Believe: Let Your Faith Be BIGGER Than Your Fear

Week 12 Recap, and Oncology Visit #13

Believe…Accept what is, let go of what was, have faith in what will be.

As Margarita moves into her last 3 weeks of the CHOP plan, I must admit I let fear start to creep in.  What if when the treatments stop the cancer comes back? If the Lymphoma does come back, how long do we have left with Sweet Reet?  I realize that negative feelings like fear and anxiety are normal emotions when dealing with a loved one who has cancer, but living with the uncertainty will not be easy.  Eliminating these limiting thoughts will be extremely important in the upcoming weeks.  Believing in my faith and Rita’s medical team will put myself in the best position to not only make it through this difficult time myself, but also to ensure that Rita is in the best spirits possible. The power of belief is an amazing thing. Countless stories describe how believing has helped people accomplish goals that others have considered impossible. It would be foolish for me to believe that every story ends happily, no matter how much faith and belief is exercised. However… I am going to choose to believe that Margarita still has many happy chapters to add to her story.

Week 12 Recap

Margarita had another great week, other than her putting her paw down about her special diet for her intestinal disease.  Rita decided that she had enough of her special diet and would not eat.  At first we thought she was experiencing nausea as a side effect of her treatments, but we quickly realized that was not the case when we offered her other options and she gobbled them down!  Originally we were going to wait-her-out until she ate her special diet, but after speaking with our primary vet, Dr. Campbell as well as Rita’s oncologist, Dr. Risbon, they agreed that it was best for Rita to eat what she wanted to eat rather than miss an meals during this important time of her treatment schedule.

This week, Margarita received an incredibly thoughtful gift. A past Pointer Rescue, Org adopter had this beautiful piece of artwork made just for Margarita!

This Week’s Treatment:

Margarita ‘s physical exam showed no abnormalities, and her CBC was acceptable for continued therapy.

Next week she is due for cyclophosphamide.  Since this is the drug that is suspected to have caused the side effects at the last dosing, Dr. Risbon will be changing Rita’s chemo drug in order to avoid further irritation to her bladder.

This Week’s Treat:

This week Rita visited Taco Bell! She had a few bites of their Cheesy Roll Up !

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.”

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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

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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.

 

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!