Be Your Dog’s Hero: Chase Away Canine Cancer

Week 7 Recap and Oncology Visit #8

Margarita had a slightly rough time this past week, but she did get to spend some time outside enjoying the softness of our newly sodded yard.

The side effects of chemo usually show up 3-5 days after the treatment day.  Although we started her on anti-nausea medication on the day of her treatment as a preventative, by Sunday Margarita was very lethargic and was not interested at all in food. This continued for about 3 days.  However, she slowly began to find food enjoyable again, and ate well the rest of the week.

Oncology Visit # 8

This was Rita’s “off” week for treatments, which meant she only needed to get blood work and a physical exam done to make sure she was healthy enough to continue treatment.  Her CBC showed no abnormalities, and her nurse noted that Rita was a good girl during her visit!

This Week’s Treat:

This week we stopped at Arby’s !  Margarita enjoyed a few bites of a roast beef and cheese slider.

She also had a curly fry for the first time!

 

“Chase” Away Canine Cancer

Chase away Canine Cancer is a division of the National Canine Cancer Foundation, and is an organization that is near and dear to our hearts. Chase was a female black Labrador Retriever, who was an Elite division dock diving competitor.  Her PAWrent, Cera Reusser, discovered a lump under Chase’s chin while petting her. The lump turned out to be metastasized cancer, which spread from nasal carcinoma. Unfortunately, even after the best possible care from her oncologist , Chase lost her battle to cancer, and passed away three months shy of her seventh birthday. Chase’s steadfast devotion to her family and her courage throughout her battle earned her the title of hero.

Cera became Chase’s Hero

Driven by the loss of her beloved Chase, and determined to find a cure for this devastating disease, Cera Reusser committed herself to being a hero for Chase, and set out on a mission to do all she could to help others in this difficult battle.  Through fundraising and the start of Chase Away Canine Cancer, Cera’s efforts in conjunction with hundreds of volunteers and donations from across the USA & Canada have made a huge difference in the fight against canine cancer.

Chase Away Canine Cancer posts resources for people who have fur-kids battling cancer.    Click HERE to view the current posts.

Chase Away Canine Cancer also has a volunteer-run online store , which carries products such as the personalized reversible bandana Rita is wearing in this post.  Profits from the K9 Trading Company’s sale of Chase Away Canine Cancer merchandise go directly toward the Chase Away Canine Cancer Organization. A portion of all other merchandise on the site also goes to Chase Away Canine Cancer.

How can you be YOUR dog’s hero?

  • Take a few minutes to do a body check each month.
    • Choose a monthly date (Chase away Canine Cancer suggests the 14th since this was Chase’s birthday) and do a body check on this date each month. The National Canine Cancer Foundation has graphics you can print out or save to help guide you through your monthly checks:
  • Be sure to schedule and attend your dog’s routine veterinary appointments.  
    • Follow up with an additional exam outside of your routine appointments if you observe something suspicious
  • Keep notes on any growths or abnormal behavioral observations
    • This will help you track important information about your dog’s health, and also will be helpful if you need to share notes to your veterinarian or a specialist on quick notice

As you may have read in our very first post about how we found Margarita’s Lymphoma, we did not discover any lumps. Sometimes cancer does not show itself in the form of visible lumps bumps. So what do you look for?  The National Canine Cancer Foundation lists these top 10 early warning signs of Cancer:

  1. Abnormal swellings that persist or continue to grow
  2. Sores that do not heal
  3. weight loss
  4. loss of appetite
  5. bleeding or discharge from any body opening
  6. offensive odor
  7. difficulty eating or swallowing
  8. hesitation to exercise or loss of stamina
  9. persistent lameness or stiffness
  10. difficulty breathing, urinating, or defecation

 

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.

 

Agatha: GSP Rescue of NJ Foster

Agatha is a three year-old German Shorthaired Pointer who was found as a stray in Northern New Jersey.  GSP Rescue of NJ stepped in to help this sweet girl.  Agatha was on stray-hold for a week, and then was spayed by the rescue’s vet in North Jersey.

 

On November 16th, we drove north about an hour to a turnpike rest-stop to meet a fellow rescue volunteer who offered to transport Agatha so we didn’t have to drive as far to pick her up.

Agatha had a stuffed monkey to help her heal from her surgery.

Once we met her in person, we quickly agreed that Agatha looked more like an English Pointer than a German Shorthaired Pointer.

 

Another fellow GSP Rescue volunteer who had seen our pictures of Agatha on our Facebook, fell in love, and decided to adopt her!

One of my students fell in love with Agatha and drew her picture as a gift to her forever family.

Just a few days later, on the night before Thanksgiving, the rescue volunteer and her husband came to meet Agatha, and took her home!

Happy Thanksgiving, Agatha and Family!

 

 

Whiskey on Pointer Rescue, Organization’s Shirt

While Whiskey was still our Pointer Rescue, Org’s foster dog, “Wish,” I had shared a screen-shot of her from a video I took of her on “point.”

One of the volunteers took that shot and turned it into one of the rescue’s fund-raising shirts!

You can view the fundraising event and buy a shirt by clicking HERE!

We are so proud of our little girl as her image helps other needy Pointers!