We are sorry to report that Harry passed away. Our thoughts go out to Harry’s mom LaDonna.
Harry came to me at 7 months old, the breeder thought him too large to keep since he weighed in at almost 25 lbs and was bigger than his mother by then, breed standard for Cavaliers is between 12-18 lbs. I thought he was beautiful, and so did his golden retriever new sister Maisey.
Sadly, Maisey passed away last July 19th after almost a 3 year battle with two types of cancer, lymphoma and Mast Cell. It had been a financially exhausting 3 years, with treatments and vet visit’s, running up credit cards, but no where near the emotional toll it took on both Harry and me. He missed her as much as I did, and we bonded even tighter than we were before her loss.
Almost a month after Maisey passing, I remember petting Harry one morning and discovering a lump on the side of his throat about where the lymph node should be, and since it was only one side thought that maybe it was just and ear infection since Harry had been prone to them and it was the summer, a time when ear infections can be common, but made an appointment with the vet for the next day for her to look at him. After careful examination, she happened to look down his throat and discover something protruding there and told me there was a growth on his tonsil, and it needed to come out “yesterday.”
Harry was scheduled with another vet for surgery the next day on Tuesday, and by Thursday the biopsy results were back in. The vet that called me was very uncomfortable with talking to me and warned me it was “not good news.” He said the biopsy report came back as tonsil squamous cell carcinoma and the prognosis was 2 months-200 days.
Devastated I immediately called Maisey’s oncologist and demanded that Harry be seen as soon as possible, that was the very next Tuesday. The oncologist was not very hopeful either saying that nothing across the board looked good for Harry with this type of cancer, but what we do know is that if we do not do something Harry would be lucky to have two months. I opted for chemo therapy which only had about a 10% success rate with this type of cancer because if it were going to work, it would work almost immediately.
Two rounds of Carboplatin and the tumor did not grow, but did not get any smaller either. One round of doxyrubicin, and still the tumor stayed the same size. This was in October by now, so chemo was scrapped in favor of anti-angeonisis therapy which had a higher success rate of 25-33% chance with this type of cancer, this was using a drug called Thrombospondin (for compassionate use) which is injected once a day. Harry continued on Thrombospondin for a couple of months with no change in the tumor size, then in March the oncologist noticed the tumor was getting larger, not horrifically so, but growing, and opted for a more powerful form of Thrombospondin hoping we could stop it.
The next few months the tumor still continued to slightly grow, and now Harry’s breathing was starting to be impeded by the tumor, it was so bad that day in June that the oncologist immediately gave him a shot of prednisone hoping to shrink the tumor and help Harry’s breathing. I begged the oncologist at that time to find a Mast Cell tumor on Harry so he could receive a new drug that was in trial then called Paccal Vet but the oncologist told me that it was FDA that would only allow it to be used on Mast Cell for now, he did however tell me that Palladia had been recently approved for Mast Cell, and though it had not been tried on Squamous Cell before, it was worth a shot since Pfizer had told him to use it at his discretion.
The drug would be given for compassionate use, but it would required Harry to have weekly blood work and biweekly chemistry profile, plus there was the oncology fee! Oncologist estimate at that time was at least $1,000 for the next 6 weeks. I had taken on a part time job besides my regular job, and gotten Care Credit for Harry, but there wasn’t much left on the credit cards now for his care. Harry was doing extremely well when first on the Palladia the first two weeks.
A visit to the oncologist and Harry was acting good, and the tumor had shrunk about a centimeter by measurement, the next two weeks it had only shrunk by millimeters, but it was down, and Harry was still acting good. A little anemic, which the oncologist did not know if it was from having cancer or from the Palladia. He had a bit of blood in his stool, so he was on Flagyl and the Palladia was stopped a few days to let that clear up.
Then, on the following Monday he got up just not acting a bit right to me. He did want his walk, so I took him, but he was not pulling on the lead as he normally did, I turned around and took him back home. Then while eating that morning, he suddenly keeled over at his food dish. He was out of it briefly, but I immediately took him into his regular vet, and there she did radiographs thinking it was possibly his heart. She came back in with the news that Harry now has “met’s to his lung’s.” I asked her what could be done about this but her reply was simply “nothing, just don’t let him suffer.”
I looked down and Harry sitting there happily between us, looking from her to me, and then back again and his ever wagging tail and it was hard not to cry, my ever happy little guy, he didn’t know what we were concerned about. I then asked her if starting back on the Palladia would help and she said that it could help with met’s to the lungs from Mast Cell, but she did not know about Squamous Cell, that was a question for the oncologist.
Harry saw the oncologist that Thursday and he gave me the news that we were quickly running out of options for treating Harry, especially since the news about the lung mets. He laid out 3 options for me, but said one of the options was not even a serious consideration because of the cost. One, go back on the Palladia alone, but he felt it was going to move too slow for Harry now. Two try Paccal Vet which had suddenly become an option, but it would take 3 weeks to get the drug here, and there would have to be a wash out of all drugs in Harry’s system for 3 weeks, which may not be a good idea, and the cost would be $3,000 alone for the 1st treatment, and it would cost between $6,000 and $8,000 for all of Harry’s treatments with this drug, and that was compassionate use. The third option and the one we went with, was to try chemo again along with the Palladia.
The cost alone that day for getting good radiographs, plus chemo and blood work came to $598! I was told I could expect it to possibly be between $550-600 each visit. Most of the Care Credit I had left for Harry was used up that day, and now I am faced with how I am going to pay for treatment for him. He is a wonderful little fighter and has way beaten the odds for this type of cancer. I think the statistics are something like only 10% of dogs with this type of cancer make it a year.
This past weekend he developed neck pain and quit eating, a trip to the regular vet who consulted with the oncologist and she said the pain was coming from his tumor. The oncologist thinks that maybe this is the Palladia working on the tumor and the tumor dying so that might be what was causing Harry’s Pain. He is back to good now, and back to being my ever happy little guy. His oncology appointment has been postponed now until Aug. 20th because it would be for chemo and the oncologist wants to make sure he is good for that. The Palladia will be started again this coming Sunday.
Harry is a pioneer for this cancer with the treatments they are trying for him now. Palladia has not been tried on a dog with Tonsil Squamous cell before, we are hoping that he can be the poster boy for this terrible cancer, and if it works for him, it might well work for other dogs with his diagnosis. We just have to keep fighting as long as we can, unfortunately even though the Palladia is for compassionate use, all the blood work, chemo and oncology fee’s are not.
Harrry’s oncologist is hoping in 6 months time he will be able to contact Pfizer with Harry’s story and hopeful success, if we can keep treating him. I am doing all I can with working a second job, but at these prices for treatment and his regular vet treatments for emergency it is just too much to handle. There is no where else to pull funds from. After Maisey’s long battle with cancer, and now Harry, all savings are gone and the cards used up.
Many thanks to Canine Cancer Awareness for their generous donation of $750 towards Harry’s treatment. If you can find it in your heart to contribute to Harry you may not only be helping Harry, but future dogs faced with Squamous Cell as well if these treatments work.
thanks for reading Harry’s story, with gratitude,
LaDonna & Harry
CCA has donated $750 to help pay the costs of Harry’s treatment. Please also give generously to Harry. To help sponsor treatment, you can click on the PayPal donate button below or send a check to:
Canine Cancer Awareness, Inc.
44 Devoe Street
Brooklyn, NY 11211
DONATIONS RECEIVED FOR HARRY: