We made it down to Birmingham a little earlier than her 4:30 pm scheduled appointment, and headed in to the building in time to get her vitals taken and talk with the nurse for a bit. After waiting in an exam room for 15-20 minutes, the nurse came back from the ultrasound with Cailin and told us the Specialist (he's an pretty renowned Veterinary Internist in this area, by the way, if any of you are wondering) would be in to discuss the results with us shortly. Dr. Lothrop made his entrance soon thereafter and was very warm with us and the kids - we definitely appreciated his calm and supportive bedside manner!
Anyway, this is what he had to say. The bad news is that it is indeed cancer, specifically it's the Transitional Cell Carcinoma (TCC) that I posted about earlier. The good news is that it's not located at the neck of the bladder, as we had thought, and she's a good candidate for surgery! He assured us that the cancer had not spread outside of the tumor (located between where the kidneys dump into the bladder, and the opening to the urethra or "neck" of the bladder), and if the tumor were to be surgically removed, it was pretty likely they'd be able to remove all or most of the cancer, and save a good portion of healthy bladder. This is really spectacular news, and against the odds, since TCC is an aggressive and fast-spreading cancer, it's usually located at the neck of the bladder and therefore deemed inoperable, and in most cases it's too late to do anything to really help save the dog.
So, we have two options. Option 1) Opt not to do surgery, keep her on the Peroxicam which would help slow the spread of the cancer (and it will spread) until in 9-18 months it would block her urethra, making her unable to urinate, at which point she'd go septic and we'd have to make the decision to put her down. Option 2) Spend an estimated $1500-$1800 on surgery, keep her on the Peroxicam (which would only be necessary if they couldn't get all of the cancer), and possibly allow her to have a normal life-span for a Sheltie, another 3-4 years or more, barring no other age-related illnesses that could come along. He assured us that, as pet-owners, both options we're completely reasonable, and the decision was entirely ours to make.
After Collin and I discussed it together, prayed about it and took a night to sleep on it, we've decided to do the surgery. We both feel that it's worth it as the risk is low, her quality of life would remain the same, and we could possibly have a few more years with our precious puppy. We made the commitment to care for this creature, who has become such a huge part of our family, when we took her into our home and hearts, and we feel this is the right thing to do. It's definitely not the cheapest option, but again we made a commitment to care for her, and since we can afford it (it'll require some sacrifices, but it's not going to put us on the streets or anything), we feel it's our responsibility to do all we can for her. Even if something horrible happens in surgery, or they're unable to get all the cancer, we'll both sleep better at night knowing that we've done everything we can to give her the best chances possible - this is as much for us as it is for her. And, we're at peace about it.
So, I'll be calling down to the same Specialty Animal Hospital in Birmingham today to set up an appointment with one of the Vets that does surgery (Dr. Lothrop, the Internist, won't actually perform the surgery but was able to give us a couple recommendations on who should). We'll need to get her in pretty soon, we're hoping next week, since we need to do it before the cancer spreads and eliminates her eligibility for surgery. We'll need to take her back down to Birmingham, leave her for there for surgery and a couple days of recovery (which is going to be exceedingly difficult), and then come pick her up for after-care. We ask for your prayers during the surgery, that it will go smoothly and without complication, that she'll (and we'll) not be too anxious about leaving her for a couple of days without us, and that the after-care and recovery will be easy afterward.
Here is a beautiful blessing that was offered up for us by some of our very dear friends, that I wanted to share here with you:
Blessed are you, Lord God,
maker of all living creatures.
On the fifth and sixth days of creation,
you called forth fish in the sea,
birds in the air and animals on the land.
You inspired St. Francis to call all animals
his brothers and sisters.
We ask you to bless this animal, Cailin,
By the power of your love,
enable Cailin to live according to your plan.
May we always praise you
for all your beauty in creation.
Blessed are you, Lord our God, in all your creatures!