The Dark Mark – Diagnosis

Harry began to limp, very slightly, towards the end of August. I fussed, and worried, and consulted my bank balance warily. Lack of improvement led to a trip to the vet (always traumatic for everyone involved. Harry is not a social boy) and the suggestion of soft-tissue damage. Harry was given pain killers/anti-inflammatories and I was told to give him a few more weeks. If he didn’t improve, we would have to consider the ominous ‘something else’ and look deeper.

Harry seemed to improve over the next two weeks. His limp was almost gone. I was relieved and assumed that he was healing up nicely. But then, almost over night, it got worse than ever. He was unable to put any weight on his front, right paw, and was hopping rather than limping when he was bothered to move around. I knew the pain was serious when he stopped waking me up at 5am and waited for me to deliver breakfast in bed. By this point, I’d already made arrangements for x-rays (after another shifty look at my bank account – the stress of financing veterinary care is a rant for a post of its own).

I wont go through the day in detail but, perhaps needless to say, it was an emotional off-road drag race. For those who may be facing the same thing and want a sequence of events, it went like this:

  • 10:30 am drop off: physical exam (sort of. Lots of growling and hissing. A few minor attacks), disappearance into the back room for sedation and 2 x-ray views. I went home to fret.
  •  2pm call from vet: asking me to come in, mentioning the word lesion
  • 2:30pm return to vet: (this one is a jumble in my brain, but basically thus) overview of x-rays – clear bone loss in the little one (ulna?) near the wrist joint. The C word (not that one). Tears. Options: 1) amputation, providing the cancer had not spread. 2) euthanasia, recommended before the end of the week.
  • I asked about prognosis with amputation (very positive) and recovery time (surprisingly short).  I was given the gobsmacking quote and some time to sort out finances and talk to my Mum on the phone, in private. I requested immediate additional x-rays to check for spreading, deciding it would be best to know and make the choice immediately. Plus, Harry was still sedated.Payment for today made, I left to fret some more.
  •  3:30pm return to vet again: Good news! No spread (they checked the chest, not the whole body. I have since been assured that this is standard practice and the main concern). Tears.  Time to face the reality of amputation. Quote provided. Appointment made. Baby eagerly collected, along with painkillers to keep him comfortable until the surgery, which is a week ahead.

Harry was very unhappy for the rest of the day, which is understandable after being abandoned and manhandled at his least favourite place in the world, while in serious pain. He mostly hid and squirmed away from me until bedtime, when he curled up in his crate and glared out at me until I fell asleep. Today has been better. He’s still very limpy/hoppy, but with the drugs in his system he is getting about the flat as usual and permitting my passing pets.

As far as Harry’s human is concerned….I feel pretty guilty for dragging it out so long, as well as worried and sad about his current pain and upcoming limb removal. I think I should prepare myself for complications and loss, so I’m not blindsided should the worst happen, but those thoughts are too upsetting  to carry while trying to get through my daily life. Instead, I’m focusing on the many very encouraging stories of success out there and planning for his recuperation.

Hopefully, a month from now, this blog will be filled with tips and tricks for dealing with a tempermental tripod who doesn’t know his own limitations.