3). As you can imagine, this information is all of the stuff I was able to obsess over while trying to enjoy our vacation.

Mid way through our trip I received an email from our vet. I nervously opened the message to read her and the lab's assessment. I don't know how Wendy didn't know what I was looking at, as I almost held my breath as I read the results.

Grade 2

Both Mel and Lulu's results were officially grade 2. At once, conflicting feelings of concern and relief came over me. I was worried that it wasn't grade 1 and at the same time ecstatic it wasn't grade 3, then I realized what I had just read, grade 2...with low incidence of mitotic division. That last part were the key words we needed. This meant that the grade 2 assessment was actually a "low grade 2," which is great news! 

I still didn't plan on sharing the news with Wendy right away, since the results were not grade 1, and I knew she wouldn't be "okay" with grade 2. Instead, I began emailing and coordinating oncologist followup appointments, and additional research. Thanks to some great friends at The Hope Center, we were able to schedule our oncologist followup for just two days after we got back into town.

Towards the end of the trip, Wendy asked me if I had heard any news and what the results were. I knew it was time to let her know so I came clean and told her all of the news. She went through a similar feeling to what I went through and ultimately came to a similar but not as optimistic conclusion as I had. 

When we got home we were both so happy to see Mel and Lulu. Being away from them during this time made it even more difficult than usual, and we were so relieved to be home with them and back to our role of caring for them.

The morning after we arrived home we took Lulu to have her sutures removed. Her incision was looking good and had healed very nicely. Mel had his sutures out just before we left for the trip, so both of our patients were nicely on the mend.

Our oncology followup with The Hope Center's Dr. Beck was just yesterday. The results from the visit were similar to what we had hoped. Though we were both somewhat overwhelmed by all of the various information presented, the end decision is to simply monitor both Mel and Lulu for any new tumors over the next six months. We'll also go for an ultrasound for each to ensure there hasn't been any tumor growth in the liver, spleen, or other organs. 

Our visit to The Hope Center was quite hard. It's a place that I went weekly while treating Oliver in his fight against lymphoma, and it was difficult to take our other pets there for treatment reasons. Even harder, our appointment yesterday was in the room where we had to put Ollie to sleep. It's a good thing Wendy brought Kleenex in her purse.

One positive aspect was the fact that we got to see Michelle and Michael, two of Ollie's favorite "ladies" as we referred to them. We got to know them well during our months treating Ollie, and we hadn't seen them in a few years.

Though the kids aren't totally out of the woods yet, things are looking good at this point. Their results are the best case of an intermediate case scenario. Their treatment options, long term, are hopefully minimal. But in the event there is a recurrence in the tumors that need additional treatment, we have an excellent oncology center with a lot of dedicated staff that will do what is necessary to treat our pets as the children of ours that they are.

I'm sure I sound pretty crazy to some people, but I also know there are plenty of people out there who probably know exactly how we are feeling. Just like anything else, home renovation-related or otherwise, we'll take everything one day and one task at a time. We're hopeful for the best case scenario, but are also preparing ourselves for a more difficult road ahead. We'll keep you all posted on their progress, and any other information. At the very least, hopefully our blog posts might help another pet parent who is dealing with the same thing in their loved one at some point in the future.

Comments 32


9/21/2012 at 5:20 PM
Happy to hear that it's mostly good news! It's not crazy at all to treat pets like kids. Many of us, including me, do the same thing. Hell, I think I probably paid for a year of college for my vet's kid, and I would do it again if I have to - my pets are 100% worth it.
Thanks, Laura. We feel the same way too. If anything can be done to help them or better their lives, we're all in. :-)
9/21/2012 at 5:22 PM
Sounds like you guys are getting excellent care for the kids and that things look promising. And yes, I totally understand. You're not crazy at all.
Thanks, Becky. We're really pleased with the care they're receiving, just not pleased they're sick in the first place!
9/21/2012 at 5:34 PM
We have been thinking of you guys. Mel and Lulu are lucky to have you as their parents.
Thanks for thinking of us!
9/21/2012 at 5:56 PM
I was wondering about these two the other day. While not perfect news, it does sound like its almost as good as it could have been. Here's hoping for clear ultra sounds for both of them!

Also, I just wanted to say that I get it. While I haven't had to go through anything with Tass (knock on wood), there's almost nothing I wouldn't do for the wiener mobile.
Thanks, Ashley! I hope you and Tass never have to go through something like this!
Kelly Hutchinson Curtis
9/21/2012 at 6:19 PM
Oh no! So glad to see an update, but scared to go look . . . .
I think it's okay for you to look. Not great news, but it definitely can be worse. Thanks for your concern, Kelly! :-)
9/21/2012 at 7:18 PM
Aww. Overall it does sound like a good outcome for the little ones, and like everything, life happens and when it does, we have to adjust somehow. I'm sure it was tough to travel with them on the mend, but they are very happy you are home now! Good thing they don't have a strong concept of time.

If you don't already, maybe boosting their immune systems for a while might be beneficial? The Gentle Barn highly recommends a supplement for their recovering animals (Sun Chlorella Algae Super Food) or a place like Nature's Nibbles might have other good ideas too.

My little Cooper-cat has lumps all over him, but they have been checked and are okay. Bless his heart. A cholla attacked him a few years ago when we lived in Arizona and hundreds of needles left holes in his skin, and now dirt/oil/skin/stuff collects under there. boo.
Thanks, Michele. Great point about dietary supplements. We didn't mention it in the post, but we'll be starting Lulu on a fish oil supplement, as well as giving her an immunity booster natural remedy. This is in addition to all the fruits and veggies she already eats, along with the home cooked treats. We figure the better she eats, the better chances she'll have. (Our vet doesn't recommend changing Mel's diet.)
Jennifer A. Doherty
9/21/2012 at 7:44 PM
Thank you for posting such a detailed update on Lulu & Mel. God bless them both. I have two 10 year old pugs - Continued prayers for them both. I love their expressions!
Thanks, Jennifer. I appreciate the love and prayers, from one pug lover to another!
9/21/2012 at 7:53 PM
I understand completely. Our furbabies have special places in our hearts. Glad the report was low grade 2.
Thanks, Tee. :-)
9/21/2012 at 9:31 PM
Thanks for sharing it; I know it has to be hard to talk about when things are still up in the air regarding the ultimate severity or lack thereof.

The part about Wendy and your being in the room where Ollie was put to sleep got to me. We've made a couple of visits for elderly cats in the last few years and it was so, so hard! Wendy, you have written some beautiful posts about Ollie but I strangely couldn't comment on them -- and am not usually at a loss for words -- as they affected me so strongly.

Please, please don't ever apologize for considering your pets to be your children! The good thing is that you both are in the same place in that regard; to me it would be nightmarish (and basically inconceivable) to have a mate who wasn't a full-on insane animal lover! (We only have 3 dogs and 2 cats now; the fewest pets -- oops, children -- we've had in more than 20 years.)
I'm so grateful for your comment, thank you! Growing up in a household that wasn't pet friendly (Dad, I'm looking at you here), I couldn't imagine marrying someone that didn't share my love for animals. In fact, I may have made Alex promise me we'd get a dog before I accepted his marriage proposal. We all have non-negotiables, right? ;-)
Dave Zachau
9/21/2012 at 9:56 PM
Thank you for the update on Lulu and Mel. Clearly you have an excellent treatment team and facility for them! Just as clear, Lulu and Mel have great support and love from you both.

Thinking of you.
Thanks, Dave!
9/22/2012 at 8:49 AM
Been waiting for an update ... glad to hear that both babies are in the best case of a bad situation. I totally understand where you are and what you're feeling ... in the middle of it ourselves. Hugs to you both.
Thank you, and so sorry you're going through this too, Connie. :-(
9/22/2012 at 11:57 AM
Keeping both of your babies in my prayers and very glad their prognosis is positive.
Thanks, Kate! We really appreciate that.
9/22/2012 at 12:16 PM
I'm so glad they both are closer to grade 1 than 3! Also, I'm really glad you're treating them at The Hope Center. Having worked at several emergency and specialties centers in a past life its the only one I'd trust with my pets. Good luck to all of you!
Thanks so much for the "insider" feedback!

On a totally unrelated note, we hope to see you on Art on the Avenue!
9/22/2012 at 6:25 PM
Oh my gosh, really? Will be super exciting to meet you!!
9/22/2012 at 7:37 PM
I thought I would look up the Hope Center on line. Quite impressive!! Here is a link for anyone wanting to learn more about this facility. The link takes you to the oncology page:
9/22/2012 at 9:49 PM
Wendy, How could you forget about Fluffy (whose eyes I rubbed ointment into when he was sick) and Shadow, your cute little Guinea pigs? And you had fish too! Your Mom and I are very happy to hear that Mel and Lulu are on the mend. Dad
9/23/2012 at 2:22 AM
We haven't been online much in a while and are still getting caught up on your posts. We are so sorry to hear what you all have been going through with this! At least the prognosis sounds good, which is somewhat of a relief. We don't have kids either and our dog is pretty much living that role in our lives. You treat them just as you would a sick child. We hope and pray things will continue to improve and that they both are now out of harm's way.
Thank you very much, we really appreciate it.
Karin K
9/24/2012 at 9:26 AM
I am so happy to hear that they are as well as they are - monitoring is a little nerve wracking but best case scenario, for the critters. I know exactly how you guys feel - just went through a nasty bout of this stuff myself. In fact, I'm almost dreading taking our new rescue in for a checkup because of all the recent memories in all the rooms. But it will be a happy visit, so I just need to do it. Glad the kids are on the mend, and happy you were able to enjoy your trip!!
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