leo’s cancer


Currently listening to: Cloud Nine by Ben Howard

I just tweeted:

Yes, still up & writing. Going w/it. This week: all abt going w/what feels good. My mind & soul r a bit beat. Being careful w/them.

If I’ve learned anything in the last 15 months of dealing with loss & grief, it’s to go slow, to take my time, to go with what feels right in the moment. Believe me, I’ve had more than a few people in the last year tell me to hurry up and move on, to dive into work, to drown myself in it until I’ve managed to forget. The problem is the death of a loved one cannot be forgotten. And avoidance only avoids your new reality. (more…)

Tonight my dog Leo lost his battle with cancer. Last November he was diagnosed with mast cell tumors. In May, he completed a round of chemo with flying colors. Unfortunately, as was expected, the tumors came back in August. We elected not to put him through another round of chemo knowing that it would only buy him another couple months. We wanted him to enjoy the rest of his time. Despite the tumors, he was a happy, hyper-active dog these last four months. But, tonight it was time. He was 12-years old. He will be very missed.

Well, this is interesting.

A week ago today, my dog Leo completed chemotherapy to treat mast cell tumors (Grade III), a type of cancer. His chemo protocol used drugs that were intended for human use, but allowed for use in dogs. Until today, there were no FDA-approved cancer drugs specifically for dogs. Today, it was announced that the first FDA-approved cancer drug was approved specifically to treat canine cancer, and more specifically,  mast cell tumors.

Palladia is an oral medication. Developed by Pfizer, the drug has been in development since 2000. At the end of the clinical study, “approximately 60 percent of dogs had their tumors disappear, shrink or stop growing.” The drug won’t be available until 2010.

So far Leo has responded well to the chemotherapy protocol he was given. We’re essentially in holding pattern to see if there is any reoccurrence. I don’t know if this drug will be something we can turn to in the future if another mast cell tumor pops up. But it’s nice to know that researchers actually are working on his type of cancer.

For more information:

Pfizer Press Release: FDA Approves First Canine Cancer Therapy

Also, just discovered this organization:

Morris Animal Foundation: Cure Canine Cancer Campaign

010Today was my dog Leo’s last chemo treatment. His oncologist (yes, my dog has an oncologist) is very happy with where we are. Six months ago, I wasn’t so sure this day would come and that Leo would be doing so well.

Overall, chemo was an non-event. For the first month, he had weekly injectable Vinblastine treatments. Then he switched to five months of twice monthly treatments, which were a mixture of the injectable Vinblastine and oral Lomustine. There were one or two days over the course of his treatment where he exhibited some side effects–mainly vomiting and decreased appetite. But for the most part, these episodes resolved themselves within a day. For the last six months, his appetite and energy level were just as they were before he was diagnosed with a Grade 3 Mast Cell Tumor (the worst kind) last November. No new masses appeared during the course of his chemo; and more importantly no mass reappeared at the site of the original mass that was surgically removed last November confirming the cancer diagnosis. His regular vet & the oncologist had warned us back when this all started that there was a strong likelihood that that mass would regrow within a couple months. Six months later, there is nothing & that is absolutely wonderful. (more…)

Yes, it’s been awhile. I could blame life, but really I think it was laziness that got in the way of me posting.

Yes, life has been trying at times. Definitely some days that I couldn’t wait to get over with–specifically my mother’s birthday (May 9) & Mother’s Day (May 10). Yep, back-to-back. After I passed the 6-month mark in March, I think I became obsessed with how I would or wouldn’t get through that weekend in May. On the upside, I got through it with a trip out of town. I knew I couldn’t be home that weekend. I knew it would be too hard. Instead, I went to DC to spend it with my brother & a lot of really good friends, who for the most part did a great job of distracting me & keeping me busy. Admittedly, attending the wedding of one friend on my mother’s birthday was not ideal. It was a little hard to stand in the church & know that when/if I ever finally decide to get married, my mother won’t be there. That wasn’t a reminder I needed on her birthday. I had thought about skipping the wedding, but I knew I couldn’t. And in the end, as hard as it was to be there, I’m glad I was there. My brother & I dealt with Mother’s Day by essentially ignoring it. Sometimes, that really is the best way to deal with things.

I’m relieved to have made it through that weekend. These last 8 months of events/holidays to get through & get past  have been just that, things & days to get through & get past. Unfortunately, what I realized the day after I returned home was that getting through or past any of these events/holidays really doesn’t mean anything. Yes, I’ve gotten though the one, but there are a lifetime more to come. This just keeps going. Yes, I will admit that today was better than yesterday; but the reality is, however many days, months, or years pass between the day my mother died & where I am, the fact remains, she’s still not here.

God, depressing. I so didn’t mean for this post to be such a downer. (more…)

Image: Inma :) via flickr

Image: Inma 🙂 via flickr

I don’t know where I’ve been, but I’m back.

Weeks 24-27 & number 28 today. They came & went. One just blends into another these days, so I guess I can just let them go without saying much more.

The 6 month mark didn’t pass by as easily. The day was blah. Tears were shed. I finally realized I do most of my crying while driving. Sunglasses help to keep the other drivers from wondering what the hell is wrong. I’ve been able to drive through it; only once in the last 6 months have I had to pull over. Anyways, I’ll get around to writing a post for that day. But for now, I survived it. I guess that’s the important part. The main observation to come out of it was how quickly & how slowly time has passed. And now I get to look forward to 1-year. Fuck.

On the writing front, things have gone really well. I took another writing class this past quarter (just finished last week). As I wrote in my last post, I got incredibly good feedback from my instructor. The positive feedback started with my editing skills and then extended into really great comments on my writing & my novel. The course focused on writing & rewriting the 1st 50-pages of your novel. So, I really feel like I came out of it with a good start, with material that should carry me forward. I had my weaknesses pointed out & spent the course addressing them. I feel like I know how to overcome them now which is great. (more…)

Leo Reynolds via flickr

Image: Leo Reynolds via flickr

20…so much time, but really so little. All a little weird. None of this feels right.

I think I’ll blame the weather. These days the rain just seems to do me in. Mix it with a Saturday & I don’t know how I get through it. Can you have Seasonal Affective Disorder just on rainy days? Because I’m beginning to think I do. Thank God I don’t live in Seattle! I think it’s supposed to be sunny by Tuesday. Just in time.

Some updates:

  • Teddy is doing great. I’ve weened him off the pain meds & he’s alert & himself. Lab results did show he has an infection in the bladder wall, but that just means a longer course of oral antibiotics. He gets his sutures out on Thursday. Still incredibly grateful that he made it through all this. And still utterly surprised.
  • Leo had chemo last Wednesday–the injectable. Again, no side effects. He’s doing well. So, he has the next 2 weeks off, & then will get a dose of Lomustine–the oral chemo drug.

Oh, & finally, pics…

Teddy

Teddy

Leo

Leo

I just brought Teddy home 2 hours ago.

I went to see him twice yesterday. Once in the morning when Leo was there for a regularly scheduled blood test to see how he reacted to the first dose of the Lomustine & to make sure he was okay for next week’s injectable chemo treatment. All clear for him.

So, while Leo was in back, they put me in an exam room with Teddy for a visit. He was definitely out of sorts, but walking around & somewhat alert. They said he’d gotten through the night with no problem & their goal at that point was to start tapering the IV pain meds he was receiving & getting him to eat. They asked me to try & feed him with the dog food & chicken baby food they had. He wasn’t having it. He usually gets chicken & rice at home or a canned food–but it wasn’t the canned food they were peddling him. They also thought he might be refusing the food because the IV meds suppress appetite. So, they asked me to come back later in the day with his food & they would have time to taper the meds in the hope that he would eat. So, I went back around 4PM. It was quickly obvious they had decreased his pain meds. He was whining more than I’d ever heard him & of course refusing food. He won’t eat if he’s uncomfortable or sick. So, the doctor agreed to up his dosage again & to try & feed him his own food again later. By 9PM when I called to check with the vet tech, he said Teddy was more comfortable, even sleeping, but still hadn’t eaten; but he would try to get him to eat again throughout the night. (more…)

Wade Franklin via flickr

Image: Wade Franklin via flickr

Teddy made it through surgery. He is now in ICU at the animal hospital under observation. We still have to get through the next 24-48 hours. Worries are infection & possibility of a clot. If all goes well, he’ll be home in 2 days.

Things actually didn’t go to plan. We got up early this morning & trekked to the vet for surgery, ready to go. We got there & found out that the stones were definitely the kind that required surgery. So, the simple sedation & flushing were out. Given his Cushings, the vet decided she was less comfortable with doing the surgery herself. While she does surgery, it’s not her speciality. So, she referred us to the animal specialty hospital where Leo gets his oncology/chemo care.

Even though I’ve been going there almost weekly for the last 6 weeks & really like the staff, I remembered how stressed I got when I first had to take Leo in there. I was worried about having a melt down again. So, I called up a friend & she was kind enough to drop everything & come with me. Her presence helped so much. She shared her snacks with me at the hospital, because of course I hadn’t eaten–which only increases the likelihood of me having a meltdown. So, the snack was good. And she was just helpful with asking questions & keeping me calm.

Luckily we got another great doctor there, a surgeon. So, if anyone is in the Los Angeles area & needs a good animal specialty hospital, I can highly recommend Animal Specialty Group–at least their oncology & surgical departments. I’ve been to other animal hospitals in the area, & this is by far the best place I have ever been. Expensive, but good. (more…)

(Really, I’d like a break…)

So, this morning I noticed that Teddy, my other dog, was whimpering when he was peeing. I’d noticed in the last couple days that he seemed to be struggling when he urinated, but he was urinating. So, I called the vet & took him in this morning. Turns out he has bladder stones. There are a bunch of tiny ones sitting in his bladder (as seen on x-ray) and one lodged in his urethra, blocking his flow of urine.

Essentially, we’re waiting on lab results on the stones that he did pass while in the office. There are two types: one that can be treated with a special diet, and the other which require surgery. Nonetheless, he has to go back to the vet tomorrow to be put under heavy sedation to see if they can flush the one in his urethra back into his bladder to remove the blockage so he can pee normally. If that works & it’s the kind of stone that can be treated with diet, then we’ll hope the diet will take care of the other stones. If they can’t flush that one stone out of the way, he has to be put under full anesthesia & be opened up to remove the stone from the urethra, as well as the stones in his bladder. Surgery will also be required if lab results show they are the kinds of stones that can’t be treated with diet.

The concern here is that with Teddy’s Cushings, he is a poor candidate for surgery. He’s prone to infection, as well as bad reactions to the full anesthesia. But essentially there is not another option if he needs surgery to treat. So, I’m going into tomorrow blind. I don’t know what the end of the day holds. Part of me hopes the flush works & we can treat with diet. The other part of me hopes surgery works, he makes it through, & we can just get the treatment over with.

Teddy is as old as Leo (11-years old). While Leo is a hyper 11-year old, Teddy is definitely the old man. He was my mom’s dog; attached at the hip to her. I’d said when Leo was diagnosed with cancer & given slim odds for surviving 6-months that I could handle it better if it was Teddy. I say that because Teddy, while for the most part fine, is noticeably older & less healthy. But now, I know it would never be any easier. So definitely some tears today imagining the worst case scenario, but also trying to put those thoughts out of my mind & hoping for the best.

Positive thoughts.

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