The lives of pets are saved every day in veterinary hospitals, but unfortunately, not all pet parents receive such good news. Yet sometimes a glimmer of hope and happiness can shine through even those most unfortunate of circumstances, and in this case, that brightness is found in the form of a 190-lb English mastiff happily chewing on a toy and wagging her tail on the hospital floor. Her name is Mabel, and she is an embodiment of the phrase “every cloud has a silver lining.”
Mabel is one of the sweetest dogs you would ever meet – just ask anyone. She is a local celebrity in her neighborhood, where she has resided with her loving parents, Lauren and Patrick Galvin, since she was 8-weeks-old. You can usually find this gentle giant providing laughs for the neighbors, playing with her family or serving as a very cozy pillow to anyone who wants to cuddle. According to the Galvins, she’s always maintained a “sweet-yet-hilarious” personality that is just as large as she is.
Last fall, at five years of age, Mabel began limping without an obvious cause or injury. Her parents kept a close eye on it, hoping it would resolve quickly, but the limping continued to get worse. Concerned, Patrick took Mabel to BluePearl, a specialty & emergency pet hospital in Elk Grove Village, IL. Diagnostic testing revealed some distressing news – osteosarcoma, a serious and often painful form of bone cancer, was found in Mabel’s leg.
“The news was absolutely devastating to us,” said Lauren. “She is our baby and we were heartbroken.”
Mabel was referred to Dr. Pedro Boria, who is board-certified in veterinary oncology, and Dr. Breanna Erwin, an oncology intern and emergency veterinarian. That’s when the Galvins learned about their options. They could elect for amputation of the leg, however, for a dog of Mabel’s size, quality of life could be severely affected. Traditional chemotherapy was not the best option either, because in this case, it would only delay the spread of the cancer, and not treat the bone tumor itself. At this point, Mabel could barely walk.
“Unfortunately, the cancer had likely spread and one of the best options for quality of life is palliative care – which would make sure the rest of her life was comfortable,” said Dr. Erwin.
After taking some time with Mabel to weigh their options, the Galvin family decided to relieve her pain through palliative care rather than attempt to treat the cancer.
“We used to never feed her people food,” says Lauren, “But after we made our decision, we stopped and got her some french fries. She can have whatever she wants now.”
Shortly after, Mabel’s treatments began. She reports to BluePearl once a month for a two-hour treatment called pamidronate – a medication that decreases bone destruction and is given through an IV drip. It can take time to see results from the medication, and Mabel’s family didn’t notice any improvement after the first treatment. Mabel was in excruciating pain and her quality of life was poor.
Then a miracle happened.
“Mabel’s improvement after her second treatment was like night and day,” said Lauren, “A switch flipped in her. She became very energetic and playful, almost as if she was a puppy again.”
Not only could Mabel walk again, but she was livelier than ever. She resumed her normal playtime with her parents, including her “8:30 p.m. crazies” in which she hops in circles around the living room every evening. It was as if the cancer wasn’t affecting her at all anymore.
Mabel’s progress was not only enlightening to her family, but also to BluePearl staff, who had completely fallen in love with her.
“Mabel is famous in our hospital. When she walks in for treatment, everyone in the facility gets excited,” said Dr. Erwin, “She loves coming to her veterinary appointments to see all of her hospital friends.”
Dr. Erwin not only ensures improvement to Mabel’s quality of life with medical treatments, but also with lots of love and spoiling. She makes sure Mabel has a large Kong-style toy filled with yummy wet food every time she visits and will often sit with Mabel during her treatments. Dr. Erwin also maintains a close relationship with the Galvin family – sending them cute pictures of Mabel during each treatment.
Mabel’s cancer is still spreading, but her pain is now well managed, allowing her to regain quality of life and live the rest of her days in good spirits and comfort.
“She is our whole world,” said Lauren, “And her whole world revolves around making us happy. We are eternally grateful for the medical treatment and compassion provided by BluePearl because they’ve treated Mabel like family. And that gives us such peace of mind to know she’s in capable, loving hands. They’ve given us this unexpected extra time to spend with our girl and words can’t express how appreciative we are.”
“Mabel is so much more comfortable now,” said Dr. Erwin, “Her case is an example of a major transformation in quality of life.”
Mabel will continue to undergo monthly treatments at BluePearl for as long as she remains pain-free and lively. Her palliative treatment in combination with the overwhelming amount of love (and cookies) she receives, both at home and in the hospital, will ensure the last chapters of her life are just as bright and happy as her puppyhood.