Sadie Lou had a rough start to life- she was found in an abandoned house in Western Illinois with another dog. She was pregnant, starving, and had damaged many teeth, presumably in an attempt to chew cabinets open in search of food. We met her in 2010, when she was approximately 18 months old. Even with all her medical concerns, she was calm and sweet. We brought her home and began her journey toward health.
She has been with us while we got married, moved into new homes, dealt with sorrow and joy over the past decade. Sadie’s soulful eyes, sweet nature, love for cuddling, and loyal spirit have won her many fans in our tight knit neighborhood. It is hard to describe the impact she has on people- she is universally beloved, even by those who wouldn’t consider themselves “dog fans.” We are stopped on the street weekly so someone can say hello to her. Sadie Lou is now over 11 years old, but she is still playful and mischievous. We have always paid attention to her health- we knew that Boxers had a high incidence of cancer inherent to the breed. She’d had a few small growths removed, but overall was extraordinarily healthy and happy.
In February of this year, we scheduled the removal of a soft tissue sarcoma on Sadie’s left hip. We knew it was cancerous, but like her previous three lump removals, we hoped that surgery would provide good margins and we could go back to “normal”. It was not to be- our veterinarian found elevated white blood cells in her bloodwork, and a complete blood count point toward leukemia or lymphoma. We hurried Sadie to a specialist, and she was diagnosed with large cell multicentric lymphoma- she had cancer in her lymph nodes and in her spleen.
Suddenly we were not just doing what I had told myself was “routine” healthcare for a senior dog. We were looking at close to $10,000 in vet bills. Although Sadie is older, her oncologist felt that because she was in such good health otherwise, she would have a good chance at remission after treatment with the recommended CHOP protocol (three types of chemotherapy plus prednisone, over 16 weeks of treatment.) Remission in dogs, I learned, means approximately a year or so without cancer in their system before it may reappear. Sadie had no symptoms whatsoever, and if we did nothing we could expect to lose her within just 6-9 weeks. We were petrified and so sad.
We found Zeus Oncology Fund through Instagram while I was feverishly researching canine lymphoma. I was looking for some support, because I had no idea what to do or what to expect with Sadie’s treatment and protocol, and I felt completely overwhelmed. We applied for a grant and approved. As immensely grateful as we were to Melissa and the team at ZOF, we didn’t realize what a help that money would be, as COVID-19 took hold of the country just a couple of weeks after Sadie started her treatments, and the entire process became several times more challenging and stressful.
Our life is now a routine of weekly appointments, often moved around at the last minute because of the changing city and state guidelines around veterinary care during the pandemic, combined with walking an immunocompromised dog in a busy city and keeping ourselves and Sadie’s care team safe and healthy. However, Sadie has remained remarkably unchanged throughout. She is still spunky, determined, cuddly, and loving. She still enjoys her walks and has really taken to Zoom calls, perking up when she hears the voices of her best human friends.
Sadie has completed approximately half her CHOP treatment. We have rescheduled her initial surgery to remove her sarcoma, and her white blood cell count has returned to within the normal range. Hopefully, she’ll be okay to have that sarcoma removed and then complete her CHOP protocol by July/August. She’s loving having us home with her every day, and her current favorite thing is to sun herself on our porch in Chicago, soaking up the rays.
One of the other great things that has come from us learning about ZOF was when we heard our childhood friends’ dog, Rory, had the same diagnosis as Sadie we were able to steer them to ZOF for support, and now Rory has become a recipient as well! We have found community and emotional support with ZOF even as we are barred from seeing our friends and family, and that has been extremely helpful during this stressful situation. We will continue to update everyone on Sadie Lou’s progress-we know she has captured a few hearts online, as well.
Thank you ZOF!
Meghan & Matt G., 2020