Riley the Superhero's Story

Riley, a white Scottish Terrier, sitting in snow.Riley our Superhero

Riley was diagnosed and evaluated by the Oncology Department on 10.16.13 for an oral squamous cell carcinoma and scheduled for a CT scan two days later. This showed an aggressive lesion in his upper left jaw and with signs that the cancer had metastasis to his lymph system. Surgery was not an option due to the location and degree of the tumor. We were completely devastated learning this news as his prognosis was not very positive due to the aggressive nature of his cancer, so we opted for no treatment for Riley because the short life expectancy didn't seem to merit putting him through aggressive treatment. 

In the month of December we noticed Riley’s pain increasing but he was still interesting in eating, drinking, and going for his walks. So we returned to the U hoping that Riley could receive an increase in his pain medication to keep him comfortable. We met again with Dr. Alexis Denysyk and she was very surprised to see that Riley’s quality of life was still so positive. It was determined that we needed to immediately start palliative radiation therapy for Riley along with chemotherapy because of the cancerous mass in Riley‘s groin area. The tumor had grown so rapidly in a very short time it would take his life. 

By January 10th, Riley received his final radiation therapy with no complications! However the day after his final radiation treatment Riley had severe side effects. These were previously explained to us as possible but unlikely. Riley proved to be the exception to the rule unfortunately. The tumor in his mouth was sheading away layers showing great response to the radiation, but causing great difficulty for Riley to drink and eat resulting in sever dehydration. He also showed signs of an ulcer in his eye developing causing him pain. He landed in ICU for four days because his skin and underlying tissues that received radiation were very sensitive and needed special care. 
Once again Dr. Denysyk, along with Nurse Laura and the other personnel took great care of our boy. Dr. Denysyk was very attentive and showed so much compassion to our situation. She was a source of great support and comfort during this very difficult time for us. Once Riley was able to come home, it was a very strict medication and feeding regiment. He needed to wear a cone so his mouth area would have time to heal. Riley had a follow up appointment two weeks after his stay in the ICU in which we found out that Riley had another hurdle to overcome. Due to his tumor and radiation treatment the ulcer in his eye was increased greatly and we were devastated to hear he needed to have his left eye removed. 

Once his eye was removed, it seemed almost immediate that his pain was lessened. And he had no side effects for this surgery at all. Riley showed signs of being so much more alert and we were happy to see signs of “our Riley” showing his spunkiness again. Riley was interested in everything. The good news is for the time being both tumors have shrunk which gives our family hope that he will continue to fight his cancer for as long as he can. Riley has shown such strength and grace in all of this we now refer to him as our “superhero”. 

He has taught us true strength of heart and dignity. Currently he continues with his chemotherapy treatment, his medication and feeding regiment, but as the weather becomes nicer he is once again enjoying his walks. We know that eventually the cancer will win but we take each day as a blessing and we are ever so grateful for the care that Riley has received from the Oncology Department, Ophthalmology Department, ICU, and as well as the Pharmacy staff. We will always hold a special place in our hearts for Dr. Denysk and the U of M staff.

Update June 2014:
I wanted to take a moment and thank the Oncology Department for the wonderful care of my dog Riley. Riley was diagnosed with cancer on October 9th, 2013 and took his final breath June 9th, 2014. It was an amazing journey we took with our boy, and the care he received was phenomenal. A special shout out to Dr. Deynsyk!! She was an amazing support throughout his treatment; and showed so much compassion during Riley's final step. Blessings to all of you!

Riley, a white Scottish Terrier, wearing a Superman costume.Riley, a white Scottish Terrier, wearing a bandanna around his neck, after eye surgery.

Share your story

Have we helped your pet? We'd love to hear from you. Share your VMC story by emailing Don't forget to include a photo of your pet!