Shayna’s medical situation: Detail


Continued from Save Shayna.

I created this page for people who are interested in learning more about Shayna, her medical history and the need for her upcoming surgery, the post-surgical care program I plan to pursue, and why I am unable to afford all these expenditures on my own. Click the following links to be transported to that section of the page:

(1) Shayna’s medical history: 2002-2012

(2) April 23, 2012: Discovery of something on Shayna’s liver

(3) July-August 2012: Confirmation that the mass on Shayna’s liver is growing; recommendation for surgery

(4) August 16, 2012: The surgeon’s analysis, and very favorable prediction

(5) The estimated cost of Shayna’s surgery, hospitalization, biopsy, and follow-up holistic therapy: $7,500

(6) “You seem like a pretty successful guy. How come you can’t afford to pay for all this?”

(7) How you can donate to help us – and what you’ll get in return

How you can donate – right now


(1) Shayna’s medical history: 2002-2012

Despite the troubling situation in which we now find ourselves, according to the most recent complete lab work, Shayna is a remarkably healthy dog. She swims an average of 5-6 times a week, still jumps and plays with vigor, we do our toy-memorization training twice a day, and people who meet her find it difficult to believe she is 10.5 years old. Videos down-page demonstrate all this.

Shayna at Virginia Beach, November 2006

For the first nine and a half years of her life (January 2002 – July 2011), Shayna enjoyed excellent health. The only maladies she had were an occasional urinary tract infection (not terribly unusual for dogs who, like Shayna, swim frequently in rivers and lakes), and the usual sprains and scrapes that occur in the lives of most active dogs.

In July of 2011, I brought her to our veterinarian for what I anticipated was a urinary tract infection. I was told, however, that her kidneys were “leeching protein” (the upper limit of normal protein release is 1.0; she was at 2.6); that her urine had a “low center of gravity”; and that there was “sediment” in her bladder. Unsure of what this all meant, I asked for detail. Needless to say, I was shocked and broke down upon being told that this could mean kidney disease, but that further testing would be required for a more complete diagnosis – which confirmed the condition. My veterinarian recommended that we monitor the situation over the next six months or so, then determine what to do.

Soon thereafter, I was referred by some dog-owning friends (thank you, Harvey and Margaret!) to Dr. Janice Raab, a holistic veterinarian at Charlottesville Veterinary Hospital, whom they described as something of a miracle worker. Dr. Raab was confident that the situation could be reversed, and prescribed a combination of supplements and Chinese herbs, and a much higher-quality dog food. I did all these things, and by February of 2012, Shayna’s protein release had been brought back to almost normal (to 1.2 from 2.6). All the other diagnostic tests showed that she was in excellent health.

In April 2012, Dr. Raab recommended that I have an ultrasound done of Shayna’s abdomen, to “see” what her kidneys and bladder looked like. She referred me to Dr. Carrie Miller, whom she described as a a deeply experienced radiologist at Virginia Veterinary Specialists.

(2) April 23, 2012: Discovery of something on Shayna’s liver

On April 23, 2012 Dr. Miller performed an ultrasound on Shayna’s abdomen, which revealed that her kidneys and bladder are in good shape – but she spotted something she wasn’t looking for: a growth on her liver that was not clearly definable. Dr. Miller recommended that within the next three months we do a follow-up ultrasound to see if the abnormality had grew or changed in any way.

(3) July-August 2012: Confirmation that the mass on Shayna’s liver is growing; recommendation for surgery

On July 27 Dr. Miller performed the second ultrasound, which revealed that the mass had grown a bit, and was more clearly defined. She said that normally, she’d recommend a needle biopsy, to take a piece of it out and send it to a lab to see what it is, but because of the location on Shayna’s liver, this would be too dangerous. The next step would be to do a surgical biopsy – but as she said, if we’re going to go to that extent, we may as well have the whole mass removed. She then recommended that I have complete blood and urine analysis done to see if Shayna healthy enough to undergo such surgery, and chest x-rays to see if there are any “nodules” in her lungs, which would indicate that it is cancer, and that it had spread.

On July 29 I took the following video, hours before the series of diagnostic work that Dr. Miller recommended. As I describe in this blog post, I knew my job was to keep everything from Shayna’s perspective as it always has been – our normal joyous, fun life, with me being my typically encouraging self in regards to her training, and if I must cry, to do so where she can’t see me. I decided to take some video that evening, during a break in the heat wave we’d been experiencing, of Shayna doing her toy-memorization and -retrieval training. Everything went fine until about 8:00 in, however, when I completely broke down – and although Shayna is one of the least-affectionate dogs I’ve ever encountered, she sensed what was happening and, well… see for yourself:

On July 31, the results of all of Shayna’s diagnostic tests came back – and thy were fantastic: her kidneys had returned to completely normal functioning range (1.0; thank you, Dr. Raab!). The only variance was a slight deviation in her blood chemistry measure that deals with liver function, but it was still well within the normal range. I then scheduled a follow-up consultation with Dr. Raab for August 7.

I took videos of Shayna’s daily life to show our veterinarians her activity level “outside the exam room”

Due to my desire to help Dr. Raab to see what Shayna is like “in real life,” when she’s not lying down on the floor of an examining room, I suggested that I take some video of her daily activities. Here are the two videos I shot, on August 3-4:

Video 1: “Shayna running, jumping in park”

The part of this video that is really amazing to me is that until about a month ago, Shayna would maybe do one or two sequences of jumping over these “Z-bars,” then indicate she didn’t want to do it anymore. It’s an exercise she used to love to do and could do endlessly when she was young. Note that at the end, when I ask her if she wants to go swimming, she enthusiastically jumps up into the truck:

Video 2: “Shayna swimming in Rivanna River”

Aside from doing our toy-retrieval training, swimming is about Shayna’s favorite activity. And as it’s low-impact but requires a lot of energy (she’s a big girl), she gets a really good workout.

Dr. Raab’s impression was that Shayna is very healthy and strong, and is a good candidate for this surgery. She said that although she could perform the operation, the surgeons at Virgina Veterinary Specialists are more experienced in this sort of procedure, and urged me to meet with them.

(4) August 16, 2012: The surgeon’s analysis, and very favorable prediction

On Thursday, August 16, I met with Dr. Kevin Stiffler, one of the surgeons at Virginia Veterinary Specialists, for over an hour. He examined Shayna, explained his assessment of her diagnostic data, walked me through the structure and function of the liver, the increasing commonality of masses being found on them in dogs, and his extensive experience in this sort of surgery.

Dr. Stiffler said that based on everything he’s seen regarding her, and all his experience, barring any unforeseen complications, he predicts a 90-95% chance of success, defined as removing all or the vast majority of it, her making a full recovery, in part with the aid of Dr. Raab’s holistic therapy. That is not to say that whatever it is won’t come back, but hopefully, he will get it all. He said that she should be in and out of the hospital in 24 hours, but may require a second or third night, depending on her reaction to the surgery. In any case, she will need be kept to minimal activity for a week or so afterwards, but that after that, she should make a pretty rapid recovery.

He also recommended that we do the surgery as soon as possible, ideally within the next two weeks or so, before the tumor grows much larger. From a philosophical standpoint, he said, and I agreed, that given all the available data, and Shayna’s excellent overall health, the decision to surgically remove the tumor is “a no-brainer.”

I agreed that we should go for the surgery.

(5) The estimated cost of Shayna’s surgery, hospitalization, biopsy, and follow-up holistic therapy: $7,500

Dr. Stiffler said that assuming Shayna only requires one night of post-surgical hospitalization, and that there are no unforeseen complications, the surgery and sending off a biopsy to a lab in Colorado will cost in the neighborhood of $2,000. If she needs a second or third night in the hospital, it will be closer to or more than $3,000. For practical purposes, I am anticipating the cost at VVS to be $3,000.

I told Dr. Stiffler that right now, I have to figure out a way to pay for all this – and for what I anticipated would be Dr. Raab’s desire to provide targeted holistic follow-up care – because I don’t have the money for it (I briefly explained why; as I do below, in Section 6). But, I said, for more than 20 years I’ve been solving complex problems for clients and employers – and now, it’s time for me to apply my creativity to solving this urgent problem, for Shayna.

Dr. Raab’s estimate of follow-up holistic care: $3,500

I then contacted Dr. Raab to ask the following question: If money were no object, and knowing everything she does about Shayna’s medical and health condition, what are all the things she would do after surgery to help her recover as quickly and thoroughly as possible, and combat any remnants left of the tumor? She said that depending on what we find out through the biopsy, and follow-up analysis, she would likely employ a range of holistic, traditional and alternative therapies – including pharmaceutical and Chinese medicines and supplements, acupuncture and more – over the course of a year. She estimated the cost of all exam fees and these products and services to be $3,000 – $3,500.

The cost of one additional supplement that has proven its value: $900

There is one other supplement that I’ve had Shayna on for the last month, which, as I describe elsewhere, has been so amazingly beneficial to her: ASEA. In summary, ASEA is an all-natural supplement that helps kick-start the body’s natural ability to combat maladies at the cellular level, through Redox Signaling Molecules.

I started as a “rational skeptic”: as a former advertising copywriter – and a caregiver for nearly four years (described in my upcoming book) – believe me, I am very skeptical of anything that’s described as a “medical breakthrough.” But in this case, I let the product prove itself, and I am convinced it is having a powerfully positive impact on Shayna’s health. One indication is this video, taken on August 25, 2012 (in addition to those embedded above); Shayna was unable to run or “pounce” like this just a few short months ago – and the only thing that has changed in her life over the past 45 days has been her ingestion of ASEA:

This is not a product endorsement. You need to evaluate the science of ASEA for yourself, discuss it with your doctor or veterinarian (or both) and determine if it might benefit you or your dog.

As for me, I plan to do whatever it takes to continue providing ASEA to Shayna.

The cost to keep Shayna on ASEA, over the course of one year, will be about $800.

(6) “You seem like a pretty successful guy. How come you can’t afford to pay for all this?”

I anticipate that some people may look at my professional website and say, “You bill yourself as a litigation media consultant, graphic designer, copy writer and much more. How come you can’t afford to pay for all of Shayna’s care on your own?”

The answer, briefly, is that yes, I am all those things. But what I don’t promote on my site is the fact that shortly after adopting Shayna in 2002, while I was between jobs, I was in the first serious accident of my life, that left me with a debilitating neuromuscular disorder (fibroyalgia) that produces chronic pain and fatigue, and the ability to work only on a part-time, intermittent basis. Learn the specifics of how fibromyalgia affects me here.

In summary, on a typical day I endure near-constant pain throughout the muscles of my upper torso (hands, fingers, wrists, forearms, etc.), have periods of energy that last between 5-8 hours, after which I must rest. I then engage in some form of exercise or physical therapy. The process then starts all over again.

Over the last ten years, I have largely been living hand-to-mouth, working as much as I can, and providing for my and Shayna’s basic needs, but no more. I have worked hard to keep my medical situation and limitations very private, behind what most consider to be a pretty polished website. By and large the only people outside my friends and family who are aware of my condition are the attorneys with whom I’ve worked, for whom I’ve created a number of graphics-based courtroom presentations, a good portion of which deal with personal injury matters, etc. – something with which I am intimately familiar.  When the recession hit, however, law firms had less need for the services of external consultants such as myself, as more settlements were being reached out of court, and without the need for high-end presentations.

Part of the reason I began writing my book about Shayna, four years ago, was in the hope that perhaps in addition to paying tribute to her, and the potential of the canine-human relationship, it would provide me with a consistent source of income, and enable me to fund some of the things I really want to do for her.  I describe some of these things in the book; they include getting a place that has a big fenced yard, affording me the ability to create new, custom toys and exercise opportunities for her, etc.

I have applied myself to some other entrepreneurial projects on a largely or entirely speculative basis, in the hopes of a good payday somewhere down the road.  As yet, none have come through. But I’m a firm believer in the potential of the freedom and opportunity that America provides, and I do not believe in being reliant on anyone for anything. I describe this dilemma further in the Introduction to my book.

For anyone within the Charlottesville area who is considering donating, but wants physical proof of my financial condition, I’m willing to show you verified copies of my bank account (verified as in by a bank officer), to show what’s come in and what’s gone out

Yes, this is humiliating – but this is not about me anymore; it’s about Shayna, and getting her the care she needs, right now. And for that, I am willing to do pretty much anything within the bounds of the law.

(7) How you can donate to help us – and what you’ll get in return

If you’d like to donate to the Save Shayna campaign, there are three levels of participation:

(1) In return for a donation of any amount, you will be listed as one of “Shayna’s Heroes” on this website, and on a page of the same name in the back of the e-book.

(2) If you donate $10 or more, you will receive (1), plus a free copy of the e-book when it is completed (estimate: late fall/early winter 2012).

(3) Businesses that donate $100 or more will receive (1) and (2), plus a link back to their site (in the “Shayna’s Heroes” page on this website, and in the e-book).




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Thank you!