Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Mr. Maxx by Marcia Siemsen

Maxx started limping on his front left leg in September 2009. X-rays didn’t show anything obvious, but in the interest of safety, Maxx’s vet, Dr. Louis Brad at Gunbarrel Veterinary Clinic in Boulder, had a radiologist take a look at the films. She saw something ‘funny’ and said we should take Maxx up to CSU [Colorado State University] just to be sure. So I took Maxx up to CSU on my 57th birthday, and got the worst news possible. After a full body bone scan and bone biopsy, Maxx was presumptively diagnosed with osteosarcoma of the left proximal humerus. After hearing all the options, I elected not to amputate – Maxx is a 12 year old Great Pyrenees, and he is a big, big boy. I jokingly say that his life expectancy is about 10 years, and that he’s already out of warranty, so I didn’t want a big change for him to have to deal with in the form of an amputation.

But the doctors said that SRS (Stereotactic Radiosurgery, sorta kinda like cyber knife technology that we hear about) has similar results when coupled with chemo as does amputation and chemo. So Maxx had SRS up at CSU with the most advanced tool there is. (They call it the Trilogy). He was in the hospital at CSU for a week. The night of his bone biopsy, before SRS, he had so much pain he had heart problems, and we thought we were going to lose him. But he pulled through and sailed through the SRS with the love and support of the absolutely miraculous staff at CSU, for which we are eternally grateful.

After SRS, Maxx was scheduled for five rounds of Carboplatin. When we went to CSU for round three, we found a lump on his back which turned out to be an osteosarcoma metastases, just a short 3 months after original diagnosis. So on that day, we were SO VERY LUCKY to get Dr. Steve Withrow (IMO THE number one expert literally in the entire world on osteosarcoma) as our consult, and he said to ditch the Carboplatin and get more aggressive, and we immediately started Doxorubicin. So far, Maxx has had two rounds, and is scheduled for three more.

Doxorubicin kicks Maxx’s butt pretty good for about a week – no vomiting or lower GI problems; I think he just feels like he has the flu pretty bad and doesn’t want to eat a whole lot and he sleeps a lot. He has a special blanket that I cover him with, and he gets lots and lots of special human food to keep his strength up until he emerges from what I call the “chemo doldrums.”

After the first Doxorubicin round, Maxx immediately had surgery to remove the mass, and thanks again to his wonderful doctor at Gunbarrel Veterinary Clinic, Dr. Louis Brad, Maxx had clear margins, and a big old scar to prove it! Everyone is keeping fingers and toes and paws crossed for Mr. Maxx. He is just such a wonderful boy; everyone loves him and smiles when they see him.

He was never really sick a day in his life before the dreaded osteosarcoma came to our house. I try to say nothing but positive things around Maxx, and I refuse to cry around him. He has always been my rock, and now it’s my turn to be his. I’d like to please ask everyone in our 2 Dogs 2000 Miles community to keep Mr. Maxx in their thoughts and prayers. He doesn’t have a mean bone in his body, but somehow osteosarcoma managed to turn one of them into something way worse than mean. He didn’t deserve this.

It is with profound sadness that I let you all know that Maxx left our world last night (April 27, 2010) here in his home with peace and dignity. He was such a wonderful wonderful boy, always kind, always loving, and always brave. He never met a human he didn't love and vice versa.

My fondest memories of Maxx will be the many times with him in the car, stopped at a red light in Louisville, and people stopped beside me yelling "Hi Maxx" at him from their cars. I had no idea who any of these people were, but they knew and remembered Maxx from everywhere he went - Lowe's, Home Depot, the Louisville Farmer's Market, the parades on Main Street, the festivals, the parks,... He was popular and unforgettable. Children flocked to him, and he just would stand there and smile.

Thank you all for your love and support over the past months. It has been a difficult journey and I hope that with the passing of time the lesson will become clearer. Right now, I'm just so very very sad and broken-hearted. But he deserved one last gift, so I gave him rest.