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F#@k Cancer

August 3, 2016 by lpiotrowski

When I first started this post, let’s just say I didn’t get very far. Ill take you back to last week, Thursday 7/28…………….

“Right now I am sitting in a Starbucks in Fort Collins, Colorado and there are two things about this that should strike most as odd. #1- Fort Collins isย  1+ hour drive from where I live in Boulder, so why would I be here today? #2- it is a VERY rare and special occasion for my to be up before 10am, so there must be an important reason. So,……why?

Well, last week I had noticed that Hank seemed a little sore on his right hind leg. It went away after a day, so I didn’t worry, but this past Sunday, his lameness returned and persisted. So I took him to work with me (all while having this overwhelming sense of worry for him) early on Tuesday night to take some x-rays because this leg is where he had a previous fracture repair done as a puppy before I got him and I was always concerned about him injuring that leg after his amp….”

That’s when the tears started run so uncontrollably that I needed to excuse myself from Starbucks; I went to my car, drove to a park and sat in my car and cried….for 2 hours. Just two nights before, I found another bone tumor (suspected metastatic lesion from his original OSA) on Hank’s right hind femur where he had had his previous fracture repair. Whats worse is I had taken these films right before my 12-hour overnight emergency shift- you’d think I would have learned my lesson from last time, but instead I spent most of the night running back and forth to the bathroom in between seeing patients to wipe my tears and try to collect myself. And then I had to tell all the clients I saw that my “allergies were flaring up” when I went into the exam rooms with a puffy red face and bloodshot eyes.ย  When I finally made it home in the morning with Hank (who, despite a new and mildly noticeable limp, was thankfully still his wiggly and happy self), I collapsed on the floor and slept with him in his dog bed- yes, I did this….. and it was awesome.

Down by the creek

Down by the creek

Since then, a lot has happened. First, I have continued to run the gamut of emotions that grief has a tendency to produce- anger that this was happening to my dog despite my being a vet and having followed all the treatment recommendations of some of the best oncologists in the country…..the deepest kind of emptiness and sadness thinking that there was going to be a day in the much nearer future that I was going to have to say good bye to my beloved companion….fatigue from having to go to work and be compassionate and empathetic towards people in the midst of losing their own pets when all I wanted to do was go home and grab and squeeze and cuddle my Hank…..and intense anxiety in trying to determine where we would go from there (Do I do nothing? Limb spare surgery? More chemo?)

The day after I found his new tumor, I called the Cancer Center at CSU to see what, if anything, they could do for us and what they thought would be best for Hank. I needed some kind of plan. I was of course, completely a mess on the phone and am still surprised the oncology nurse I spoke with actually understood what I was saying through my sobs. Over the following hour, I got several phone calls from amazing clinicians and nurses, all of whom were recommending 2 doses of palliative radiation of the new tumor (since obviously I cant take two of his four legs…although I did consider it the first day) to help with his pain and quality of life. If he stayed comfortable and the bone did not fracture at the tumor site, we could have 2-4 months with him. Ill take it. And unexpectedly, they re-arranged their schedules to get Hank in that very next day for his first treatment. So the next day, Hank and Adam and I (thanks to Adam’s dog-loving boss, she gave him the day off so he could be with us) made the trip to FoCo yet again, albeit this trip was much more somber than previous. We dropped him off at the Cancer center, cried over Beignets at Lucille’s, shopped for our new house at Home Depot and then polished off a bottle of wine at 2pm at the Welsh Rabbit over a fab cheese plate. And then we cried some more……Nothing quite like your best friend, fried carbs and lots of alcohol when you need help mending a broken heart.

I was on my own the next day when we returned to the cancer center and I had to have Hank there by 8am. Ugh- I don’t do anything ย at or before 8am anymore except for maybe get out of bed to pee…and then I go back to bed, so this was a rough morning. It didn’t help that I had worked the two nights prior, had barely slept for 3 days, had to get up early both mornings on my 2 days off to drive, needed to return to work for 5 overnights in a row that Friday night…and, of course, we were in the middle of moving into our new house. So you can image the mess of a person I was at Starbucks that morning while I waited for Hank to receive his second and final dose of radiation. After I cried it out for a while in my car, I napped, got lunch and got the call that Hank was ready to go home at about 1:30pm. I picked him up and he was still really dopey from his anesthesia, which made for some hysterical pictures on the way home…..


Ride home from CSU

Ride home from CSU

Thankfully, this weekend was really busy at work so I was distracted with that and all the unpacking I still have yet to do in our house. This helped my sadness and as of last night, I feel like the acceptance stage is upon me. I have realized that this is the card we have been dealt. And it sucks. And its not fair. And when I think about it I cry.ย  And I was supposed to have Hank until he was 14 and old and it was up to me to make the decision to let him go. But I don’t want to waste all of our time left together being sad….I want to spend it with Hank doing all the things he has always loved. I want to spend it spooning, cuddling, *swimming*, playing, crotch punching strangers and eating cheeseburgers and ice cream from McDonalds (I did this last night when I brought him to work with me and was praying to god that no one saw me, in my scrubs, feeding my dog fast food in the parking lot of the veterinary clinic in which I am a doctor…I am pretty sure when I took my oath I promised I wouldn’t do such things…..but hey, he has cancer ๐Ÿ™‚ ). I want to spend it by the creek, taking pictures and getting dirty. And as long as I can keep his pain controlled and keep him happy, this is what we will do.ย  And until I can learn to slow down time, I will enjoy every last minute of it.




  1. jewelzzey says:

    I’m so terribly sorry to hear this all. My heart definitely aches for you! I was reading your blog and was really excited for you and being in Denver myself was really relating so much (just got married too!) but I can see you’re going through much more now than you anticipated. I’d say keep blogging and communicating as it truly helps to get everything out instead of hurting so much on your own. My tripawd is still trying to figure it all out too but if you ever want a meetup, Rufio would love it. Oh, and please don’t stop writing, you crack me up! ๐Ÿ™‚ You guys are in our thoughts!

  2. Michelle says:

    I hate this effing disease. I am so sorry about this diagnosis again. You are right celebrate him every day you can. Who cares what he eats let him enjoy right??? I let Sassy enjoy every minute we had. Fast food, ice cream, rides etc.

    Here is to many more happy memories. Hey make sure to get some pictures of yourself with Hank making those memories. I know we tend to take lots of pictures of our furbabies but not many with us & them.

    Michelle & Angel Sassy

  3. linda8115 says:

    Your blog title sums it up. I’m so so sorry for this new diagnosis. It’s just not fair!, Waste no time on sadness. Live each day you’ve got with your beautiful Hank with joy and gusto! Make it Hank day, Hank week & Hank month. The love you have for this beautiful boy has shone through in every Hank blog you’ve made. Yes tomorrow will come someday but not today…not today. Today you relish every moment…today you and Hank live with joy.
    Linda, Riley & Spirits Mighty Max & Ollie

  4. benny55 says:

    I was crying all the way through this. Well, actually interspersed with a few chuckles because you being you, threw in some of that great sense of humor of yours!

    But you know what? When I saw that hilarious photo of “Hank on drugs) and then the SPECTACULAR video with the best slurping sounds and most content dog ever, I smiled!!!

    I smiled because NOTHING has changed in Hank’s world! He doesn’t give a rip about any of this “new diagnosis”. Days on a calendar don’t interest him at all!

    Okay….one thing has changed…Hank is going to get more chunk food, more Ice cream, more steak and cheeseburgers than he ever thought possible!! You think you’ve made everyday HANK DAY before…you “ain’t seen nuttin yet”!!!

    We’ve had dogs on here where the radiation really did help far better and longer than expected! Hank is Hank! He is not a statistic!!

    Do NOT let that effing disease rob you of your time together! You will stay in tbe moment with Hank and you will be more dog with no worries about the tomorrows! So FU you piece of crap! Hank is getting on just fine and, in Hanks’s world, you do not even exist, so there!!

    Stay connected a d keep these great videos a d pictures coming!! Hank has a lot of living to do and a lot of junk food to eat…And we want pictures of it all!!
    Now go and make everyday HANK DAY!! ๐Ÿ™‚
    Lots and lots of love!

    Sally and Alumni Happy Hannah and Merry Myrtle and Frankie too!

  5. dobemom says:

    After I read this post I was just heartsick….then I went back and re-read all your other blog posts, and came away with one important revelation: you and Hank are both awesome, and he is HAPPY! When I re-watched the video of him swimming with his life vest on, it was breath-taking. You’ve given him the best life, he’s made you insanely happy. Yes, his prognosis is not what you’d hoped or dreamed it would be, but look at the life he’s living, RIGHT NOW! I get that a vet must feel totally helpless to not save her own best friend, but he is so lucky to have you…..and you, him. None of us know what the future holds, but I know you two have a priceless bond that will transcend time.

    Paula and Nitro

  6. hester says:

    F#@K it indeed. I am so sorry for this rotten recurrence, but hopeful your fast action and the incredible collaboration of CSU in a quickly undertaking palliative radiation plan give you that quality time you both deserve.

    Take care of yourself and of Hank.

    Lisa and Pofi dog

  7. Ginger Miller says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. My heart aches for you. Enjoy this special time with him. Live it up sweet Hank!!!

  8. midnighter94 says:

    I am so sorry, words just aren’t even close to being enough. Hank is such a special boy. I know, it’s just not fair. You have a unique perspective from most of us. But just like the rest of us, you’re helpless from stopping this stupid disease from taking our beloved babies from us.
    The picture of his tongue hanging out is the best! And definitely made me smile through the tears.
    Please know that we are all crying with you, and will be with you through this.
    Hugs from Donna & Murphy

  9. otisandtess says:

    Yep, Hank needs lots of ice cream! I’m sure even as a vet you know that the rules get suspended in times like this. Lots and lots of ice cream.

  10. benny55 says:

    I saw this on another post and have zero idea id it’s even applicable.

    Zoledronate as an injectable? Is it anything that could possibly help in Hank’s case?

    • lpiotrowski says:

      Yes! Hank has got his first dose of Zoledronate at CSU after his first session of radiation. It is a bisphosphanate and apparently helps decrease bone lysis/breakdown. Apparently we can give it monthly, so I am going to continue to give it a try ๐Ÿ™‚

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