It hasn't even been a month since we picked up these two sweet mini donkeys up on 2-17-20 and whom we named Waylon & Willie on the right.
You can see the tumor behind his right front leg. Last October he had the tumor removed and biopsy was submitted to Texas A & M University for results.
Initial findings, not definitive, said it was a fibrosarcoma and a 'malignant neoplasm likely to be locally infiltrative. The neoplasm extends to the specimen boarder."
Fibrosarcoma's are very different from a sarcoid cancer which is very common and usually easily treatable in equine. By February of 2020, this aggressive tumor had grown back.
The vet had recommended another surgery with follow up chemo therapy, but the family didn't have the funds and they could not find anyone who were interested in both the boys with one having cancer.
I spoke to the treating vet in Gilbert, AZ, a wonderful practice called Herd Health Management, Dr. Brownlee. She said he would do much better if he had surgery under general anesthesia so a larger area could be removed with wider margins hopefully getting the entire tumor and surrounding cells. She forwarded the information to AZ Equine Medical & Surgical Center and I spoke with Dr. Taylor there. After reviewing the medical records he explained the surgery that would be needed, follow-up chemo and let me know there was a 50/50% chance it could return.
We decided to get the boys and bring them to the rescue so Dr. Helzer and I could see first hand what we were dealing with. I had heard good things about Continental Animal Wellness Center (CAWC) in Flagstaff and specifically, Dr. Bruchman specializes in oncology so we contacted her to discuss Waylon's situation. On 2/25/20, my friend Patty came to help me bundle and load the boys in the trailer for the trip to Flagstaff.
When the boys first arrived, I shaved the area of the tumor, cleaned off the dirt and debris and covered it to help prevent infection. With the hair shaved we could use a very sticky medical tape called Elastikon which helped adhere a telfa pad to the area, then we covered that with a 6" wide and very long ace bandage to protect the area and we covered that with a XXXL t-shirt so there would be less movement of the ace bandage and hopefully keep the telfa pad in place. I also shaved his neck so we could administer IV pain meds as needed and we started him on Excede antibiotic hopefully to prevent any infection brewing from the tumor being exposed to the elements. We also used a topical antibiotic as well.
All of the care already done made things go smoother when we arrived at CAWC . Dr. Bruchman had consulted a local equine vet that specializes in donkeys and had also contacted the pathologist prior to my arrival. With input from all we decided to get another biopsy and send to TX A&M University to confirm the prior findings which would help us determine the appropriate treatment, surgery and/or chemotherapy.
We have had some very cold days, even snow so keeping Waylon bundled up while we continued his nursing care and daily wound care. We did our best to keep him comfortable. He was hard to handle when he first arrived and needed to be sedated just to clean the area, it didn't take long before he allowed me to gently do our daily routine without sedation even though he really didn't like it.
Over the years I have learned to listen to the equines when they talk to me. They talk through their actions, demeanor, movements and mood. Waylon's mood was declining and he started quivering every time we did our daily routine. Even with pain meds, it hurt. While we waited for the biopsy results, it was clear that not only was Waylon in pain, but the tumor continued to grow.
One of the concerns we all had about surgery was the aftercare. Not that I couldn't do it, but rather how painful a huge incision could be to heal and how long it could take. Now that Waylon and Willie had been here a few weeks, it was clear to me that follow-up care would be more intensive than what I was already doing.....and Waylon disliked it at best.
Our goal to at the rescue is to consider all aspects of their wellbeing, not just the physical or medical, but also quality of life. His quality of life was greatly diminishing and with an aggressive tumor that could very well return we decided to release Waylon from his pain.
Waylon and Willie have been together for over a decade. Bonded equines can suffer depression when separated. Knowing that, and Waylon's condition, we have had the boys next to and in with Carmen and Cumari since arrival. Willie's wellbeing is just as important as Waylons so much consideration was given to the entire situation in anticipation of all outcomes.
This morning when I went out to see the boys I captured this beautiful picture of Waylon with a ray of sun shining on him from heaven. Some of his former family drove up from the valley to say their good-byes and helped us when Dr. Helzer arrived. Waylon passed very peacefully and though tears were being shed we all knew that any further pain, it would only be selfish to keep him alive.
After he passed we brought Willie to visit him so he could see for himself that Waylon was gone. Equines recognize death and can deal with the loss better when allowed to see for themselves the one that has passed, and not wonder what happened to their friend. Willie has been in with the girls ever since.
When the decision to let Waylon go was made after several sleepless nights earlier this week, I let Dr. Bruchman know our decision and she said while such a difficult decision, she felt is was a wise one. When I returned from burying our sweet little Waylon, there was an email from Dr. B. The biopsy results arrived and showed that Waylon had a rare cancer called "sarcoidosis". "While still rare, equine sarcoidosis—not to be confused with sarcoid tumors, an unrelated skin condition—can appear in even the healthiest of equines", and statistics show that the majority who have sarcoidosis need to be euthanized.
I am in tears while I write this because it is never easy to let them go and the decision is never made lightly without research and prayer. He has educated us all, even the vets, about this rare cancer and he humbly tolerated the pain while we went through this process. He is a little hero to me and I will miss him so much. As I cry I am also happy that he can run in heaven with a complete body and has no pain. I know that he will watch over Willie and help him adjust to his new life. What a blessing Waylon is.
If you would like to make a donation to help with Waylon's final expenses, to help care for Willie or any of the 24 equines at the rescue we would be honored by your donation which will help us to carry on our mission to provide loving rehabilitation, nursing and hospice care for equines with medical needs and finding homes or sanctuary for others at risk. Click this link: Donate Now to the Rescue
Goodbye kisses from Waylon.
We only had you a little time, but long enough to fall in love,
to feel your love,
and to know you have blessed our lives.
Run In Paradise Waylon!!!!!