Update for Dante's Fan Club!
I can honestly say that these past two weeks have been the longest, the worst, and ultimately the most grateful in my life.
Let's recap--I was so torn up the past two weeks that I wasn't in contact with our loved ones, so I wanted to update you on the facts of his medical condition.
It began at our swim time at Rummy's two weeks ago when Dante fell into the pool--three times. Dante is a reluctant swimmer, and can always manage to fish out the toys from the sides rather than diving in after them. He can even swim to retrieve a toy without getting his face and tip of his tail wet. So we knew something was concerning.
Monday I took him to the vet as he was unstable on his feet and was having trouble standing up. The vet took Xrays and found some arthritis on the spine. She explained that the fast onset wasn't uncommon. Monday night and into Tuesday it became clear it wasn't arthritis--he was running into walls on the right hand side, pressing up against Shelley and walls for balance, unable to get up easily, unable to jump onto furniture. It was terrifying. We take him back to the vet who put him on a battery of physical and neuro tests that were painful to watch, as he was spectacularly failing all of the tests on his right side. He couldn't see on the right side and could barely balance. When the vet indicated a "real" and "serious" brain issue, I had to run out of the room to be sick.
Wednesday he gets to his internist/oncologist for CT scans. Thursday they find a "mass" on his thalamus. Next step--more advanced imaging to be performed at Texas A&M with their MRI team. At first, they pushed us out to the 18th. With the severity of his neurological symptoms, I refused to wait and on that Friday, the internist was working to get him bumped up.
Enter the weekend, with no firm MRI date and that sickening feeling of powerlessness as one of the loves of your life is clearly very ill. The whole week, it felt like someone had grabbed me around my throat and pinned me to the wall. I literally could not catch my breath or eat. My sister, who has always been one of Dante's biggest fans, saved my life by coming down to Houston from Dallas to spend the weekend with us. Having a wonderful golden herself--she "gets it". She came bearing gifts of toys--and he immediately ran off with one of them, and began playing happily in a way I hadn't seen in a week. He basked in the glory of his aunt's love, and she helped me breathe easy. And...we started to see improvement. He would turn to the right occasionally, run in a straighter line, and be able to get his feet under him. But we held our breaths.
Monday the receptionist and the internist at the specialty vet pulled strings at A&M for his MRI on the next day--Tuesday. I was not prepared to wait two weeks with the level of symptoms he was having and I think I made that clear. Dante was still eating, drinking, pottying normally and his symptoms were getting slightly better, but we were still beside ourselves with worry.
His MRI on Tuesday exposed not just the one "mass" from the CT--which was actually a blood hemorrhage--but several further lesions. Furthering the evidence for the terrifying diagnosis of hemangiosarcoma--which would give him 2-3 months left to live.
Goldens being notoriously ill-bred by humans leads them to be amongst the breed with the highest incidence of this cancer, which is all I kept hearing--"cancer is most likely due to breed and age".
But A&M continued to run tests since the MRI was inconclusive. They found nothing in his cerebrospinal fluid from his spinal tap. They found nothing in his blood work or blood coagulation panels. They found nothing in his thoracic X-rays and nothing in his abdominal ultrasound.
So while there should still be a cancer source, it could also be "just" a hemorrhagic/vascular incident. For unknown reasons. Or it could be other things, but his tests are normal. Our next steps are an MRI in 4-6 weeks to see if the blood reabsorption reveals anything else.
So we were able to bring him home last night, where just the improvement he had at A&M was astounding to us. He's still gaining sensation and sight back on the right hand side, turning right more, has better balance, and his play/hunt/stalk drive is coming back.
We don't know anything definitively. It could still be the worst diagnosis. But it may not be. And this morning, I woke up with Dante snuggled up in bed with me, his head on my pillow. Where he belongs. Today he is alive. Today he is well.
And that is enough.