The Dreaded ‘C’ Word

It’s probably the worst word you could hear starting with the letter ‘c’. Think about it, most ‘c’ words are happy ones: candy, cookies, cupcakes, cuddles, coffee, Christmas.

But this ‘c’ word is no good. People dread hearing it, and if you do, it changes your life.


It affects millions of people, and millions of dogs. According to the National Canine Cancer Society, one out of every three dogs will be diagnosed with canine cancer, and of those, half will die from it. It’s pretty scary to think about. And, it’s even scarier now that Sarge is one of them.

Last week I noticed a growth on the inside of his back leg had gotten much larger. He is a pretty lumpy guy in general, he’s old and has lots of skin tags and bumps. But, this one just didn’t seem like the others. After a needle aspiration and a look under a miscroscope, the vet determined it was a mast cell tumor.

Mast cell tumors are the most common skin tumor found in dogs. Older dogs of mixed breeds (like Sarge) have a high susceptibility for the disease. There are three grades of the tumors, based on how aggressive they are. I declined to have Sarge’s tested right away, because our course of treatment would not be any different based on its grade. Bubba boy is too old to be put through chemo or radiation therapy. The tumor will be removed on Thursday, and after that we will find out what stage it is and whether it has spread to other parts of his body.

The Mr. and I are dreading this surgery so much that it hurts. Although he shows no sign of any pain, lameness in his leg, or anything but pure happiness, it is sad to look at him and think our time together could be coming to an end. We knew when we decided to keep Sarge that eventually something like this was probably going to happen. We promised him that we would give him everything he could possibly need or want to live a fantastic life until then. But really, I didn’t think it would happen this soon. It’s only been 8 months since we walked out of the shelter together and only 5 since he was officially our Bubba Boy. His high level of activity, happy spirit and eagerness to please just led me to believe he’d be around forever. I made Nola promise me that she’d be the first dog to live forever, so I was hoping that Sarge would be the second.

While I have a tendency to think the worst, and know that things will probably be fine, it’s still so heartbreaking. You never know how a dog will react to anesthesia, and what his recovery will be like. We will do our best to give him everything he needs to come out of it ok and in as little pain as possible. We just have to hope that his 14 year old body is strong enough to fight along with us.

32 thoughts on “The Dreaded ‘C’ Word

  1. It’s human to think the worst. We’ll be thinking of you Thursday and anxious to hear an update. Take deep cleansing breaths and focus on the love. Much love from my boys to your boy.

  2. Oh dear! I’ve been through this and it’s JUST AWFUL! I’m also a champion and defaulting to the worst case scenario :(. As above take deep breaths, try and think positive thoughts and know that besides you, Sarge is loved by many he has never met who are all sending good vibes!

  3. I am so sorry to hear that Sarge has a mast cell tumor and will undergo surgery. I wish him and your family the very best. No matter what age, it is never easy to learn that your dog has the awful C word. My girl Sasha has been fighting with this word for the past year and a half, and we are lucky to still have her with us.

    Best wishes to you all!


  4. Sarge looks like a strong dog. He reminds me of my girl Alex so I know he is a fighter. Although I am not being on prayers, I’ll put a prayer for Sarge and your family. Sending you best wishes.

  5. Oh, guys, I’m so sorry to read this. You’ve got to keep positive thoughts for Sarge and focus on the good life you’ve given him. You”ll be in my prayers.

  6. Sorry to hear the sad news. Sarge is a lucky dog, having spent 8 great months knowing he is loved AND we’re keeping our fingers crossed that there are many more months/years in his future. Sending healing energy to Sarge and very positive thoughts to everyone.

  7. So sorry to hear the craptastic C word has hit. I fell in love with Sarge with the first picture you posted and have loved seeing him blossom in your wonderful family. Positive energy and healing thoughts coming your way.

  8. Ugh, that diagnosis is so upsetting. I was quite distraught when our first dog (Bentley, who was beyond elderly when we got him) had a mast cell tumor. We had only had him for a few months also, so I understand your disbelief. 😦 Fortunately the prednisone treatments worked for him – hoping that Sarge has a quick recovery!

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