George is an 11 ½ year old Labrador retriever who was referred to the Charleston Veterinary Referral Center's Oncology Department by his primary care veterinarian (and good friend of ours) Dr. Marci Sauls at East Cooper Animal Hospital after being diagnosed with Mast Cell Tumors (MCT) on his front leg/shoulder and an unknown abdominal mass in July of 2018. After further diagnostics including cytology and CT Imaging, it was determined that George needed to have a lobe of his liver and spleen removed, along with several external masses. After careful consideration, one of our surgeons, Dr. Jennifer Au, recommended breaking it up into two separate surgeries: the first to remove the liver lobe and spleen, with the possibility of removing a mass on his hind leg, and a second surgery to remove the remaining MCTs.
After George’s first surgery, histopathology came back and showed that his splenic mass was benign, the liver mass was a hepatocellular carcinoma which holds a fairly good prognosis, and the mass on his hind leg was a low grade soft tissue sarcoma with clean margins, which has a low incidence of recurrence. Meanwhile, our oncologist, Dr. Kerry Rissetto, recommended starting him on an oral chemotherapy, Palladia, to help reduce the size of the Mast Cell Tumors so the surgery would have a better chance of getting all the tumor cells. In September 2018, George had his second surgery, which was a success. George sported a splint on his leg for several weeks but it wasn't long before he was back in action and frolicking on the beach again – his favorite place.
Since undergoing surgery and therapy, George is doing extremely well and is being monitored for any recurrence. We are so grateful we have been a part of George’s journey. He always brings a smile to our faces each time we see him!
Here is a loving note from his mom that we find heartwarming and inspirational. We wanted you to hear firsthand about the medical journey that she and George took together:
"George is an 11-something lab mutt filled to the brim with love and charm that I was lucky enough to be rescued by years ago. He has spent every day teaching me the importance of living in the moment, loving unconditionally and affectionately, and to start every day with gratitude. Last July we received the dire diagnoses from our family vet, Dr. Marci Sauls, of 2 mast cell tumors, liver cancer, spleen problems, and a hip sarcoma. Despite the overwhelming odds, we were referred to Charleston Veterinary Referral Center who much to everyone's surprise said they "had a plan"! We took a leap of faith in these extraordinary people and 2 surgeries and 15 rounds of chemo later, we are still filling every day with love and adventure.
Don't misunderstand, this was not a journey for the meek of heart but worth every moment faced together. Even in the midst of all that chaos, we managed to continue to enjoy life. We spent many afternoons recovering and lazing at Pitt Street with our many friends lending much needed moral support. We enjoyed a tow truck ride while evacuating for a hurricane, dressed up for Halloween in an appropriate costume due to extraordinary healing powers, celebrated an 11th birthday with an extravagance of treats, received 3 new orthopedic beds from Santa, even made it to midnight on New Year’s Eve, and wore bunny ears for Easter!! Despite all the odds against us, here it is almost a year later and we still begin every morning much the same - walk the beach with a little dip in the waves, meet and greet our 100s of friends, and make sure we acknowledge our gratitude for every day we begin together.
Without the amazing CVRC team and our wonderful Dr. Sauls, life would not look the same. Quality of life is important to define for all of us but especially for those family members who can't speak for themselves. These decisions are difficult and there is no right or wrong path. I simply tried to remain selfless and honor George through those challenging times, but that giant first leap of faith with CVRC made all the difference. To Dr Au, our surgeon, with her miracle hands and creative brain, Dr. Risetto, our oncologist, with her unending compassion and wealth of knowledge, to the "Amandas" who patiently took every call, listened patiently and always talked me off the cliff, to all the staff who lovingly and gently guided us through these challenging times... we are forever grateful.
Trust your heart and know that whatever CVRC and you decide together, your life together should still be celebrated no matter the time. Good luck to all, have courage and take a leap of faith!
Much love from Georgie and me."