Emma is an adorable nine-year-old Golden Retriever that loves big round stuffed animals, squeaky tennis balls, and car rides with the wind blowing through her fur. Her family adopted her when she was just a couple of months old. She was very much a typical golden retriever puppy – full of energy, eating everything in sight, and then quickly passing out for a nap. This is in contrast to her older brother Riley, also a Golden Retriever, who very much had old man vibes since he was a puppy.

As Emma got older, she developed a special skill where she holds three tennis balls in her mouth. She was successful in getting four tennis balls once too! On sunny days, she likes to roll in the grass by first finding the perfect spot and then slumping down onto her back and wiggling from side to side. On colder evenings, she likes to climb on the bed and replace the pillows her family is lying on with her body.

Sadly, in December 2021, Emma collapsed after experiencing hemorrhagic pericardial effusion, which is the buildup of extra fluid in the pericardium (the sac around the heart). This event caused something called cardiac tamponade, which is the compression of the heart due to pericardial effusion. Emma’s family took her to an emergency veterinarian, where they removed the fluid around her heart in a procedure called pericardiocentesis. Fortunately, they were able to save her life and stabilize her vitals. A CT scan was completed, which revealed a heart-based mass. She had surgery to remove the mass and was diagnosed with a type of cancer called hemangiosarcoma of the heart. She was started on chemotherapy, but her odds of survival with this type of cancer were not good.

Emma’s family ultimately transferred her care to the oncology department at the Animal Medical Center of Seattle to continue chemotherapy with Dr. Brittany Evans and her team as it was closer to them. She began to improve with her chemotherapy protocol and was eventually switched to oral chemotherapy medications. Her family is so pleased to share that her surveillance cancer imaging shows no evidence of cancer, which is remarkable given that her cancer is considered incurable. She has been doing well and is essentially back to her baseline energy level.

She recently even got to take a road trip with her brother down the Pacific coast, and she enjoyed the long walks on the beach and hikes through the Redwood forests. Emma’s family is so grateful for our oncology team, who has improved not only her quality of life but also her quantity. Her family never thought she would make it this far. Instead of the grim picture that her diagnosis offered, she is now nine months out without evidence of recurrence of cancer and living her best life. In fact, she got to meet her family’s newborn son, and she has been embracing her new role as the older sister.