As students and staff in my school district deal with the effects of COVID-19 and social distancing, those who have enjoyed seeing Rita around school in the past now can “visit” with Rita via her very own Google Classroom, called Rita’s Barkroom. During this time it can be helpful to keep established connections (or make new ones) for those who don’t have access to this type of “therapy” at home.
Rita’s Barkroom has photos and videos of Rita posted daily, keeping a positive and upbeat tone. Rita’s Barkroom will hopefully help students and staff stay connected with Rita, bring a smile to others’ faces, and offer the benefits of therapy dog visits to the greatest extent possible right now.
Rita’s Barkroom is private and only able to be viewed by staff and students of my school district.
First and foremost I hope that everyone is staying healthy during this uncertain time with the Covid-19 outbreak. All schools in the state of New Jersey have been shut down at this point and I am teaching remotely from home. Due to the statewide quarantine measures that are in place, I did not take Margarita to any special stores or restaurants to celebrate this day. Once it is deemed safe to do so, I definitely plan to make it up to her!
1 Year in Remission
Margarita reached a major milestone: Officially a SURVIVOR at 1 Year in Remission as of March 19, 2020!
When Margarita began chemotherapy one year ago today, the oncologist told us that without treatment, Lymphoma patients such as Rita usually have a survival time of less than 2 months. The doctor also told us that with chemotherapy treatment, the survival times for patients with Margarita’s type and stage of Lymphoma is 1 year to 18 months, with many patients not surviving the 16 weeks of chemo. I am overjoyed and overwhelmed with tears at the same time as I type this post. Margarita’s bravery, strength, resilience, and demeanor through her Journey has been extremely inspirational and astounding. She is a SURVIVOR!
What does “remission” really mean? In Rita’s case, it means that tests, physical exams, and scans show there is no evidence of cancer. However, this does not mean she’s cured. What it does mean is that the chemotherapy knocked down the cancer cells to a level undetectable by tests or microscopes. Margarita’s next milestone will be in October 2020 (the 18-Month Mark). I would be lying if I said I wasn’t worried about recurrence, and the unknowns that lie ahead. However, I am choosing to focus on Rita’s accomplishments and the positive choices and mindset that helped carry her through the last year with hope-filled days. Moving forward I will do my best to have optimistic thoughts only – there’s no time to waste worrying about the things I cannot control… so onward we go on this Journey together.
Lessons from Lymphoma
Rita is a SURVIVOR – there are far too many who weren’t fortunate enough to celebrate this – so CELEBRATE!
In my opinion, one year ago today when Margarita was fully diagnosed, she became a cancer survivor. She conquered each day with such grace.
Each day with her is a gift, so I made sure to do fun, meaningful, and memorable things with her such as her Adventure List. I made sure we celebrated in some way each and every day so that I didn’t remain focussed on the past, or on the disease itself, as I knew my negativity would effect Margarita.
Don’t be afraid to share your pup’s Journey – and your feelings about their story! Cancer is a part their history, but don’t let it define their future, or your emotional state. Have faith that God has a plan, and will guide you and your pup through this. I truly believe His plan was for Margarita’s Journey to help others.
Keep a journal or start a blog about your pup’s journey. Each post that was written after Rita’s weekly chemo treatment included uplifting things that happened to Rita including nice gestures from others and special food treats she had that week. Doing happy activities and sharing those moments helped me celebrate all things big and small with Margarita.
Embrace help from others and pay it forward when you can.
It takes a great deal of strength, positivity, and resilience to support your fur-kid through cancer and not have a daily major melt-down. Let others help you when they offer – accepting assistance or gifts is not a sign of weakness. People who care about you and your pup are upset about the diagnosis and may find it healing to offer their help, or to give meaningful gifts.
At the same time, don’t be angry with those who can’t be there for you. Not everyone is capable of sharing their emotions, and not everyone feels the way you do about your 4-legged child.
Use your knowledge and experiences to help others who are on a similar Journey by sharing your story. If you hear of others on the same Journey as you and your pup – reach out and let them know you are there for them.
By no means am I grateful that Margarita has Lymphoma. I am, however, beyond appreciative for the people and pups that were brought into my life as a result. Both my life and Margarita’s have been enhanced by these amazing people in our extended family.
Be thankful for EVERY day and for EVERY moment you have with your pup. Feelings are contagious and dogs are sensitive to your emotions. A positive attitude and a happy heart transfers to your fur-kid. Choose to be happy for every second your pup is alive!
Let your faith win over your fear.
Some days were very difficult – both for Rita and for me. Having faith instead of worrying about what was out of my control helped me get through the toughest of days.
I needed something to keep me occupied and focussed and that made me feel like Rita and I were helping others who were on the same journey, so I started this blog! Each chemo treatment post referenced a powerful and meaningful quote or mantra. These words gave me the strength to help Rita through that week.
You can’t take care of your pup if you don’t take care of yourself !
Mental and physical health is important on this journey for both you and your pup. A healthy canine body has a better chance of taking a bite out of cancer. A healthy human body has more strength to carry a canine cancer patient on their Journey. Good nutrition and healthy exercise (to whatever level is appropriate for you and your fur-kid) helps keep the mind and body alert and strong. Stay optimistic and keep moving!
Never, EVER give up!
Research and explore all doable options
Monthly Primary Veterinarian Visit
On March 3 Margarita had her liver values tested again – and we are thrilled to report that all values are continuing to decrease and get closer to normal levels! Margarita will have her liver enzyme levels tested again on May 4, 2020. Because her liver is doing well, Rita’s current doses of Prednisone and Denamarin will remain the same for now.
I am currently exploring changing Rita’s probiotics from Fortiflora to Visbiome, as our primary Veterinarian, Dr. Campbell suggested Visbiome may be a better choice for Margarita’s Irritable Bowl Disorder. In addition, I am actively researching a Holistic Doctor and Nutritionist in hopes when all calms down from the Covid-19 virus, we can explore those further options with intentions to support Margarita in the most well-rounded methods possible.
Things of Note This Month
Double Digit Birthday!
Click HERE to see the post of her birthday activities
One year since the detailed results came back that told us:
the type of Lymphoma Rita had (Diffuse Large B Cell Lymphoma)
Two years after her original Dilated Cardiomyopathy diagnosis, Limoncello had her routine cardiology check up at VSEC with Dr. Bossbaly. I reported to Dr. Bossbaly that Cello is doing well and back to normal activity with no complications. Although Limoncello was never put on medication for her DCM, she is still on the following supplements:
1 gram twice daily
1000 mg twice daily
30 mg tablet once daily
Dr. Bossbaly informed me that Limoncello’s heart disease is stable on the current supplements. There as been a slight increase in Cello’s heart size from July 2019 and a trivial amount of mitral valve insufficiency as noted previously. During her cardiovascular examination, it was noted that her heart murmur remains a 2/6 left apical blowing quality murmur wit ha high pitch component. Her heart rate is 100-120 bpm and regular with occasional respiratory variation. Her lungs are clear.
Dr. Bossbaly was pleased with Cello’s condition overall. Her recommendation is to continue the current supplements with no changes and to continue tracking Cello’s sleeping respiratory rate (SRR).
Limoncello will see Dr. Bossbaly again in August of 2020.