Be a Warrior, Not a Worrier

Week 13 Recap and Oncology Visit #14

“Worrying does not empty tomorrow of its troubles. It empties today of its strength.” ~Corrie Ten Boom

Margarita has been the ultimate Warrior.  Both her primary veterinarian, Dr. Campbell,  as well as her oncologist, Dr. Risbon, have told me that Margarita is doing much better than some dogs do when going through chemo.  Not only do some dogs have many more or worse side effects, but some dogs unfortunately aren’t even able to complete the 16-week plan for different reasons.  I am in awe of Sweet Reet’s strength and resilience, and she has inspired me to transform my worrier tendencies into Warrior energy these past 13 weeks.

As her PAWrent, it was extremely difficult at times over the last 13 weeks to clear my mind of distress, transform that negative energy into the positive strength needed to make clear decisions, and to physically and emotionally assist Margarita in her most important battle.  Keeping a calm, upbeat demeanor was important to me, knowing the vibes I emitted would undoubtedly transfer to Margarita.  A positive attitude and a calm, gentle peaceful voice made her feel happy and secure.  Like all dogs, Margarita is extremely sensitive to silent communication as well – so it was just as important for me to keep my mood and body language optimistic, despite the anxiety and heartache that I felt.

However, the mind is a treacherous battlefield, and if I was not careful…if I let my guard down jus a little…the Warrior in me disintegrated into a worrier instantaneously. So what have I done to help train my heart and mind to be a Warrior like Sweet Reet?  Call me crazy – but I watched Rita – closely.  Despite not feeling well 100% of the time, I saw Rita still take joy in small things.  Undeterred by the side effects of chemo, she still woke up with her tail wagging and happy to be alive.  Her bravery and endurance truly inspired me to start each day anew with an optimistic mind and happy heart, no matter what transpired the day before.  How do you like that? SHE was the one going through battle, yet she was helping ME all along…A true example of a Warrior.

Week 13 Recap

The week following her treatment day was great.  Margarita did not have any reactions to the Vincristine, and was feeling well enough to enjoy a trip to Maine with us.  The hair from her splenectomy surgery area has not grown back yet – which we kind of expected. But more recently, Margarita has had a bit of hair loss in her face, and some pigment discoloration in her muzzle.  Below are not the best of pictures, but I tried to show a “before'” (left side) and “current” (right side) for comparison.

We first noticed that her nose, the skin around her eyes and lips, and her muzzle were all turning darker:

Then we noticed hair loss on her face…

…and on her muzzle:

Definitely some noticeable changes – but still one of the prettiest gals we know!

Oncology Visit 14

Margarita’s CBC revealed a very mild drop in her white blood cell count, but the levels were still acceptable for continued therapy. Her physical examination was normal, and her weight was stable.  Dr. Risbon said that after the chemotherapy is completed, Margarita’s hair should fill back in, and she should regain the original pink coloring in her muzzle.

This Week’s Treatment

Dr. Risbon changed the treatment for today.  Rita was supposed to have Cyclophosphamide today.  However, the last time Rita had Cyclophosphamide, she displayed was suspected to be  sterile hemorrhagic cystitis , a side effect with this drug seen in about 10% of dogs.  To be sure this didn’t happen again, the Cyclophosphamide was substituted with Chlorambucil .

This Week’s Treat

This week’s treat was extra special.  Margarita surprised her 2-legged cousin, James on his last day of school!

First car in the Parent Pick-Up Line!

Margarita was patiently waiting for James.

James was happy and surprised to see Rita when he opened his door!

Rita’s Grammy drove us all to get a treat.

We went to Evergreen Dairy Bar . This well-known restaurant and ice cream stand opened in 1949 and is a popular spot for locals, as well as road-trippers passing by on their way to or from the Jersey Shore.

James and Margarita enjoyed a hot dog for lunch.  As you can see, Rita thinks her lunch is lip-smackin’-good!

Diggin’-In!

After lunch, James and Margarita also enjoyed a delicious ice cream treat!

As always, thank you for joining Margarita in her journey to take a bite out Lymphoma.

 

Happy, Alive, and Built to Survive

Week 11 Recap, and Oncology Visit #12

“A positive attitude gives you power over your circumstances instead of your circumstances having power over you.”

Week 11 Recap

We don’t have much to report this week other than Margarita had a good week so far and is officially moving into her last 3-week round of chemotherapy!

The sky last night was pink for Sweet Reet!

Oncology Visit #12

This week was Rita’s “off-week,” where she just had to visit the oncology office for blood work.  Her test results revealed no abnormalities, and another CBC will be repeated prior to her treatment next week.

This Week’s Treat 

Brian and I took Rita to Rita’s Italian Ice !

Rita waited patiently in the truck as her Pop was in line ordering her a yummy treat.

Margarita enjoyed some licks of a peanut butter milkshake!

YUMMY !!!!!!!!!

***REMEMBER***

Early detection is paramount. Stay informed, remain observant, pet your dog often to check for abnormalities, and take your pup to your family veterinarian regularly. If you are not sure how to check your pup for the more obvious cancer signs, click HERE for a comprehensive guide. Please also remember to take into consideration any other observations that may be out of the ordinary such as:

  • abnormal swellings that continue to grow
  • sores that do not heal despite antibiotics by mouth or an ointment applied topically
  • weight-loss that cannot be explained by a weight-loss diet
  • loss of appetite
  • difficulty eating and/or swallowing
  • bleeding or discharge from any body opening
  • offensive odors
  • reluctance to exercise or loss of stamina
  • persistent lameness or stiffness
  • difficulty breathing, urinating, or defecating

 

As always, thank you for joining Margarita in her journey to take a bite out Lymphoma.

When Cancer Bites, Bite Back

Week 10 Recap and Oncology Visit #11

“There will be roadblocks, but we will overcome them.” ~ DJ Khaled

Cancer tried to take another bite out of Reet this week, but she bit back!  The dogs were outside enjoying the beautiful weather this past Memorial Day Weekend on Saturday evening.  Margarita was laying in the grass when she suddenly popped up and nervously began to pace, pant, and spin.   It quickly became apparent that she was straining to urinate.  We knew the drug used in her last chemo treatment (Cyclophosphamide) causes sterile hemorrhagic cystitis  in approximately 10% of the dogs.  Symptoms include straining during urination, urinating small amounts frequently, incontinence, or blood in her urine.  She had this same treatment during week 2 of her chemotherapy, and did not have any complications.  However, what we were observing was exactly what we were cautioned to look our for.  We followed the protocol and called VSEC to share our observations, and their suggestion was to bring her in to the emergency room for evaluation.

On the way to the ER

While Rita was at VSEC, they performed the following:

  • Physical exam
    • No concerning findings
  • Ultrasound
    • Revealed that her bladder was slightly inflamed
  • Blood work to check her kidney and liver values
  • Urinalysis
    • Results were normal

ER Treatment:

Know What to Expect

Nice try, cancer – but this was just a hiccup, and won’t hold Margarita back in her progress. I had prepared my self each week for Rita’s chemo treatments by reviewing the side effects for each week’s drugs with Rita’s oncologist, Dr. Risbon.  Each week I show up with a notebook and pen ask what side effects to expect, in what time frame we should see symptoms, and what to do if Rita begins to feel poorly.  I also often refer back to the “What to Expect” list I was given during our first oncology appointment. This keeps my mind from racing and reduces my anxiety if I happen to see something out of the ordinary.

More Ways to Help Your Fur-Kid Take a Bite Out of Cancer:

Chemotherapy kills the cancer, but also is extremely harsh on the body.  During chemo – especially during the “hiccups” that may arise – we wanted to be sure Margarita’s body was as equipped as could be to fight these little “side battles” if needed.  After speaking with others who have been through chemotherapy with their fur-kid, Rita’s primary veterinarian, and her oncologist, we chose a special diet and specific supplements to best prepare Rita’s body for it’s best defense against the chemotherapy and possible side effects.

Diet

There are many articles that suggest certain diets for canine cancer patients (most are carbohydrate-free / sugar-free diets).  However, Margarita is a unique, complex case, and therefore is on a special prescription diet due to her intestinal disease. Other than her weekly “cheat day” after her chemo appointment, we stick to her special diet as close as possible.  Every dog’s nutritional needs before, during , and after cancer and through chemotherapy are unique,  and should be discussed in detail with your primary vet as well as your pup’s oncologist.

Supplements

We chose to add supplements to Margarita’s diet to help strengthen, support, and balance her immune system.  Just like the main diet, supplements should be discussed with your primary vet and your dog’s oncologist as to which ones are appropriate for your pup’s individual needs and diagnosis.  Also be sure to ask your oncologist about a schedule of administering these supplements, as some antioxidants and ingredients will decrease the effectiveness of the chemo if given too close before or after your fur-kid’s treatment day.  Here are the supplements we chose for Margarita:

  • Fish Oil
    • Shown to improve survival times slightly in dogs with Lymphoma by helping to boost the immune system
  • CAS Options
    • A powerful blend of four functional mushrooms: Maitake, Reishi, Shiitake, and Turkey Tail,  combined with antioxidants to provide extra strength immune support. Formulated to support and balance the immune system to promote overall health and well-being for pets, especially during times of stress
  • Nupro Silver
    • Holistic product, it will provide your dog with the full range of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, amino acids, and essential omega fatty acids which promotes optimal overall health and well-being
  • Natural form bee pollen
    • Known to help reduce side effects of chemotherapy
      • Be sure to choose unprocessed
  • Probiotic
    • Beneficial bacteria that can exhibit anticancer properties.
    • Margarita also has an intestinal disease so the safe and effective strain of beneficial bacteria in a probiotic promotes and restores normal intestinal microflora for her.

Oncology Visit # 11

Margarita’s physical exam was normal, and her blood work displayed appropriate levels to continue chemotherapy.  Rita’s oncologist, Dr. Risbon, suggested that we continue the Rymadyl and Oxybutynin Chloride until next week’s visit to help with her bladder issues.  Dr. Risbon was not overly concerned about Rita’s elevated ALT value.

Treatment

During this week’s treatment, Margarita received Adriamycin intravenously.

  • We are to monitor the site for any inflammation, oozing, or discharge.
  • Side effects of this treatment may cause nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and/or diarrhea.
    • As  a preventative, we were sent home with:
        1. Cerenia 24 mg
          • To be given (2 tablets) once a day for 5 days to prevent nausea/vomiting
        2. Metronidazole 250 mg
          • To be given (1 tablet twice a day) at the first sign of loose stool/diarrhea

This Week’s Treat

This week’s cheat day was a visit to Wendy’s !

Margarita enjoyed a few bites of a bacon cheese burger and a couple of chili cheese fries!

As always, thank you for joining Margarita in her journey to take a bite out Lymphoma.

 

No One Fights Alone

Week 9 Recap and Oncology Visit #10

“When someone has cancer, the whole family, and everyone that loves them does too.”  ~Terri Clark

When we first found out about Margarita’s diagnosis, there was no question or hesitation for us to put all other things on hold if needed, and fight right alongside Rita in her biggest battle.  We vowed to do anything we could to help our 4-legged family member survive, as long as her medical advocates deemed the actions appropriate to continue to improve Rita’s quality of life. We are extremely fortunate to have an amazing medical team behind Rita, whom we trust wholeheartedly.  Our family has been understanding, encouraging, and sympathetic. Additionally, thanks to dog sports and social media, we are beyond blessed to have a large network of extended family and friends who have not only been equally supportive, but also have been invaluable resources.

That doesn’t mean we haven’t come across those who do not understand, or cannot relate to our efforts or our bond with our 4-legged family member.  I’ve been asked by people who don’t know our family well:  “You’re getting chemo for your…DOG?!?!”… “Is it really worth it?” … In keeping the tone of Margarita’s documented journey positive, I won’t even go there – just consider yourself extremely lucky if you are like us and have friends and family who support your efforts to help your fur-child fight such a serious disease.  At the same time, be prepared as a PAWrent to be criticized or questioned by those who “don’t get it,” and think your 4-legged child is “just a dog.”

———————————————————————–

JUST A DOG

From time to time, people tell me, “lighten up, it’s just a dog,” or “that’s a lot of money for just a dog.” They don’t understand the distance traveled, the time spent, or the costs involved for “just a dog.”

Some of my proudest moments have come about with “just a dog.” Many hours have passed and my only company was “just a dog,” but I did not once feel slighted.

Some of my saddest moments have been brought about by “just a dog,” and in those days of darkness, the gentle touch of “just a dog” gave me comfort and reason to overcome the day.

If you, too, think it’s “just a dog,” then you will probably understand phrases like “just a friend,” “just a sunrise,” or “just a promise.”

“Just a dog” brings into my life the very essence of friendship, trust, and pure and unbridled joy.

“Just a dog” brings out the compassion and patience that makes me a better person.

Because of “just a dog,” I will rise early, take long walks and look longingly to the future. So for me and folks like me, it’s not “just a dog” but an embodiment of all the hopes and dreams of the future, the fond memories of the past, and the pure joy of the moment.

I hope that someday they can understand that it’s not “just a dog,” but the thing that gives me humanity and keeps me from being “just a woman.” So the next time you hear the phrase “just a dog,” just smile–because they “just don’t understand.”

~Author Unknown

———————————————————————–

If you cross paths with those who don’t quite understand the love you have for your fur-child, you may start to doubt yourself – or may wind up feeling alone and helpless. In addition to the possibility of unsupportive friends and family, you could have financial constraints or other situations that may make chemotherapy difficult or impossible.  Remember:  NO ONE FIGHTS ALONE! There is support in each area that you can find elsewhere to assist you in your part of the battle to save your pup.  First and foremost, ask your veterinarian and/or oncologist if they can suggest any helpful and reputable emotional and/or financial support groups.  I’m sure there are others out there if you search, but below are some options for emotional, informational and financial support that I found either through a friend’s suggestion, or a quick Google Search.

Emotional or Informational Support:

  1. Put out a post on social media
    • You will be surprised at how many others have been through cancer with their pup, and can provide some very helpful tips and information
  2. Pick up a copy of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide
    • This book was recommended to us by a friend of ours whose dog also battled cancer
  3. A list of suggested reading from Help Your Dog Fight Cancer :
  4. Watch The Dog Cancer Series
    • Also recommended to our by a friend of ours whose dog also battled cancer
  5. Join a Facebook support group such as the examples below or search for groups on Facebook specific to your dog’s needs:

Financial Support 

  1. If you have pet insurance, contact them to see what they will cover
  2. Apply to CareCredit.
  3. Attempt to secure a bank loan.
  4. Contact the organizations below, or search for others:
    • The Magic Bullet Fund
      • Nationwide financial assistance for people who have a dog with cancer but cannot afford treatment costs.
    • The Pet Fund
      • Assists owners in covering medical costs beyond the normal expenses of vaccination, spay and neuter surgeries, food and routine veterinary care.
    • Brown Dog Foundation
      • This organization is dedicated to helping families who find themselves in a temporary financial crisis at the same time their pet requires life-saving treatment or life-sustaining medications.
    • The Onyx and Breezy Foundation
      • This is a privately run nonprofit started in memory of the founder’s dogs.  This foundation has helped animals in a variety of ways: from spay/neuter programs, to getting dogs on death row out of high-kill shelters, to providing emergency medical care to animals whose owners have fallen on hard times.
    • Breed-Specific Support
      • There are many rescue groups and associations that support specific dog breeds. Reach out to your local breed clubs for information on local, state and national groups involved in dog breed-specific veterinary care assistance programs. Examples include groups like CorgiAidSpecial Needs DobermansLabMedPit Bull Rescue Central.
    • Joshua Louis Animal Care Foundation
      • Assists owners of pets who are in need of cancer treatment.
    • The Mosby Fund
      • Provides financial assistance for dogs in need of critical care.
    • The Riedel & Cody Fund
      • Provides hope, knowledge and funding for owners of companion animals diagnosed with cancer.
    • RedRover Relief
      • Assists animals in crisis through emergency sheltering, disaster relief services, financial assistance and education.
    • Rose’s Fund
      • Financially assists pet owners and Good Samaritans who have an animal with a good prognosis for a healthy life, but are at a financial loss.

Week 9 Recap

The week following Oncology Visit #9 was a good one!  Rita experienced some mild diarrhea on day two after her treatment, but one Metronidazole did the trick, and she had normal bowl movements the rest of the week leading up to oncology visit #10.

If you have been following along with us for a while, you are probably tired of hearing me say how blessed we are to have found ourselves involved in GSP Rescue of NJ , Pointer Rescue, Org ,  and  DockDogs – and our ever-growing extended family that came about because of those groups.  I am blown away with the continued friendship, support, motivational messages, prayers, gifts, and gestures from these wonderful people.

This week, one of our extended-family members who attends daily mass lit a candle for Rita and prayed to St. Rita of Cascia on the St. Rita’s Feast Day this week (May 22).

Another one of our extended-family members sent us two of the “No One Fights Alone” Lymphoma bracelets from the Delmarva DockDogs Canine Cancer fund raiser she orchestrated in the name of our Sweet Reet at the last Delmarva DockDogs event.  This amazing woman had no idea that my “theme” this week was going to be No One Fights Alone!

 

Oncology Visit #10

On our way to VSEC with some new “bling!”

This week Margarita’s passed her physical exam with flying colors, and her CBC was normal (aside form the mild anemia that is continuously monitored).  Margarita’s chemotherapy this week is an oral medication that is administered by us at home.

This Week’s Treatment:

  • Cyclophosphamide 40mg
    • Give 2 tablets by mouth on 5/22, and 5/23 and 1 tablet by mouth on 5/24
      • Wear gloves
      • Do not split/crush tablets
    • This drug can cause some irritation to the bladder (called sterile hemorrhagic cystitis).  This week we will have to monitor Rita for straining during urination, urinating small amounts frequently, incontinence, or blood in her urine.

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This Week’s Treat

Margarita was excited to indulge in some grilled chicken nuggets and waffle fries from Chick-fil-A !

Grilled nuggets!!

Waffle fries!

Have a great week, everyone!

As always, thank you for joining Margarita in her journey to take a bite out Lymphoma.

 

 

There’s No Fear in Fierce

Week 5 recap and Oncology visit # 6

“And though she be but little, she is fierce.”  ~Shakespeare

Week 5 Recap

They say God gives the toughest battles to his strongest soldiers.  Our little Margarita is the sweetest soul, but she truly has proven to be a fierce little warrior! I am certain her strength and resilience is fueled by the daily encouragement and prayers received from family and friends, as well as the amazing medical care and advice from her oncologist, Dr. Risbon, and her primary veterinarian, Dr. Campbell. Margarita’s amazing support team is also what lessens our fear as her PAWrents, and provides us with the positive energy, strength, and courage needed to assist her through this challenging journey.  Our dogs are very sensitive to our mindset and moods.  Knowledge is power, and a positive attitude leads to positive outcomes…the more knowledgeable and positive we are, the better we can assist Margarita to continue to be a fierce warrior in her battle.

I must admit – this is easier said than done.  I don’t think my mind and heart will ever be completely cleared of the emotional upset of Rita’s cancer diagnosis, but I have vowed to make a conscious effort to shift my worry of what could go wrong – to focusing on what a what could go right. Attempting to clear my mind of upset and worry is no easy feat – but it does allow my brain to make more room for learning how I can help Margarita, rather than obsessing on the “what-if’s.”  A good friend of ours, whose dog also has been through a cancer journey, suggested I read The Dog Cancer Survival Guide.  This book has inspired me to write Rita’s Journey into the blog, and to plan the fun weekly “chemo day” experiences for Margarita.  Watching her enjoy those pleasant activities and treats helps maintain my positive outlook as well.  We would quickly lose direction on our path without our amazing team of friends, family, and doctors walking beside us through this journey.

This past week Margarita has been eating well, active, and in great spirits.  She had an amazing week!

During last week’s oncology visit, Margarita was cleared to go on our Easter camping trip.  We originally had a vacation planned that would have led us about 4 hours away from home.  Considering this was the first camping trip since Margarita began chemo, we were a little nervous.  Instead of canceling the trip completely, we booked a last-minute reservation at a campground about 45 minutes from us.  This way, we could still enjoy camping, but also remain in driving range of both Margarita’s primary vet at Old York Veterinary Hospital, as well as her oncologist at VSEC.

Margarita enjoyed hanging out around the campsite at Crystal Springs Wilderness Lodges and RV Resort :

Walking around the campground and taking in the views:

…And of course – napping in the RV!

Oncology Visit #6

Arriving at VSEC

This visit is Week #2 of the “3-weeks-on, 1-week-off” 16 week CHOP protocol.

Margarita is always such a good girl in the waiting room!

Waiting for the oncology nurse

The oncology nurse took Margarita back to first be examined by her oncologist, Dr. Risbon.

Waiting for Dr. Risbon

When Dr. Risbon returned to our room, she told me that she did a physical exam and blood test.  Dr. Risbon reported that there were no abnormalities with Margarita’s physical examination, and noted that Margarita even gained some weight back!  Her CBC revealed a normal white cell count, and in addition, her anemia has also improved!

Week 6’s Treatment:
  • Cyclophosphamide 40 mg
    • 2 tabs by mouth 4/24 and 4/25, then 1 tab by mouth on 4/26
      • Administered at home
      • Wear gloves when administering.  Do not split/crush tablets

Today Margarita was sent home with Cyclophosphamide  – an oral medication that we will administer ourselves over the next couple of days.   This drug is known to cause irritation to the bladder (called sterile hemorrhagic cystitis) in 10% of the patients receiving it.  We will have to monitor for Rita straining during urination, urinating small amounts frequently, incontinence, or blood in her urine.  If any of those side effects occur or any additional concerns arise, we are to call VSEC for further instruction from Dr. Risbon.  If you remember from her Week 2 Recap, Margarita has a good week following her Cyclophosphamide, so we are hopeful the upcoming days will also be uneventful for her in regard to side-effects.

 

This Week’s Treat:

Since I am on Spring Break this week, I made a very-early appointment so that we could enjoy the rest of the day doing something fun.  Considering that it was still so early when we finished Margarita’s appointment, I decided that a breakfast treat would be the best choice for us!

We stopped at Dunkin’ Donuts !

Margarita enjoyed part of a bacon/egg/cheese Wake-Up Wrap.

And who doesn’t like a little something sweet at breakfast?! Margarita also enjoyed a piece of an Old Fashioned donut!

I was inspired to incorporate a “Special Treat Day” on days Margarita has oncology visits after reading The Dog Cancer Survival Guide. The author suggests a “Cheat Day” because it is new and unexpected, which helps your dog’s mind stay optimistic and stimulated.  I like to include these fun trips on Margarita’s treatment days so she continues to associate car rides with positive and enjoyable experiences.

Life is not always a walk-in-the-park …so always take one when you have the opportunity!  

The weather was absolutely amazing, and we had the rest of the day to enjoy it, so we visited Tomlinson Park – a nearby recreation area that I must drive past about 4 or more times a week – but never had bothered to explore.  I’m sure glad we stopped – You can’t see the whole park from the road, and I had no idea the park was this beautiful!

It’s a shame that someone installed an electrical outlet over top of the “N!”

The walking path followed along a beautiful stream.

“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.” ~John Muir

The best surprise of all was the lake at the far end of the park!

After we explored Tomlinson Park, we took a short walk down Main Street in Historic Medford.

We stopped at one of Margarita’s favorite places:  Pride Paws!

Pride Paws is a retail pet store located in the heart of historic Downtown Medford.  Pride Paws provides job training and transitional employment experience to individuals with developmental disabilities who could not independently succeed in a traditional work environment.  The participants in this program greet customers, track inventory, create a bi-weekly schedule, prepare payroll, make dog and cat related items such as blankets, toys and note cards…and (Margarita’s favorite reason for stopping in!!) ….bake their famous dog treats right in the store!

Margarita not only loves the treats here, but she adores the participants of the program, and all of the attention and love they give her during our visits.  One of the Pride Paws employees noticed that Margarita’s underbelly had been recently shaved, and asked what happened.  I explained that she had surgery, and is undergoing chemotherapy treatments.  I also told them that after each oncology appointment, I choose somewhere special to go, and today’s pick was Pride Paws to purchase a bag of their famous homemade treats!  They were so happy we decided to stop in, that they gave Margarita an additional bag of treats for free!

We hope that upcoming days bring Margarita another amazing week!

Thank you for joining Margarita in her journey to take a bite out Lymphoma.

Print credit: Ginger Oliphant. Purchasable on her Etsy account.

 

Too Blessed to be Stressed

Week 4 Recap and Oncology Visit #5

“Count your blessings, not your problems.” ~ Roy T. Bennett

Week 4 Recap

We have so many blessings in our lives, but our problems tend to cloud our eyes and our heart to all of the special people and moments we have to celebrate.  Even during life’s most difficult times,  we need to make sure we focus on the blessings in our life and celebrate every day.

We are blessed to have a loving, supportive, and understanding family, and a large network of amazing friends and extended family… all who support us in our wild adventures and our passion for 4-legged children.

This week we are grateful for a particular family member who was able to bless Margarita.  Reverend George Deutsch (pronounced “DOYTCH”) is my soon-to-be 90 year old dog-loving great uncle.  He is still saying mass and doing confessions! I called him when Rita was having an awful week and asked if he would be willing to bless our Sweet Reet.  Not only did he say yes, he insisted on driving an hour to meet us after he finished confessions last Saturday! Of course he also brought his beloved dog, Lady, with him! Lady and Rita were fast friends!

Rita loved Uncle George!

Uncle George blessing Rita:

Blessed with Holy Water:

We are also thankful this week to the special people we have met because of our dogs.  Some we see often, others we have never even met in person.  It amazes me how many truly wonderful people there are in this world, and it fills my heart with peace, joy, and hope to know that they not only support us, they also truly love our fur-kids as family too.  The messages, advice, and prayers we have received is what energizes us to press on, and stay strong to help Rita through her journey.  We have also received very thoughtful gifts for Margarita.  It was because of Margarita that we began volunteering for Pointer Rescue, Org , where we met Jackie, also a PRO volunteer. This week, Jackie sent Margarita a hand-made quilt to help comfort her during her treatments!

We have our pack to thank for our extended family members, and we are truly blessed to have every one of them in our lives.

Health-wise Margarita had a GREAT week.  She was in good sprits, ate well, and was more active than we’ve seen her in quite some time!  She did, of course, make sure she still set some time aside for porch-sittin’ with Limoncello.

 

Oncology Visit #5

This week Margarita was scheduled at VSEC to have an an ultrasound and more blood work to make sure she was able to handle the next treatment.

We received the awesome news that Margarita’s ultrasound looked normal!  We were also very happy to hear that she had rebounded from that super-low white blood cell count she had last week!  This meant she was also cleared to receive her next treatment.

Today Margarita received Vincristine intravenously.  Her oncology nurse said she was an absolute angel, and her oncologist, Dr. Risbon, said she is pleased with her progress so far! We have to monitor the sight for any inflammation, oozing, or discharge, but there are no restrictions for Rita, which means we can go on our annual Easter camping trip this coming weekend(YAY!!).

Last oncology visit we discussed adding supplements into Margarita’s diet.  After further discussion with Dr. Risbon about Margarita’s unique case, we are going to just stick with probiotics for now to help with Rita’s intestinal disease.  Dr. Risbon informed us that the other supplements we were going to add need to be carefully thought-out and planned around any Adriamycin treatments, as they are abundant in antioxidants.  Wait – Since when are antioxidants a bad thing, right??! Our thoughts exactly.  As we researched the answer to this and spoke to our primary Veterinarian, Dr. Campbell, we learned that when healthy cells are oxidized, it is a bad thing…which is why antioxidants are so good for you.  BUT…oxidizing cancer cells destroys them…so that’s a good thing…a bit confusing at first!  If you provide cancer cells that are in the process of being oxidized (destroyed) through the chemotherapy drug Adriamycin, with something that stops the oxidation process, the cancer cells get stronger again and continue to harm the body.  We will continue to discuss our options outside of chemotherapy that can help Margarita with both Dr. Risbon and Dr. Campbell, and will be prepared to adjust our plan if advised.

Margarita is lucky to now have TWO home-made quilts to snuggle with on the way home after her visit.

She took a well-deserved nap on the way home!

This week’s treat

Margarita had to fast for her ultrasound, so I took her to two places to make up for the “absolute torture” she had to endure before her appointment.

First, we stopped at Philly Pretzel Factory where Rita enjoyed (part of) a pretzel dog.  We saved the rest for another time so we didn’t “over do” it.

Next, we stopped at K-9 Kakes , a bakery just for dogs!

Dave the Baker greeted Margarita with some samples.

Margrarita had fun shopping and telling Dave the Baker which treats she wanted!

All the treats at this bakery are made on the premises by Dave the Baker, and decorated by his daughter.  Ingredients are all-natural and preservative-free, the coloring/dye is all natural, and the icing is made with sugar free yogurt!

Thanks, Dave!

Thank you for joining Margarita in her journey to take a bite out Lymphoma.

 

 

Awareness is Power

3rd Treatment Recap and Oncology Visit # 4 

Week Three’s treatment went just as Rita’s oncologist, Dr. Risbon, said it might – rough.  Not at first though.  The first couple of days Margarita ate well and was in good spirits.

At our last visit (Wednesday, April 3), Dr. Risbon warned that Margarita may have the worst week ahead of her in regard to her treatments so far.  She noted that the side effects of nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and/or diarrhea could begin in about three to five days after her treatment.  Right on cue, three days later – on Friday, Margarita was visibly not feeling well, and not interested in food.  We tried all of our normal “tricks”… canned dog food, cream cheese, Spam, rotisserie chicken, cheese, eggs, bread, bacon, sausage… but she wasn’t interested.

By Saturday morning, Margarita was moving very slowly. She had some diarrhea and had mucus in her stool.  We called our veterinarian, Dr. Campbell, on Saturday morning to give her an update.  She let us know that she could call in an appetite stimulant if she continued not to eat.  She also told us to try parmesan cheese sprinkled on the food. Dr. Campbell’s concern was making sure Margarita got back on schedule with eating her prescription diet so that her little system could absorb proteins correctly and assist in the healing process.

Luckily, by Saturday night Rita began to eat a little bit of rotisserie chicken – but nothing else.  With a little coaxing (and some parmesan cheese), Rita did eat some of her prescription food.  Dr. Campbell called us on Sunday afternoon (I’m telling you – “they don’t make ’em” like her anymore!!) to check on Rita, who had been enjoying some Sunday Morning porch-sittin’, and some afternoon sunbathing.

Monday was a decent day where Margarita ate some food, but still appeared to not be feeling well.

 

Oncology Visit #4

This week’s visit consisted of meeting with the Oncology nurse, and getting blood work drawn.

Margarita’s CBC revealed a significant neutropenia (the presence of abnormally few white blood cells in the blood, leading to increased susceptibility to infection). In order to prevent infection, Rita was started on an antibiotic:

  • SMZ-TMP:  480mg tablets.
    • 1.5 tablets to be given once a day until finished

Another CBC will be repeated prior to any further chemotherapy treatments.  Margarita is scheduled for a CBC and Ultrasound next week, followed by an appointment with our Oncologist, Dr. Risbon, for continued chemotherapy as long as next week’s test results are acceptable.

This week’s yummy treat was a vanilla soft-serve ice cream cone!

After Margarita enjoyed a few licks, I removed the ice cream and let her enjoy the cone.

Awareness is Power

The greater your awareness, the greater your power.

Awareness is also the greatest agent for change.  One in every three dogs will get cancer… One… In…three!  Now THAT’s something that needs to change. The more PAWrents know about the facts and preventative measures,  the better we will be able to protect our fur-kids and decrease their odds of getting cancer.

Did you know that Lymphoma is the most common blood cancer seen in dogs?

Be your dog’s eyes: Do a cancer check on your dog at least once a month.  Lumps and bumps can often be easily seen.  But sometimes – like in Margarita’s case – being on the lookout for unusual behaviors and reporting them to your veterinarian is just as important for an early diagnosis and better outcome for your fur-child.

Below are some tips on how to do a canine cancer check on your dog.

 

 

Be your dog’s ears and voice:  Speak up and share anything you can about a cancer that has directly affected your fur-kid.  Get people talking – LISTEN AND LEARN! The more stories that are shared, the more educated we become about cancer.  This will result in more awareness raised, more research, and a greater opportunity for us all to take a bite out of canine cancer.

 

Thank you for joining Margarita in her journey to take a bite out Lymphoma.