Sophie's surgery: Playing hide and seek with cancer is no darn fun

Patty Khuly, DVM
June 04, 2008
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In answer to all your questions and hope-for-the-bests: Yes! Sophie pulled through nicely and has already successfully consumed at least four small meals.

Surgery apparently makes Sophie hungry. And that makes her mom happy. [big smile here]

Though everything went as safely and smoothly as possible, not everything went 100% according to plan. [frowny face]

Unfortunately, no tumor jumped up and begged to be extricated from its fleshy source—much less the expected insulinoma. Nope. No cancer even managed to whisper its whereabouts under its breath. An exhaustive search turned up…nothing.

Well, not exactly. We biopsied the pancreas, a nearby lymph node, the liver and a small mass on her skin. The report will be back from the histopathologist’s lab in three to seven days. We can only hope for a definitive answer, but I wouldn’t be surprised if none is forthcoming. (Wish us luck.)

It’s not unusual—finding nothing. But it sucks. Some of us just NEED to know. (I’m sure some of you can relate to that.)

So the next time you get frustrated with your veterinarian because he/she can’t figure out what’s wrong with your pet, just remember my plight. I have internists, surgeons and oncologists—personal friends—at my disposal. I have access to all the fanciest tools in the biz. And I still don’t know what the F is up with my own dog.

Can you tell I’m discouraged? Perturbed? Worried?

No, it’s not so easy when some things go wrong. As I like to say, animal bodies are every bit as complex as the most convoluted system you can think of. In this case? It’s clear I’m up against a well-concealed opponent.

PS: For your viewing pleasure, here are some pics of Sophie’s surgery day:


Getting three-view X-rays right before surgery (to make sure there are no metastatic masses visible in her chest immediately before diving into a delicate abdomen):

Here's one view:

Setting the scene (prepping):

The scary first slice:

Dr. Wosar gently prodding the pancreas in search of the offensive insulinoma:

Getting a biopsy of the lymph node—just in case it’s spread:

Sophie Sue’s mug with all its monitoring hardware attached (a bigger pic than the one above):

Sophie Sue 24 hours post-op:

Impressed? Yeah, you should be. The professionalism, equipment and skill of the Miami Veterinary Specialists staff is impressive—even to me, jaded vet that I am. That’s why I bought them pizza and made home-made brownies (stuffed with Three-Musketeer’s bars, a personal best). If ever we discover the source of this problem (even if we don’t) I think I’ll have to throw them all a party. Don’t you think?