Here, our friend Ruth talks candidly about her cancer diagnosis, and her beloved greyhound Harry.
In October 2014, after suddenly losing our old greyhounds, Harry and Jade came into our lives – two very bouncy, happy loving youngsters and boy, did we feel the difference!
Fast forward two years, to August 2016, and I had a minor accident where I fell off my pushbike. I got low grade concussion and was soon after diagnosed with a high grade brain tumour. Surgery and radiotherapy followed.
The dogs kept me going, they and my wife were amazing. As soon as I could walk, I was back out every day with them getting some fresh air. They made me recover quicker and I owe my fitness and health to them.
At the end of February 2017, whilst on a trip to Bristol, the dogs stayed with my parents. Upon our return, Harry had a small lump on his bum. Mum and dad had spotted it and taken him to the vets whilst we were away as they were worried. We kept an eye on this for around six weeks or so, taking him back and forth to our vets, trying various tablets, until in April the vet told us that my gorgeous blue boy had cancer too.
This was heart-wrenching. I love my pup so much and the thought that I might lose him was shocking. The vet diagnosed him with a mast cell tumour which reacted to histamine, hence why it had been so reactive to all the medications that he had been given. When initially found, it had been around a 2cm lump, increasing to a 15-20 cm lump before it was removed.
On the 21 of April Harry went in for surgery. We had been told that it would be a lengthy procedure and after six hours of not hearing anything, I phoned the vets. I was told that the vet was just finishing with the surgery and that it had been much more complex than expected. I went over to see him that evening and the poor boy didn’t know me. I asked if they would keep him in overnight as I knew that we couldn’t care for him at that time. He wasn’t able to stand, he was so weak, it was so painful to see.
The following day, we went over to Sheffield to collect a dog on behalf of Greyhound Rescue, then took him to his new home. It was heart warming seeing a new partnership of dog and ‘new mummy’ and made us both realise how much Harry means to us. That afternoon we both went to see Harry at the vets and found him extremely lethargic and not in a good way. The vet said that he had lost a lot of blood during surgery and they hadn’t known if he would pull through the first night or not. On 23 April, we brought him home with the instruction to keep him quiet and return him for a follow up check in two days’ time.
We took him back and he was starting to heal well. The vet was pleased, cleaned and changed his dressing and asked us to come back in a couple of days for his next check-up. We were changing his dressing daily ourselves and the day after the visit, when we checked his wound, a large part of the skin graft had died. We rushed him over to the emergency vets and the dead skin was cut off, the wound was cleaned but it had left a gap of around 20cm by 10cm of open skin. The vet who cleaned the wound wasn’t hopeful that it would heal and it left us feeling very deflated.
The following week, Harry was back at the vets having emergency surgery, our amazing vet had a pioneering new surgery which would stretch some of the healthy skin over the wound to reduce the size of it, allowing a smaller open wound to have the best possible chance of healing.
He recovered from this surgery much quicker although he still required the wound dressing daily and twice weekly visits to our vets in Leeds (from Manchester where we live). These continued for the following six months to allow for regular dressing changes and cleaning, as well as laser treatment to assist with speeding up the healing of the wound.
By the start of June, his wound had healed enough that we were able to start him on chemo. Following the histology results, it was revealed that he had a grade 3 tumour, however the lab were unsure whether full clearance had been taken or not, therefore the vet wanted to start him on Palladia. Knowing how I was feeling taking chemotherapy, I worried how Harry would be. I was having chemo every six weeks and it was taking it out of me for between 5-10 days each time. My poor pup was going to be on it every other day. The vet explained that dog chemo is very different to human chemo and that he would be unlikely to have any side effects.
I couldn’t believe that both of us had had cancer, and were now on chemo together. Everyone was joking that he was doing it out of sympathy for me, but I do believe that we are so close that, somehow, his tumour came out whilst he knew I was in treatment for mine.
We are both now in remission. Harry has had blood tests and is fully clear after six months of chemo, I had eight months in total and we are both well. We both have our scars but they don’t stop us getting on with our lives. He is still my beautiful blue pup, just with a slightly patchwork bottom!!