PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – When you see 5-year-old Labrador retriever Beau today, it’s hard to imagine that just four months ago he was near death.
His owner, Cindy Jagielski, got the news when she and her husband, John, took Beau to the veterinarian.
“He said it looks like he may have just two more months and we’re like, ‘Oh my God,’” Cindy Jagielski said.
Tests showed that Beau had a large tumor lodged deep inside his brain behind his eyes.
The diagnosis came after medicine for seizures Beau had been taking wasn’t working. Because of where the tumor was, the options to treat it were limited.
“When they said it’s inoperable…I just didn’t know what to say,” John Jagielski said.
The Jagielski’s, who have two dogs, say they’re children to them so they were ready to fight to save Beau.
“We were willing to go that extra mile and get him help no matter what it cost,” Cindy said.
In October, when Beau was diagnosed, the Stanton Heights couple was given two options.
The first was to treat the tumor with traditional radiation therapy, which includes 20 sessions, five days a week for four weeks in a row.
“That’s just too taxing, too taxing for the dog,” Cindy said.
The other option was to travel 300 miles to Cincinnati, Ohio for Stereotactic Radiosurgery or SRS.
Less than 20 specialty centers across the country have this technology.
PetCure Oncology operates the radiation oncology department in Cincinnati. They were able to get Beau into treatment in less than a week.
Three treatments later, Beau’s symptoms disappeared.
“Boy it gave us such hope. We were like Beau is gonna beat this,” Cindy said.
Now, stereotactic radiosurgery is here in Pittsburgh.
The Pittsburgh Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Center is one of just five PetCure Oncology sites in the United States.
Dr. Sherwood Johnson is a veterinarian at PVSEC. The Camp Horne Road location got SRS in mid-January.
“What this machine does is it images with a CT scanner as it treats so it’s defining where that tumor is and really targeting down on that tumor,” Dr. Johnson said.
One of the most remarkable things about the machine is its ability to rotate 360 degrees all while continuously treating the tumor.
The treatment delivers a higher dose of radiation faster and with fewer side effects.
“We can treat tumors in areas where they couldn’t be treated before either because we couldn’t access them, or we would damage tissues and this is so much more precise in its delivery of radiation that that’s not an issue anymore,” Dr. Johnson said.
Beau’s treatment cost $9,000.
Traditional radiation would’ve been $6,500.
Although expensive, the Jagielski’s say they’d do it again in a heartbeat. A follow up MRI in May will show what the future holds for Beau.
In the meantime, the Jagielski’s are happy to have the time with him now.
“One day, Beau’s time will come and when it does we’ll be prepared for it, but we have extra time with him and that we cherish,” Cindy said.