Alp's Story

I did chemo on my beloved Anatolian Shepherd, Alp, for lymphosarcoma some years ago. We did the vincristine, prednisone, cytoxin, adriomycin, asperaginase rotation (mostly vincristine, cytoxin & prednisone) for 13 months, at gradually lengthening intervals. He went into remission & lived for about 5 years after that (was diagnosed in Oct. of 1993 & died Jan. of 1999), finally developing an undifferentiated sarcoma in the body cavity, but was healthy & happy until the very end, when he looked somewhat enlarged in the stomach & went in for exploratory surgery. My vet was Dr. Andrew S. Loar of Irvine, CA (Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine). Alp had a very high grade lymphosarcoma - between the time I noticed a swelling in the lymph nodes of his back legs, took him in for a biopsy, & began chemotherapy was less than 10 days, & his breathing was getting harsh from the swollen nodes in his throat; the 1st vincristine injection caused all the swollen nodes to disappear. I will always be happy that I was able to buy him those extra years.

 In memory of ARBA, ASDCA, ASDI, RBKC Ch. Shahbazin Alp Arslan, CD, PC, CGC, VCCX (see attached photo).


Hi Robin!
 Thank you for your reply - need to fix one date - I lost Alp in 1998 (doesn't seem like it could have been that long ago). So closer to 4 yrs than 5, but still worth it (he was only 3 yrs old when diagnosed, so it more than doubled his life span). Yes, you have permission to use this. They told me when we started that there was 20% chance chemo would do no good, 20% that it would only be a few months, etc. up to a 20% chance of complete remission from the lymphosarcoma. I have Alp's 1/2 sister, Kara, who is a hale & hearty 11 years old, & 2 of Alp's offspring (Garnizon & Gezme, 7 yrs) & 1 of his great granddaughters (Yildiz, 6 months) are guarding my sheep. One of his grandsons (Sim, 4 yrs) is my house companion, & a granddaughter (Inci, also 4) is another flockguard. Alp's 1st litter was due the week he developed cancer <!>, but fortunately, whatever caused it seems not to be hereditary. I fear that he may have been exposed to herbacides, as the property where he grew up (we moved when he was 2) had a neighbor who was enamored with using Roundup......anyhow, additional info for thought.


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Date: Fri, 28 Jul 2000 23:15:40 -0400
 Subject: K9 cancer study info

 Permission to forward is given.   Please send along to any lists or
 individuals where it might reach people owning the breeds the study

 My name is Dr. Larry Thornburg. I am a veterinarian on the faculty of the
 University of Missouri. One research interest in our department is the genes
 that cause cancer in dogs.  In an attempt to identify some of the specific
 genes that are involved in the causation and progression of
 cancer in dogs we have started a cancer registry.  The cancer registry at
 the University of Missouri is a fully funded 2-year pilot program that will
 serve as both a diagnostic center and DNA storage program.  The web site is <> .

 For the next two years we are working only with selected breeds.  Our
 decisions were based upon the numerical rank of the AKC and some clubs
 contacted us directly wanting to participate.  We would like to receive
 samples from the following eleven breeds:

 Flat-coated Retriever
 Standard Schnauzer
 Doberman Pinscher
 American Cocker Spaniel
 English Cocker Spaniel
 Boston Terrier
 Labrador Retriever
 German Shorthaired Pointer

 There is no cost from us for the histological diagnosis or written report.
 And, the genetic studies are already funded  by research grants.  The only
 cost to the owner is mailing the samples.

 A blood sample, frozen cancer sample, formalin-fixed cancer sample and a
 pedigree will be requested on each dog.  DNA will be extracted from the
 frozen tissue and the blood.  The fixed tissue will be used for diagnosis
 and classification of the cancer.  The submitting veterinarian will receive
 histopathology report within 24 to 48 hours of receipt of the tissue sample
 at the University of Missouri.  Instructions, submission forms and address
 are given on the web site.

 I would be glad to write an article on cancer for your next newsletter in
 order to advertise the Cancer Registry and solicit samples from your
 membership who may wish to participate in the registry.   If that is
 satisfactory with you please let me know the deadline for submission and
 the approximate length of the article that you would be willing to include
 in the newsletter. Please feel free to e-mail or phone me with any questions
 you may have.

 My e-mail is <> .
 My phone is 573-882-7038.
 Dr. Larry Thornburg, University of Missouri

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Betsy's Story

March 2, 2001


Thank you so much for all of your support.  The last few weeks have been very emotionally draining.  The flood of memories and emotions is like a rollercoaster…I just want to get off this crazy ride and just hold my little girl again.  But I won’t, at least for a long, long time – until we meet again someday.  Its been nearly a month since I wrote to you to tell you of Betsy’s death.  If feels so much longer, yet the hurting is still very real and painful.  We are going on with our lives, but its not easy.  Its like the sun went behind the clouds, never to appear again.    I hold on to your promise that it will get easier, and in some ways it has; I am now sleeping through the nights, no longer crying until dawn.

Betsy’s life, as I described to you, was full of love, life, and energy.  She was never a “hyper” dog – in fact, we always thought of her as a little laid back, taking life in stride.  She was always up for fun, though.  She was my childhood dog, the star of our family.  It revolved around her.  She came everywhere with us (except to church or restaurants, of course).  From home to my parents’ business, their cabin, our extended families homes, she was there of course, the most important member of our family.   She became especially important to my parents since my brothers and I now live in another part of the state.

Life was great until Thanksgiving 2000 when I found “the lump”.  Breast cancer runs in my family – in fact, an aunt died last year at 48 from a brain tumor that had developed from her breast cancer – so when I came across this foreign matter, I was immediately concerned.  We brought Betsy to the vet the next day.  She had surgery a few days later.  In the days following the surgery she was just fine – back to her usual self and her usual job (she ran the household).  The day before we received the results of her biopsy (malignant), my grandfather passed away from bone cancer.  During the months he suffered, Betsy was very attentive to him, as she and my dad cared for him often.  Betsy would sleep with my grandpa, often going to bed with him earlier each night and staying with him as he slept longer each day – she wouldn’t even get up to go outside until she knew he was going to wake up!  The day of his death, Betsy had an 8:00 AM haircut appointment.  She was finished before 10AM, but my parents couldn’t come to get her, as they were with my grandpa as he died.  When my dad went to get Betsy at noon, she couldn’t walk.  The groomer couldn’t explain it, just saying that Betsy was fine when she finished.  The next day wasn’t any better.  I had come home by this time for the funeral services.  My mom and I took Betsy on the first of many trips to the vet in the next 2 months.  Because she had trouble walking, the veterinarians thought she just had some arthritis; they began giving her a coated pain-reliever, the first of many medications that would eventually include Rimidyl, cortizone injections, methylprednisone, and deximethasone (the last two are forms of steroids).  None of these seemed to work.  It was during the time she was on the Dex that things started getting worse, although ironically we thought they may improve since we had started her seeing a chiropractor.  Around the time we started the Dex, she began breathing very heavily.  She was also panting, a  common side effect of the medication she was on.   Her doctors weren’t very concerned, as they were focused on relieving her joint pain.  The breathing continued to become heavier until finally they did a chest scan, revealing no signs that the cancer had spread to her lungs (a common path for mammary cancer, as with human breast cancer).  There was simply no explanation.  The first weekend of February, my parents drove here, to St. Paul, MN to the University of Minnesota Veterinary Teaching Hospital.  They had saved Betsy once before when at 4 years old, she had developed Immediated Immune Arthritis, an uncommon illness that attacks the immune system.  Well, this time we weren’t so lucky.  On Saturday when they arrived, Betsy was immediately placed in an oxygen unit in the ICU; she was confined behind plexiglass in an area that was about 3 ft. square.  During the next four days her blook oxygen levels continued to decrease.  The doctors eventually found the problem – her lungs were closing off from a severe inflammation.  There was no explanation to what caused this; all that they could suspect was a sudden allergic or asthmatic reaction to anything.  The only treatment was predinose, a similar steroid to what she had already taken for her joint pain that didn’t work.  She didn’t respond to the medication for her lungs either.  On Tuesday, February 6, 2001, we had to say goodbye to our angel.   My parents, my brother, and I were with her as she was gasping for air when the decision was made.  She was brave.  She knew.  She had been asking my dad for weeks to help her, and my parents tried.  This was their last resort.

Looking back, I can’t believe how fast everything happened.  It started with cancer, but snowballed into so much more, things that aren’t related, but the timing makes you suspect otherwise.  We were assured by the doctors at the U of M that there was nothing we could have done to prevent this or treat it in time.  There is some comfort in that, as well as knowing she is no longer suffering.  We think that maybe, just maybe, her grandpa wanted to take her with him.  And he did.

I will miss and love my Betsy forever.  She lives, as she always has, inside my heart.  She is part of my soul.


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A Glimpse of the Rainbow Bridge
Author Unknown

Was it today; yesterday; a week; a month ago? There are no days; there are no nights since my furchild died. I reach to pet my furry friend who is no longer here. My heart is broken; my arms are empty; how many  tears I've cried. 

I leave the house, into the lane we always walked together. The rain is falling. I notice not. Just more tears on my face. She used to lead me down the lane. Her spirit leads me still. But we go a different way to a very strange and different place. 

I stand before a rustic bridge I've never seen before. I stop. I know I'm not to cross. But why, I want to know? And then the rain suddenly stops. I look up into the clouds. I look down. The bridge is gone and in its place is a rainbow. 

 I look across the Rainbow Bridge and see a joyful sight; Thousands of healthy furchildren playing with my beloved pet. I want to run and love her, but I'm rooted to the spot.

She looks and wags her tail and I hear her bark, "Not yet." And then her bark turns to a voice and I hear her say, "You cared for me, you played with me and loved me to the end. I'm healthy now, don't cry for me. I'll meet you here again. Others need your love and care. I'm sending you a friend." 

I rub my eyes and the rainbow is again a rustic bridge. I send a prayer for that quick glimpse to the loving God above. I hear a noise and glance back down. I can't believe my eyes. Across the bridge, my darling pet sent a furbaby for me to love. I pick up the furry bundle, hold her close to my dampened cheek. She nuzzles my neck, kisses my tears. It's true love at first sight. Not to replace the one who's gone; another who needs my love and care.

My eyes are drawn upward to see a Rainbow Bridge in radiating light.

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I was helping a friend find sites about canine lymphoma and came across your site.  My friend's daughter's Boxer (Joe) was just diagnosed with lymphoma and has been ill for about three weeks.  We had our own experience with canine lymphoma a few years back, but we caught it much earlier -- and our dog was actually a "survivor".  I don't know what options there are for Joe at this point, but maybe they can use your site and related links to educate themselves and make their own choices.

As for our story, I wanted to share.

Our Cocker, Fergie, was diagnosed with lymphoma on October 24, 1997. She was about 10 years old at the time.  We began chemo within two days and continued treatment for almost three years.  Fortunately, we were in St. Louis at the time and had access to a veterinary  specialist clinic. We went for treatments every two weeks for the first two years, and then tapered off to once a month for the last 10 months of treatment.  Their protocol was alternating Oncovin and Elspar in the clinic -- one week Oncovin only, then Oncovin/Elspar together.  This was followed by Cytoxan and Pred. at home for 5 days after treatment. 

Fergie fared well during the treatments, although she felt punky.  The worst part was that the chemo killed her thyroid -- and THAT almost did her in.  Once we began thyroid supplements, that was a big help.  We always said that we'd continue chemo as long as Fergie responded and as long as she didn't get sick.  When we began our once a month treatments, it was harder on her.  I think that's because she actually had a chance to feel good about week three.then would be knocked down at treatment time.  When we did treatments every two weeks, Fergie probably never had a chance to really feel *good*, so the treatments didn't hit her so
hard.  On her next-to-last treatment, Fergie got sick.  This was her Oncovin & Elspar treatment, so we thought it might just be a fluke.  My vet still had Oncovin on hand for her next treatment, so we went ahead. Once again, Fergie got sick.  At that point, we decided that almost three years of chemo was enough.  By that point, she was about 13 years old.  Can you believe it?  We felt that if she died the next day (heaven forbid), she would have had a full life -- cancer aside.  Even though there were no signs that the cancer was back or even lurking, we thought
whatever time she had left should be HER time.

Bless Fergie's heart.she lived another two years after completing treatment.  On September 21, 2002 -- almost exactly five years after being diagnosed with lymphoma -- Fergie fell ill with immune-mediated thrombocytopenia (ITP).  This is an auto-immune disorder that causes the
body to attack its own platelets.  She began hemorrhaging and basically could not clot.  With our extensive testing and blood work to confirm the diagnosis of ITP, we found NO signs of cancer.  This was just a freak condition.  She was treated with pred and didn't respond.  They
then tried Cytoxan, but she didn't respond to that either.  Our sweet little girl died within 30 hours of discovering this illness.  It was absolutely devastating, but we are so thankful we didn't have to decide her fate.  She lived almost 15 years, and we are so lucky to have had her in our lives.  Our vet specialists in St. Louis could hardly believe they had another patient who'd beaten the odds.  That was Fergie -- she had been a fighter from day one when I picked her up during the 1998 Christmas season at the Oklahoma City Humane Society.  You see, she had been abandoned at a little less than one year old and found her way to us.  What a gift!

Like some of your other contributors, I would be glad to share our story and help anyone who is considering chemo for their dog.  It is a very personal decision, but we are so glad that we could afford it and have the time with our super girl.  When we were initially counseled about chemo, the lead specialist (Dr. Hause) told us that the dogs rarely get sick or experience "human" side effects.  Dr. Hause felt that the primary considerations were time and money.  If we had the *time* to take Fergie to the vet every two weeks -- and had the money to afford treatments -- then chemo was a good option.  That turned out to be true for us.

For what it's worth, I've attached a photo of our Fergie.  She made many moves with us and was even an international traveler!


Thanks for responding so quickly Robin.  It *is* awful -- we were just lucky.  Fergie survived many other "near death" experiences in her life, including getting hit by a car, attacked by a deer and taking a 9' leap off an unsecured deck.  All of these things were completely freak accidents and were just "wrong place, wrong time" things, as we are very responsible pet owners, and Fergie was never put in harm's way.  We joked that she had more lives than a cat.  Even though it's been a year and a half since we lost her, I can still cry about losing her.  Just like with your little buddy Nicholas, she was so VERY special.  After Fergie had been through so much, it was hard to believe she could get a disease that would kill her within a day's time.  She had been completely full of "piss &vinegar" (sorry, our expression for her personality) and up to her old tricks the day she fell ill with ITP.  That evening, even when she was hemorrhaging internally, she *seemed* normal.  Our vet assured us that she was not in pain, so we take comfort in that.  Sadly, we had our other geriatric Cocker PTS exactly 6 weeks after we lost Fergie.  Greta was 17, and we always thought she'd go first.  Greta refused to eat for three days and had kidney failure, plus she began having some seizures (not to mention her heart murmur and other old age maladies).  Poor old gal was very weak and had reached the point of no return.  Maybe she just pined away for her little Fergie pal...

Thanks for sharing this story on your site.  By the way, I found a mistake in this story.  Fergie was adopted from the OKCY HS during Christmas of 1988 -- not 98.  We had her for almost 14 years.

A couple of years ago, our local vet asked me to help counsel a person in Eureka Springs, AR about chemo for his dog.  David was so thankful for my input and decided to try chemo for his "Spooter".  She had almost a year with David before she succumbed...and he even thought it was something else (like a tick-borne illness) that took her.

I really think that hearing canine chemo stories firsthand is helpful to others.  It's such a frightening thing, and the devastation of the "C" diagnosis alone is daunting.  I'll never forget talking to Dr. Hause about our decision to pursue chemo.  He asked why we had decided to do it.  I told him that Dr. Harrington, the specialist who confirmed the lymphoma diagnosis and initially counseled me, said that we only had about two months if we did nothing.  Dr. Harrington also said that we might have 6 months if we did a pred.-only based treatment.  That made us "get to it".  Dr. Hause really scared me when he responded and said, "Actually, there has been a recent study that shows from time of diagnosis to time of death is 21-28 DAYS".  I'm really glad that Dr. Hause didn't do our initial consultation and tell us that, because I think we might have just given up.  Of course, Dr. Hause went on to say that this study was with dogs who were more advanced than Fergie, but nonetheless, that was a kick in the gut.  FWIW, Dr. Harrington told us upon initial exam that he believed we caught the lymphoma earlier than any other client he'd ever had.  I know that was our saving grace, as Fergie never appeared to be sick early on -- no loss of appetite, lethargy, nothing.  I just happened to find that enlarged lymph node and rushed her to our regular vet the next morning.  With a "disease lifespan" of 1-2 months, every day counts.

Anyway, I could ramble on and on about this girl and our experience.  I'll save you the snoozing... :-)  By the way, Nicholas and Bear are/were adorable pups.

Thanks again,
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Dear Robin, 

Here is the story about our dog being diagnosed with lymphoma.
Candice is 7 and a half years old. She is a German Shepherd & we have had her since a baby. We have 2 others who are 5 years old.

We had to go to the vets with Candice has for about a week her eye kept swelling up every other day, then going down again in the evenings (we think this is because she has Metacam- an anti inflammatory for her arthritis) and it reduced the swelling during the day. So we took her & the vet discovered she had a tooth abcess &a rotten back tooth. I also explained to him, that she has a runny nose, and a pinky brown liquid comes out of it, and every morning I have to clean her nose out as it blocks up with crusty stuff during the night), so she was noisy breathing. He didn't know what that was but we thought it was all connected as it was her tooth causing her eye to swell, so we assumed her nose was connected too.

She was booked in for the next day & out came her tooth, she was put on anti biotics and her glands were still up after finishing the anti biotics. So for her follow up visit for her tooth, he put her on more anti biotics. Still nothing, they were still up. So he wanted to do a biopsy on one.
A few days later she was booked in for that & we had to wait a week for the results. I honestly didn't think it would be cancer as I kept thinking it would be because of her tooth. She was put on more anti biotics.
She was starting to look more thinner & I was a bit concerned she wasn't her usual playful self, and then a week ago, she started staring into space and I had to gently call her to get her out of her glazed look. BUT she was still eating & drinking & playing in the field, chasing a stick or ball. She still seemed ok.

Then we got the news, it was lymphoma. We were told it was a matter of weeks as they think its affected her spleen. I was/am devastated. My whole world has been shook upside down. She is 7!! This cannot be happening. She is my husbands baby more than mine, as he grew her up really, taking her to work with him etc, so we are both devastated.

But then I thought "No, we are going to pull through this & have hope". She is now on her 2nd chemo treatment, but the vet wasn't too pleased & expected more from her, so as I am all for natural ways of life &herbs, aromatherapy etc I started researching. She already has acupuncture for her arthritis, so am still looking into this. I read that omega 3 oil was good, vitamin c, etc ... there are so many arguments for &against anything you are interested in!! But I am now giving her Omega 3 oil, Immune vitamin supplements (human), chicken cooked in organic olive oil, salmon, mackeral, and we have the Hills N/D diet which is for cancer patient dogs. Her appetite is now going though, and getting her to eat anything let alone her tablets is a chore. Today we have organic lamb mince in gravy cooked for her, which she has had a few mouthfulls.
The Hills dog food says she should be having 3 tins a day, but she will not eat it.

She is drinking alot which I hope is a good sign.
It's like I have all this food & vitamins which I know will help her, but she's not helping herself &its awful watching her get so weak. She fell over today & wouldn't get back up, she just led there looking at me with her big eyes.
Her toilet is still good though, and she still stands on her own.

I never expected this to happen. I am a huge dog lover (no children) and had thought about what to expect when one goes, but not now, not at 7 years old. Life is very very cruel. She is the most sweet natured, gentle, loving German Shepherd ever. I have prayed every night for her, I am angry though- very angry, and completely lost as to why this has happened.
Please think of Candice & hope she recovers. 
We have been told Apricot Kernal seeds are good at killing cancer cells so have tried her on these ground up in her food. Now she doesn't eat those. Hopefully today she will start eating again.

Thank you for all your help regarding this terrible time in our lives.

Kind regards-
Laura,  UK

 Dear Robin, 
Please can you add this to Candice's story on your cancer files website. Unfortunatley, she passed away on saturday 23rd April at 09.40. We are devastated & shocked & numb.But- she went with us, at home, not in pain or distress, just us 3 cuddling. It was the most horrendous, heartwrenching moments of our lives, but we are pleased it happened like that. Bless her heart. She is with us everywhere now in our home & in our hearts. We will ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS LOVE HER SO MUCH. God, we miss her.  Once again Robin thank you for your help & support through this awful time. In the whole of the UK, you seemed to be the only place for me to go to! So thank you.

Yours,Laura & David