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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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

mav1234 via flickr

Image: mav1234 via flickr

Saturday was rough. Mainly because of Teddy. I spent the better part of Friday night & all day Saturday trying to get his meds & schedule right. Originally the vet had prescribed his pain meds for every 8-hours. The problem was they were wearing off at about hour 6, which made it hard at hour 8 to get him to take the food with his pill. So, the vet agreed that we could go every 6-hours which is working much better; although, the current schedule has me giving meds at 2 & 3 in the morning. Needless to say this is cutting into my sleep.

I hate to admit this, but I was totally the over-wrought parent. I called the animal hospital every couple hours for one thing or another–including a 3 AM phone call. Luckily they were very nice & answered all my questions–& never suggested that maybe I should be the one taking the sedative.

So, I ended up spending the day at home; only going out to grab dinner quickly.

Taking care of Teddy like this brings up a lot of emotions. Even though he’s the “family” dog, he was first & foremost my mother’s dog. He would follow her everywhere–including barging in on her in the bathroom. When she went to bed, he trotted to bed behind her. He slept in his bed next to hers. He got up when she did, & not until she did. Luckily, he’s been ok without her. But I know that has a lot to do with me keeping his routine & environment the same. And I guess he probably thinks of her absence the same way I do–a really long trip.

…but today is Sunday, & Teddy, Leo, & I had a much better day. Teddy was much more alert today. He even went for a very short walk today. His appetite was also better. So, today was better.

Saturday was rough, but we got through it. I got through it. One day at a time. One week at a time. What else can you do?!

Image: mav1234 via flickr

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.

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…)