Dog Still Beating the Odds One Year After Terminal Cancer Diagnosis

dog running
Sunny is still going strong a year after emergency surgery and a cancer diagnosis at the UC Davis veterinary hospital.

“Case of the Month” – August 2020

One year ago, Sunny, a 9-year-old male Labrador retriever/pit bull mix, was lethargic and hadn’t eaten in several days. His owner, David Newsom, took him to his primary veterinarian, and x-rays revealed a large mass in his abdomen. Sunny was referred to the UC Davis veterinary hospital for further evaluation.

Additional tests performed at UC Davis by the Diagnostic Imaging Service, including an ultrasound and a CT scan, detected a large mass in the region of his colon, a small mass in his spleen, and a septic abdomen.  

Owner David Newsom and Sunny
Owner David Newsom and Sunny

Because of the infected nature of his abdomen, emergency surgery was performed by the Soft Tissue Surgery Service to remove the mass and the affected portion of his colon, and also remove Sunny’s spleen. Surgeons also placed a feeding tube and a drainage tube.

“Sunny stayed in the Intensive Care Unit for eight days, as it was touch and go, just a 50-50 chance he’d make it through,” said Newsom. “But he did! Thanks to the fine care and treatment he received from his team.”

Tissue samples were taken during surgery and examined by the Anatomic Pathology Service. The results were not promising.

“It was when the biopsy results came back that I was given the dreaded news about his cancer – hemangiosarcoma,” added Newsom. “I was told at the time of the diagnosis that, without treatment, we were looking at 3-4 months, but with chemotherapy the bell curve was at 6-9 months. So, we started chemo.”

In July 2019, Sunny started what was to become five months of chemotherapy treatments.

“The last time we were with the Oncology Service was in December of 2019,” said Newsom. “After Sunny’s last scans, I was given the bad news that the disease was indeed progressing, and that Sunny only had a month or two left. They hoped he would make it through the holidays.”

Sunny
Sunny

At that point, Newsom elected to place Sunny on supportive care rather than continue the chemotherapy.

On June 9, 2020, the one-year anniversary of Sunny’s emergency surgery, UC Davis received a note from Newsom expressing jubilantly that Sunny was beating the odds and still with us.

“I'm writing today in gratitude,” wrote Newsom. “Today marks a year since Sunny had his emergency surgery. I celebrate he is still alive! I really did not expect this day to arrive with him still alive. A year is very rare. The doctors all told me as such, and I have read much the same – that only 1-2 percent make it to a year with hemangiosarcoma cancer. I celebrate that he has! I give tremendous thanks and praise to the UC Davis veterinary hospital and the entire team who do such wonderful work. Sunny means the world to me, and you’ve given us an extra year together. That is beyond priceless. Thank You!”

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