Our 2014 October patient of the month is the beautiful Bethany. She is an 8 year old black lab who presented to the emergency department at VRCC for enlarged lymph nodes and a decreased platelet count. She was diagnosed with a B cell lymphoma with a large cell variant, meaning Bethany’s lymphoma may not respond as well to chemotherapy as a “classic B cell patient.” Bethany’s mom shares her story:
“I rescued my beautiful black Lab Bethany (Bethy), in July of 2011, when she was 5 years old. She had been through some rough times and had just recovered from a major surgery to remove over half of her small intestine. She was the brightest, happiest, and most loyal dog I had ever met and she instantly melted my heart and became a beloved member of the family. Just over a year later in August 2012, I noticed several lumps under her jaw but didn’t think too much of it since she was exhibiting no symptoms other than an unexpected bruise on her belly. We visited the veterinarian with the expectation that she probably had some type of infection. Unfortunately, the diagnosis was lymphoma, and it was devastating. She was immediately admitted to the VRCC for obrservation since her platelet count was very low and there was risk of bleeding, as evidenced by the bruise on her belly. To say that I was shocked is an understatement, especially since she was a fairly young dog-at least from my point of view. Dr. Ringen met with me the next day to discuss options and was extremely helpful in a time when my head was still spinning from the diagnosis. To learn that lymphoma can claim the life of a dog in just 8 weeks if left untreated was, again, devastating. A decision about the course of treatment had to be made quickly, and, honestly, I had some reservations about pursuing chemotherapy given Bethy’s past medical history and minor digestive issues. In short, I wasn’t sure she could survive the treatment.
After a thorough and honest discussion with Dr. Ringen, I decided to pursue chemotherapy via in-office treatments as well as at-home medication. Bethy started out with a bang and was quickly in remission within the first few treatments. Then she received the next drug in her protocol and things started going downhill. She clearly wasn’t able to tolerate this drug and I had to admit her back to the VRCC for a couple of days so that she could be watched around the clock. As horrible as those few days were, it really ended up just a blip on the radar. Dr. Elmslie, Dr. Ringen and their team did an amazing job of nursing Bethy back to health. They took really good care of her and helped me remain calm as we weathered this storm. After a few rough days, we were back on track and Bethy was back to normal. An alternate drug was used for the remainder of the 6 month protocol and there were no other serious side effects. In truth, I was astounded at how well she tolerated the chemotherapy. Dogs are amazing!
At the end of the 6 month protocol, Dr. Ringen recommended that we take Bethy off any maintenance drugs since she was doing very well and her body seemed ready for a break from the therapy. That was a year and a half ago and Bethy is still bright, happy, and in remission. We celebrated two years of remission in August-woohoo! I can’t thank the team at VRCC Oncology enough for all their help. Every person I have met has been knowledgeable, caring and supportive. They are a great team!”