Monday, December 26, 2011

Elvis Fights the Good Fight

This past Thanksgiving weekend, when Elvis was diagnosed with an aggressive tonsil cancer, my vet consulted with U.C. Davis School of Veterinary Medicine Oncology. After all, if anyone would know anything about anything, it would be them. And he was told that despite the seriousness of this particular cancer, chemo might buy my beautiful boy some quality time.

That was all I needed to hear. Qu
ality time? Let's do it.

And so, I scheduled a three-hour drip chemo for Elvis that following week and he responded beautifully. Not only did he dodge potential side effects, but he appeared to be feeling better than ever. He was excited about walks, enthusiastic about food, and was traipsing around the house with a playfulness I hadn't seen in months. I was over-the-top delighted and encouraged.

Maybe my boy would be sticking around for awhile, after all.

And so, I was feeling pretty good this afternoon when I picked Elvis up from his second chemo treatment at my vet's office. We were fighting the good fight, doing all possible to delay this cancerous spread and, by all counts, we appeared to be holding down the fort. That's why I was blindsided by Dr. Arnott's news.

The tumor was back.

Already the size of a walnut, the cancerous demon has returned to the same spot where he excised a fist-sized tumor just three weeks ago. The chemo isn't helping, he told me. If it was, the tumor wouldn't have returned so quickly.

Dr. Arnott is calling U.C. Davis for further advice when they reopen after the holidays, but he warned me: there's not much else we can do to treat Elvis. As we were having this dire discussion, my sweet boy just stood there looking at me, anxious to leave and eager for a walk.

I took him on his walk and observed how deceptively healthy he looked. I admired his gentle beauty and thought about the little things he does that have become so entrenched in my life; the way he taps my face with his nose every night, when I'm in bed, before retiring to his La-Z-Dog Recliner. His happy little dance when I say the word, "cookie." The way he tucks his needle nose between my knees so I can scratch that spot between his ears.

I tried to imagine a life without Elvis and couldn't.

Our walk over, I brought him home. Held him. And cried.


Unknown said...

Your situation has me in tears. I lost the love of my life, Rose (NXS Red Rose) to liver failure 1 year ago. After 11 days of watching her decline, I could no longer fight the fight. I had to put my selfish desire aside and let her go. It was the hardest thing I have ever done. I understand your struggle too well.

I have since adopted 2 Australian retired racers. It helps somewhat, but I will never lose that hole in my heart; it is simply a bit less ragged.

I wish you the best. Aloha!

FeatheredGems said...

I just found your post linked on Facebook and was compelled to track you down to write to you. I, too, had a greyhound with squamous cell carcinoma of the tonsil. Tesla was 11 when we received the Dx. We fought the damned thing with radiation and supplemental chemo to the tune of about $20K. We won the battle--the tumor shrunk to almost nothing after several radiation treatments which bought him about 7 months of good quality time. But we lost the war when it metastasized into his lungs. According to our oncologist, radiation works better to shrink squamous tumors than chemo does. You can read Tesla's (long) story at
I hope that a miracle happens, and that you and Elvis have a long, long time together! Remember to enjoy the *present* rather than worrying about the *future*. Otherwise the worry will ruin the time you have left together.

kriswerc said...

Isn't it amazing how much love dogs give us? Please be comforted knowing you gave Elvis the best life he could've had.

Anonymous said...

Elvis' diagnosis brought me to tears. I so love reading about him and the others. I've been through such a fight for a dear pet. It's such a difficult, heart wrenching thing to go through. My heart goes out to both of you and I only wish you two the best.

Adriana said...

so much loss and stress and fear. I don't know you but i have long enjoyed your Pet Tales column and other writings. We gave our dogs extra hugs today after reading about Elvis. Sending you love and a little hope.

Emily Weil said...

Oh dear Ms Mitchell -- my heart broke reading in the Chron about Elvis. I've so enjoyed following your column about your sweet greyhound -- I've had two. My Fast Eddie had a similar fate as Lucy. My recent guy, Riley, had to be returned to GGFL because of extreme separation anxiety that, as a 10-year old dog, couldn't be fixed (he's in a happy home now with other dogs & I can visit him).

Sending all my best to you. I understand your love of this wonderful breed. I'll keep on eye on this blog.

Emily in Alameda

Anonymous said...

Eileen, My heart aches for you! I lost my Shadow a month ago - she had a stroke in the middle of the night, and there was nothing to be done. It's so difficult to watch our beloved pets waste away, but the sudden losses are also hard. My prayers for you and Elvis, whose articles always make me smile. Susan in Avery CA

portiasmom said...

I couldn't believe that not long after Lucy, you are now going through so much with Elvis. So many have followed your love story with this wonderful dog. Know that prayers and love are heading your way with a special smooch for Elvis.

Anonymous said...

I am so so sorry to hear about Elvis. Your stories about him have been wonderful. My heart is breaking for you. I am glad that you still have some quality time left and that we have the ability to help our friends avoid the worst of the suffering. You and Elvis are in my thoughts. All my best.

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