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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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.