In early spring of 2002, shortly after beginning her show career. Our Appaloosa mare, "Shift-Te Secretary", affectionately known as "Angel", was diagnosed with "squamous cell carcinoma". Several weeks before, a small growth was noticed in the corner of her left eye. Upon veterinary examination, the growth was determined to be a cancerous tumor. Surgery was scheduled to remove the tumor and everyone was optimistic that this would be end of the growth.

Little did we known then, that this would be the beginning of a year long battle to save her eye, and ultimately her life. Just weeks after her first surgery the tumor was back. And once again Angel underwent surgery. When the tumor came back the third time, we knew that she was in danger of losing the eye. For a barrel horse,this was a potentially, career ending situation. But despite the repeated surgeries, Angel continued to hold her own on the open show circuit. Earning point after point, in barrel racing. Even competing and winning, after losing her eye.

Over the next few months, Angel made three more trips to the vet. And each time it got worse. The tumor eventually invaded the eye and she became partially blind. In an effort to prevent the tumor from reaching her brain, the eye and surrounding damaged tissue were removed. The stitches were to come out in a few weeks and we hoped that the battle was over and we had won. We were wrong.

By the time the stitches were scheduled to come out, the tumor had come back, faster and much larger than before. So large, it was tearing the incision apart from the inside. Angel had to go back for a fifth and final surgery. If the tumor wasn't stopped this time, she would have to be put down. There were a lot of tears shed on the horse trailer that day, as we hugged Angel tightly, and prayed she would come back to us.

There was little left, of her once beautiful face to cut away, but our vet did everything he could to make sure none of the tumor remained this time. When it was time for her to come home, we were warned by the veterinary staff, not to be shocked when we saw her. She had a hole in the side of her head large enough to put a fist in. There was no skin left to cover the gaping hole, so it had to be covered with a liquid bandage. We were so glad that she was alive, the damage to her face was the least of our concerns. However,our happiness was short lived.

In December, just a few weeks after the final surgery, the tumor was back,bigger than ever. Angel's health seemed to be deteriorating. Despite never losing her appetite, her weight began to fall. She was listless and looked terrible. We had already discussed the possibility of having to put her down. But it was so close to Christmas, we couldn't bring ourselves to let go of the horse we all loved so much. A horse that ironically, had come into our lives five years earlier, as a Christmas present for our oldest daughter.

During that time we each, in turn, spent a lot of time in the pasture with her. Desperately clinging to each moment we had. Although we had nearly given up hope, Angel was a fighter,and apparently had other plans. By the first week in January 2003, she was starting to gain weight, and that horrible tumor was shrinking. By March the tumor was gone from the outside, and her face had finally healed.

Once again, our happiness was short lived.The tumor, now unseen, had started to grow under the skin.By August the tumor had caused noticeable swelling to Angel's head.It was time to go back to the vet again. This time a decision was made to do exploratory surgery, and if the tumor was found to have spread to her brain, we had all agreed to let her cross the Rainbow Bridge.

The phone rang not long after I had gotten home, and I had to let her go...

Copyright 2003 Cherokota Ranch

"Gone But Never Forgotten"
This page is dedicated to our beloved Appaloosa mare
"Shift-Te Secretary" aka "Angel"

Everyone at Cherokota Ranch would like to thank
"Poag Reid" DVM
& the staff of Creek Run Veterinary Clinic.
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