Life Has Many Choices…Choose Hope (Last Chemo Treatment!!!)

Week 14 Recap and Oncology Visit #15

“Once you choose hope anything is possible.” ~ Christopher Reeve

Have Only Positive Expectations.” I have never had a fur-kid with canine lymphoma before, and although Margarita is the one going through THE toughest battle, it certainly was a challenge for me as well.  This rollercoaster-of-a-time has included “lows” of gut-wrenching fear, as well as many “highs” of extensive hope. I realized that especially for Margarita’s sake – if I wanted her to have THE best chance at taking a bite out of cancer and making it though all 16 weeks of the chemotherapy plan, I had no choice but to choose hope over despair, focus on positivity, and start believing something good will come of this unfortunate situation. But HOW was I going to Have Only Positive Expectations as my beloved fur-child is battling her way through Lymphoma? Here’s how hope helped me:

  • Finding the courage to put my trust in Rita’s medical team and the science behind chemotherapy promoted my hope for a favorable outcome.
  • Maintaining hope encouraged me to not take one single second of any day for granted, and celebrate the little things every day, creating happy memories to look back on in the future.
  • Finding hope in the desire to make sure Rita still did the things she loves (when she was feeling up to it of course) fostered productive thoughts for her life-after-chemo.
  • Talking with others who have canine cancer survivors built-up my hope and boosted my capability to have constructive notions about Rita’s destiny.
  • Having hope that each day would be better than the one before and that each sunrise would bring Rita closer to taking a huge bite out of cancer cultivated promising beliefs. 
  • Planning future adventures for Rita provided me with hope and encouraged me to have feelings of optimistic possibilities.
  • MOST importantly, hope fueled my positive attitude, which ultimately helped Rita feel protected during a difficult, confusing and insecure time for her.  

Lastly, I hope that sharing both human and canine experiences, the information and resources I found to be beneficial, and the strategies that helped me stay positive will assist someone else in walking their pup through a difficult journey.

I have not been strong – or positive – or even hopeful – every moment during these past 15 weeks.  I have never cried so much and so hard as I have in the last few months. Yet the number of times I smiled overpowered my tears thanks to the support, generosity, and continuous acts of kindness from the wonderful people in my life – some I have known for a long time, and others I have met more recently through our fur-kids.  It’s absolutely amazing to me how dogs bring people together, strengthen family bonds, and create new friendships.

This week I received several more very special gifts from friendships forged by Cello’s Corner.

The first was from a friend whose dog was also diagnosed with cancer. We have been corresponding regularly about our experiences, supporting each other through this difficult process.  It just so happened that this gal’s pup is being treated at the facility where we have been taking Hooch to use the underwater treadmill.  At Hooch’s last appointment, there was a gift bag waiting for me…Within the note, our friend included, “Your attitude towards these challenging times is very Zen!” …and in the beautiful gift bag was an adorable ceramic pup in the half-lotus pose.

This pup even looks like our Sweet Reet!

This half-lotus-posed-pup will surely help me maintain serenity in our home as we move forward to life-after-chemo with Margarita.

The second wonderful surprise this week was from my friend who made Margarita’s Lymphoma Awareness collar.   I have even been lucky enough to meet this gal and her wonderful pups in person as they began their obsession with dock diving at the end of last year’s season!  This friend sent personalized decals that she made herself for Brian and I to put on our vehicles!

How amazing are these?!?!

 

I love one of the statements written in the card:  “The Reet Fleet needed to be outfitted to indicate that there is a warrior on board.”  I can’t wait to apply these awesome decals to the windows of our cars and RV!

A third gift was planned to be given by friends at the dock diving event we missed this passed weekend. Because we could not make the event due to the medical issues that arose this week, these friends messaged us with the photo below and told us that they would be saving this glass for us for the next time we are all together. We met this couple at a DockDogs competition, and sadly, they had a fur-child with cancer as well. This amazing couple has checked in constantly with us to see how Margarita is doing, and how Brian and I are holding up. Their support and prayers have contributed a great deal to our entire family’s well-being.

The man who makes these beer glasses has a Golden Retriever named Indiana Jones, who unfortunately was diagnosed with osteosarcoma just days after his seventh birthday. You can view Indy’s Facebook page by clicking HERE where Indy’s dad shares his beloved pup’s story of cancer.

I am so appreciative for these gifts – but even more grateful for the friendships!  These wonderful surprises surely lifted my spirits during one of my toughest weeks.

Week 14 Recap

If you follow us on Instagram or Facebook, you already know that Margarita had a trip to the Emergency Room last Saturday.  Last week Margarita had her oncology appointment and chemotherapy on Wednesday, June 19.  By Thursday morning, she was not looking like herself.  She would not eat her breakfast, and became continuously more lethargic as the day progressed.  When she was outside, she was trying to eat grass to induce her own vomiting, and she did not eat her dinner.  Luckily, she was still drinking little bits of water throughout the day.  Friday  – same thing – she would not eat, and didn’t have an interest in getting up from her bed.  I called VSEC to notify them of what was going on, and the Emergency Room nurse told me to bring Rita in on Saturday morning if she was still not improving.  Brian and I were supposed to attend a dock diving competition Saturday and Sunday at a somewhat local event about an hour from our home.  However, when we woke up Saturday morning, Margarita appeared even more lethargic and again was not interested in food.  I also noticed a lumpy area near one of her mammary glands.  I texted a friend to have the event administrators scratch us from the competition, and I headed out to the Emergency Room at VSEC with Margarita.

Saturday, June 22

Upon arrival to VSEC, Margarita’s vitals and CBC were normal.  This was a great sign, but she was barely moving and was shivering.  I held her on the floor for a bit, and then one of the front desk staff members brought us a big fluffy blanket for Rita to use as a bed, and another blanket to cover her for warmth.

The nipple where the mammary lump was began leaking fluid, and a newly developed heart murmur was heard.  Subcutaneous fluids were given for dehydration, and Dr. Frankel, The ER doctor on staff, called Margarita’s oncologist (Dr. Risbon) to let her know what was going on.  Both Dr. Risbon and Dr. Frankel thought it was best that Margarita stay the night in the ER for IV fluids and observation.  Although it was very difficult to leave her at the hospital, I knew she was in the best hands possible.  As I held Margarita and cried, Dr. Frankel said how sweet Margarita was and that he understands how unfair it is that she has to go through this.   He assured me he would care for her as if she was his own, and shared that he has a Pointer-mix at home.  It was a very long, emotional day filled with many tears, but Dr. Frankel and all of the staff at VSEC that day were so kind and comforting – I cannot thank them all enough.

Brian called to check on Margarita after a few hours of me leaving her, and the ER nurse reported that she was resting comfortably, and even ate a few pieces of chicken. We were thrilled with this news!

Sunday, June 23

The nurse Saturday evening told Brian that we could call Sunday morning after 9 or 10 am to check on Rita.  Of course we called at 8am ..HAHA! The doctor luckily had already evaluated Margarita.  The doctor reported that Rita was more alert and had again ate some chicken, so she was comfortable sending Rita home as long as we were going to monitor her the rest of the day.

When I arrived at VSEC, the ER nurse reviewed Margarita’s discharge papers.  We were to monitor her for progressive lethargy, lack of appetite, vomiting, or diarrhea.  If those symptoms persist, we would have to contact our primary vet or VSEC for further advice and supportive care for Margarita.

After I arrived back home with Margarita, she again had no interest in eating for us Sunday afternoon and evening.  She did seem in better spirits, and enjoyed some Sunday porch sittin’.

Monday, June 24

Still no appetite.  We called our primary vet, Dr. Campbell at Old York Veterinary Hospital.  It was suggested that we bring Rita in to see her.  Dr. Campbell did a physical exam and took some chest x-rays. Dr. Campbell noted that she did in fact now hear a heart murmur, and it was a significant change.  Dr. Campbell also told me that she felt some extremely firm stool in Rita’s bowel. Dr. Campbell called VSEC to leave a message for Dr. Risbon, and to see if we could get an appointment with the cardiologist at VSEC to evaluate Rita’s sudden onset of a heart murmur. Dr. Campbell also instructed me to give Rita lots of fluids and walk her often throughout the rest of the day to see if we could get her bowels moving.

A cardiology nurse from VSEC called me in the afternoon to let me know they could fit Rita in on July 3rd.  This worked out well since she also has an ultrasound appointment and blood work both scheduled that same day as her projected 16th oncology appointment.  If all goes well, July 3rd would also complete the CHOP plan for Rita.

Rita did drink water – and even drank some homemade chicken broth.  I walked her, and although she had some difficulty, she had a bowel movement.  I offered her liquids throughout the day and walked her again in the early evening, at which point she had another bowel movement.  She had some trouble, but was able to pass some very firm stool.

I bought some chicken, a few beef bones, and some goat’s milk.  Margarita did drink the goat’s milk, so I was thrilled.  I cooked the chicken and soup bones in two separate slow cookers for experimenting with Rita’s appetite tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 25

Rita ate a few pieces of the slow-cooker chicken, but was more interested in the broth.  She did also eat a few pieces of the bone marrow, but was not interested in the bone broth.  I continued to offer chicken, bone marrow, both broths, and goat’s milk throughout the day.  She was not able to have a bowel movement during the day.

Wednesday, June 26:  Oncology Visit #15

Margarita’s CBC was normal.  Dr. Risbon was able to hear the heart murmur, and suggested that we move forward with an echocardiogram next week.  Dr. Risbon also felt the irregular tissue on Margarita’s right 5th mammary gland.  She said that it did not feel like a mass, but more like thickened tissue, and it was not producing a discharge today.  Dr. Risbon explained that a needle aspirate is not sensitive enough to distinguish the difference.  She would recommend finishing the course of the antibiotics that were administered at our ER visit the is past weekend.  We could consider having the tissue removed and/or biopsied in the near future.  Margarita is scheduled to have an ultrasound, echocardiogram, and blood test next week.  Her echocardiogram appointment was moved up to Monday morning so that Dr. Risbon and Dr. Campbell will have all the information needed to formulate a plan for long-term monitoring.

This Week’s Treatment (LAST ONE!!!)

Considering the week Margarita had, I was surprised that Dr. Risbon suggested moving forward with this week’s treatment.  I had mixed emotions about moving forward …While I was so relieved that Rita was blessed enough to have made it through the entire round of chemotherapy that some dogs are not as lucky to complete, I was extremely nervous wondering if Rita’s body had become too exhausted to take another treatment.  Because of the newly discovered heart murmur, the additional symptoms Margarita had exhibited, and the fact that the drug she was supposed to receive today (Adriamycin) can cause toxicity on the heart, Dr. Risbon substituted a different drug (Mitoxantrone) which has less potential to affect the heart, but is still very effective against lymphoma.  The other benefit of Mitoxantrone is that there is less chance of GI side effects.  Dr. Risbon also dispensed Cerenia and Metronidazole for us to have on hand in the event Margarita displays signs of nausea or diarrhea.

This Week’s Treat

This week we stopped at Applebee’s.  I bought Margarita a corn dog, mozzarella sticks, and mac-n-cheese.

She wasn’t very interested in any of the food this week, as she was still feeling a bit nauseous, so I packaged them up in hopes of her enjoying these treats later.

I had also planned on doing something special to celebrate Rita making it through the complete round of chemotherapy, but because she was not feeling well, we have postponed that celebration until we observe that she is feeling up to PAWtying.

Margarita also now has an Adventure List!  I am not setting a time-frame in which to complete the list, I am just going to enjoy working our way through these escapades as the opportunities arise.  Hopefully I will also be able to find some friends who can help Margarita check-off these adventures!

 

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