In March of 2016, one week before Kyle's 11th birthday, he received a clean bill of health at his annual checkup. I had felt a small bump on his neck a few days prior. It was so very tiny, that at the visit, neither the doctor nor the technicians could relocate it. Kyle had previously had several benign bumps that were either lipomas (fatty tissues) or skin tags. So we were assuming this was to be the same. Two days later it had sprouted about one inch big and protruding from his neck.
I brought him right in to get it aspirated and it was the worst of news, Stage II Mast Cell Cancer. We scheduled the surgery and prayed for the best. While he was in surgery, they realized it was dangerously close to his jugular and therefore they were unable to remove the entire growth, for fear of him bleeding out if nicked. So I was presented with the information that moving forward with radiation treatment was his best option for successful remission. After oncology consults, it was decided that he would receive 16 rounds of radiation at MSPCA Angell in Boston.
Each day I would drive him the 75-90 minutes into Jamaica Plain (Boston). While sitting in the morning traffic, we had heartfelt conversations about how proud I was of him being so strong for his Mama and how much everyone loved him. Some days he would sit like my little human-pup in the co-pilot seat, looking at all the traffic and staring at the drivers beside us - so many people smiled back and waved. Other days, he would lie with his head on my arm staring at me while I drove and expressed my love for him. It was quite the bonding experience.
In true Kyle fashion, he won over the hearts of the medical team at Angell, from the intake coordinators, to the radiation technicians, the oncologist and even the discharge coordinators. Each morning they would welcome him with a loud, happy "KYLE!", then a member from his wonderful team would come out take him in back and he would be so excited to see them. They greeted him with open arms and he repaid them with kisses and a happy tail. They would send me texts and pictures of him during the days, always saying he was such a joy. And he would greet me with a huge Puggle howl when he saw me at the end of the day for pick up. We would repeat our commute home, after a quick snack, and usually a bit more tired.
At the end of treatment, he was given the "all clear", of course with no guarantees, but with the hopes that we would have around 3 more years (average) before any re-growth. And for the next few months, Kyle gained back all his strength, and all of his love for life. We had many doctor's visits, and there were some skin reactions, but he was seemingly "all better".
In mid September, Kyle showed signs of Pancreatitis which his vet treated with special diet. After a few days, it appeared that perhaps it was actually a spine/lower back injury. On September 25th, unexpectedly Kyle collapsed. He was unresponsive and his gums were white. I raced him to the emergency hospital up the street from me. His blood pressure was unreadable and his vitals were faint to non-existent. They were able to stabilize him enough to do an ultrasound and see that there was bleeding in his stomach. He needed emergency surgery, but his vitals were too unstable. My heart was breaking for him. Kyle was monitored closely overnight. In the morning they did a more thorough ultrasound and I received the devastating news that the cancer was back, and had attacked his liver and spleen. The Mast Cell had returned in the form of Hemangiosarcoma. His stomach was filling with blood and even with emergency surgery, which he had a high chance of not surviving, he would be given days at most to survive. My world shattered, my heart broke, my life as I knew it was to be changed forever. I gave Kyle the only thing I could, I took his pain and made it my own.
Everyone who met Kyle felt his loss, everyone who truly knew me, felt my pain. His vet, the most compassionate and wonderful team of medical professionals, also grieved with me. Kyle's brother Kody, who was a 4 year survivor of Mast Cell was so lost without his best friend. The world was so much emptier. Life would never be the same. Yet all our lives were made better for having loved him.
Kyle was an amazing pup who loved life and everyone in it. His memory will live on in our hearts. Hopefully, through this organization, Kyle's life will touch others in need and be able to make a difference in the canine medical world.