Holy insulinoma! Sophie Sue's cancer crisis lands her back in the OR
It was just three months ago that I wrote about my ten tear-old Frenchie’s scary spinal surgery. It wasn’t pleasant, all that pain and worry. But this time it promises to be somewhat more stressful—in the long run at least.
Sophie Sue's got cancer—at least we think she does—on her pancreas. Said putative cancer's producing insulin, which pushes blood glucose into cells, thereby lowering the glucose in the blood. And that’s not good for the brain, among other key body parts.
An insulinoma (a typically malignant pancreatic beta-cell tumor) is what we think caused Sophie’s seizure the other day. Her blood glucose at the time we measured it (less than five minutes after the short-lived event) was 44. It’s supposed to be 80 to 100.
In and of itself that incident (and the low sugar level) wouldn’t have been indicative of an insulinoma—not necessarily, anyway—not unless we could prove her blood glucose was low as a result of high insulin production.
So that’s what I did. I proved it—twice in as many days. It seems unlikely that anything BUT an insulinoma could have so dastardly an effect of blood sugar concentrations in the presence of so much insulin.
Problem is, no tumor was visible on the X-rays or ultrasound, which is typical for most insulinomas. No visual confirmation of the ethereal bloodwork sourced from a building far far away was there to help me make a definitive diagnosis. And that sucks.
Here's a good example of why we can't detect these with standard equipment. Look how tiny! And plenty are smaller than this.
Fortunately, (or unfortunately, depending on your view of things), Sophie’s activity level (something I monitor very carefully) had been waning over the past week. In fact, last Wednesday I postponed her routine dental because she didn’t seem “quite right.” The seizure followed this observation…within 24 hours.
Poor Soph! Under the knife yet again. She’ll probably have half her pancreas (and the insulinoma) removed by the time most of you read this. She’ll recover slowly over a few days. Then she’ll be taking medication for the rest of her life.
The good news is that life after insulinoma surgery has a median length of almost 1300 days. And I can live with that…as long as Sophie’s happy.