“I went to the rescue to see a different dog,” said Randy. “I knew pretty quickly that dog wasn’t the one, so I called Molly to tell her. She sent me back inside to see another dog she saw listed on the shelter’s website. Almost instantly, I knew he was the one.”
Randy and Molly adopted Tulsa, a handsome yellow lab, when he was three-years-old. They were his fourth home.
“About a week after Tulsa came to live with us, he was a little wild, so I took him back to the shelter with me to get more of his history,” shared Randy. “We had no intention of relinquishing him, but I could tell he was upset, so I said ‘don’t worry, you’re coming home with me.’ Tulsa immediately relaxed. It’s like he knew exactly what I said to him. From that day on, he’s been the best dog ever.”
A true lab, Tulsa loves to wrestle, chase rabbits and squirrels, swim after ducks, and go for long hikes.
In February 2017, when Tulsa was four-and-a-half years-old, Molly and Randy brought Tulsa to his veterinarian with some concerns about his left tarsus (ankle on his hind leg). They noticed that it bothered him from time to time and it was swollen again. Their veterinarian noted the swelling and ordered further testing. A bone biopsy came back indicative of sarcoma, possibly osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer.
“As soon as we heard the results, we called to make an appointment a CSU,” said Randy. “Our horses were treated there, so we were familiar with the Veterinary Teaching Hospital.”
Their first appointment at the Flint Animal Cancer Center lasted about an hour and a half. In that time, they learned about Tulsa’s options. “They really put our mind at ease and we knew it was a no brainer to treat him,” said Randy.
After discussing treatment plans, Molly and Randy enrolled Tulsa in the COTC 21/22 Clinical Trial. The protocol included amputation of his left hind leg followed by chemotherapy. The night before surgery, Tulsa’s surgeon, Dr. Bernard Seguin, called to talk to Molly and Randy and answer their questions. During Tulsa’s surgery, Molly and Randy were impressed to receive regular updates. He made it through surgery great, but the first few weeks following were rough.
“Deanna Williams, Tulsa’s surgical nurse, was amazing,” said Molly. “She continued to follow up with us because she knew Tulsa was having a hard time. But, after his stitches were removed, he was great and running again in no time!”
Two weeks after surgery, Tulsa began the chemotherapy protocol. Following three doses of carboplatin (chemotherapy), Tulsa’s doctors noticed changes on his chest radiographs, but they were too small to provide conclusive data about the spread of his cancer. His team ordered repeat testing in three weeks. The new radiographs showed two well-defined tumors in his lungs that indicated his initial chemotherapy protocol was not working for him and he needed a different course of treatment. The spread of his cancer qualified him for a new clinical trial for dogs with more advanced disease. Clinical trials coordinator and Tulsa’s favorite staff member, Nikki Roatch, provided details about the Palladia/Losartan trial for metastatic osteosarcoma. Tulsa began his new course of treatment in June 2017.
In August, Tulsa celebrated his fifth birthday with Molly, Randy, Nikki, clinical trials intern, Dr. Chris Pinard, and the rest of the team. “The clinical trials team is phenomenal,” said Molly.
In the months following his birthday, Tulsa felt great and spent time enjoying all of his favorite activities inlcuding, swimming, hiking, and running.“When I thought back to the spring, when Tulsa was diagnosed, one thing Dr. Seguin said really stuck with me; he told us that every dog is born with three legs and one spare. He assured us Tulsa would do great; seeing him swim, play, and hike, he was right”
At the end of October, however, Molly and Randy noticed a change. “Tulsa was lethargic and started reverse sneezing,” said Molly. “When he didn't improve, we brought him in to see urgent care and further testing revealed the cancer had spread to his brain.”
With this setback, Molly and Randy have been reflecting on Tulsa’s care. “Everyone at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital has been amazing – from urgent care to oncology to clinical trials. They really care about all of us and that means a lot.” They are particularly grateful to Dr. Pinard.
“Dr. Pinard has been a part of Tulsa's team since August. He is wonderful, incredibly patient, and takes the time answer all of our questions. He makes himself available via email and checks in on Tulsa. He has been very caring and supportive to all three of us.”
Because the chemotherapy is no longer effectively treating Tulsa, Molly and Randy are working with his doctors to find other options to keep him comfortable and happy. “Right now, we’re enjoying our time together. We knew the statistics about osteosarcoma weren’t great when Tulsa was diagnosed, and even though his cancer is spreading, we are grateful for the extra, quality time we’ve had with him,” said Molly.
“If we had to do it all over again, we definitely would.”
Your gift to the Flint Animal Cancer Center will support our mission to improve the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer in beloved pets like Tulsa. Please join our team of hope. Together we can make a difference; together we can work toward a cure.