December 7th 2009 3:31 pm
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a diary entry is long past due. Six months is a long time. Geez, falling down on the job, are we?
Short & simple: so far so good. Every 3 weeks we make a trip to Bay Area Vet Specialists in San Leandro (we recommend them highly!) for a dose of high-level chemo, combined with a daily regimen of eastern and western meds and supplements. What's not to love about taking meds with raw meat? Who doesn't love steak tartare? Okay, it wasn't steak every night, but the Primal raw diet is pretty tasty. [Ed: dog's perspective about the Primal, not human's ]. The high-dose chemo lasted for 6 administrations. After the 1st dose, the tumor shrunk, and it's remained the same size (small) since.
Let's take a moment here to express our appreciation and gratitude to the members of the vet community for the scientific advances made to chemotherapy. Let's temper that with a little reality. For the first five days after the infusion, all's well. Day 6 and 7 are a bit of a challenge - Bar the barn door Katie, the cows are escaping!! and escape they did - it was Perth Amboy at low tide, Chernobyl and 7-Mile Island rolled into one. Throw open the windows and doors, set up the wind-tunnel fans and leave the city because being down wind would singe nose and eyebrow hair. hmmm, lovely imagery, eh? Fortunately it was really only those two days during the 3-week run that were challenging.
Maybe a little luv to the humans. A wonderful trip to Sea Ranch with the most perfect weather ever and great friends, and a fair number of weekends trips don't suck. Plus, a change in diet to raw food? Sweet. Our lives have continued on as they should - could spend more time at the beach, would like more ball throwing, should get more food.
Luv to my peeps, thanks for the messages and well-wishes. All the words of encouragement are received & heard. No dog is an island.
July 8th 2009 2:09 pm
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Marcel loves playing ball and can catch a ball at 25’ in mid-air or maybe off one bounce. A couple years ago, he was diagnosed with mild-to-moderate arthritis and hip dysplasia. While he could still chase balls, we had to limit the upright jumping to make it easier on the joints. He started taking glucosamine, chondritin, and omega-3 – more for the wet food that encouraged his interest than anything else, I’m sure. He still loves chasing the ball anytime, anywhere someone will throw it, the beach, a field, or our backyard. He has no interest in chasing squirrels or birds.
Sassy is a natural bird-dog. She can spot a bird, squirrel, or cat at 100 paces, goes into the birding ‘pose’ and then pulls on the leash fiercely. We wonder what would happen if she ever got the chance to make the chase. Although other times she’s so intent on leading the pack (we’re slowly training her out of that!) that she’s passed right by a cat on a car or wall.
Sassy is learning the concept of retrieving a ball. She’ll chase after it, bring it back, but won’t release it and wants to take it inside to horde at her bed. When Marcel catches the toy first, if it has a rope (Kong), she’ll grab it right out of his mouth. Fortunately, he’s a gentleman and doesn’t put up a fight. She tends to be more of a locomotive, plowing through anything to get at the toy - we have the broken branches and knocked down plants to prove it.
Marcel & I met with the oncologist on Monday to discuss chemotherapy. There are not a lot of chemo options for canine cancer in general, and even fewer for cardiac hemangiosarcomas. Marcel will start with Adriamycin. Seventy-five to eighty percent of dogs have zero to mild side effects, including nausea and vomiting for a half day, about 20% of dogs have strong side effects and 2% have violent side effects, for which they need emergency care. As always, our first concern is quality of life. Therapy is usually 4 treatments 3 weeks apart, with regular lab work. It can be harsh on the white blood cells, so they’ll need to be maintained either by delaying treatment a week, or by drugs.
If Marcel tolerates the Adriamycin, he will then have a secondary, and maybe tertiary, drug piggybacked to attack the cancer from a different direction. If he can’t handle the primary drug, there are alternatives available. Once the Adriamycin therapy has run its course, there are other drugs available that can be administered. A new drug on the market is Palladia (not the 1080i high definition music television network that shows music-related content from MTV Networks – I had to Google “palladia cancer”). It has shown to be effective, yet it’s outrageously expensive, as are most new drugs. I guess they need to recoup R&D…Pfizer, are you listening?
We are also making an appointment with a holistic, non-Western medicine doctor. While their initial training earned them the DVM, they have gone beyond that to include Chinese medicine, acupuncture, acupressure, and other holistic treatments. Our specific interest is in ‘yunnan baiyao’ supplements, used to normalize blood flow, enhance poor circulation, heal internal bleeding in injuries and bleeding ulcers, invigorate the blood and enhance healing. There is a possibility the tumor will start bleeding into the pericardium from the chemo treatment, which is pretty serious. The yunnan baiyao may help prevent or limit this from happening. We’re also open to other options.
When all is said and done, these treatments are not going to cure Marcel’s cancer. The best we can hope for is to stave off it off for a few months to spend more time with him. In the meantime, we take long walks, throw the ball, all the stuff that dogs like to do.
Thank you very much for the support you have shown. It means the world to us. While we may not have responded to every note, every word and every thought is relished and appreciated.
July 2nd 2009 10:22 am
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Over the past week, Marcel has been in great energy. Once the fluid was drained (“tapped”) from around his heart, he’s back to his normal self. We’ve all been going for nice long walks once or twice a day, and the 2 poodles have been chasing the balls in the backyard…lily plants be damned!! Sassy might be stronger, but Marcel is smarter so while Sassy is bouncing around the ball-thrower, Marcel races ahead to the back of the garden to catch the ball. More than once she’s snatched the ball right out of his mouth, he’s such a gentleman. While we were in SF this week, we stopped in for a brief visit at Collingwood Park, the only thing Marcel wanted to do was hump Toby and chased him relentlessly. If you don’t know you’re sick or feel ill, then why act that way? This weekend we’ll go on one of our favorite hikes in Tilden Park, up Quarry Trail. It’s a beautiful path with stunning views in all directions, west (ish) to Oakland & Berkeley and beyond to SF & Marin, east (ish) to San Pablo & Briones Reservoirs and beyond.
After long conversations between ourselves, doctors and internet research, we feel the life-expectancy prognosis does not warrant surgery and chemo. Therefore, we have decided to not follow that route, and instead provide the pericardiosentesis “taps” as needed. After a tap, Marcel will feel like a million bucks and be his regular laid back, playful self. In the days leading up to the taps, he’ll be a bit sluggish. At this point it’s difficult to know how often he’ll need a tap, and over a period of time, the taps will be closer & closer together until they’re no longer effective. This could be weeks or even 2-3 months.
In the forthcoming weeks we’ll make every effort to visit some favorite haunts from the past nine-plus years, and introduce them to Sassy. I was living Glen Park/Sunnyside when I first got Marcel, so Glen Canyon Park is on the list. Marcel has spent lots of time at Fort Funston with both his original SF dog walker and me. We might even let Sassy off the leash for the first time. Dolores Park was a favorite haunt for several years once we left Glen Park and moved to the Castro.
Thank you for all the notes, calls, texts, tweets, DMs, etc. Nick responded to one of these messages best,
‘The love of friendship really is like chocolate chip cookies that just came out of the oven. It's warm and comforting and can make you feel good even when you don't want to. Thank you.’
Thank you for your support.