“Through the eyes of gratitude, everything is a miracle” ~Mary Davis
Two years ago Rita was diagnosed with stage 4 sub-stage A Large B-cell lymphoma. If left untreated, she was given 1-2 months to live. Two years ago on this day, Rita began the CHOP-based chemo protocol. Her oncologist said with this treatment Rita would hopefully survive 12-18 months. However, with her existing intestinal and liver diseases, it was uncertain she would even make it through her 16-week chemo plan.
Chemo produces remission in 80-90% of dogs, with the remission period typically lasting 6-9 months. Healthy dogs that do well typically have an average survival time of 12-14 months. Dogs that have underlying health issues (as Rita did) or have involvement of organs other than the lymph nodes (as Rita did) generally have shorter survival times. Despite the fact that Rita’s other health intestinal and liver diseases gave her a lesser chance than most, Rita not only made it through her chemo treatments, but she also defied the odds and reached every remission milestone following her CHOP protocol that research said she most likely wouldn’t: 6 months, 12 months, 18 months…and today…TWO YEARS!
I made a cake for Rita’s 2-Year-Remission Celebration! Click HERE for the recipe.
“The more you recognize and express gratitude for the things you have, the more things you will have to express gratitude for.” ~ Zig Ziglar
Through this unplanned journey, the most important lesson I learned was that gratitude is the best attitude. An attitude of gratitude forces you to focus on the bigger picture. It turns chaotic worrisome thoughts into calm, orderly actions. Even on days that may seem awful, find the silver lining and give thanks for what IS going right that day.
It is normal to be sad and grieve when you receive a cancer diagnosis for your fur-kid. However, keep in mind that YOU are the most important part of your dog’s journey. Negativity does nothing for your emotional or mental well being, and it certainly doesn’t help your dog. Dogs are intuitive – they sense your mood before you even realize how you are feeling or acting. Your mindset can be your best friend’s …well … “best friend”… or their worst enemy. Keeping positive and being grateful will help your pup feel happy and secure. For a pack animal, that security is key for their happiness and overall well-being.
But HOW do you bring gratitude into your attitude…especially during a time like this?
- Journal your gratitude. Although my initial intention was to celebrate Margarita during her journey, this section of the blog has essentially also been my Gratitude Journal. Documenting the special treats, gifts, and activities that Rita enjoyed along her journey helped me realize that the little things mean A LOT, and I should be grateful that I had the opportunity see Rita delight in all the positivity. Keeping a journal (blog) helped me to focus on the good – the positive. I love that I am able to revisit Margarita’s Journey and relive the happy memories of the new experiences and adventures that came about along the way.
- Celebrate your gratitude. Be thankful for the small things… even the the most minuscule things. Everyone likes a big win, right? But if you don’t slow down and acknowledge the little achievements, you will quickly lose focus. This type of journey isn’t only about the end goal, but what you make of it for you and your pup along the way. Ideally, chemo will help put your dog into remission for as long as possible. However, the reality is you truly don’t know how long you’ll have with your fur-kid. Take the time to find fun things for you and your pup to do together. Watching your best friend have fun will be a gratifying experience. Remember that your pup doesn’t KNOW they have cancer…instead they happily continue on, living life in the moment despite the fact they may not feel 100%. Take note of that and celebrate…every…little…thing.
- Express your gratitude. …Not only to your dog (yes – your dog – – after all, they are a precious gift in life!) – but to all those who walk alongside you and your pup during the journey. Your dog’s veterinarian, oncologist, veterinarian technicians and nurses, family, friends….Thank them!!! It costs $0.00 and only a few seconds to show your appreciation…and there are many ways to say thank you. Say it in person, or send a text/email/private message/card, give a small gift… whatever way you choose – SHOW them your gratitude! Tell them how much you appreciate what they have done for the well-being of you and your best friend. Then – pay it forward… uplift, inspire, and help someone else in need. You don’t have to go crazy or spend any money – just a simple message could be exactly what someone needs as they set out on a similar journey with their pup. A simple act of kindness can make someone’s day, and even change their entire outlook. I can’t tell you enough how much Margarita’s Journey – something thought to be so awful – brought so much positivity and love into my life, thanks to others’ support, prayers, and kindness. I was overwhelmed with an outpour of generosity, and thoughtful gestures from friends, family – and even strangers. I hope that I can pay it forward to as many people as PAWsible.
Have you thanked your pup yet?!
The Past 6 Months
12/24/2020: Margarita visited Dr. Campbell at Old York Veterinary Hospital for her routine annual exam. Blood work showed elevated liver values. A recheck of blood work was scheduled.
Abdominal Ultrasound Check-up
1/7/2021: Abdominal Ultrasound with Dr. Sandy MacLeod at Blue Pearl Specialty and Emergency Pet Hospital
Over all, Margarita’s abdominal ultrasound showed mild liver enlargement with a few small faint nodules consistent with benign vacuolar change and nodular hyperplasia. There were no additional abnormalities in the abdomen. Dr. MacLeod recommended a recheck with Rita’s Internal Medicine team to discuss the increased liver enzymes on her recent lab work, and a 6 month recheck abdominal ultrasound to monitor for recurrence of lymphoma.
- Liver: Mildly enlarged, few small faint hypo-echoic nodules in the left liver lobes measuring 5mm-2cm, similar to previous exams.
- Gallbladder and Biliary Tree: No abnormalities identified.
- Spleen: Absent.
- Kidneys: No abnormalities identified.
- Adrenal Glands: No abnormalities identified.
- Urinary Bladder: No abnormalities identified.
- Stomach: No abnormalities identified.
- Intestines: No abnormalities identified.
- Colon: No abnormalities identified.
- Pancreas: No abnormalities identified.
- Peritoneum: No abnormalities identified.
- Mesentery: No abnormalities identified.
- Lymph Nodes:No abnormalities identified.
Primary Veterinarian blood work re-check
1/28/21: Dr. Campbell did blood work to recheck Rita’s liver values. Results displayed that the values increased even more. An abdominal ultrasound was scheduled.
February 2, 2021: Margarita’s cardiologist, Dr. Bossbaly, did a routine echocardiogram and reported that her heart showed improvement! Her chemo-induced Dilated Cardiomyopathy is stable on her current medication. Margarita does not have to have another echocardiogram until January 2022! Dr. Bossbaly also confirmed that Margarita was healthy enough to undergo her liver biopsy.
Laparoscopic Liver Biopsy and Facial Growth
By the time we made the liver biopsy appointment with Dr. Chapman at Blue Pearl Specialty and Emergency Pet Hospital (formerly VSEC), a strange growth appeared under Rita’s right eye, and grew at a rapid pace. Luckily Dr. Chapman was able to have Dr. Lauren Deahl, one of Blue Pearl’s surgeons, remove and biopsy her facial growth during her laparoscopic liver biopsy.
The findings of biopsies showed no evidence of Lymphoma in the liver, and only benign tissue in the facial growth! To say I was grateful was an understatement.
Margarita celebrated her 11th Birthday this month as well! Each day with Rita is a blessing, but being able to observe a big milestone such as this is was a definitely a reason to be grateful! I hold on to the faith and hope that Margarita will continue to beat the odds and celebrate many more birthdays.
Brian and I have strictly followed Covid Quarantine restrictions and social distancing guidelines, so we weren’t able to do too much this past 6 months. However, as Covid restrictions continue to be lifted, and it is deemed safe to do so, I intend to work toward the completion of Margarita’s Adventure List (she only has two adventures left to complete her list)!
Thank you to ALL of Margarita’s medical staff, our family, friends (old and new) and followers…Rita could not have achieved this without each and every one of you! Stay safe and healthy – – and remember … Be grateful for every day you are gifted with the love of your pup!