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Nothing But Love in Her Heart

Jan 05

It’s been 100 days since it was confirmed that Fallon had a bone tumor…85 days that Fallon has been Tripawd.  We’ve come a long, long way.  I forget what life was like before.  What did I do all day?  These days are structured around Fallon, but nothing like the first month or two.  That new normal is really kicking in.  It’s more like trying to figure out better ways to do things—meals that make sense and are healthier, day structure, etc.  I re-read sections of the Dog Cancer Survival Guide as now they are in context and make more sense.  I regularly check the prices of Apocaps and K9 Immunity to see where it’s less expensive.  I’m learning sections of Tripawds beyond the blogs and see how much I missed by not figuring this out earlier.  I cry some still, but not for days at a time like before.  I’ve got to work on getting myself back together–‘cause Awesome Fallon’s got this.

 

Chemotherapy #4 is in the books, and went well, as the prior ones have.  We feel very grateful that Fallon hasn’t had any nasty side effects afterward, and that she’s doing FABULOUS, per Dr. Sue.  I wanted to discuss the new osteosarcoma vaccine, as I desperately want Fallon to get it, but there wasn’t much time for the level of detail I wanted (it was the day after holiday and the hospital was VERY busy).  BUT, Dr. Sue brought it up first and said they will be getting it at the VCC, but they haven’t received it yet, and we’d re-visit this in 3 weeks when we’re back for carboplatin #5, AND that Fallon is a great candidate for the vaccine.  So YAY!!  We also discussed another clinical trial for osteosarcoma that they have at the VCC, to examine anti-tumor immune responses to proteins EFGR and HER2.  I don’t know what that means.  But long story short on that one—I read through material provided to us, and the main thing that is turning us against this one is we’d need to make an extra trip to the VCC that we would not normally for a blood collection the week after the protein vaccine.  It is 2.5 or 3 hours depending on traffic, and we’re in Winter here, so we are considering the benefits carefully—and the fact there may be none, as there is a control group that receives a placebo.  However, if the stars align, any tumor growth could be slowed.  So we’ll decide before chemo #5.  We can do this concurrently with the osteo vaccine.

Moral supporter Maggie generally likes to socialize at the oncology appointment, but she was hypnotized by a nearby cat.

I have been working the home cooking HARD.   I’ve made 3 batches, and we get the process down better (mostly) every time.  Most recent tries are adapted from the Dog Cancer Survival Guide recipe—first mix was beef and chicken, red peppers, cabbage and carrots, and brown rice.  There were some ingredients I just could not find that time (turkey necks (or any necks, for that matter), so I added ground up calcium tablets, as that substitution was mentioned, and also could not find liver of any kind, so I left it out, because I just wanted to get started).  Next recipe was better, chicken, beef liver (found it!), cottage cheese, brown rice, fresh broccoli, fresh cauliflower.  Found turkey necks, but lazied out by using Citrical again.  My big mistake this time—trying to save work by doubling the recipe.  I don’t have any container big enough to mix a double recipe!  It took much longer to mix than it had to, and we actually added work.  Boo.

 

I decided to feed a big morning meal, and then put down kibble later in the day in case the girls are still hungry.  I did step up the quality of kibble a little and decided on Taste of the Wild, as it was rated really well, mentioned in the Dog Cancer Survival Guide as a good food, and was the most cost-effective of the options named.  Fallon’s weight was up a tick at her last chemotherapy, but not a concerning amount, so we’ll just monitor.  Her weight is perfect now, and for mobility’s sake we want it to stay that way.

Next week—rehab again!!  Fallon’s favorite!!

 

More to come….

Dec 31

A friend (“friend”, I guess) recently said to me, “you’re fighting a losing battle” in regard to Fallon’s treatment.

 

I didn’t know what to say about that.  It wasn’t what I wanted to hear.  Fallon is doing better than we had hoped.  She’s rockin’ this from every angle. She is doing AWESOME.  But understood, maybe she won’t always be.

 

So, what is losing?

 

Despite Fallon’s diagnosis, we have lots to be positive about.  Fallon’s feeling greyt.  We still have her.  She has a perfect team helping guide her (and us) through treatment.  She’s happy and energetic.  She is more loved than you can imagine, and gives it back to us in abundance.  She has a fantastic sister and best friend in Maggie.  We’re settling into our new normal—which, three months ago, I wouldn’t have believed.  It’s coming together, though.  We have support from all directions.  I’ve survived layoffs at work twice.  We have what we need to all keep warm and fed.  Good stuff is happening.  I have hope that 2018 will be wonderful.  I hope we’re doing all we can to make it so for us all.

Daddy loves Fally

We’ve already won, no matter what else happens.

Here’s our girls playing together in the yard.

Happy New Year to all!!!  Hope your 2018 is Greyt.

Dec 24

I used to think we did well by our dogs with our kibble.   They eat 4Health Grain Free from Tractor Supply.  It is mid-range on Pet Food Advisor, and the controversial ingredients in the food (which is like pea skins, or something like that)  didn’t bother me much.  More importantly, the price was right.  In the past few months, I’ve done much more reading and research, and I have no doubt we could do better.  There’s way too much information out there, and little is clear cut—there’s many choices, and much is open to interpretation.  Nonetheless, time to think this through and try harder, in particular in regard to supporting Fallon’s treatment for cancer.

 

We decided to jump right in and fine-tune along the way, because I haven’t found what I think is the perfect thing for us…yet.  I found a recipe on the K9 Medicinals website that contained ingredients I knew I could procure easily, was pretty clear cut with do-able choices, and didn’t look hard to throw together (more on this later).  Yesterday I went out and bought all the ingredients, and set out to make our girls’ first homemade meal.

 

The recipe needed ground meat (I got beef and turkey), carrots, apple, other veggies (I got cauliflower and broccoli), egg, and yogurt (as an alternative to raw goat milk, as where do you get that on Christmas Eve eve in Latham?). The veggies were harder than I thought.  I looked in the frozen section, as I’m new at this and relatively unequipped with veggie knowledge—and lazy.  The thought of prepping fresh veggies was enough to turn me off from continuing on this mission.  The website gave a rather limited list of veggies to add, in the form of “such as…”, so I probably had more liberty than I took.  Nonetheless, of what was listed, all I saw in frozen bags without sauces or added stuff was broccoli and cauliflower.  So broccoli and cauliflower it is.  I’ll read more and find some other choices before the next time I shop.  Or perhaps suck it up and shop in produce?

 

So shopping wasn’t bad (factoring out the crowds—not part of this story, but horrible.) I brought all the ingredients home and set to building the recipe.

 

Live and learn moment—I bought a food processor, a nice one, yesterday at Kohl’s.  It is the biggest I could find, 14 cups, and not a bad price with the sale, a 30% off Kohl’s coupon, and a kickback of Kohl’s Cash coming that we’ll put toward (a Foodsaver?  Muffin Tins?  Meat grinder thing for the food processor?  Something to support this project.)  You probably knew this, but do NOT fill up the whole food processor bowl—it works awesome, but only when it’s less than half full.  I tend to read instructions on a need-to-know basis, or when I’ve run into a problem I need to fix.  I would have saved lots of time and mess with prior knowledge of this.

 

Once it was all mixed up, I took the time to measure out half pound portions, because I read somewhere that the amount of this recipe the girls should eat in a day should be 2% of their weight.  Because I still have kibble in the diet, I cut that in half.  Hope my math and reasoning is right.  I froze the half pound meat patties in big muffin tins, until I ran out, then moved to small muffin tins (2 will be the serving size of these), and when I ran out of those, just lumps of meat patties frozen on a cookie sheet.

YUM, right? Fresh from the freezer. That’s ice on the top.

Live and learn moment number 2—these take a few hours to thaw out.  Tonight I will pull a couple out of the freezer so they will be ready in the morning.

Ummmm…Mom. Where is my breakfast?

Anyway, once the meat patties thawed this morning, I added the Omega 3 Fatty Acid caps to Fallon’s, as they were prescribed by Dr. Sue.  This is a messier proposition than you might think, as the skin of these capsules is bulletproof, it was rough to pierce with a knife, and the oil may squirt in your face once it is liberated. I understood them better by the time I did the third one.  This is available in liquid form; we’ll get that one next time.  I also added the girls’ usual supplements that I have not been giving them since Fallon’s diagnosis:  glucosamine, chondroitin, MSM, vitamin C, and for Fallon, yucca.  These in theory help with mobility and achy joints.   Then I added digestive enzyme caps to Fallon’s because I read somewhere that that’s a thing you can do, plus I had some.

 

The verdict—super delicious!!  The girls wolfed the food down and really seemed to enjoy it.  So I decree the homemade food experiment a success to this point.  I will monitor for adverse after-effects.

 

So there’s a new master plan, until I read something that makes me second-guess my master plan and I change it—but I have made enough food for 2 dogs for about 6 more days, so no changes until this is gone and I need to make more.  I’ll feed the new homemade, raw diet in the morning, first thing (starting tomorrow, because it will be thawed.)  Late morning, I’ll give Fallon her Apocaps, as they are best on an empty stomach.  A couple of hours later, I’ll put down the kibble (we’ve always free fed the girls), and I’ll pick it up about 3—4 hours before bedtime.  Then Apocaps again at bedtime.  Right now this feels like a decent approach, especially since I have been doing a halfassed job of adhering to the Apocaps rule of it being more effective on an empty stomach.  I think with this approach, we’ll have the best bang for the buck on the Apocaps.

 

Future considerations:  I have to find a better approach to storing the home made food.  Maybe more muffin tins, then pop them into zip lock freezer bags?  I have a sinking feeling, however, that these will not “pop” easily from the muffin tins…we’ll see.  Then we’ll need to decide whether we’ll aim for 100% home cooked meals, or keep a proportion of kibble— I will probably look into a more highly rated dry food.  And is this a healthy, balanced diet?  Who knows, but it’s got healthy ingredients.  There’s a website, BalanceIt.com that I’ve been referred to and have briefly explored, and their schtick is you can plug your recipe in and it will tell you what secret potion you need to buy from them to make a balanced diet.  So maybe that, although not spending extra $$ is more attractive.  Finally, it wouldn’t be bad to weigh Fallon and make sure her weight stays stable, because it is perfect now.  Maybe tomorrow…

 

More to come…

 

Oh, and Merry Christmas!!!

Dec 20

We were lucky, our rehab had a cancellation so we were able to get in for a full appointment yesterday.  The original plan was to go briefly today to get the orientation on Fallon’s new Therapaw custom carpal support.  Instead, we got the orientation AND the underwater treadmill for Fallon.  We were thrilled, as the next time we could go would be the second week of January, due to a conflict with the chemotherapy appointment (Fallon has a very active social life these days).

 

We met the new brace.  It’s very nice, well made, looks soft and comfy, while supportive, and should not be hard to put on, Fallon just prefers that it be off.  Once it is on, Fallon moves around like a show pony, lifting her front leg (the only one there) unnaturally high, kind of kicking it out.  She launched while in it at the rehab office and kicked right into the water dish, which went flying.  We are memorable everywhere we go.  It will take some time for her to get used to it, so for now we made a plan to put it on for maybe 15 minutes, maybe one time a day, to increase to more frequently as she gets more comfortable with it.

 

Then it was time for the treadmill.  Fallon was still a little frazzled, but she calmed down quickly.  She really seems to enjoy the treadmill, and worked really hard when in there.  She tripled her duration from her last try, and there was really no learning curve, like the last time, she just hopped right along with no problem.  I think she could have done more, but it can be deceptively tiring, so being prudent with the duration increases makes sense.  We were eager to see if it still made her energetic when we got home, as it did the last time.  It presented differently, she was wide awake and engaged, looked really happy, but was not tearing around the house as she did after the first session.  Of course, it was a longer, more intense session and she may have been pooped.  But she seems to enjoy it so much, so we want to continue.  Now is not a time for spending extra money, but there’s so much good that comes from this, it’s money well spent.  We’ll go back January 9.

I have a bead on the direction of the diet change, and hope to start this weekend.  There’s so much information out there that it’s confusing, so for now, have found some information on the K9 Medicinals page (where the delicious immunity treats come from!) It has some direction about raw meat patties that looks like I can handle, and The Dog Cancer Survival Guide also has something I can generally work with in terms of a recipe to follow.  She will continue on her 4 Health Grain Free kibble until I can figure out the next best step there, but I’ll start implementing the meat patties or some better food base mixture soon.  I suppose this includes Maggie as well.  I think I have to get a food processor.  Sigh.  I will watch for sales, there are tons now!

 

We hope it will be a quiet, uneventful week.  Paul and I are both off until January 3 after this week, so lots of Fallon and Maggie cuddling time is in our future!!  Our next Chemotherapy is January 2, so our time off is extended until then.

 

Merry Christmas, and thank you so much for all your support.  I don’t know what we’d do without friends.

 

More to come…

Dec 19

Our family took a long weekend vacation to a favorite spot—Niagara Falls, Ontario.  We wanted to get away for awhile, and we finally built up enough confidence to stray semi-far from home.  Fallon has been doing really well, and she seems to feel quite great, so this was a good time to go.

 

It was so cold in Niagara Falls!!  I expected we would be able to get the girls out for more walks, but between the temperature and icy sidewalks with a lot of salt on them, it was rough getting Fallon too far away from our hotel.  It was still an outstanding vacation.

The icicles are sideways from the cold wind

Gorgeous Canadian Falls

Our hotel is the Old Stone Inn.  If you’re traveling with big dogs and want to be walkably close to everything, this is your place.  There are a few other dog friendly hotels, but not for our big size dog.  They could not be more pet friendly there, all the staff are legitimately excited to meet the dogs.

From Fallon’s swag bag

Fallon claims the best bed

We each took Maggie out for long walks separately, as she is able to go so much farther.  The black squirrels of Niagara Falls are a favorite of hers, she had a fun time sniffing every tree in the Queen Victoria Park to find one (she was unsuccessful).  Fallon really enjoyed walks close to our hotel.  The hotel lobby was decorated beautifully, and we loved sitting there.  Fallon enjoyed meeting all the people walking through.  We explained her three legs vs four legs quite a bit, and made sure people knew it was nothing to be sad about.  Fallon’s amputation took away her pain, and made it possible for her to go on a great vacation.  It also gave us more time with her.  She’s rockin’ this, and we’ll definitely accept her success as long as we are gifted with it.

We were so lucky that my sister and her husband could meet us there.  I miss my family.  Christine and JP had to drop their daughter Claire off at the airport in Toronto, and we were right on the way!  They spent the night, and we went out Friday night to our hotel bar, and got breakfast the next morning.  Not nearly enough time…but I was so happy to see them!!

Paul and I were able to do a lot of walking around ourselves, and on Saturday night, we took a horse drawn carriage to the Floral Showhouse, which is a greenhouse.

Horse from our one horse open sleigh. I thought it would dash, but it went pretty slowly.

From a huge poinsettia display at the Floral Showhouse

We took lots of pictures of light displays and the Falls.  We did this Deck the Falls event where you get food and drink samples at many of the hotels, while admiring all their decorations.  We’ll do that again someday.

American Falls from across the street, with lights display

150th Anniversary of Canada! This is taken from a restaurant we got drinks at, called Elements. It overlooks the Canadian Falls

Coming later today—Fallon’s wrap brace is in!  This is the brace that will support her right front ankle, which tends to swell.  We have an appointment at 4pm today for our orientation to it, as well as another underwater treadmill session.  Fallon was all energized after the first one and really seemed to enjoy it, so we are excited!  Maggie will also probably go, despite being a handful last time.

 

I am still working on my plan to change Fallon’s diet gradually.  Another hurdle—we free feed Fallon and Maggie, and we’ll have to come up with another approach to that.  Definitely do-able, we just need the plan—it will come to me.

 

More to come…