Sunday, March 26, 2017

Pooches: Living with a Dog who has Cancer

Miss M heads to chemo in her lucky hat!
For the past few months, our life has been turned around when our very own Miss M suddenly became ill and we learned that she had a tumor on her heart. Everyone has been so supportive with her GoFundMe and well wishes on her Facebook page, and we've finally had time to process and give an update on how it's really been going:

On Being Lucky
I was always that person--constantly creating scenarios and scanning the pups for any mysterious lumps and bumps and thinking the worst. Little did I realize, that cancer isn't just the lumps and bumps we find, but it can also be growing internally.
Miss M's illness definitely snuck up on us. She had absolutely no symptoms until one day she just collapsed.
We could have lost her that day, but we do realize we've been lucky enough to have more time.

The Fear
Seeing Miss M so sick was scary. And this type of cancer is scary.
My biggest fear is that she could have another incident where the blood vessel bursts and she would be alone or we wouldn't be able to get her to the vet in time.
In the beginning, I was afraid to leave her alone. We also had to figure out the logistics of always having the car available to take her (which having one car and given the location and hours that I work, plus having Baby K to transport, has been trickier than expected).
Our cardiologist also told us that untreated, there was a higher likelihood of having a blood vessel burst and she wouldn't be able to do some of the things she loves best--like going on walks and meeting people--because it would be too exciting and it would put strain on her heart.
The cardiologist also told us the chemo would shrink and harden the tumor which would allow her to continue doing the things she enjoys.

What Happens with Chemo 
Miss M traveling to chemo in style
We wanted to maintain the quality of her life, and even though this was a tough year we thought we would always regret at least not trying, so we decided to go through with the chemo.
It turns out dogs respond really well to chemotherapy.
Miss M really hasn't had many side effects, and she has already completed her 5 sessions.
She would go to the oncologist every 3 weeks and she loved seeing people and getting attention. She comes back completely like herself, except the 3rd or 4th day after treatment she would be lethargic. And gassy...for some reason.
She didn't have a lot of nausea. She would typically throw up one time per cycle, but she's also a pup who throws up from eating ice-cream.
They told us dogs typically don't experience a lot of hair loss, and she was fine through her 4 treatments. It was just this last few weeks where the hair on her neck has started thinning. I think it's because she normally sheds all her hair at this time, but with the chemo overall hair regrowth has been a bit slower. I think it's also really noticeable because it's the white fur so you can see her pink skin underneath.
Otherwise, she is basically herself.

Why She Really Isn't Feeling Well
For awhile, Miss M actually has been sick, but it was completely unrelated to her cancer diagnosis.
It seems she was having some back pain.
I only found this out when I was home alone with Miss M and Baby K; she started panting and having trouble walking. I immediately thought the tumor on her heart had ruptured, and I sprang into superhero-mode carrying my 65 lb dog into the car, and Baby K, and driving back to the emergency vet.
After a 2 hour wait with a tired and hungry baby, we were told she had a severe pain in her back which caused her to have a fever.
I think it even goes all the way back here. They weren't sure what caused it, but they were thinking it could arthritis related. We've been making sure to monitor her, and keep her from overexerting herself. We've also had to shorten most of our walks.

What's Next
Miss M just went in to re-do all of her tests to see how everything has been going. It turns out, the tumor is now so small that they could barely even see it!
She will be moving on to a different type of chemo which is an oral pill she will take at home. We are supposed to go back every other month to do the full body testing.
While this is good news, we do know that it is not a complete cure. But, it does buy us more time.
While we are so lucky that things are going well for her, the hardest part has been when we make plans for the future. Just the other week we were talking about ideas for Halloween costumes for the pups to coordinate with Baby K, and we had to stop and think about whether there would actually be a next year.
And for now, we're enjoying everything together this year.

Stay tuned to our Facebook page for more updates.
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