Mar 082013
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The phone rang at 1:48pm on February 26. It was Dr. Neuenschwander from Brentwood Animal Hospital. I had dropped Sasha off earlier in the day for a radiographic examination of her left leg and pelvic region. She had been in some pain that was causing her to avoid putting weight on her left leg. When we arrived at the veterinary office, Sasha was using her left leg primarily as a means of balancing herself. Her leg would tremble when she stood still, but that was attributed to being a product of the leg not bearing any weight. Liliana was no longer satisfied with the explanation that arthritis was the likely cause of Sasha’s symptoms, and that is why Sasha went in for X-rays, and that is what lead to our hopes being dashed and our fears being realized. The cancer had returned.

Dr. Neuenschwander explained that Sasha had tumors on her left femur and the left side of her pelvis. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I fully expected to hear that Sasha’s joints were deteriorating due to arthritis, but the thought of cancer returning to her body was not news that I was prepared to hear. The dog that I took to the vet’s office that morning was a happy, healthy animal with a sore leg. She was not a dog with cancer-riddled bones. Sasha was beating the odds! The cancer had been cut from her body, and any remnants were destroyed by chemotherapy treatments. Her immune system was trained via vaccine to seek out and destroy any rogue malignant cells that dared to take hold in her beautiful body. The cancer was not supposed to come back. Sasha was supposed to win the battle and the war!

Many tears were shed on the day that we found out the bad news.  I think the pain that Liliana and I felt on that day was worse than what we felt when we learned of Sasha’s first diagnosis. The good news is that Sasha has no idea what is going on and she must have been thinking that her Mom and Dad were going loco with all the emotion going on.

Sasha has always been a stoic dog in the face of adversity, discomfort, and even pain. She represents her breed well as she embodies all the qualities of a good American bulldog. She stubbornly pursues tail-wagging fun, and avoids, just as stubbornly, things and activities that do not please her. Sasha is not one to lie down before the trials and tribulations of life, and so Liliana and I will try to be as tough as she is and help her continue her war against osteosarcoma.

Dr. Mason had already received the news about Sasha from Dr. Neuenschwander when Liliana and I called her the day after Sasha’s X-rays. We spoke with her on speaker-phone for forty-five minutes. Have I mentioned before that we love Dr. Mason? Well, we do. Anyway, part of what we talked about was, ‘what’s next for Sasha?’ We talked about several options, but the conversation centered mostly on Palladia. Palladia is an anti-cancer drug that works by blocking the signaling of several growth receptors and inhibits the growth of new blood vessels in tumors. A clinical trial using Palladia and Cyclophosphamide was running concurrently with the L. Monocytogenes vaccine trial at UPenn. The trial closed recently, so results are lacking, but hopes are high, and following its use in 2009 to treat dogs with a variety of cancers, evidence suggests that Palladia extended the lives of dogs with OSA longer than if they had only been treated with chemotherapy.

I called Dr. Hauck from NC State Veterinary Hospital the next day to see about getting Sasha started on Palladia. Dr. Hauck agreed that Palladia was a possible option for Sasha and asked to see her the next day for blood work and a urinalysis. Palladia has many possible side effects, some serious, and Dr. Hauck wanted to ensure that Sasha was healthy enough to begin the new treatment. When the lab was finished with Sasha’s blood and urine, the results were called, “beautiful”. Once again, Sasha had good blood and good pee. Sasha began taking Palladia that same day. She is to be given a 75mg dose once each Monday, Wednesday and Friday for two weeks to see how she tolerates the drug. If all goes well, more Palladia will be prescribed along with Cyclophosphamide. I’m happy to write that after three doses, Sasha appears to be 100% side-effect free! I’m sure that some side effects take longer to manifest, but I say this is a good start!

We will try to do a better job at keeping everyone up to date on how Sasha is doing. I’m sorry that the posts on Lili’s Notes have been few and far between. Liliana has been extremely busy in her new job, and I – well, I’ll just say that life can be difficult sometimes. I’m sure you’ve all heard the phrase, “when it rains, it pours”. I just wasn’t prepared for the buckets that have been crashing down on my and Liliana’s heads lately. Anyway, I’ll try harder to do a better job here. In the meantime, check out Sasha swimming at Lap it Up in Durham the day after we found out that the cancer had returned:

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  10 Responses to “Hopes Dashed and Fears Realized”

Comments (10)

    I am so very sorry to hear this news. It just makes an already sad day just the more sad. We lost Abby this afternoon. About 3 weeks ago she started acting like something was wrong. We didn’t really get any real explanations until this week. Her orthopedic surgeon suspected she had either a blown disc or a growth on her cervical spine. She was admitted to the ICU for pain control. Yesterday she couldn’t get up or even stand. She was scheduled for more diagnostics and possibly surgery. I was with her for 2 hours this morning. I fed her, talked to her and just gave her lots of hugs, kisses and massages. 2 hours later I received a call that she had taken a dramatic turn for the worse, her breathing was now affected and there was nothing else left to do. I asked them to just not let her suffer.

    I hope you get much more time with Sasha and that the Palladia works well for her. I will be saying prayers and hoping for the best for.


      Dear Barbara, I am so so sorry to hear about Abby. Cancer is a horrible disease. My heart goes out to you and your family.

      Even after all that we have gone through with Sasha, having to let her go will be unimaginable. Life without her will not be the same, I love her so much.

      I will be thinking of you, Pat, Ziva…and Abby.



    I can’t imagine how hard this must be to go through again. Good luck with Sasha!


    What a testament of true devotion and love to Sasha, those beloved animals that do anything for their human companions! Carlos, Lili, keep the faith, and make Sasha as happy as possible! She is an awesome girl!!! Your love for her is undeniable!! Love you! Ta.


      I would never have thought that I could love a dog as much as I love Sasha – the whole gang really. But you know, Sasha and I have a special bond. Now its just a matter of time, time we plan to enjoy with her as much as possible.

      Love you, too!




    I feel like I know Sasha after reading this blog for some time. I’m am so sorry to hear of her relapse. Having wonderful owners like you is probably as good a medicine as anything. The power of love can be so strong. I’ll keep Sasha in my thoughts and prayers (heard prayers can be very powerful). You and Sasha are so lucky to have each other.



      Dear Jim

      Thank you fore the kind words. It’s nice knowing that there are people like you that care about Sasha. We know Sasha won’t give up the fight, so neither will we, but we realize the most important thing is to enjoy our time with her.

      Thank you again for your words and for following Sasha’s progress.



    Hi Liliana & Carlos,

    I’ve been thinking about Sasha lately, wondering how she’s doing, and I came back to your site for an update. Reading your words and feeling the pain in them brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing Sasha’s story with all of us, especially those of us trailing the path you and Sasha are bravely forging. It is immensely helpful to know what is working for Sasha and what isn’t. I feel like I will be better prepared for whatever is in store for Dolly (her April 18th lung radiographs showed two small mysterious shadows).

    My heart is with you and I am comforted knowing Sasha is having a blast with the people (and dogs) who love her.



      Hi Rachel,

      Thank you so much for stopping by and for your kind words. Liliana and I were devastated when we found out that the cancer was back. It was a harder blow the second time around. Sasha continues to do well and enjoy life. In fact, we are taking her swimming again this Saturday. I don’t think that we will be throwing the Kong flying disc for her any more, not because of a lack of interest on her part, but for fear that she might fracture her femur. The bone has degraded to the point that we are fearful of a fracture, and so we will be even more cautious while trying to keep her happy and as active a possible.

      Sasha has been a brave pioneer in the Mason Bone Cancer Study, and we hope that her participation in it, and our sharing of her story, will help other dogs and people. Dolly is also a pioneer, and so are all of the other dogs in the study. I hope that the shadows on Dolly’s radiographs are merely artifacts, or something else equally innocuous. How has your girl been feeling?

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