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Devastating Diagnosis

There is no easy way to put this, and no back-story to tell…as this all happened so suddenly. This week it has been discovered that Limoncello has an inoperable mass that encompasses the entire right side of her head…including her eye socket & nasal cavity.  It has deteriorated bone, including breaking through the cribriform plate and extending to her brain. Due to the vast size, locations of the mass, Cello’s age, and her Dilated Cardiomyopathy, surgery and treatments such as chemo, radiation, or CyberKnife are not options.

There were zero… ZERO signs. Limoncello had been playing in the yard, swimming, going on walks, eating normally, acting normally and had no abnormalities in her physical features … She had her annual cardiology exam just a couple of weeks ago and not only did her cardiologist give her a gleaming report, a comprehensive bloodwork panel returned with near perfect results. …ZERO signs… until…about a couple of weeks ago when I noticed that Cello’s right eyelid looked a bit “droopy.”  In the following days I noticed that the third eyelid was elevated.  She was seen by our primary veterinarian, Dr. Campbell, just days after the observation with our thought being that she somehow irritated her eye, or had an infection.  At this point, we noticed that her eyeball now seemed to be protruding. Dr. Campbell examined her and placed her on antibiotics in the event she may have an infection/abscess behind the eye.  We did discuss the possibility of a retrobulbar mass. Dr. Campbell suggested that we secure an appointment with an eye specialist as soon as possible.

August 29, 2023: Ophthalmologist Appointment

Luckily we were able to schedule an appointment on 8/29/23 with Dr. Shelby Reinstein, board-certified ophthalmologist at Vet Vision Center, located about an hour from our home. Upon exam, Dr. Reinstein ruled out two of the three common eye socket abnormalities: (1) an abscesses (infection), and (2) cellulitis (inflammation)….with all her observations leading toward a retrobulbar tumor (mass in the eye socket).  Dr. Reinstein also noted that now Cello’s right nostril had decreased airflow.  It was recommended that we get a CT scan to see exactly what we are dealing with.

Note: the growth on her left bottom eyelid has been deemed in the past to be benign and not bothersome

August 30, 2023: Appointment with Internal Medicine Doctor and CT Scan

Cello arriving to Blue Pearl for her CT scan

We were fortunate to get an appointment the very next day with the internal medicine doctor who has cared for both Margarita and Porter in the past.  On 8/30/23 Limoncello was examined by Dr. Peter Chapman at Blue Pearl Pet Hospital in Levittown, PA, who also agreed that all signs pointed to a mass that was most likely malignant. A CT scan was performed that afternoon that revealed the suspected mass behind Cello’s eye was only the tip of the iceberg.  Bones are deteriorated, her right nostril is mostly blocked, and not only does the mass encompass the entire right side of her head, it has broken through the cribriform plate and has reached her brain. Due to the initial findings during the CT scan, we opted not to obtain a biopsy. Using a scope to secure a biopsy would have been too invasive and we did not want to put Cello’s body through any more stress.  In addition, it was taken into consideration by both us and Cello’s medical team that no treatment options meant that unfortunately a biopsy would not provide us with any additional beneficial information. 

We are still waiting on the finalized results from the CT scan. We have been told that it could take a couple of days to a couple of weeks for us to receive it. We are reluctantly anxious to read the report… Although we want to learn every detail that we can, we also know that it may not provide any positive news.

(Left): One of the images from the CT scan. View is from the back of Cello’s head. (Right): Shows the approximate extent of the mass that is visible

We are grateful that doctors determined Cello is not yet in any pain or discomfort.  With all traditional treatments off the table, Cello will be closely monitored until she lets us know she is ready to make her journey over the rainbow bridge. Doctors have given us signs to look for which include but are not limited to: recurring nose bleeds, seizures, difficulty eating, and labored breathing.  Cello will also have regular check-ups with our primary veterinarian, Dr. Campbell.  The time she has left with us is unknown but it is only estimated to be anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months.

No Options for Traditional Treatment Plans…So What Do We Do NOW?

To say we are completely shocked and devastated is an understatement.  Again – there have been ZERO signs. Cello is otherwise healthy – she displayed no symptoms – and we now have no way to try and stop this. We feel powerless with no options to help her.  Aside now from the look of her right eye, you would never know she had a mass that took over the entire right side of her head. She is eating and drinking normally, her breathing sounds typical, she is still bossing the pack around and is physically active.

I have never been one to ever accept hearing “there is nothing we can do.” When protecting our fur-kids, we NEVER go down without a fight – but how do you battle something that has already won? We are by no means surrendering, but it seems this silent killer has left us with no choice but to focus our efforts on helping Cello live her remaining days to the fullest.

Cello will begin some medications and supplements to help support her through her remaining time. Supportive measures will be introduced slowly and in stages. The start of her schedule will look something like this:

  • Immediately:
    • Gabapentin
      • anticonvulsant drug used to treat chronic pain caused by certain cancers. It is also used to prevent seizures
    • Carprofen
      • a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID)that has been known to relieve the pain associated with certain cancers and reduces swelling and inflammation.
  • In 7 days:
    • Yunnan Baiyao
      • helps to stop bleeding, provides pain relief, and helps to reduce inflammation
  • In 14 days:
    • CAS Options or I’m-Yunity
      • supports immune health

In addition to the above, Cello will have coconut oil added to her diet. Coconut oil helps to boost the immune system and reduce inflammation. It contains lauric acid, which has also been known to have anti-cancer properties.

We are doing our best to push the anger and sadness away and to shift our focus to ensuring that our actions and demeanor are positive and hopeful, as we know that Cello will feed off of our energy.  We know that we are blessed to have had Limoncello in our lives for 12 years when so many other dogs and PAWrents have been less fortunate. Although it is difficult to see it that way in the moment, above all for Cello’s sake, we will find the strength to remain positive and celebrate any and all additional time with her that we will be blessed with. She has led us on so many amazing journeys that we would never have embarked on had it not been for her – now it is our turn to walk beside her on this new and difficult path. We intend to make every second count and ensure that every day is viewed as a chance to make a new memory that will be cherished always. 

The Well-Being of Our Pack

There is no doubt Limoncello is our pack’s leader. There are two pack members in particular who are extremely bonded to her. They look to follow her every move, and when they aren’t in motion, they are laying intertwined with her. We have already begun putting methods and schedules into place in hopes to make their transition a bit less difficult when the dreaded shift in their pack and home occurs.

We originally had a dock diving trip planned for this weekend that we canceled. We wish all of our friends a successful weekend as they strive to obtain invitations to the DockDogs World Championships. We will be cheering you all on from NJ. As you know from the past – we have an “All for one, one for all” mantra for our pack. As of now, all future long-distance dock diving trips/competitions for our team are on hold so that we may focus on celebrating time with Limoncello, remain in close proximity to her medical team, and center our attention on the well-being of our pack during this difficult time.

August 31, 2023

Limoncello enjoyed sunbathing in the yard and a walk in our neighborhood.

Our Sincere Gratitude

Comfort food dropped off to our house by great friends

Friends and family have already offered support on so many levels…post comments, private messages, phone calls, texts, dropping off comfort food, offers to cancel plans and spend the weekend with us…all reminders of just how truly blessed we are to have you all in our lives – and for the majority of you – it’s Limoncello we have to thank for leading us to cross paths with you in the countless adventures she has taken us on. We are so appreciative for all of you, and would ask that you please continue to offer up those prayers and send along those good vibes for Limoncello.

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

30 thoughts on “Devastating Diagnosis

  1. Omggg I am completely speechless. I know you will do what’s best for Cello. Just thinking about the rest of your pack. My thoughts and prayers are with you. Lisa

  2. I’m crying. I have no words. My heart breaks for you, Brian and the pack. You’re in my thoughts and prayers. If there’s anything we can do for you, don’t hesitate to ask. 💛💛💛

  3. It is so not fair. Why can’t they live longer lives and why the hell C is somehow always involved. I know when it comes you will make the best HARDEST decision you have ever made for her but it’s just so crushing to the soul, yours and the pack 😢😢😢🐶❤️

  4. I’m in tears as I read this and my heart is broken for Cello, you, Brian and the pack. Sending so much love and healing energy to you all.

  5. Jen and Brian , There are no words and sorry just doesn’t seem like it’s enough. My first golden Bo, passed with this same kind of cancer , there were no signs until there were . If there is anything I can answer for you about what I remember with him I will . Cello will always hold a special place in my heart as well as many , many others . Because of her , I am blessed to be able to call you both my dear friends. She, like a lot of our fur babies changed our lives for the better . I can’t imagine how different my life would be if not for the love of our dogs . We will all walk with you both in this journey as long as we can . I know you will see Cello off to the Rainbow Bridge in style and Grace. She will definitely take control of the rowdy bunch that has gone on before her and become the pack leader of the bridge. I’d like to think that Joey would be her VP up there . They will make a hell of a team . We love you both and your pack . Thank you Cello , for sharing your life and your legacy with us ❤️

    • Oh Barb – you have no idea just how grateful we are that Cello led us to meet you and Rick and your pack. Your friendship means the world to us and you guys are so very special in our hearts. Your kind and thoughtful words are so very much appreciated!

  6. Ok huni. I’m so very sorry for you all. My heart is aching for you all and everyone she has touched. I know you will make the best out of the time you have with her and make the selfless decision when she lets you know it’s time. I’m moving back home in October. I hope I make it back in time to her once more and give her lovins. Sending love to you all.

    • Thank you so much. We are just beside ourselves. I know you will miss CA but I am happy that we hopefully will have the chance to see you more often with you moving back to NJ. Please keep in touch and let me know when you are back in NJ. I would love for you to visit with her once you are back. Sending our love right back to you!

  7. I am just devastated for you and so sorry the news is what it is. I will keep you all in my thoughts and prayers. We never have them long enough. Relish in your time with her. May God be with you and your pack and help you through this difficult journey. Much love from the Ridgees!

  8. This is heart breaking, I can’t imagine hearing that news. I have no doubt that your family will make Cello’s remaining time the special send off she deserves. We are thinking of you❤️

    • Thank you so much- we truly appreciate it. It is very upsetting as it is but to hear there are no options is just heart wrenching. We will definitely do our best to make sure she enjoys whatever time she has with us. We very much appreciate your kindness and thoughtfulness.

  9. This wonderful girl has had such an amazing impact on your lives and you on hers. It’s devastating to hear what is happening. It is amazing that though it has invaded so thoroughly, she still feels good, is enjoying her life to the fullest and is surrounded by love. We can only pray that she feels good until the very end. God bless all of you

    • Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. She truly has changed our lives. I can’t understand how it can have invaded so much space while going undetected and with her feeling good still. The medication she started will help if or when she has discomfort. I wish there were more we could do. We very much appreciate your thoughtfulness and love.

  10. We are thinking of you all and the other pups. We love watching all of the adventures through PRO and we understand your pain. We know that she will be well spoiled and happy! 💕

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