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Nothing But Love in Her Heart

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

 

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!!!