Hi everyone! It’s been quite a while since I last gave an update on Molly. That’s because I can’t believe she’s still going at almost 11 1/2 years old when I didn’t even think she’d make it to her 11th Bday.
In addition to her DM diagnosis, she also had a skin cancer scare back in January. As a (mostly) Boxer breed, she’s always had little growths pop up that have always tested as benign, but she had two that came back malignant this time. To be honest I debated for several days whether it was even worth it to have them removed with her age and everything else she had going on, but I sought out the opinion of several veterinarians and they all advised removing them because there was no way to tell if the skin cancer was going to cause her pain/issues before the DM advanced. When I took her in to have the lumps removed, I asked them to go ahead and check her over and remove any other lumps that looked suspicious because I didn’t want to put her under again unless it was absolutely necessary. She already has to be put under once every three months for check ups for the clinical trial she’s in, and it makes me nervous at her age. They ended up removing five lumps, and this poor girl looked like Frankenstein when we picked her up. She had massive incisions all over her body – back of her neck, one on her side, one on her hip and two on her belly. It was awful. She was also so weak from the anesthesia and the DM that she could barely walk, and it was almost impossible to lift her up and down stairs or in and out of the car without touching one of her incisions. I was also terrified that she would start itching and scratching, tearing out her stitches as they were starting to heal. I think I cried myself to sleep for two days because I regretted doing this to her so much. In the end though, she amazingly left her stitches totally alone, without wearing a cone of any kind, and everything healed up nicely.
These days I do a lot of math games to quantify how lucky I am to still have her with me. Especially since multiple vets told me she only had 6-12 months about 15 months ago.
I can’t say she’s doing great, but she’s definitely doing much better than expected at this point. Although they’re very weak, she still has the use of her hind legs. She can still go on a short walk, maybe half a mile or a little more. She can get around the house independently for the most part. Carter and I do a lot of carrying her up and down stairs though – and with a 50lb dog, it’s a pretty good workout! She’s having more accidents inside the house which isn’t fun to clean up. But I told her after 11 years of never having an accident inside, it’s totally ok.
I think the biggest surprise to me is her attitude through all of this. At every declining turn I’ve fully expect her to become depressed and give up. Now that she can’t be as independent, can’t chase after squirrels and bunnies like she used to, can’t go up and down the stairs etc. But it’s kind of incredible that she’s basically acclimated to each phase of this with total acceptance. She’s still a super happy pup and shows zero signs of self pity or sadness so far. She still loves spending time with us, eating her treats, going for her short walks, going for rides in the car, getting her belly and ears rubbed. I’m so thankful for this, because I dread that look in her eyes that says “I’m too tired” or “I’m done” more than anything.
So here’s the math that I’m doing on a regular basis to help me focus on the positive more than the negative.
- She started showing symptoms of DM in March 2018 and the typical prognosis once you start showing signs of this disease is 6-12 months. It’s now mid June, so she’s made it approximately 3-9 months longer than expected. Her local veterinarian thinks this is likely due to the clinical trial that I got her into. That she most likely got the treatment vs the placebo, which helps me sleep at night knowing everything we did to get her into that trial may have actually been worth it after all and may be helping advance the science behind a treatment for this disease in dogs, as well as potentially ALS in humans.
- She had her MRI in June 2018 and that’s when they officially diagnosed her with DM. She was given 6-9 months at that time. So she’s made it 3-6 months longer than predicted by her neurologist.
- When she was first diagnosed, I told myself I just hoped she would make it to her 11th bday, without thinking she actually would. She’s now 4 months past her 11th bday, so I’ve had 4 whole extra months with her that I never expected to have.
- Her typical breed’s life expectancy is 8-10 years, so she’s already beaten the odds by at least 1.4 years.
- I’ve been lucky enough to have her with me for literally 1/3 of my entire life. She’s been there for me though so many ups and downs and has taught me so much about patience and acceptance.
- Since I’ve had her we’ve been on approximately 5,000 walks together, maybe more.
There are probably other equations that I’ve gone through in my mind, but those are the most frequent ones I think about. I know when you make the decision to bring a dog into the family that you’re signing up for heartbreak in 10, 12, 14 years(ish) if you’re lucky, but that doesn’t make it any easier when you start nearing that time. I’ve always been the biggest animal lover and I can’t watch any movie or TV show where an animal gets hurt without crying. I am so connected to Molly that my heart breaks at the thought of not having her sweet happy face at the door when I come home. I know that time is probably not far away, but I’m so grateful that I’ve had all this extra time with her and have been able to spoil her a little extra for the last year basically (she is totally ruined now!)
I think that’s everything for now – we are continuing to try and keep her strong and keep our spirits up for as long as we can. Thanks for all of the support!