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…)

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Virany via flickr

Image: Virany via flickr

Leo just started the maintenance phase of his chemo treatment. As I mentioned earlier, he finished up the “induction” phase–weekly injections of the chemo meds–2 weeks ago. For the next 5 months, he’ll be on a bi-monthly schedule. Just now I gave him his first dose of the oral chemo treatment he will receive once a month. Two weeks from now, he’ll go in for an injectable treatment. This will be our new cycle.

The oral treatment is 2-10mg pills of Lomustine. Big white capsules. A year ago I would have said there was no way I’d be able to get him to take them; but with all the meds he’s on now, getting a pill down his throat has become a non-issue. Hide it in some dog food & he’s good to go. (Go figure; all those years of failing to get him to take a pill while hiding it in roast beef, etc., only to have him spit it out, & dog food of all things works! He’s not usually a dog food fan. He’s on a chicken, rice, & veggies diet.) Sometimes I have to hold his mouth shut to make sure he doesn’t eat the food & spit out the pill–skill I know; but for the most part, he’s taking them. These pills do require that I wear gloves; these are chemo drugs after all. I think the gloves had an odd taste that he didn’t like, so next time I think I’ll wash my hands with the gloves on to get whatever powder is on them off. (more…)

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.