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Nothing But Love in Her Heart

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Mar 27

Six months ago was one of the most difficult days we’ve had to get through—the day of my best friend Fallon’s x-ray revealing her osteosarcoma.  There were tons of tears, constant research, lots of conversations with anyone with some level of knowledge/experience who would talk to us, lots of drinking…Six months ago I would have never believed we’d be where we are now.  But after an amputation, completing a course of chemotherapy, and starting metronomic chemo, Fallon is just rockin’ this; she really seems happy, healthy, and feeling greyt…Maggie too. 

Nothing has changed in their friendship.

We’re vacationing back at Dewey Beach in a week.  I wondered whether we’d ever go back together.  Despite all the angst, we’ve made the right choices so far.  There’s a comfort in believing that, anyway.

 

So catching you up, all Fallon’s testing came back awesome from our last oncology appointment—bloodwork and x-rays included!  While we were at our last appointment, Dr. Sue and I discussed next steps.  The VCC site visit from Aratana regarding the Osteosarcoma Vaccine was postponed to March 28 due to one of the multiple snowstorms hitting and interfering with their travel.  Dr. Sue and our family are both away the first week in April (! Did I mention Dewey Beach for us !), so the next possible appointment for us would be April 10…and that is when we could get the vaccine.  So given there is this bit of a lull between possible next steps, Dr. Sue and I discussed Metronomic Chemotherapy to bridge the gap, and possibly continue beyond.

 

This is low dose chemo meds administered by us at home, by mouth.  The goal is to slow down tumor blood vessel growth, it will hopefully slow the progression of any new spread.  So that seemed like a good plan, we decided to go with it.  We’re thankful we have Dr. Sue to guide us; we have the utmost trust in her.

 

So Fallon is on 4 new meds now.  The chemo med is Cyclophosphamide, and we give it every other day.  You’re not supposed to touch it, so we were provided with a large supply of nitrile gloves, and instructions how to dispose of these safely, what to do if it touches us, or gets in our eyes, very serious shizzle.  Plus she will probably need to pee more.  We’ll deal.

Fallon is smart, she does not hop in the really sharp snow. Thankfully it is finally melting.

So we have four administrations experience with it so far, but I don’t think it will be a problem, I shake it from the bottle to the bottle’s top, then sink it into Fallon’s delicious home cooked breakfast and she eats it right down without any issue.  Fingers crossed this continues.  Other new meds (an NSAID, antibiotic, and some omeprazole for her tum) we have also been hiding without issue—so far, so good.  She continues to enjoy Omega 3 oil as part of a healthy breakfast. (I also mix in glucosamine, MSM, vitamin C and chondroitin powders and a squirt of Yucca—have been adding this for mobility for years)  It sounds more complex and confusing than it really is.  She’s still on her Apocaps, but a lower dose because of the NSAID, and still gets her favorite K9 Immunity Plus treats.  Busy girl!

 

I am still having major anxiety due to the vaccine cost—which has not been officially made known to me yet by the VCC, but I am a girl with the internet, so I know ballpark.  Devastating, just like everything else has been.  So while I have been 100% solid behind wanting this vaccine for Fallon, seeing it as an opportunity that has come along now for a reason, sleeping at night (and doing most everything else) has been rough while stressing and obsessing over money.  Nonetheless, if she is eligible, we’ll pay for it somehow.  Results have been way too encouraging for us not to take a chance on this.  Buy insurance for your dogs.  Trust me.

 

Despite $, we’re off to the beach soon—it’s a greyt time to go, quiet, cheap because it’s off season, life at the ocean is always better than the Albany suburbs, the beach is open to dogs, restaurants are open and not overflowing with people, other greyhounds will be there—win, win, win, win, win, win.

(This video is our last September trip, so warmer looking than we’ll have next week.  The other dogs are from the Appalachian Air Canines group.  Maggie felt as one with them.  Fallon still had her limp and mostly watched from her beach blanket, it is a week before the x-ray.  We have a plan to go back this coming September also)

Plus, we all need a break.  I am getting crazier, time to rein this in.

Mar 14

This week is Fallon’s oncology appointment!  They *should* have had the Aratana osteosarcoma vaccine in at the VCC, but I called to confirm, and due to the weather, the site visit was moved to March 28.  But we’re going Thursday anyway—Fallon is due for x-rays.  I have a good amount of trepidation, mixed in with excitement about possibilities with the vaccine.  And this postponement gives us a couple of more weeks to save up for the huge cost.

 

So I’m somewhat terrified of what they might find in the x-rays.  Is it even worth knowing?  Things are going pretty well right now.  I suppose it could dictate next steps.  And we need good x-rays to be eligible for the vaccine.  So we’re all in!

These two are best friends

Maggie, Fallon and I are going down to the VCC alone this time—more anxiety, as this could be a big decision-making appointment and I’d love Paul’s input—and ears, I get things wrong all the time.  A colleague at his work is away and he could not take the day off.  We’ve known awhile, I just have to get used to the concept.  At our last appointment, Maggie got bit in the lip by another dog.  The dog’s owner and the hospital could not have been more apologetic, and they treated Maggie for free, and gifted us some antibiotics, and all is well—but that was with 2 people trying to manage.  Nonetheless—I got this.

 

Cooking is going awesome, once I get past the bitterness and anger of having to do it (FU cancer) and then cleaning up is horrible—but I am getting more and more efficient, the girls LOVE it, and I am positive it is a benefit.

Being OCD helps and hurts

I have expanded into cooking treats as well!!  I call them Bird Balls, otherwise known as Meat Treats—basically chicken and rice meatballs.  Very labor-intensive, but hella healthy for the girls and better than commercial treats.  Paul even tasted them-bland, but good!  I make everything now in the biggest quantity I can, and freeze what I have room for.  I never did connect with the dietary department at Cornell for a consult so we’re still flying semi blind in terms of amounts to feed and a balanced diet…but so far, so good in terms of medical checkups and Fallon’s weight, so I’ll try to hold off as we can use that money to push toward the Aratana vaccine.  We also stopped rehab—for now.  We are prioritizing the vaccine cost.

 

We have Dewey Beach vacation coming up!! Possibly (assuming she is eligible) we can get the vaccine into Fallon the week we go.  I’ll barely work that week.  It could wait until after, but I want Fallon to receive it as soon as possible.  Outcomes are so OUTSTANDING in the trials that I don’t want to wait.  It’s still a little far off—23 days—but the weather looks spectacular…and we all need a vacation again desperately!

Back in the days of 4 legs at Dewey Beach. Fallon LOVES her Dad.

Feb 16

Fallon is a chemotherapy graduate!  She completed her course of carboplatin on the day before Valentine’s Day.  I could not have been more proud of her!  She seems to feel really good.  We go back for full body x-rays in 4 weeks.  I am pretty nervous about these.  I almost don’t want to know.

Good job, girl!!

Good news finally on the Aratana Osteosarcoma vaccine!  The site visit for the Veterinary Cancer Center is in 3 weeks, then they can procure the vaccine.  Dr. Sue told me to give a call a few days before our appointment in 4 weeks, just to be sure they have the vaccine.  If not, we’ll bump the appointment out a few days so they can get it.

 

Changing gears—here and in my focus…

 

I spend a lot of time troubleshooting, working to make things better.  I’ll read and re-read websites and the Dog Cancer Survival Guide to see what I’ve missed and how I can improve Fallon’s life.  I set goals—we’re going to Dewey in X days, Grapehounds in blah blah days, thesemany days left to rehab, to chemo, to the next benchmark.  I plan—what to do next and when.  Where to check next for the secret key to beating this horrible diagnosis.  I research–what’s next and when?  How do I be ready for this?  But I have been missing one big thing.  Now.

 

Laura commented on a recent blog of ours (thank you so much <3) and gently reminded me my focus is off a bit.

 

Don’t pass the time. Don’t just look for the next milestone, the next chemo, the next treatment. Every moment in the now is so, so precious. The unknowing is awful, but look into your puppers eyes, his smile, take her for walks, take breaks to be with her, give her your full attention. Allow special snuggles in bed, just sit outside (when it’s warmer), and be present. Paint pictures together, use his paws, get messy. Get dirty. Laugh together.

 

“Don’t count the days.  Make the days count.”  Muhammad Ali

 

Off to cuddle my girl.  It’s her favorite thing.

 

More to come…

Feb 01

So, we’re working this new normal.  I’m still trying to figure things out, trying to make things better, trying to be efficient—but not in our prior “everything is a crisis” mode—all the time, anyway.   I used to blog here every day, sometimes twice a day once I started, as there was so much to communicate.  It’s been a couple of weeks now since we last wrote.  I guess we have a bit of stability, there’s a lot of the same thing happening over and over now.  We’re trying to make that all the more efficient.  I should do a cooking video, you’d be impressed at how far we’ve come 🙂

 

Fallon’s scared me a few times.  One day she spent the day coughing—but not since.  We had the oncologist right after that coughing day, and Dr. Ettinger told me she’d tell me when to worry.  Easier said than done.  The past couple of days Fallon has peed in the house.  She knows she is going to, and asks us to let her out, but it took us awhile to see the pattern, we naively thought she was being lovey-dovey as she pokes at our hands with her nose.  Turns out that is sign language for TAKE ME OUTSIDE.  As soon as I can figure out how to catch a pee sample, I should run it to our primary vet.  Unfortunately, today work gets in the way.  In conjunction with this, she had seemed a little down, maybe lethargic—until yesterday at rehab, where she just seemed so happy, and especially happily normal afterward at home.

Check out this happy Tripawd, hopping along in the underwater treadmill yesterday

Today she seems normal, looking for a game with Maggie in the yard.  So maybe we’re boring her.  The yard is unpleasant, all frozen and uneven, the fluffy snow is gone, yet it’s still really cold, so we come and go quickly from there.  So maybe that’s it…I have to listen to her better.

 

Trying to stay positive can be a challenge, despite having tons to be grateful for.

 

One chemotherapy left!  But we’re hoping to continue going down to the Veterinary Cancer Center for a couple more visits to get the new osteosarcoma vaccine.  At our last appointment, Dr. Sue said all they are waiting on now is a site visit, which needs to be completed before they can receive and start administering the vaccine.  No word on cost yet.  I am hoping it’s something we can swing.  This vaccine has had very hopeful outcomes…We held off on scheduling Fallon’s next rehab until we have answers on timeframes and costs.

 

We’re focused on a goal—Spring Dewey.  We leave 63 days from today for this, the first week of April.  We’ve attended Spring Dewey for years.  It’s a very small greyhound event at a very dog friendly location, and one of my—and Fallon’s—and Maggie’s—and Paul’s favorite events.

One of the best Dewey pics of all time. We will recreate, minus that leg there.

It’s pretty unstructured, which we like.  One of the best things is how it jump-starts the summer…we will be at the beach in early April!  So…to help pass the time, I plan.  I want this to be Fallon’s most amazing vacation.  A friend down our block has offered to let us borrow her wagon so we can get Fallon accustomed to riding in one—this will save her steps for the beach instead of the streets getting there.  I found a rental place in Rehoboth that rents the big beach wagons, so we won’t purchase one here and try to figure out how to transport it there.  I called the hotel to make sure we have a first floor room.  We could do a flight of stairs, but why?  I’m trying to figure out the feeding piece—we do have one of those mini fridges in the room, but is it big enough for 4 days of meals times two dogs?  I’ve got a good amount of time to figure this out.  There will be more questions and dilemmas.

Fallon, her angel sister Willow, and Dad at the beach a few years ago. We are going to walk this beach in the spring.

 

We bought pet insurance for Maggie.  It wasn’t *that* expensive, especially when compared to the devastating bills we get every few weeks for Fallon.  Part of membership of the Greyhound Health Initiative is a discount for Embrace Insurance.  We got the highest deductible plan that will hopefully keep us out of the financial struggles we’re facing with Fallon, should anything scary happen to Maggie.

 

So anyway…More to come…

Jan 13

We’re out to beat the odds.  I am all over this.

So much has been happening.  Fallon has been doing GREYT, and we’re working hard to keep it that way.  My focus is making this new normal run smoothly, and it gets better all the time.  There are many elements to this, but it’s all based on being more effective in all we do.  We have invested so much in this horrible, wonderful time that it would be a shame to see it crumble away because we missed a detail. And Fallon’s rockin’ this.  Cancer is horrible.  Osteosarcoma is horrible.  The odds aren’t in our favor—but there are dogs who break the odds.  We’re trying to do our best to make Fallon one of those statistic-busters

Maggie is always the cheerleader.

Rehab is going awesome.  Fallon seemed a little more nervous when we got there this week, but was all better once we got into the rehab office—and she worked the underwater treadmill like a champion.  I really believe she enjoys it.  This week she increased in speed and duration.

Treats always help

Dr. Laura measured her swollen ankle, and it’s down slightly.  So all’s good there.  We made a plan to go every three weeks.  It’s optional, really, but it’s the one appointment we take Fallon to that she really seems to like.  Plus I like another doctor feeling her all over—just in case there’s something we miss.  For example, Dr. Laura noticed one of Fallon’s hip bones was more prominent than the other.  This was new, not noted before.  After feeling around a bit more and watching Fallon walk, she postulated that because of Fallon’s strong triangle base, when she ambulates, she compensates to one side, making one hip work harder than the other.  Nothing to worry about, just to watch.

 

I’m still home cooking for 1 meal per day, and supplementing with kibble.  Last time Fallon was weighed, she was up slightly, but an insignificant amount, not enough to worry.  We’ll monitor.  I only guess at what the correct amount of food is.  I’m also guessing it is relatively balanced nutritionally, as I use the recipe in the Dog Cancer Survival Guide.  Probably we should consult a nutritionist, but funds are limited—and this is working, so far.  The process is getting easier as I learn the ropes.

Yum, right?

Two more chemotherapy to go.  We’ll see what happens in 6 weeks when we’re at that point and the 6 carboplatin are complete.  We’re very hopeful Fallon will be able to get the new osteosarcoma vaccine.  We’re considering a clinical trial at the VCC, and this week I am leaning toward Fallon participating…but I want to talk with Dr. Sue once more first.  My dealbreaker last week was it could entail some more trips to the VCC, and that’s a long day trip.  This week—if there’s even the smallest chance that the vaccine being studied shrinks tumors, I would regret so much not making the drive.  In the clinical trial, there’s a chance Fallon could fall into the control group and get a placebo, we have no way of knowing.  But I’m up for trying everything.  A cool thing this week–Fallon is featured in Dr. Sue’s Vlog–it’s very sweet

VLOG 22: New Year

New Year! We start this year off with Pokey, Fallon and Jake. Today we are treating lymphoma, osteosarcoma, & malignant melanoma. We got this! #KickCancersButt #Tripawds

Posted by Dr Sue Cancer Vet on Wednesday, January 10, 2018

 

I’m working on me.  I let quite a bit go when I was trying to figure out how to help Fallon.  I haven’t been taking good care of myself.  I’ve started a new healthy focus, taking care of myself inside and out.  The Dog Cancer Survival Guide starts out reminding you to take good care of YOU, and I read it way back when (like 3 months ago—seems like 3 decades).  Now it’s finally sinking in.  It’s like when the flight attendant tells you to put the oxygen mask on yourself first, to make sure you can take care of those who need you.  I’m trying to chill more.  These last three months I’ve not been myself.  I get upset easily.  I have a very short fuse.  But stress feeds cancer, so I am doing all I can to keep Fallon stress-free.  I don’t want to get her upset.  I want her to have every advantage.

 

Time to set another goal.  I already made hotel reservations for Spring Dewey—Dewey Beach, DE in April.  We leave 82 days from today.  Dewey Beach is one of Fallon’s favorite beaches, and Spring Dewey is one of our favorite greyhound events because it’s low key with nice people—and it jump starts the summer.  We are on our way!!! (in 82 days!!)

We’ll be there with one fewer leg in April