Dogs are lucky….

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I’ve decided that dogs are the lucky ones.  When we got Rio’s cancer diagnosis (the first time), I felt sick, scared, chewed up inside as if the very disease were eating away at me.  She didn’t.  She didn’t hear the doctors words.  She just checked her for treats — thrilled when they materialized, and demanding when they didn’t.  Her only concern through all of her treatments was whether she was getting her fair share of love and cookies. Not to gloss over her battle, yes, she had days of pain with the surgeries, and there were days where she was under-the-weather with the radiation and chemo, but she never had the despair of knowing that inside her the cancer was gathering strength for a new assault.

As a person, to hear the words, “you have cancer,” is devastating.  Suddenly, you are thinking “oh, god, I’m gonna die.”  Then every twinge you feel, every ache or pain, you wonder, is that the cancer?  And if it is, how much longer do I have?

Before you start being concerned that I’m speaking from personal experience, I am, but it’s not me who has cancer.  My father-in-law (whom I wrote about in my I HATE CANCER rant a while back) has waged a long and challenging battle with prostate cancer which was first diagnosed back in 1995.  After surgery, he was in remission for a number of years, but had it resurface 7 or 8 years ago.  He was able to get into a drug trial for a novel therapy about 6 years ago, one that my husband had been instrumental in the early-stage development of (not a coincidence).  Obviously, the treatment was considered a success, since he was given that much extra time.  But the cancer has reared it’s ugly head again — in his pelvis, ribs, spine, and skull, as well as his bladder and colon.

We visited with my in-laws over the holidays, knowing that this will likely be our last with Dad.  And we made the 500 mile trek again a couple of weeks ago to celebrate his 83 birthday.  The difference in his condition in 6 weeks was alarming.  He was in a great deal of pain, and he was scared.  He’d been feeling fine, he said, up until a day or so after we arrived, and then his condition seemed to deteriorate overnight.  Both he and my mother-in-law were terrified by how quickly things had gone downhill.  Both spoke of how they weren’t prepared, and that it had happened so suddenly.  As a caretaker, I could empathize with her fear, but I was having a hard time getting my brain around how scary it must be for Dad.  Rio had taken everything in stride, had never once been concerned about her eminent death and the enormity of what that meant to those of us around her.  I kept thinking of the phrase, “be more dog,” and I wondered how we, being the cerebral creatures we are, can really do that.  How can we put aside the fear and really focus on living each moment?  Is this even possible?  And how can I convey this sentiment to someone faced with the finiteness of their own life without sounding cliche and even callous?

In order for me to “be more dog,” I think I would probably need a lobotomy…  I’m one who overthinks everything.  The phrases ad infinitum and ad nauseum were invented for folks like me (as demonstrated by the length of my blog post).  I would literally have to be unconscious not to think about life and death and grief and pain and how to cope with these.  Dogs are oblivious to this metaphysical conundrum.  I’m not saying that dogs are not conscious of death.  I truly believe that death does affect them on an emotional level.  Tosca and Zephyr have both been grieving the loss of Rio in their own peculiar ways.  (You can say that it’s simply a reflection of how I’ve been feeling, but I would point to evidence to the contrary.)  It’s just that dogs don’t hear the doctor when he says, “you have six months to a year,” and this is something which, when heard, can’t be forgotten.  Dogs don’t understand what the word “metastasis” means — they don’t process the fact that the cancer is devouring them, one cell at time, and that at some point it will be excruciatingly painful as it does.  They have no idea how scary it can be to face your own mortality, and the feeling of helplessness that goes hand-in-hand.  They will never be fully conscious of the fact that every day takes you closer to losing someone you love, which, to me, is even more terrifying.  And for that, they are so very lucky…

 

 

 


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I HATE CANCER!

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I have the need for a momentary lapse of control.  And I’ll apologize in advance if I offend anyone, but I have to say this.  I FUCKING HATE CANCER!!!!  I HATE IT!  I BEYOND-WORDS HATE IT!!!  If cancer was a person, I would stab it in the eye, beat it to a bloody pulp, and then I’d do a little dance on its dead carcass.

We just got the news that my father-in-law’s prostate cancer has progressed to his skull, his spine, his shoulder blade, his ribs and both of his femurs.  My mother-in-law isn’t handling the news very well — she lost her first husband to cancer (melanoma) too — she’s been having some heart issues, and the added stress isn’t helping.

I know we usually reserve our collective Tripawd mojo for our canine friends, but we could really use some for Rio’s gramma and grampa, too.

Feeeeeed meeeeeeee!!!

I mentioned in my last post, that we’d started feeding Rio 4 times a day as a means to compensate for slower processing in the ol’ puppy pooper.  Between that and the (almost) cup of pumpkin a day, it seems to be helping — we’ve not had any more vomiting for several weeks, and she’s struggling less when she goes #2!  That’s the good news…  The bad news is….   I have created a monster.  She’s decided that 4 meals a days isn’t nearly enough, and is lobbying hard for additional portions.   She is eating us out of house and home.  She doesn’t seem to be gaining any weight with all the additional meals which is a little troublesome, and I can definitely feel the “bad guy” in the V between her stomach and her hip, but looking at this from a purely “happy in the moment” point of view (which, I’ll admit is pretty rare), she is doing really good.  Maybe even great.  She’s been funny and playful and spirited, and yes, demanding, these last couple of weeks.   And so, I say, if the appetite is good, and she wants to eat, I will feed her.  I love this monster!!!

Keep it down. Can't you people see I'm trying to sleep.

 

Not my favorite day….

I took Rio in this morning for her 4 month ultrasound recheck.  If you’ve been following my occasionally very rambling posts, I will  apologize in advance for their lengthy nature.  This one may very likely take on a life of it’s own….  Enter at your own risk.

The outcome of a 4 hour wait at the vet’s is that her cancer has come back.  Given my less than sunny nature, I can’t say that I wasn’t sort of anticipating the worse, especially given how AWFUL (no drama here, seriously) this entire year has been for our whole family — in fact, I  spent several hours googling like crazy yesterday in order to prepare myself should the worst occur.  But it still was a punch in the stomach when the vet tech took me into a room to hear the outcome of the results…

At Summit, most of the interaction between the client and the dog-ters and techs takes place in the waiting room.  Symptoms are discussed, courses of treatment, surgical outcomes, etc. — quite fascinating to me, an unabashed people watcher — but if it’s really bad news, they take you into an exam room.  They don’t tell you going in that its gonna be bad news, but trust me, I’ve spent enough hours here to know, watched enough comings and goings, seen the devastation on people’s faces.  I know that if you go into the room, nothing good is going to come from it.

As usual, I digress (or maybe its just stalling tactics.  If I don’t type it, then it isn’t true…. but, sadly, it is…..).  Rio’s cancer has reemerged in the form of an enlarged lymph node and “suspicious” activity in her spleen.  For Mast Cell cancer, this is “normal.”  This is what it does.  It moves to the spleen, the liver and then into the bone marrow as a form of basophilic leukemia.  Some of the niggling little things I’ve been noticing lately — the persisant cough, her being out-of-breath following any sort of activity, the weird, lumpy bruise along her scar that a quarter-sized piece of skin peeled off of — these were starting send up red flags in my little pea-brain.  Enough to send me running for my computer and re-reading a lot of my original research.  Turns out, most of these “nothings” were actually symptoms that could be contributed to mild granulation — when the mast cells start breaking free of the tumors and moving about the body.  And while they “could be,” I held on to the hope that they could also be symptoms of other less life-altering things.  The cough, it could be allergies.  It’s been a weird summer weather-wise.  We planted a new garden.  There could be more/new dusts, molds, plants, etc.  The bruising could be a spider bite or other insect.  I was hoping, hoping, hoping that I would be able to post this evening:  Rio’s Ultrasound Results Were Clear!!!!  But this has SOOOO not been our year….

I was still thinking positive and was actually quite cheerful when the vet tech came and said the doctor had my results and would go over them in the exam room, and then I faltered.  I looked down at my little girl, and she looked up at me and said, “Come on, mom!  They have cookies in that room!”  And the whole time the dog-ter was giving me the run-down on options and treatments and time lines and quality of life, Rio kept shifting in the room to catch her eye.  “Did you not see me sitting here?!  Why are you NOT giving me cookies?  Hellll-llo!!!”  Even while the tears were falling, I kept laughing at her and her less-than-subtle begging!  That’s my Woo…  She never forgets a place that someone may have given her a cookie!  It might have been years ago!!!  And even if, in my opinion, it was less than optimal circumstances that put her in said place.

As a wrap-up, I could apologize for the lengthy nature of this blog post, however, let it not be said that I led you into it without a warning.  I had a boss once who always got impatient with my project updates (not sure why…), and would always ask for the “net-net.”  Well, here it is:  The enlarged lymph node was aspirated, and we’ll get cytology back shortly (hopefully before the end of the week), but our oncologist is pretty certain that it is metastatic MCT.  The “grainy” texture of her spleen has gotten worse, and her adrenal gland has a “mass.”  Because the lymph node has changed since her last US (April), the change has either occurred while she was still on chemo, or has appeared post-chemo (in the last month).  Neither of these situations is optimal.

My take on these findings:  She’s always had a somewhat grainy appearance to her spleen, and has had cytology done every single time she’s undergone an ultrasound.  I’m hoping that this is just more of the same.  Her adrenal glands were different sized last time around as well, and although they usually see both of them enlarged with pituitary Cushings (and this is what we’re assuming Rio has), they weren’t overly concerned with their appearance last time ’round.  I’m hoping that when they measure and compare, it won’t be too much more concerning this time.  As for the lymph node, you can be certain that I have used my share of expletives (no children were present).  Rest assured that we are still fighting!!!  The options keep getting slimmer, but I’m not giving up on my girl!  Mainly because that would constitute acknowledging that I am coward and life has beaten me, and I’m not quite there yet.  However, I can use any and all support that you might feel inclined to shoot our way.  I am certain that Rio will fight her way through all of this, as she has managed to do for the past 4+ years, however I am only human, and I am struggling to be as strong as my little rock(head).

Give your pups an extra large hug for us tonight!

Rio’s momma

 

PS:  If any of have any firsthand knowledge about Kinivet (masitinib) and/or chlorambucil, please send me a PM.

The dreaded pathology report….

Last night Rio’s oncologist called with the pathology results.  As I already half expected, the results are less than great.  Since her cancer has resurfaced post-chemo, we knew going in that it was likely to be a more aggressive version of the disease.  Also since it was in the region of a lymph node we knew there was every likelihood that it could be in those tissues as well.  Continue reading