That’s when Elmer came into my life. He was a vibrant, loving and intelligent Doberman Pinscher puppy who became my companion and best friend during the most strenuous years of my life.
Doctors diagnosed Elmer with nasal carcinoma with brain involvement and a peripheral nerve sheath tumor at 7.5 years old in 2019. Elmer had none of the typical symptoms such as face swelling and nosebleeds at this aggressive stage except for sneezing, so his diagnosis caught me off guard.
Dogs with nasal carcinomas that have significant extension into the brain often have an average survival time of six months, even with radiation therapy. Survival time for nasal tumors is about three months without treatment.
Elmer got 16 months.
‘I know my pet, and this wasn’t his normal’
Elmer’s favorite hobbies were sleeping on the couch, chewing noses off dog toys, wearing fancy collars and sneaking bags of marshmallows out of cabinets and devouring them. He could hear a chip bag open from across the entire house and would be there by your side in two seconds.
He got me through veterinary school’s ups and downs, and I have no doubt I wouldn’t have made it if I didn’t have him by my side. Elmer started sneezing infrequently in January 2019. He took medication yet continued to sneeze with increasing frequency. I know my pet, and this wasn’t his normal.
I scheduled him for a rhinoscopy at Oklahoma State University’s Boren Veterinary Medical Hospital. I will never forget the phone call after. My sweet Elmer had an aggressive tumor growing in his nostril. He needed a CT scan and biopsy performed, along with a referral to the Veterinary Specialists of North Texas (VSNT): The Animal Cancer Center. This team of veterinary professionals were here not only to tailor treatment plans specifically for Elmer’s case both with radiation and chemotherapy but to guide us through this tough journey.
Elmer powered through because wonderful biomedical researchers developed chemotherapy treatments that not only benefit human lives but also animal lives. Research benefiting animal lives also directly benefits human lives not only in drug development but also psychologically since there are proven psychological benefits to owning a pet.
Elmer and I had time to make lasting memories before he passed thanks to research that is positively impacting the lives of animals.
Treatment extended my dog’s lifetime drastically
Elmer started a combination of a radiation therapy protocol and alternating carboplatin and doxorubicin chemotherapy. I drove Elmer down once a week for treatments at VSNT. We stuck to this routine for months. He didn’t mind since he got to hang out all day with mom and then get a Starbucks Puppuccino on the way back!
I worked hard during veterinary school and saved up an emergency fund for him. He got me through some of my toughest years; I wanted to return that and get him through his toughest time.
The VSNT team started my dog on temozolomide in January 2020 after he no longer responded well to his previous chemotherapy protocol. He defeated all odds thanks to biomedical research, but I knew his body was tired.
Elmer developed focal seizures in April 2020 as his condition progressed. I had to make a hard decision.
Elmer was my protector, confidant and biggest supporter for years. We lived every day to the fullest for those last 16 precious months. He was beside me 24-7.
I am forever grateful to hard-working researchers and treatment facility staff who promote, support and provide excellent treatment for pets with complicated diagnoses such as Elmer’s.
Today I am a better veterinarian thanks to Elmer.
Alisha Preno is a veterinarian in Oklahoma. Sara’s Photo Creations, llc captured the featured image and first two photographs in this post.