On Tuesday, November 9, 2021, I was giving Grace a little paw massage when I felt a very small lump on the top of her right paw. On closer examination, it was very black, and I immediately thought it a tick but, it was not moving… I called her vet immediately who told me to come over straight away. On arrival, the vet checked the lump and said it was not a tick and couldn’t say what it was. He said we could keep a close eye on it and see if it grew etc. however, I said ‘if this were on me, I would want it removed immediately’. Two days later the small black lump was removed.
On Friday, November 26, I received a call from Grace’s vet to tell me they had received the pathology results, it was a malignant melanoma. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing… I was told that the margins around the lump were clear of cancer but, there was no guarantee that the cancer had not spread nor if it would reappear. I did my research and found that the best chance of this hideous disease not returning was for Grace to undertake a bout of radiation on the site and, for her to have a two-yearly course of melanoma vaccine.
On Wednesday, December 1, 2021, Grace and I went for our first appointment at SASH North Ryde, we were greeted by the lovely Jess Taylor whom, little did I know at the time would become mine & Grace’s saving grace when visiting SASH over the following 20 odd months. We then met with Dr Sandra Nguyen, an Oncology Specialist at SASH North Ryde. Dr Sandra was such a blessing; her manner and empathy made such an awful situation manageable. Grace was given her first melanoma vaccination; she was then scheduled to have three more vaccinations every 2nd week for the next 6 weeks and then one every 6 months for 2 years. I was given a timeline of her treatment, with her first radiation session starting the following week and continuing fortnightly for 2 months. I was told that the radiation would make her fur on her leg fall out and that the skin would go black, this did not prepare me at all…
Dr Elias Gumpel, Specialist in Radiation Oncology took over Grace’s care which I was so grateful for as he is such a caring, compassionate person. At her three-monthly checkup & scan in May this year (2023), I mentioned to her Dr Elias, since her first radiation treatment that she was drinking and peeing more often than usual. She had also put on a bit of weight which we just put down to the ‘food is love’ scenario, which of cause we are all guilty of when our little loved ones are going through such a traumatic time.
Skip ahead to July and her drinking had become excessive as had her peeing so, I took her to her vet who ran urine and blood test. Her urine showed nothing, absolutely nothing, it was just like water and her bloods came back clear as well. We did another urine test the following day, first thing in the morning, it wasn’t as clear as her previous test but, still not right. Her vet Dr Stephanie suggested we do an ultrasound; it was done the following day and showed a tumour on her left adrenal gland… There was talk of Cushings disease however, her bloods and urine were not indicating Cushings. Whatever it was, I just knew I wanted the tumour removed, unless it was cancer, if it were I didn’t want her going through chemotherapy as she had already been through so much so, I had decided to give her quality of life, over quantity which was a heartbreaking decision.
We went back to SASH the following week as the operation had to be performed by a specialist surgeon. Thankfully, Dr Tristram Bennett, Specialist in Surgery & Fellow in Surgical Oncology at SASH recognised Grace’s name as he had met her when she was healing from radiation. As soon as we met with Dr Tristram that day, he said I suspect you are thinking it is worse than it actually is… he then sat with my mother, Grace and I for a lengthy time explaining absolutely everything to us. Fortunately for me, I had done my homework so I was able to keep up. When he opened the door after that first consult, Jess was there and it was such a relief to see her smiling face, a big hug was in order. Dr Tristram performed a CT scan on Grace that afternoon to determine if the tumour could be operated on and, gave her a thorough checkup to feel for anything else that may have been abnormal. The CT scan showed that the tumour had not spread, it also didn’t appear to be cancer therefore, I approved the operation for the following day.
I left Grace at SASH for the evening rather than bringing her home and taking her back the following morning for the operation. I left feeling like a weight had been lifted, I knew Grace was in the best of care and, that the tumour wasn’t as bad as I had thought thanks to the care & support shown by Dr Tristram. Dr Tristram called me that evening to say that she was a little anxious therefore, they took her for a walk to the Radiation Dept. of which she was very familiar with, this settled her down and I was ever so thankful that this little extra care had been given.
Dr Tristram kept in contact with me the entire time Grace was at SASH and Jess Taylor sent me photos of Grace just prior to her operation. I went to see Grace the day after her operation, she was not eating (not even when Dr Tristram sat in her crate with her and tried hand feeding) so I took her favourite chicken and vegetable mix. After 30 minutes or so of me being with her she started to eat, only a little and very slowly as she was on extreme pain killers but, she was eating. Not only was her left adrenal gland and tumour on it removed, her thyroid on the right side of her neck and a small cyst near it were removed also. She looked a sight with her cannulas, bandages, and sad eyes, it broke my heart.
I received a call later in the day to say Grace could come home early evening. Given all she had been through over the last 18 months and our close contact with SASH, I knew Grace was in good hands and would benefit from being at home rather than a third night at SASH.
Grace had to take it easy for the following two weeks, as her body had been through a very traumatic operation and her body had to get use to living with an adrenal gland and tumour which had been secreting cortisol and playing havoc with her hormones, metabolism etc.
Grace is now back to her old self; I hadn’t realised how lethargic and not herself she was leading up to the discovery of the tumour which did turn out to be adrenal based Cushings disease. My advice to all pet owners is, if you think something is not right, if you have the slightest of worries, take your four legged loved one the vet asap.
I can’t thank Dr Elias, Dr Tristram & Jess enough for the love & care they showed Grace and I.