Sunday, October 07, 2007

Lymphoma - The Story So Far

Herbie has been a particularly unlucky dog, as far as getting a diagnosis. I took him to the vets at the beginning of April to arrange for a dental, as his teeth were looking quite manky - not unusual for a greyhound. He'd cracked a tooth last year, and my then vets had said it's best to leave it unless it's causing trouble. New vets said Hmm, time to come out, and he'll need antibiotics first. While he was on a week's course of antibiotics, prior to the dental, the lymph node on the right side of his jaw swelled up, golf-ball hard.

The vets said Not good, he'll need a biopsy under general anaesthetic, so he was booked in for a week after the dental. Then 10 days' hellish wait, and the verdict: not lymphoma. The entire node was removed, so it seemed a clear diagnosis. He healed well, but the nodes on the other side came up, then the popliteal nodes (at the back of his knee). Further tests, for bacterial infection, viral infection, you name it. Anti-histamines, in case of allergy. Then prednisolone, in case of aut0-immune disease.

The steroids had an immediate effect, but made him very sick. Rapid muscle wasting, to the point where he could barely stand, climb stairs, and walks were out of the question. Panic attacks, panting with rapid heart beat, for hours at a time. I was afraid the treatment would kill him. He lost two kilos in 10 days. After a week, the dose was scaled d0wn rapidly - but his nodes went right down.

Then a frustrating two months(!) while I asked for a second opinion, phoning the vets a couple of times a week, and little or no action. They wanted to start him on cyclosporin, for auto-immune disease, and I wanted that second opinion first. Finally, a referral to Cambridge vet school, and a nightmare six-hour drive (should only have taken four). I had to leave him there, but by the time I came home again, they already had a diagnosis. Lymphoma, and well advanced. Lungs clear, but spleen swollen. Could they start treatment immediately?

Absolutely. A month later, Herbie is still alive, his nodes are reducing, but he's a long way from being in remission.

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