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CanineKids Outfitters Cancer Research Fund

This gorgeous Sheltie is Stella, our beloved canine daughter. Although we have lost several of our Shelties to various forms of cancer, we share Stella's story as inspiration and hope for families who are dealing with a cancer diagnosis for a precious canine kid.

Stella had high blood pressure at age 10, and shortly after we had brought Bennett into our family, a very vibrant Sheltie puppy. It had been 3 years since Stella's brother Spencer had passed away, and we were all ready for a new family member.

Since high blood pressure is a secondary finding in dogs, our vet wanted to rule out a problem with Stella's kidneys. An ultrasound determined her kidneys were fine, but they discovered an incidental finding, a small mass in her bladder. Upon further testing, we learned Stella had Transitional Cell Carcinoma (TCC), a common bladder cancer found in certain breeds, such as Shelties.

What made Stella's case so unique was the early detection of the TCC, which is usually diagnosed in the later stages of the disease and therefore more difficult to treat. In Stella's case, the fact her new little brother was stressing her out and prompted the testing turned out to be a life-saving blessing.

TCC is typically found in the tri-gone area of the bladder and is therefore more complex in treating surgically. In Stella's case, the TCC was in the opposite end of the bladder, making surgical removal our first remedy. Stella's surgery to remove the TCC, including the verification of clean margins around the tumor, seemed to be successful. Throughout this time, Stella was completely asymptomatic, and to that point, she never looked her age. During the first few re-checks, no TCC was found and we breathed continual sighs of relief. However, that winning streak came to a halt at her 6-month check-up when an ultrasound confirmed the TCC had returned.

Because Stella was living life to the fullest and showed no signs of slowing down, we decided to seek treatment through an oncology specialist. Our first impression of the traditional medications like chemo and radiation were to be absolutely certain we clearly understood the benefits and risks before putting her through these treatments. As it turns out, we learned that dogs typically do not suffer the more severe side effects from treatment. This was encouraging, and we decided to give it a try.

Over the next 6 months, Stella's treatment protocol changed a few times as we monitored the effects of different medications. Fortunately, we landed on what proved to be the winning protocol, which was also the least aggressive of all treatments. We also incorporated holistic treatments such as massage, energy work, and acupuncture. Stella loved these holistic treatments, and the spark in her eyes reinforced that these also played a role in her quality of life.

Amazingly, the least aggressive of all chemo protocols nearly got Stella into remission. She stayed in this state until the age of 13 ½ - a full 3 years after her initial diagnosis. Full of life and love, she continued to persevere. Her check-up at that time showed no TCC and we were so incredibly joyful. However, cancer was found in her pancreas, and the tumor was located near a major blood vessel. The nature and size of the tumor was dangerous and could result in sudden and severe trauma. At that point this risk was not worth taking and Stella was put to sleep while in our arms.

This journey with Stella was life changing for her and for our family. We are so blessed to have worked with wonderful veterinary and oncology teams. Their unwavering support, compassion, guidance and friendship made a difficult time more manageable. Stella lived a great and full life, thanks to the cancer research and having taken a "continual learning" approach in her care.

We hope Stella's story inspires others to continue to fund cancer research at CSU Flint Animal Cancer Center.

The CanineKids Outfitters Cancer Research Fund is an Endowment to help fund cutting-edge cancer research and clinical trials. Improving and extending the quality of life for dogs fighting cancer is at the core of our mission, with the ultimate goal of finding a cure.

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