Roxy <3’s Story
By Rachael Lloyd
Let me start by saying, with the risk of sounding like Bob Barker….please, please, please get your pets spayed or neutered. I got Roxy when I was young and I didnt understand the risk I put her in by not having her spayed. A dog that is spayed before her first heat has roughly a zero percent chance of getting breast cancer. A dog that has been spayed before her second heat has a roughly a 7 percent of getting breast cancer. Roxy turned 9 years old in February, and had not been spayed. I take full responsibility for her having had breast cancer. You don’t want to take the chance of ever feeling that weight, trust me. Roxy has never misbehaved a day in her life. She is the perfect dog. She is sweet and kind, with a child-likeness to her. She has this amazing sense of wonder and loves life. She has an adventurous spirit and likes going anywhere. If you can’t tell yet… shes a boxer. She loves people and especially kids. Out of the 168 hours in each week, we spend at least 148 of them together(if not more) so, Roxy has been nicknamed my shadow… or as I prefer…my shadow boxer. 🙂 She was first diagnosed with two mast cell tumors in 08. Six months after I lost my other baby (Debo) to a brain tumor. The news was rough to say the least. But she had surgery and the cancer was gone. I checked her body religiously for bumps and lumps and in March of this year (2011) I felt lumps in her mammary glands. Being my mother is a breast cancer survivor, I knew this was serious and time sensitive. There had also been two other bumps, one on her hind leg and one on her front leg… I was putting it off but I knew when I felt the mammary glands, I couldn’t put it off any longer. I took her to her vet and the news they gave me was grim. Six months to a year. SIX MONTHS TO A YEAR??? I couldn’t wrap my mind around how my perfectly happy and other wise perfectly healthy 9 year old baby girl was silently being ripped away from me. Cancer was killing her. The vet told me if we were going to consider surgery, that we should find a board certified surgeon, but that our first step was meeting with an oncologist. So, to CVS (Carolina’s veterinary specialists) we went. We met Dr. Claudia McFadden (oncologist/angel) I could praise this woman for the rest of my life and it still wouldn’t be enough.. but I’ll get to that later. She gave us hope. She explained we didn’t have to accept this… that she believed Roxy could be saved. But it wasn’t going to be cheap and it certainly wasn’t going to be easy. Now I’m a full time college student, I don’t have much… and I certainly couldn’t afford this. But I vowed to myself Roxy would not die because I couldn’t afford her care. A brand new Play Station 3 was donated and I sold raffle tickets to win it… to everyone I could. I had a garage sale where friends and family donated things to sell, and I sold cupcakes. I made posters and had a “save Roxy’s life”, theme so everyone that came, knew why we were there. I raised close to $3000.00 in a week. But it wasn’t enough. Then we found out “murray’s fund” (the charity Dr. McFadden started after losing her own beloved dog Murray to cancer, to help people who couldn’t afford treatment)was going to award Roxy with some funds. And after the award, the garage sale, the raffle tickets, the oh so many cupcakes, and begging and borrowing from everyone I knew… we were ready. There was just no “thinking” about it, we knew what the right thing for Roxy was, we knew Roxy would choose life. And so our fight began. Roxy had testing done. Her lungs, her heart, x-rays of her abdomen, blood tests, urine tests, you name it, they checked for it. A week after her diagnosis, Dr. Devorak (Roxy’s surgeon)removed the two mast cell tumors from her legs, she preformed a quadruple mastectomy, a skin graph (so they could close her lean little body up,)and she was spayed. Quite a list, huh? I stayed at the hospital from 7am to 5pm when they finally came out to tell me she was awake and recovering. Everyone kept telling me I could leave, but that was physically impossible for me. If anything was going to happen to her on that operating table, some unexpected horrible thing… I was going to be there to hold her. Everyone believed Roxy was strong enough for all this and as her mom, I KNEW she was. She had to spend the night in the hospital… I was devastated by this, in 9+ years we had never spent a night apart. But I reminded myself this was my fight, I had to fight this fight for Roxy. She needed me. She needed me to be strong. So when I knew she was done with surgery and okay, I went home, without my girl. I couldn’t sleep that night, so I drove to the hospital and waited. I waited for a call saying she was ready to go home. I finally got it around 4pm. I was excited and scared. I didn’t know what to expect… but then I saw that little monkey face, and she saw me and her back end wiggled with delight. She was a mess… JP drains hanging from both sides of her body and scars everywhere. She was sore and all drugged up, but her spirit was strong. I took her home to my mattress on the den floor made up like a big doggy bed and we rested. The first few days were rough.. she was weak, but I was strong for her. She wouldn’t get up to drink, so I gave her water from a bottle… she wouldn’t eat so I cooked 10 different things and when I found one she would eat, I had to hand feed her. Everyday she got stronger and stronger. And on the ninth day, while grilling hot dogs for her, I noticed my shadow was gone. I looked up and she was running circles around the backyard… my baby was BACK! The next day the drains came out, and it was back to normal activity. Of course I made her take it easy and babied everything a little longer. But we weren’t done yet… Dr devorak explained that during the removal of the tumor on her front leg they couldn’t get the standard margin they normally like to take. They got all the cancer but only 1mm of clean cells around it. So we decided that chemo would be her best option. If there were any cells remaining on her leg, chemo would kill them. If there were any cancer cells anywhere in her body… chemo would kill them. We gave her a couple weeks and then we started chemo. Eight rounds over 12 weeks. She was put on anti nausea, anti diarrhea meds and on prednisone. She went through chemo with flying colors. Thursday, July 28th 2011, Roxy “graduated” from chemo. That day will always be one of the most profound days of my life. You see, something kicked in on that day in March; I was thrust into a survival mode.. where you just do what you have to do, because it needs to be done. But on July 28th I found myself overwhelmed with emotions. Everything I was told, everything that had happened, everything we did, all the hard work, the pill schedules, culminated into this one day. And as I sat there in the hospital waiting room, waiting for the final round of chemo to be over, I witnessed just “HOW” lucky we were. Four groups of people(that I saw) left that hospital that day, crying, with empty leashed dangling from their hands. I’m sure everyone that worked there and saw me thought I was NUTS! My girl was being cured and yet I was crying. But I wasn’t crying for me or Roxy… I was crying for those people who lost their babies that day. I’ve been that person. And I realized that survival mode was over, sitting there I felt and still feel, like I received a miracle, things so easliy could have gone the other way for us. My girl survived. And we couldn’t have done it without our army of people supporting us. And Roxy’s very own angel, Dr. McFadden. I will forever be in debt to her. She is brilliant, kind and caring. Shes simply our hero. Roxy will be on the prednisone for a few more weeks, but other than that… its business as usual. Our fight is over. Roxy didn’t just survive… she THRIVES!!! Roxy has taught me what it means to be dedicated and how every day IS a gift. My advice for those knee deep in their own fight…. don’t give up… and remember anything is possible.