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…)

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…)

Bright Tal via flickr

Image: Bright Tal via flickr

I’m a little behind on the blogging.

So, Saturday marked 17 weeks and today marks 4 months.

Today was fine; distracted by all the Inauguration coverage & a vet visit for Leo. Last night was actually the harder part. I don’t know why it hasn’t really struck me as much as it did last night, but last night, marks 4 months since the last conversation I ever had with my mother. While I saw her alive the day she died, we didn’t exchange words that morning. I think the last thing I said to her was “Good Night,” but I’m not sure–and I hate that. I wish I remember better. I think she had asked me if I wanted to go get something to eat, even though it was 11 o’clock on a Friday night. Occasionally would we do that; go out for food. But that night, I said, “no,” and that I had to be up early to help out at a volunteer thing. And then I think I said, “Good night.” What I really wish I remember was what her last words to me were, but I don’t. And with each passing day, week, month, the chances of me remembering fade. Last night I struggled to accept that. I don’t know that I ever will.

But 4 months. How time flies.

PS…as for Saturday/17 weeks, I got to mark it with a parking ticket. I’m ticked! I was at Starbucks & parked in their lot, which does have signs saying 1-hour parking; but who really takes those things seriously. Yes, I take time restrictions seriously on city streets, but I find the ones in parking lots, on weekends, completely stupid. It’s not like the lot was even remotely filled. I take solace in the fact that I wasn’t the only one, but still, I think I may have to find a new Starbucks.

Image: Bright Tal via flickr

Leo had his 4th chemo treatment today & the last of phase 1. He gets a week off before he starts phase 2, which spreads out treatment to every 2 weeks. He’ll have an oral dose of chemo medication in 2 weeks, & then 2 weeks after that he’ll go get the injected chemo treatment. This cycle will go on for the next 5 months. One new side effect we’ll have to watch for with the oral medication is liver disease. Apparently, it’s a known side effect, so he’ll have labs done every 2 weeks to monitor his liver function.

It will be  nice to spread these vet visits out a bit–for Leo & me. Even though the appointments only take about an hour, with travel time, etc., it ends up being about 2 hours. (more…)

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.