In memory of Oakley-a hemangiosarcoma warrior
Oakley was a very special, healthy, happy, loving Golden boy. He loved to ball, give paws, eat, walk, garden, hump his blanket, play, snug, go for car rides, and did we mention he loved to eat? He was also a GIANT. Most Goldens are short and stout, but not our boy.
On 6/8/20, he was taken to the emergency vet for lethargy. The worst feeling ever is being surprised by that "you have two options" conversation with the vet. He had blood in his abdomen and a tumor on his spleen. There was a 75% chance it was hemangiosarcoma (cancer of the blood vessels) but we opted for an emergency splenectomy since Oakley was in pretty good health. Removal of the spleen and biospy of the spleen was the only way to know for sure if it was cancer. His surgery and recovery went well, but a week later we received the dreaded hemangiosarcoma diagnosis.
Having never heard of hemangiosarcoma, we quickly started researching. Hemangiosarcoma is a very aggressive, common cancer in dogs and especially prominent in Golden Retrievers. Even with aggressive chemotherapy, we were told we'd have 4-6 months with our boy. Wanting to give him the best extended quality of life possible we opted to do everything we could for him, as long we he was feeling well. We then began our search for an oncologist.
Oakley very quickly started receiving doxorubicin (standard treatment) and two herbal drugs for clotting and immunity. We later switched oncologists and received information for an additional chemotherapy agent, dacarbazine. There wasn't a lot of research out there about dacarbazine but what little statistics there were, looked promising. We opted to give it a try.
On 9/7/20, Oakley celebrated his 11th birthday! We were blessed to get him this far and on 9/9/20, he finished all of his chemotherapy treatments! All of his scans showed no signs of cancer progression so we celebrated with a quiet trip to the mountains where we enjoyed quality time together.
In October, he started his oral chemotherapy, piroxicam, and propranolol as maintenance to keep him clear of his cancer. Oakley was very happy and we kept faith that he would be able to stay clear of any new masses. Just as quickly as this cancer showed up in June, it showed up again on 10/26/20. Oakley had a small bleed and had an abdominal ultrasound that showed progression, but fortunately he recovered quickly.
On 11/11/20, he had another bleed but this was a bigger one that caused him to collapse. Based on another abdominal scan, it showed further progression. He wasn't recovering from this one like he had before. We knew it was his time and didn't want to see him suffer through any additional bleeds.
This cancer is common, it's aggressive, it's unpredictable, and it's horrible. One minute your best friend is thriving and the next they're fighting for their life, while you feel helpless. We did everything humanly possible for Oakley - we did everything recommended by the oncologist and provided him with an abundance of love.
There hasn't been a lot of progress regarding research for Hemangiosarcoma detection or treatment, but thankfully there are some organizations trying to change the statistics. Morris Animal Foundation’s Golden Retriever Lifetime Study, with more than 3,000 dogs enrolled, is a groundbreaking effort to shed light on cancer and its causes, giving veterinary researchers valuable insight to chart a course for future studies.
The study, now in its fifth year, is designed to identify risk factors for cancer and other health problems. One of the four major cancers they focus on is Hemangiosarcoma. This foundation also funds hemangiosarcoma clinical trials through many well known Universities.
We ask that you please donate to the Golden Retriever Lifetime study in Oakley's memory. May Oakley's memory live on and may his memory create more opportunities for other doggies with the same diagnosis. We love you boy boy and if love could have saved you, you would have lived forever.