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Nothing But Love in Her Heart

Nov 20

Quoting Dr. Sue—“Fallon looks FABULOUS!”

Fallon is reppin’ Tripawds today with her bandana! Here she is done with her treatment, we’re ready to go!!

We got up very early to get to Connecticut by 11AM, but it was an easy drive.  We arrived and went in with Suzanne, Dr. Sue’s Vet Tech, and filled her in on the past 3 weeks.  The biggest issue was that Fallon spiked quite a fever—but despite her high temperature, she had done great—still active and eating.  Suzanne explained that there were reasons why this may not be a big deal, it is probably a result of the last chemo and white blood cell count.  Fallon’s weight is doing great—we do not want her to gain any more, as it will start to impact her mobility.  Right now, she’s about perfect.  So Fallon went off to get her bloodwork, then chemo, and we did exactly what we did the last time…took Maggie out for lunch.  We all had burgers, and then went back to the Veterinary Cancer Center to wait for Fallon.

No one is petting Maggie–time to grab a quick nap.

Uneventful day!  Fallon hopped out, all happy, and we talked about our plan for the next 3 weeks. We’re adding the Apocaps, which is a supplement that may help cancer cells die.  We’re going to continue with the antibiotics and Immunity Treats.  We’ll head back in about 3 more weeks for chemo #3, and we’ll discuss diet changes then.  The next chemo is right before we’re planning our family vacation to Niagara Falls, but that is fine, Fallon has been doing so well after her treatments that there should be no problem

Kiss kiss until we see each other next!

Turns out the animal communicator was talking to someone else. Not Fallon.  Last night I hopped on a call, spur of the moment, and heard the animal communicator.  When it was our turn, I explained Fallon was new at all this, we’re putting her through lots, was there anything she needed?  I was expecting Fallon would say some treat she was missing, or to tell her Dad not to baby her so much, she can take care of herself.  But the animal communicator said Fallon said she was tired—she did not want to go on, and her tummy hurt—she had no appetite.  She described that Fallon had pain at 5 on a scale of 10, and said we should talk to our docs about increasing her pain medicine.  None of this seemed right to me—the day before she was running in the yard with a big smile, and she eats GREYT. She doesn’t take any pain medicine now.  This was more than a bit upsetting, but it’s important to remember that this is not science.  Long story short—she was wrong, or not communicating with Fallon.  Today confirmed that, as Fallon’s awesome doctor sees her as doing FABULOUS.  I have to learn to trust myself, and trust I know Fallon.  Thanks to my friends for talking me down 🙂

 

Nov 16

We decided to get a rehab consult for Fallon to give her the best chance possible to be a successful and efficient tripawd.  We were hoping to learn some ways to support and guide her to ways that would keep her from injury and help her function without pain and discomfort—in particular, given her age.

 

We met with Dr. Laura Perez and her rehab technician Jen.  We talked in an exam room for quite a while on what Fallon was good at, and areas where she may need some help.  Overall, Fallon is doing quite well.  She is a very good hopper, is great going upstairs, OK at going downstairs, laying down takes some time.  She is very independent, and is usually reticent to accept our help.  The doctor gave Fallon a head to toe exam of her bones and joints.

 

Dr. Laura examined her carpus (front wrist) carefully, as it gave Fallon a problem a few weeks ago.  Two weeks after her surgery her whole remaining front leg swelled up and was quite warm to touch.  Dr. Laura felt Fallon’s carpus still looked a little thick, so she measured it so we can see any change in its’ size over the course of time.  She mentioned we may want to consider a brace for her, to protect this delicate joint given the amount of use it would be getting, and the force it would receive using it as her sole landing point when going downstairs or jumping off something.

Dr Laura told Fallon a good joke while she measured her.

We learned some stretches for the carpus, and Fallon’s whole leg.  Range of motion movements simulate the motion Fallon’s leg would make when moving, and would help loosen and lubricate her joints.  We learned some other stretches that would help Fallon stay loose and feeling fine.  We can guide her head with a treat while she is standing so she looks at her backside and then her foot, to work her core and give that a stretch.  She can stand with her front leg on a stair and point her head up—guided by a treat–to help stretch her back.  We spoke about ways to massage her for her benefit—gentle motions to help a tight spine, and more vigorous motions to get ready to walk outside or other exercise.

You use your palms to do the range of motion

The goal is to get Fallon more mobile. This joint optimally should bend farther.

We went through the full range of motion for Fallon’s leg.

Dr. Laura and Jen took measurements for a Thera Paw brace for Fallon, to support this carpus joint given the amount of use it would be getting, and the force it would receive using it as her sole landing point when hopping, going downstairs, or jumping off something.  The company custom makes these.  Fallon would probably need extra padding due to her delicate skin.  Dr. Laura will call the company to discuss Fallon’s needs and get a quote on price.  We’ll make a decision about going ahead with this later. If we decide we can do this, she can order it for us.  In the meantime, we’ll see how the exercises and stretches work out for her.

 

We made an appointment to go back in about 2 weeks.  This will give us time to work with Fallon on these stretches and exercises, and see their effect.  We also decided she would try the underwater treadmill!  It will help with her range of motion, strength and endurance, and the water will make her buoyant and help avoid additional stress on her joints.  We hope she likes it!

 

We learn so much from all the experts on Team Fallon.  We are so happy with all the direction we received today to help Fallon be the best she can be.  Just one appointment can give you enough guidance to continue on your own.  We’re opting to attend at least one more.

Smiles to you from Fallon!

More to come..

Nov 07

Things seem a little better every day  Today it is a week since Fallon’s first chemo.  She really weathered it with no ill effects.  We’ve seen none of the things we were supposed to look out for—no  loose stools or nausea, her appetite is great and she’s feeling really good—and acting like her old self more and more every day.

 

She tries to be independent.  She goes upstairs easily, and down with a little more trouble—but she wants to do it herself.  We had been leading and supporting her with an assistance harness, which she tolerates, but she does not want to be carried.  We’re worried because stopping is harder without a front leg, but she’s working it out.  She falls sometimes when walking, but she gets right back up.  We have a rehab consult coming soon and we’ll ask how we can help her with this.

 

She just looks better.  Her eyes have their sparkle back, and she cycles from me to her Dad for petting and cuddling—which is her favorite activity.  She is not on any pain meds and she seems very comfortable.  She seems happy.  I really did not notice that she had been not sleeping well before being a tripawd, but her Dad sure did.  She used to lay with her eyes open, panting—and now she is back at her normal 22 hours of restful sleep.  The pain was showing in ways I wasn’t picking up on.  I gotta get better at this.

 

We were instructed by her oncology team to start antibiotics today, so we did.  And we’re continuing on K9 Immunity Plus treats about 4 times a day.  She LOVES these.  They smell like something she would love (not me). I am sure Maggie would love them too, but they are just a little costy to think about sharing, unfortunately.  We did not have to use any of the preventative meds we took home in case of chemo side effects, thankfully.  So the medication part of Fallon’s life has been good, too.

 

This week we have an appointment for her bloodwork, to make sure her white cells are in good enough numbers for chemotherapy on the 20th.

 

We’re maybe planning a short vacation with the girls!  We go to Niagara Falls, Canada a couple of times a year.  The hotel we stay at is in a neighborhood that will be easy for Fallon to walk in, and it is pretty centrally located, so we can tailor walks to what she is able to do.  We’re thinking about the middle of December so we can see the Christmas lights and decorations.  We still have to see what the next few weeks bring, but it’s fun to have something to look forward to with Fallon and the whole family.

My pretty girl–woke her up 🙁

More to come…

Nov 01

It’s been an eventful 3 weeks.  Fallon seems to feel a little better every day, and looks and acts more like herself.  Her amputation surgery was 3 weeks ago today.  We’ve come a long way, with quite a distance to cover yet.  Nonetheless, I am having one of my hopeful days today.

 

Great news received last night through Suzanne, our Vet Tech at Dr. Sue’s office—the x-rays were reviewed and her lungs are clear.  I asked for clarification—they do not see that the cancer has spread to her lungs yet.  I don’t usually live my life like I am playing a role in a drama, but I asked her, in tears, to please repeat it—it sounded so good, and was not what I expected, given that we’ve had little good news.  Add that to the lymph nodes being clear, and we’re definitely feeling like we’re probably in as good a place as we can be—relatively speaking, of course.

 

Our treatment team is awesome.  I loved our surgeon, I LOVE our oncologist, and I’m making amends with our primary vet.  Everyone is calling to check in and see that all is well, seeing if we have questions, sending phone scritches to Fallon (and Maggie), and reporting any results they get back to us.  I had some reservations and iffy feelings about our local vet, but they are quickly dissipating.  They are super supportive team players for us.  However, they were pretty strong advocates AGAINST amputation.  It doesn’t make them bad, they are just coming from a different place.  But I don’t know where we’d be now had we followed their advice and not gone the extra steps to investigate all options—and get the message clearly from all other angles that amputation was the way to go.  I do know Fallon would be in pain, and we’d have little to no hope for any kind of future.  We’re so grateful for other supportive team members—our family and friends who have followed this and given us moral and emotional support, as well as our new Tripawds family.  I can’t speak highly enough about the support, feedback, atta-girls, and world of information about this journey straight from the keyboards of those already having walked this path.  It has helped us navigate this rough terrain with a lot more insight.

 

I actually DO know one place we’d be if we didn’t pursue this route—financially more stable.  This has seriously kicked our butt financially, with the promise of another major butt kicking every 3 weeks through chemo, and who knows what is beyond.  I am a social worker—I don’t make big bucks.  But what else do you do?  We’ll figure this out.  Somehow.  There’s help out there.  We are members of the Greyhound Health Initiative and they will reimburse for (what will turn out to be a fraction of the cost of) Carboplatin (due to limits).  But I’m grateful for the support, every little bit helps.  My work is making cuts now.  But whatever happens, we’ll do what we can to make this work.  Because it’s Fallon 🙂

 

Fallon is doing awesome.  We had a little setback last week with a swollen leg, but that’s going back down and does not seem painful anymore.  She’s more mobile, getting so much better at laying down, and just is looking like her old self more and more every day.  She has been sleeping really well, eating like a champ, and has just seemed happy and lovey-dovey.  Which is her old self 🙂  Meaning we’re doing something right.

 

Coming soon—Rehab consult!  It is set up for 11/15/17.  We’re hoping this will pave the way for a stronger, more efficient Fallon in terms of 3 legged navigation.  We’re eager to learn how we can support her by doing the right things to help.  This will happen at the specialty practice where Fallon had her surgery.  They have all sorts of Supervets there, we will be seeing Dr. Laura Perez, DVM, CVA, CCRT.  We hope to do what we need to do to get reimbursed through Tripawds Maggie Moo fund.  But we’re convinced this is the right thing for Fallon even without reimbursement possibilities.

Dr. Sue and Fallon on her first day of chemo.  This was posted on her Facebook.

More to come….

Oct 31

One chemo down—everything went well.

 

It was a very long day.  The Veterinary Cancer Center is close to 3 hours from home, but there were not many oncologists closer than that, and I really wanted the best for Fallon.  If we’re doing this, might as well do it right, I heard so much positive feedback about this practice, and about Dr. Sue Ettinger in particular.  Fallon, Maggie, Fallon’s Dad, and I left about mid-morning for a 1PM appointment, and got there with a little time to spare.  We went into the office and spoke with the technician, Suzanne, for a bit, then Dr. Sue came in to meet and examine Fallon, then discuss options.

 

Dr. Sue was lovely to work with.  She was compassionate but to the point, speaking frankly about timeframes and options—all the time giving us hope, but making sure we kept real.  I got all teary eyed when talking, but she made me feel comfortable, normal and appropriate.  All the time we were in the office, our dogs were able to walk around freely, and while she discussed serious business with us, she was loving on our girls.  The whole VCC was like that—any staff member who came close to us stopped to give our girls some attention, say a kind word, rub a belly—we were impressed with their love for all the pets that came in.

 

We looked at options and all the costs (all the COSTS—big) but I knew before we got there I wanted to go with chemotherapy, as long as Fallon was fit and appropriate—and she was.  Fallon went off for chest x-rays and urinalysis, then her first chemo with Carboplatin.

 

We had a few hours to kill.  We decided to get a bite to eat, so got directions to a patch of drive through restaurants close by—Maggie was with us, so we couldn’t eat in anywhere.  Then we went back to the VCC.  I wanted to be close in case there were any problems.  We took a mat in for Maggie and she camped out in the waiting area with us.  She LOVED it, sitting with tons of people who all loved pets who gave her endless attention.  It went well bringing her, she is so well behaved and she is good moral support for Fallon, so I think we’ll bring her again.  It’s a nice place to wait, despite the circumstances, nice people in the waiting room, and soda, water, coffee and chocolate available for people, healthy biscuits for dogs.

 

When Fallon was ready, we went back into the office to talk about what we needed to do next—antibiotics start in a week, we need to set up with our home vet for bloodwork to make sure the white blood cells are still  good after the first treatment so we could do the second.  We got immunity support treats for Fallon, and some meds to have handy in the event she has diarrhea or nausea.  Fallon had a bandage on where her IV was, we would need to stop in an hour to remove it.  We’ll hear from them about her chest x-ray and urine sometime in the future.

 

The drive home was uneventful—much more traffic as we were going during rush hour, but overall proved this was do-able.  Fallon slept really well most of the way home, other than when we stopped to take her bandage off.  Maggie was her usual back seat driver.  Once we got home, everyone was exhausted from our really long, emotional day.  Subsequent ones will be a bit shorter—we won’t always have chest x-rays, urinalysis, and long doctor discussions.  The next treatment is scheduled for November 20—5 more to go.

The Veterinary Cancer Center, Norwalk, CT

More to come…