Hearts for Hope
February 16, 2021: Sadly, on this day, Hope joined the Angels to make her way across Rainbow Bridge. Her brave battle with cancer had come to an end. Although our hearts are breaking, we are so very grateful she came into our rescue just a short one year and 12 days ago. She touched the hearts of everyone she met and of those who heard her story. Tragically, not spayed when young, Hope suffered because of that neglect. Despite all she went through, Hope was always courageous, sweet and kind. She’d binky each morning for her pellets and melt you with those big brown eyes for extra treats each day. Rest in peace, sweet angel. We will always promote your lessons
On Saturday, January 4th, 2020, we were notified by Brookdale Pet Center that they "have a rabbit that has cancer and the vet says there is nothing that can be done". They were very concerned and were reaching out for our advice and help. That request came in at 3:04 pm. I happened to be on my computer and responded to the message right away; asking for more information.
While waiting for their reply, I received a call from Astrid H. (3:48 pm) telling me about this same rabbit and her condition. After a flurry of phone calls and messages, Astrid picked the bunny up at 6 pm. She and Jen H. who was also familiar with the rabbit's story brought her to me the next day.
After seeing her, there was no question that this rabbit needed to see our vet as soon as possible. The lump was huge. I had already named her “Hope”.
Based on information from Jen and Astrid, I learned that Hope was originally found as a stray April 2019 and placed in a Bloomfield shelter. In May, after being spayed and having a cancerous mammary cyst removed, she was transferred to Brookdale Pet Center, Bloomfield, NJ to be adopted out. She was adopted to a family in June, but she was returned by the adopters to the pet store December 2019. Upon return, Brookdale staff noticed the mass and their visiting mobile vet told them “it is cancer” and "nothing can be done". The timeframe we laid out was concerning as it meant this lump could have been there for a long while.
The next morning, first thing, I called Community Animal Hospital to schedule an appointment with Dr. Adelsohn. Luckily, we were given a same day appointment. After a thorough exam and three x-ray views of her lungs to confirm they were not already compromised, surgery was scheduled for that Thursday, January 9th; dependent on the results of bloodwork to check for other possible issues. Thankfully, all bloodwork values, excepting monocytes, were normal and we were given a go ahead for surgery.
After dropping Hope off at the hospital just after 8 am on Thursday morning, I tried to keep myself occupied with other things, hoping the hours would pass quickly. It was a very anxious day. Finally, just before 2 pm, Dr. Adelsohn called with the good news. Hope was doing good! Surgery was complex and took over 2 hours. The mass was attached in two areas. One, where she had been spayed went into the abdominal wall, and the second attachment into the abdominal muscle added to the difficulty. Thankfully, the mass was encapsulated, and Dr. A. felt she removed it all. Because of the extensive surgery, Hope needed to stay the night to be syringe fed, kept warm, and receive IV pain meds and fluids. I knew she was in good hands.
I had a pickup appointment the next day at 12:10 pm. I could not wait to see her! As a warning to anyone who might be squeamish, the photos in this slideshow include the removed mass and Hope’s surgical closure. A little blood, so if that will bother you, do not click the arrows.
January 21, 2020 - Twelve days since surgery, Hope went for her post surgery check up which she passed with flying colors! Dr. A. was very pleased at how well the site was healing. Hope had been very good about not biting at the wound and it was nice and smooth and flat. Hope has been able to get a little more exercise everyday and she is beginning to expand her stamina.
Her prognosis is "guarded" with a noted potential for recurrence. Another example of what happens to female rabbits who are not spayed.......
Hope had been healing well since the initial large mammary tumor removal on 1/10. The fact that intermittent blood spots in her urine were still being seen, was very concerning, but thinking that she had been spayed when the first mammary tumor was removed by the shelter's vet back in April 2019, and the fact that they treated for a UTI, it was contributed to a continuing UTI and she was placed on antibotics.
However, on Wed. January 29th, I found a large amount of blood. Neatly placed on the shower curtain lining of her pen run. Specifically it seemed, so I would not miss seeing it. That sent me into a little panic, and I called Community Animal Hospital, to get her an emergency appointment. Luckily Dr. Lorig did have a cancellation and we got a 4:10 appointment. I had picked up a good amount of the blood in a large syringe to bring along. Hope seemed fine otherwise.
Hope was first checked by x-ray to see if there were any stones or anything obvious that could be causing the bleeding. But, nothing was seen. Dr. Lorig sent the blood out for a cytology and ran an in-house PCV blood test to check for anemia. Her red blood cells were down a little, but not enough to cause concern. And we went home to wait for results of the cytology and to consider next steps including doing an ultrasound for more definition.
Sometimes cancer cells can show up in the cytology, but did not in Hope’s. Just “mild chronic inflammation with protein fluid and blood” Pathologist reported that, “based on her history of mammary adenocarcinoma, a possible lesion in the uterine stump was possible” even though cancer cells were not found in the blood. This was also the concern that Dr. Lorig had expressed.
Friday, Jan 31st: Next Step: Ultrasound. Hope now had both Dr. Lorig and Dr. Adelsohn providing her with the best possible chance to find out what the issue was and what could be done to help her. Dr. A. called with the results – they were seeing a mass near the bladder. And, also a tubular area. Which brought into question – was she really spayed? Did the vet just take the ovaries and leave part of the uterus? The mass was probably uterine cancer, but it did look encapsulated. She asked what did I want to do? Of course, I said I wanted to give her the best chance possible and if another surgery was what would do that we should go ahead. She cautioned about what she could possibily find as she would not know until she opened her up. I understood, but gave the go ahead as to me it was the only thing that could possibly help her.
Thursday, February 6: I dropped Hope off for surgery at 8:30 am that morning and arrived home about 9:30 am to wait for the call. The phone rang at 9:49 am. Hope's surgery was done and she was just waking up! She was never spayed!! Dr. A. found the complete uterus and both ovaries (one much larger than the other) and a very large tumor. The fact that the tumor was within the uterus was a blessing as it could be taken out with the uterus itself. The bleeding was caused by the tumor as it seemed ready to burst. So, it was very lucky we got to it in time.
If Hope had been spayed when she was young, she never would have had to gone through all of this!! Spaying her when the first mammary tumor was found, may have prevented the development of the second one. If the vet who removed the first tumor realized the connection between mammary and uterine cancer......
Photo taken 2/8/20 - Hope's prognosis is still guarded, but she has a chance to continue her story. It is frightening that so many others do not. We will keep you posted. Prayers, positive energy, and best wishes all welcomed as she continues to heal.
Hope did recover from that surgery and did extremely well throughout the spring and summer months, she was a happy, playful girl. It wasn't until late September 2020, that I started to see a change. She wasn't eating as much as before and seemed to be sleeping more. Lumps were once again present. At her, October 2020 check up appointment, Dr. A. confirmed my fears. The cancer was back. More surgery was not an option.
We only had 4 months left with this great girl. Sadly, Hope left us on February 16th, 2021. Her legacy will live on. As will the lessons she taught us all. Her determination, strength and courage were inspirational. Rest in peace sweet angel.