Grace – A Dog’s Battle with Mesothelioma Cancer.

Forward – Pleural Mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer associated with asbestos inhalation. Mesothelioma is predominantly found in humans but there has been reported incidents of dogs being diagnosed with the condition.
I have been following Grace’s story on Facebook (her name so incredibly suited to her) since she was diagnosed with Mesothelioma in October 2011, and her owner – ‘Kirsty Redshaw’ has kindly given me the privilege to share this heart wrenching story about one owners love and devotion to this beautiful dog.
Grace a Sighthound rescue dog was spotted four years ago on Bradford road, Leeds, by dog-loving Kirsty – scavenging for food and in a terrible state. Kirsty – a Specialist Care Worker at Leeds General Infirmary took her home and provided her with everything she needed to restore her back to health, but most of all – Kirsty did what she does best with all her dogs – showered her with love and warmth in abundance, and Grace blossomed.
For the next 3 years – Grace was healthy and happy under Kirsty’s love and care along with some of her other rescue dogs . Here she is: centre placed in the photo:
Kirsty and her husband Mark are both dedicated to caring for their dogs and the dogs are included in many aspects of their lives, such activities include camping trips, a pint at the pub, . . and not to mention on their wedding day! Beautiful photo below:
But in October 2011 Grace began to show breathing problems. She appeared to be breathing more rapidly when laying on her right side. Kirsty took her to the emergency Vet and the Vet said that one of her lungs was noisy and diagnosed a chest infection and prescribed anti-biotics. Kirsty requested that Grace should be weighed as she had noticed that she had gained 2 kilos in weight during the last 8 -12 weeks and Kirsty, (being on the ball as usual) wanted to ensure that Grace would receive the correct dosage.
However – Grace seemed to be making no progress on the anti-biotics and Kirsty had reservations regarding the initial diagnosis so she took grace to her usual Vet for a second opinion. His diagnosis contradicted what the previous Vet had thought as one of her lungs was worryingly quiet, ‘the lung on the same side that grace was having problems sleeping on’. He booked her in for x-rays and the results showed up a lot of fluid, (pleural effusion) a common symptom of Pleural Mesothelioma. However I must express that pleural effusion can also occur in other lung related conditions. The fluid had to be manually evacuated using a syringe and in total – 2 litres were removed.
Grace was then referred to a more Specialist Vet for more extensive tests including an ultrasound. She had her build-up of fluid drained from her chest again, and was prescribed ‘frusimide’ a drug used to prevent the build up of fluid. Her blood work indicated Grace was loosing protein which they thought could be the cause of the fluid (protein loosing entropathy). Throughout all of this Grace’s protein levels remained low but Kirsty and Mark gave her a high protein diet to try and counteract it, and they did manage to achieve low to normal result.
Kirsty felt unhappy and bewildered by Graces’ treatment so far as she felt that she was not offered much in the way of an explanation concerning Graces’ condition, and being the loving sensitive person she is – she found it heartbreaking to see Grace endure lengthy recovering times after her anaesthetic procedures.
Kirsty then took Grace to see vet ‘Don Sheehan’ at Bridgewater Court, Manchester, one of the most highly respected veterinary practices in the North West. He studied all of Graces’ tests and mentioned Mesothelioma as a possible diagnosis. Kirsty asked the dreaded question ‘was it terminal?’ and the vet replied ‘yes’. Graces’ ultrasound was repeated and her chest drained of fluid yet again. Then at a later appointment Grace returned to the surgery for a thorocoscopy and biopsies on her chest wall, a specialist surgeon was called in to carry out the procedure with specialised equipment, otherwise Grace would have had to endure an operation to open up her chest .
The biopsies confirmed that Grace had fingernail sized lesions on her chest wall, and she was then referred to ‘Liverpool Small Animal Oncology Department’. Kirsty and Mark discussed the best possible course of treatment for her. Her first treatment (December, 2011) was to have a pleural port fitted, this would allow fluid to be drained from her chest without the need for subsequent anaesthetics.
Although Kirsty realised deep down that Grace’s illness was terminal she was desperate to try and give her the best possible chance and agreed to trying IV (intravenous) chemotherapy on Grace. Unfortunately Grace did not respond to the chemotherapy (carboplatin), thus this was discontinued after one cycle.
For the next following 3 months – Grace’s quality of life was fairly comfortable, with a regular dose of steroids and the port left in to drain off any build-up of fluid. Sadly – Grace passed lost her battle with Mesothelioma on 21st March, 2012.
The only 2 reasons that really consoled me during following Grace’s story on Kirsty’s facebook profile page is: reason 1 – seeing how Kirsty and Mark cared for her, and it was incredibly heart-warming to see. Grace enjoyed a selection of delicious home-cooked meals (Lamb was one of her favourites), a king size duvet to sprawl on, and her own chair with propped-up head cushion: See photo below . . . . . . . . .
There is one facebook entry where Grace could not get comfy on her duvet – so Kirsty gets up with her in the middle of the night and goes down with her to see that she settles on her favourite sofa. Reason 2 – is how glad and relieved I was that it was Kirsty that had rescued her!!
Author: Ann Waters.

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