Leo had his 2nd chemo session today.

His 1st went completely fine. No side effects. He was perfectly himself this past week. Good appetite. Good energy. No nausea, vomiting, or fever. None of the things we were supposed to keep an eye out for. So, that was good. Really hoping this next week goes just as well.

The vet did say that his white blood cell count was a little low, but still within range. Anything bellow the “3’s” (not sure if that is 300 or 3000–still learning the lingo) & they would have held off on his next treatment. But he was at the high end of the “3’s”, closer to “4”, so he was ok to get the 2nd dose. She said his bone marrow will regenerate & the count should go back up once his body adjusts; but just to keep an eye out for fever (i.e., a possible infection). Fingers crossed, that will not be an issue.

He did drop a pound between last week & this week–from 27 to 26 lbs. They said they weren’t worried because it could be any number of factors, most not related to his cancer, that could have caused the fluctuation in weight. But I still don’t like it because weight loss is something we do need to be concerned about. But at the same time, he was eating normally last week & no vomiting; so no real explanation there for the weight loss. Our approach at this point is he gets to eat whatever the hell he wants at this point; we’re bulking him up…of course within reason.

Today/last night was just stressful. The chemo thing really wasn’t that big a deal which is weird to say. Last night I just started feeling stressed because I realized that since my mother died, I’ve been taking care of everything on my own, all the things my mother used to take care of; plus now, I get the added stress of the family dog’s cancer. And it’s just worn me down. I’m kind of at the point where I really can’t handle things going wrong. Last night I was worried that our other dog (the one who was attached at the hip to my mother) was sick. He seemed better this morning, but the thought that something was wrong with him just didn’t sit well. My ability to cope & deal these days is paper thin; so the thought that Teddy, our other dog might be ill, just made me crack. So, it didn’t help this afternoon when, after my brother & I dropped Leo off at chemo & made our way to Starbucks to get something to drink/eat–since we hadn’t done either yet, the car started having problems. Had to have it towed. Not what I needed. Throw on top of that that Leo was supposed to be picked up within the half hour of us leaving him. In the end, the car was towed–problem still to be diagnosed; a friend picked us up & took us to pick up Leo. We got him 3-hours later than planned, but he was fine. But it was just not the added stress that I needed. I basically had a breakdown as we were waiting for the tow truck. I’m stressed. I’m tired. I’m sick of my mom being gone. I want this to be over.

The added stress of Christmas tomorrow doesn’t help. My brother & I are still in avoidance mode. We talked about our lack of plans today & just decided to wing it. We have invites, but we’ve committed to nothing. This period is just proving to be rougher than I expected or was willing to acknowledge. Now it’s here & I can’t, we can’t. The only consolation is that we have each other to get through it; but we still have to get through it, & that’s the part that fucking sucks.

I did realize this morning that I essentially need a day off. I need a day where I’m not responsible for anything; where I don’t have to take care of anything or anyone; where I can run away & just do whatever the hell I want without having to be somewhere. I need a break. So, once the car is fixed (hopefully tomorrow!), sometime in the next couple of days, I am doing just that. My brother can take care of the dogs & everything at home, & I’m just going to disappear for a day. I’d love for it to be longer, but reality prevents that. So, I’ll settle for a day.

But first, I have to get through the next 2.

Seriously, positive thoughts. Things need to get better. I choose to remain an optimist, even though I have every reason not to be.

Merry Christmas.

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Some good news today…a better way to remember today…the vet just called and said all of Leo’s test results came back normal. That means there is no evidence that the cancer has spread to his bone marrow, lymph nodes, liver, or spleen. Yeah!!!

Three days after his first chemo treatment and there has been no evidence of side effects. We were warned that the first 24-48 hours were the ones to watch. The most likely effects would be nausea, vomitting, loss of appetite, and decreased energy. He’s had none of these. His appetite is normal. He’s keeping his food down. He’s going for his normal walks. And he’s still as hyper & annoying as ever.

The vet says it’s good that he’s handled his 1st treatment well. A good sign for future treatments. I’m not counting on this, but still, it’s good to know & hope.

So, next chemo is Tuesday. There is still one more possible side effect that we are waiting to see. On the 6th/7th day after treatment they say to keep an eye out for fever and lethargy. That’s when his white blood cell count will drop & when he is most at risk for infection–thus the fever. So, we’re not totally out of the woods yet with this first treatment, but so far so good. We’ll get to day 6/7 when we get there. But for now, just happy with where we are at.

I’ve been dreading today…it being the 3 month mark. It’s so weird to think it’s been that long, and even weirder that it doesn’t feel like that long. I ended up having a long phone conversation yesterday with that old friend who I met up with last Saturday, who’s mother passed 2 months ago. We ended up talking about our mothers, what had happened, and how we were coping/doing. It was the first time we’d had a chance to talk about it. It was really nice to talk to someone who actually really understands what you are going through. Family & friends mean well, but for the most part they don’t understand what it’s like and the thoughts that run through your head. And because we’re both roughly at the same time point in all this, there is a better understanding of what it means to us, what it has done to us, & what it continues to do to us. People really do come into your life when they are meant to and for a reason.

Well, still several hours left in the day. It’s weird that the 3 month mark and the 20th both land on a Saturday. We’ll see how it goes. At least my brother is here for this one. We’re about to take the dogs for the walk. A good way to pass a couple hours & get out of the house.

Image: Ezu via flickr

Leo is currently at his first chemo treatment. He’s also getting his tests done to determine if the cancer has spread to his liver, spleen, or bone marrow. Fingers crossed, it hasn’t! Positive thinking. Yes, the positive thinking hasn’t exactly proved itself recently, but I choose to remain optimistic. Or at least I’m trying.

I’m really hoping he handles the chemo well with few side effects. I really don’t want to this to affect him. It’s supposed to improve his quality of life, not make it worse. But, we’ll see. Vet keeps telling me that, for the most part, dogs handle it well with minimal side effects–usually some nausea, vomiting, or appetite loss for a couple hours to a day; and there’s meds they can give him to counteract that. I think he & I can handle that. Let’s hope for that.

My brother & his girlfriend arrived home yesterday, so he was able to take Leo in with me today. Such a relief. Definitely helped keep my anxiety level down; although, I’ll admit, I’ve definitely felt anxious the last 2 days in anticipation of today. But, at least I had someone there in case I freaked out again. But so far, so good.

Ok, more once I know how it goes. For now, positive thoughts.

Yesterday was a bad day.

Leo had his first appointment with the oncologist to discuss treatment for his mast cell tumor. She outlined the tests & chemo treatment plan she recommends. As far as tests: she wants to do an ultrasound to check to see if the cancer has spread to his liver or spleen; then aspirate (stick a needle in & suck out some cells) two lumps to see if they are just fat or the cancer; and then do a bone marrow tap to see if the cancer has spread there. For the chemo, he’ll have IV therapy once a week for 4 weeks; then he’ll go every 2 weeks for five months with a mixture of IV and oral meds. All in all it’s a 6 month protocol. She essentially said we’re looking at 6 months to a year. I choose to focus on the year. Keep in mind that he’s still perfectly himself.

Anyways, so I got all this information in about 10 minutes. Then I had the costs for the next 6 months of care thrown at me. Cancer care for dogs is not cheap. They wanted to do the tests & start his first chemo session that day. It was just too much at once & I started feeling really anxious. Luckily I had called my brother to discuss what was said (Leo afterall is both of ours) while they were getting stuff together. He noticed I seemed really stressed. He recommended that I ask if I could bring him back to start everything. I’m glad I did ask. I don’t think I would have thought to do it if I hadn’t been told to. I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind. Getting out of there when I did with Leo probably saved me from having a full blown panic/anxiety attack. I could just feel myself getting amped up the longer I was there. And being in the exam room with closed doors did not help me.

I think one of the key factors in why I started feeling overwhelmed yesterday was my mother. Being there on my own with Leo just hit me over the head again & again with the simple fact that she wasn’t there. With all the family dogs, my mother always took the lead with their healthcare. We’ve had dogs with serious illnesses before; & while their care was a family decision, she was there to make the final decisions. And there I was doing this all on my own for the first time. So it was her not being there & then having to make all these decisions. Not that the decisions were hard. I’m going with all the doctor’s recommendations & I’m going ahead with treatment. But it was just way too much at once. Really, doctor’s should spread this stuff out. This really just should have been a consultation appointment & then testing & treatment would start another day.

I understand that in delaying treatment for another week risks having the cancer spread further. And I know we’re supposedly playing with a one-month life expectancy without treatment. But, I’ve never really believed that one-month life expectancy crap, & I’m convinced that he’s fine today, he’ll be fine next Wednesday when we go back. Yesterday was just not the day to start all this.

It took me until about 7 last night to finally calm down, but still I felt scattered. I feel better today & I know I did the right thing for both of us, me & Leo, in getting us out of there yesterday. A benefit of starting all this next week is that my brother will be home from school for the holidays & he can help me with everything & be there to keep me from climbing the walls. Always a good thing. Yesterday just really made me realize there are things I can’t do on my own & for future reference, I have to have someone there with me. So, lesson learned.