Cody's Story

Testing and Surgery

Monday, January 25

On December 18, 1998, when I took Cody to Bob for his 6 month checkup, Cody weighed 75lbs.  On the morning of January 25, Cody weighed 65lbs.  Between the cancer and the stomach upset from the aspirin, Cody had lost 10 lbs in about a month.  On a greyhound, this is a lot of weight and not something good for them to lose.  This was especially scary considering all his body was going to go through in the coming days.

The waiting room at the CSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital looks like a big waiting room for any human doctor's office, but with lots of animals of all kinds.

We were taken into an examine room by one of the students. Richard Wheeler took down all the information and we gave him the x-rays.  He then left for a bit and came back in with  Dr. Mary Kay Blake.  Dr. Blake said that since the site of the tumor was in an unusual area, they would like to do a biopsy and blood work.  They also wanted to take another set of chest x-rays.  Dr. Blake felt that we would actually be able to bring him home late that afternoon and then bring him back later in the week.  We liked that idea and agreed to call her about 1:30 to find out when we could bring him home.

So, we went and got lunch and went on home.  Around 2:00, I called and talked to Dr. Blake.  Cody was not concentrating his urine well, so she was diagnosing him as having mild kidney disease.  She said that this was a worry since the chemo is excreted via the kidneys.  She was also concerned about an area in his chest, but that she needed a more expert opinion.  They had not done the biopsy, so she said she would call when they were done.

Well, about 4:00, she called back and told me that they were having trouble with the biopsy.  They were getting bone shards around the biopsy site and they were worried his leg was fractured.  They were sewing it up and taking him to radiology.

At 4:30, she called back with the information that they had fractured his leg.  They were going to have to keep him over night and do the bone scan in the morning.  They would give him medication to keep him comfortable through the  night, too.

When I got off the phone, I broke into tears.  My poor boy now had a broken leg on top of a bone tumor.  I was so upset because since we had thought we would bring him home, I didn't leave the blanket with him that I had slept with.

Dave and I talked.  Dave was upset about how much this was going to cost.  We didn't know if we could get Cody into the study.  And, we were so upset about his having a broken leg.  We talked quite a bit and we decided that he had to just have the surgery so we could bring him home.

After dinner, I went upstairs.  Both Tasha and Dundee were in my room.  I sat down crying and eventually, little Dundee came over and licked my tears and crawled into my lap.  Cody was always the one who would appear at my side when I was very  sad about something and it really helped when my 8 month old puppy came.  Tasha just continued to sleep.  That upset me, but at least Dundee seemed like he was going to be a sensitive dog, like my Cody.

I could hardly sleep, I was so upset.

Tuesday, January 26

At 9:30 that morning, I called and left a message for Dr.  Blake to let me know how Cody did through the night.  At 11:30, Richard Wheeler, the student, finally called me.  Richard told me that they put a soft bandage on Cody's leg to immobilize it.  They also had him on a fentanyl patch, which was basically a sustained released morphine.  I did get upset when he told me that the nurses were told  Cody could have another dose of morphine during the night,  but that he didn't act like he was in pain.  Richard also said that the thing they were worried about in Cody's chest was something slightly enlarged between the lungs.

I thanked Richard and told him that I didn't want them to do the bone scan, just take Cody into surgery.  Unfortunately, they had already done the bone scan.  So, I asked him to have Dr. Blake call me because I was upset about what was going on.

I also asked him if my sister, Doreen, could visit Cody. And he was very happy to have her come.

Doreen went over at noon and saw Cody.  She called me when she got back.  It was very upsetting to her to have to leave him.  She told me that they had bandaged his leg so that his foot was bent back so he couldn't put weight on it.  She said he was doing ok, but that he started whining when she took him outside.  She also said that he didn't want her to leave, but Richard was really good with him and coaxed Cody to come with him.

At 1:50, Dr. Blake returned my call.  She told me that the bone scan looks fine, though his colon lit up and a small spot on his back right leg also lit up.  They know Cody is a retired racer and the spot on his back right leg was small, so they think it's from a racing injury.

The biopsy was showing that the tumor was definitely a sarcoma, but they couldn't tell if it was osteo until the final pathology came back.

I told her that I was upset about the biopsy and that I didn't feel like we should have done it.  She questioned me and I informed her about how I know so many retired racing greyhounds who've had osteosarcoma.  She finally started understanding that I know more than she was expecting me to know.

She questioned me about what we wanted to do knowing that something was showing up on his back leg.  I told her that I just want the surgery done so I could bring Cody home.  He needs to be home and he is definitely NOT ready to die.

We then talked about the surgery.  The amputation would be done the next day, Thursday.  The surgery takes 1-2 hours and then they are in recovery for 1 1/2 hours. They take the leg at the shoulder joint.  He will be on an IV of morphine for pain relief.  They also did not recommend visitors the day of the surgery.  After the surgery, we could bring him home the next day or 2 days after.  And, suture removal is done 14 days after the surgery.  Last, but not least, as long as the diagnosis comes back as osteosarcoma, he can enter the Bayer study.

She said that the spot in his chest is outside the walls of the lungs.  They think it's just the way Cody is built, but the only way to prove that it's not a tumor is to do a biopsy.  I refused that and repeated that I want his leg amputated so I can bring him home.

She said to call back the next morning to find out when the surgery was scheduled.

Later that evening, about 6 PM, Dr. Blake paged me.  They had checked again and she said that spot in his colon was still lighting up.  They were thinking that he had licked himself and that it just hadn't moved out through his bowels.  She also questioned me about the testosterone
injections, so I gave her Bob's number.

That night, Bob called me and told me that they had talked and he gave her all the information on the research he did for the testosterone injections.  We talked a bit and he assured me how well the dogs do with this type of surgery.

Wednesday, January 27

Only a week after the original x-rays, I'm now waiting to hear when Cody will go in for the surgery.  It's so amazing how quickly this disease comes on.  I know of several people who don't know until their dog breaks a leg.  I'm thankful that didn't happen to us while he was home, but now I just want his surgery finished so he can come home.  I know that he is stressed being in a strange place and hurting, too. He needs me.

So, I call at 9:30AM and they are still in rounds, so I leave a message.

10:45AM - Richard calls me.  He said that Cody is doing great. They re-scanned and the spot in his colon is gone.  The spot on his back right leg is right in the middle of his bone and it looks normal.  So, they do not suspect another tumor. His urine is still more dilute than they would like.  The surgery is scheduled for 3 PM and he is on the fentanyl patch.

6:15PM - Richard calls and tells us that Cody's surgery was "uneventful".  He is on an IV of Ketamine and fentanyl as well as having the fentanyl patch.  He will be in the Critical Care Unit (CCU) with constant supervision and that Dr. Blake is on all night and will check on Cody.

11 PM - Dr. Blake calls.  I was asleep and barely could get the phone, but I handed it to Dave.  She told Dave that Cody was already standing up and was doing well.  She thought we would like to know.

Thursday, January 28

7:30AM - I call and talk to Richard.  Cody did well through the night.  So well, that he's already out of CCU.  He's also walking real well. I tell him that I will be up there around noon to see Cody.  At that time, we'll decide if Cody can come home.  I called Doreen and she offered to come and see Cody with me.

I meet Doreen out in front of the vet school and we go in together.  Before leaving for work this morning, I had Dave help me remove the middle seat and put Cody's pad and comforter in the van.  I didn't know what to expect, but I was prepared.  Richard takes us into the exam room and then leaves us to get Cody.  I have to admit that I was in shock when I first saw him.  His shoulder was all shaved and there was an incision with blue stitches from where his shoulder blade was down to his chest.  At the bottom, where his leg should have been was a big red lump.

Doreen was so good.  She went right over to Cody and hugged him and told him how brave he was and how good his incision looked.  I then went over and hugged him, too.  Richard put a big pad down on the floor and left us with Cody.  Doreen and I managed to get him to lie down since he was looking very dazed and shaky.  We sat there with tears in our eyes and rubbed his side.  When Cody tried to move, he let out with a very big cry, which scared us both.  We settled him down.  Doreen stayed for about 1/2 an hour and then had to get back to work.

Richard went to look for Dr. Blake so we could discuss if Cody could leave.  I called Dave and told him what was going on.  He wasn't sure I should bring Cody home that night, so I told him that I would call him back after talking to the doctor.

Dr. Blake came back in pretty quickly.  She said that Cody was doing very well and that if we wanted to, I could bring him home.  She said that it would take about 45 minutes to  get things going, so I could just sit with Cody.

I called Dave back and told him that I was bringing Cody home. I asked him to pick the kids up from school, since I didn't know how long things would take.  He agreed and said that he would also take Tim to karate that night.

Well, it took longer than 45 minutes.  I sat with Cody and just rubbed his side.  Of course, Cody didn't leave room for  me on the pad, so I was on the hard, cold tile floor.  That  was ok.  The longer I sat with him, the calmer he became.  He even fell asleep for awhile.  At one point, I had to get up and he also got up, though he cried pretty badly.  After he calmed down, every time I moved near the door of the exam room, Cody would hop on over with me.  He was letting me know that there was no way he was letting me go without taking him.

At one point, I did take him outside for a potty break.  That was scary for me.  He stumbled the first time he tried to hike his leg and was pretty wobbly.  We got back to the exam room and I got him to lay down again.  His eyes were looking less and less dazed and he was looking more like Cody.

At 3 PM, Dr. Blake and Richard finally came in.  We discussed that I would need to bring Cody back in 14 days for suture removal and if he was in the study, he would at that time, have his heart ultrasound done and then start the chemo.  They gave me a T-shirt for him and some canned Canine-ND, which is a special diet for cancer patients.  They also put him on Tylenol with Codeine for the pain.  Since I knew that Tylenol was toxic to dogs, I questioned her about that, but she assured me it wasn't as toxic as some had claimed and since Cody was sensitive to aspirin, we needed to be careful.

Richard helped me carry things out and then held on to Cody while I went and got the van.  I was able to pull the van up along the curb, which cut the height Cody would have to step up.  With a bit of coaxing, Cody hopped right into the van. With a bit more coaxing, Cody plopped down on his side.  Unfortunately, it was his left side, which worried me.  Richard was great.  He reached in and gave Cody a big hug and told him to be good and get well.  I told Richard that one day, he will make a wonderful vet.

I'm finally off taking my Cody home.  I feel every single bump in the road thinking of how it will feel to him.  When I got on the highway, Cody tried moving himself and started crying. I almost pulled over, but he settled down and that was the last he moved or made a sound the whole way home.  He let out a big heavy sigh as if to say...finally, on my way home.  I called Dave to let him know I was on my way and then gingerly drove home.

I arrived home about 4:30 and slowly pulled into the driveway.  I noticed that Dave was already gone and I was worried about getting Cody out of the van.  Becky came out and helped.  The first part was getting Cody up, since he was on his bad side.  I helped him but, he let out with that sharp painful cry.  After he rests a bit, I help him out of the van by slowly lifting his leg down to the ground.  He is wearing his T-shirt, so it's not yet a big shock to Becky.  She helped me get him outside so he could go to the bathroom and get him set up in the family room.

He was pretty hungry and ate well.  He really needed to eat, too, since he looked more like a bag of bones.  He was so skinny from everything that it hurt to look at him.

The rest of the evening was a blur.  We put Cody in a place in the corner of the sectional so he could use the couch to help him lay down.  Unfortunately, that front left leg was taking a lot of abuse trying to compensate and adjust for the new weight distribution.  He would try to move and the leg would cramp and then he would cry that horrible cry.  So, I started massaging his leg and helping him when we got him up.

At one point, I took the T-shirt off.  I was more used to the  look of the wound since I had spent so much time with him.  But,  it was a very big shock to the rest of the family.  I planned to spend the night on the couch so I could be near him, so left Becky and Dave down with him.  When I finished getting ready for bed, I found Timmy in his room crying.  I got him calmed down, then found Becky in tears.  Becky didn't want to cry in front of Cody. I had to get back to him, so suggested that the kids comfort each other.  They were so sweet together, hugging and talking about how Cody will never be the same.

We got the kids settled and me settled on the couch.  Dave set the alarm for AM, so he could help me get Cody out to the bathroom. Cody had different ideas when he woke me up at about 12:30AM crying. I helped him get up, calmed him down and Dave took him out.  We took him out again around 4 in the morning.

There were times during the night when I wondered if we had done the right thing.  The pain the cramps gave him.  Seeing him missing that leg.  Having to keep the collar on him so he wouldn't lick.  He just seemed miserable.  I knew that bringing him home, though, was the right thing to do.  I could tell he hadn't rested well while away because he slept so deeply.  I'm sure the anesthesia was still doing stuff, too, since he was home barely 24 hours after his surgery.

Friday, January 29

I stayed home from work so that I could keep an eye on Cody.  It was rough on both of us when his front left leg would cramp.  I kept Tasha and Dundee away from him, which was hard on all.  But, Cody needed time to recuperate.  That whole day is a blur...I only left him for a bit to pick the kids up from school.

Cody was moving around the backyard ok.  He kept trying to lift his leg to pee, but would almost fall.  Then, he wanted to do a big greyhound shake so badly, but he was afraid of falling.

Tasha and Dundee got to smell him, but I had to keep them away.  Dundee was just too much of a puppy and Tasha's prey drive too high, to trust them with Cody if he started that sharp painful cry.

Cody was eating well and was doing everything else better than I could have hoped.  We gave him regular doses of the Tylenol with Codeine to help keep him somewhat sleepy and to take the edge off the pain.  He also had a fentanyl patch, which was to stay on until Sunday.

By the time 9 PM came around, I was so very tired and my back hurting so badly from all the time sitting on that cold, hard tile floor and then sleeping on the couch, that I decided to go up and read for a bit before sleeping on the couch again.  Unfortunately, I fell asleep, I was just way too exhausted, both from the physical as well as the emotional strain. We set the alarm and Dave took Cody out at 2 AM again. He did well.

copyright © 1999-2011 by Stephanie Russell Last Update (07/03/2011)