Losing is NOT an Option

Week 8 Recap and Oncology Visit # 9

You beat cancer by the way you live, why you live, and the manner in which you live.”  ~ Stuart Scott

 

Week 8 Recap

Overall, Margarita has been a complete trooper though her chemo treatments.  In fact, I was beginning to think that we were on Easy Street.  No complications…halfway through the 16 week protocol …we got this, right?! But then Sunday night rolled around, and I began to think otherwise.

Last week, Rita had her “off-week” which means she only had to visit the oncology office to get blood work. We assumed this would be one of her best weeks, as it had been when she had her last “off-week.”  However, this was not the case.  On Mother’s Day evening (May 12), we noticed a drastic change in Margarita’s overall spirits, appetite, and energy level.  She had no interest in coming out of her crate, in eating – or anything for that matter.  She would not leave her crate, and if she did, she would only go as far as the dog bed next to her crate.  Sunday night she didn’t eat her dinner, would not get up to go outside, and would not sleep in bed with us.

I must admit, all my positive-thinking strategies went out the window, I slipped into immediate panic-mode, and thought the worst:  The chemo is not working, the cancer is spreading, she’s not going to make it….

Monday morning she was still exhibiting the same symptoms.  She had her weekly oncology appointment scheduled for the next day, Tuesday, but we were afraid to wait that long.  We took Rita to her primary veterinarian, Dr. Campbell, Monday evening.  Blood work was drawn and resulted in some less-than-desirable levels.  Her CBC revealed a very low neutrophil count (~600-700) and more concerning, showed that Rita’s body was producing premature red blood cells. We learned that this could mean several things:

  • her anemia could have worsened
  • she has infection
  • her body could be rejecting the chemo, or
  • there could be a bone marrow issue.

As long as her symptoms did not worsen, Dr. Campbell said it would be safe to wait for our oncology appointment the next day.

Margarita remained lethargic and uninterested in food Monday night into Tuesday morning.  Needless to say I was very anxious to get to the oncology appointment Tuesday afternoon. Although I felt like I prepared myself at the onset of Rita’s diagnosis by planning for the worst while hoping for the best, I was anything BUT prepared to see our Sweet Reet feeling so awful.

Oncology Visit # 9:  May 14, 2019

I had texted my mom a picture of Rita before leaving for the oncology visit, and let her know about Rita’s decline.  My 5 year old nephew, James, (who is also one of Rita’s biggest fans!) was at my mom’s house at the time, and had asked how Rita was doing. My mom told him that she wasn’t feeling very well at the moment, and James took it upon himself to stop what he was doing and pray for our Sweet Reet.

Brian left work early to meet us at VSECDr. Risbon reviewed Rita’s CBC from yesterday, and suspected that Rita had a late neutrophil nadir.  (A late what?!) We learned that instead of Rita’s white blood cell count dropping at the usual 7-day mark after her Adriamycin treatment, it dropped later (around the 10-day mark) leading to her side effects of lethargy and decreased appetite. Dr. Risbon also explained that the premature blood cell production was most likely Rita’s body responding to her increased anemia (common in dogs without spleens going through chemo). PHEW!  As soon as I saw that Dr. Risbon was not bothered by this setback, my state of panic lessened.

Dr. Risbon did some additional blood work upon our arrival to VSEC. Rita’s neutrophils were already at 4400 which was a good sign.  Margarita was also gobbling down every treat the oncology nurse was offering – also a great sign!  Dr. Risbon explained that the drop (and the rise) in Rita’s CBC results could happen pretty quickly, and Rita had already rebounded from the drop.  Since Rita has not had a fever and her counts were improving, Dr. Risbon held off on administering antibiotics.  Dr. Risbon decided it was best to postpone this week’s chemo treatment for another couple of days, so we rescheduled treatment for later in the week.  Dr. Risbon also dispensed Cerenia for Rita to take over the next 4 days to help Rita maintain a healthy appetite.

Medication:

  • Cerenia (24 mg (each)
    • Give 2 tablets by mouth once a day (every 24 hours) for nausea

What we experienced this week taught me that setbacks are not only OK,  but something to be celebrated. Why the heck would we celebrate a setback?? Setbacks are unpleasant, but are a blessing in disguise . They are wake up calls to remind us not to get too comfortable or too confident. Setbacks force us to stop, regroup, question, and most importantly learn. Analyzing and digesting setbacks is only going to make us more knowledgeable – and knowledge is power…the power needed to help our girl take an even BIGGER bite out of Lymphoma, and to turn her setbacks in to COMEbacks!

It’s normal to be upset when you see a loved one feeling so badly, and I am the first to admit that I am THE Queen of Panic.  It’s easy to lose focus and freak-out, thinking about the worst case scenario.  I realize now how important it is to stay grounded – that even though there will be road blocks we encounter along the way, it is imperative that we focus MORE on the faith we have in the superior medical team of Dr. Campbell and Dr. Risbon and the amazing strength and resilience of our Sweet Reet…  and less on the fears that cancer so easily implants in our minds.

Setbacks are nothing but a teaching tool to make you stronger…This was a very slight delay – a temporary detour…and no where near the defeat I had thought we were facing…. no matter how big the setbacks may be, we will figure it out, because losing is NOT an option.

Nice try, Cancer.  Our game isn’t over yet – and Margarita is still kicking your BUTT!!

 

Oncology Visit #9, Take 2:  May 16, 2019

Back to VSEC we go! …This time with Rita feeling much better.  Rita was completely back to herself:  eating normally, playing in the yard, and the sparkle was back in those sweet eyes!

Rita was in much better spirits, and was very excited to see her favorite oncology nurse, Sherri, who always carries treats for Sweet Reet!

Margarita’s physical examination was normal, and she even gained a little bit of weight!  A new CBC taken at this visit was acceptable for continued chemotherapy.

This Week’s Treatment

  • This week Margarita received Vincristine intravenously.
    • We will have to watch the site for any inflammation, oozing, or discharge.

This Week’s TreatS

It’s only fair that when you have two oncology visits in one week, you get TWO cheat-days!

After Rita’s initial weekly oncology visit on May 14th, we stopped at Sonic Drive-In !

Rita had been eating the treats from her oncology nurse at VSEC, so we ordered her a plain hot dog in hopes that her appetite was continuing to  increase.

Hot dog for the win! We were thrilled that she was eating again!

Keeping with our Drive-In treat theme, following oncology visit #2 on May 16, Rita and I stopped at Weber’s Root Beer , a “true” drive-in where you pull up, put your lights on for service, and a server brings out your order on a 1950’s metal tray that hooks to your window!

Weber’s has been around since 1951!

Rita’s order was a pork roll and cheese sandwich (or Taylor Ham for you North Jersey folk!) and fries…and  I ordered a root beer for my self!

YUM! Lip-smackin’ good!

Taking a bite out of her first pork roll sandwich:

Margarita decided she was not in the mood for the fries, and was most interested in the pork roll itself, so I pulled pieces of the meat out of the sandwich for her to enjoy.

 

 

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

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

The Power of Positivity

Week 6 Recap, and Oncology Visit #7

“Think positive and positive things will happen.”

“Being negative only makes a difficult journey more difficult” …But finding the energy and strength to have and keep a positive attitude after hearing Margarita’s diagnosis was almost impossible for me. However, after some deep soul-searching, I realized that being negative would get Rita nowhere, and do her (or me) no good. Negativity and gloominess is not gong to cure her cancer. Spending whatever time we have with her crying and being sad isn’t going to make the rest of her life enjoyable either.  Thinking positively not only helps my mind stay strong – but more importantly that positive energy transfers to Rita, who needs it most!

I am a firm believer in “everything happens for a reason”  …the people you cross paths with, the dogs in your life, and the situations you find yourself in.  Sometimes I can’t always figure out what that reason is right away – and sometimes I may never know the reason.  Most times, I am ok with that.  I am convinced all experiences in our lives – good AND bad – teach us a lesson, and allow us to grow.  But when I feel that a loved one has been dealt a bad hand, I find myself asking, “WHY does this have to happen?!”   I wonder if sometimes we ARE the lesson – – the experience that helps someone else digest a negative circumstance, cope with their emotions, and find the positive in an unfortunate situation.  All that being said, it is not easy by any means for me to live by what I write here.  Watching Margarita’s strength, resilience, and positivity as she left her “past life” behind and started anew with our family – and now her Lymphoma journey – has really taught me valuable lessons, and made a profound impact on my attitude and mindset.

Lessons Learned from Margarita:

  • Don’t dwell on the past.
    • Margarita was neglected and abused in her past life before being found as a stray.  Rita didn’t fixate on her past, or hold a grudge toward humans.  Instead, she embraced her new life, and returned the love to us two-fold. I realized that fixating on the past – her diagnosis of Lymphoma – and what may or may not happen was doing no one any good. It was easy to hold a grudge, wondering why something like cancer would happen to such a sweet soul, but Rita has taught me it’s time to leave the past behind, and focus forward…focus on the positive.
  • Use an unfortunate experience to help others
    • Margarita didn’t let her past neglect and abuse dictate how she treats humans.  Despite how humans let her down in the past, she found a way to trust, and has been spreading happiness everywhere she goes . As a therapy dog, she brought joy and inspiration into the lives of many humans in need.  “You may be given a cactus, but you don’t have to sit on it.” Rita opened my eyes to find a positive – to discover a way to “turn things around” not only for myself – but for others.  My hope is that sharing Rita’s journey through this blog will help other PAWrents get themselves and their fur-kid through a difficult diagnosis, or an unpleasant experience.
  • Don’t let anyone or anything slow you down or break your spirit
    • With the right attitude, anything is possible! Margarita has not let her chemo treatments get her down! She hasn’t let cancer stop her from living life to the fullest.  Rita has been kicking cancer’s butt and taking names!  Yes, she’s had some tough days after chemo, but she has not stopped doing the things she loves.  After her diagnosis, I found myself feeling sorry for her and for our family – thinking Margarita would no longer be able to do agility, or volunteer as a therapy dog – that we would not be able to camp, travel, or do the things we loved doing as a pack.  Margarita’s “Bring it on!” attitude through chemo has been inspiring.  As I watch her continue to live life to the fullest, I realized with a positive outlook, nothing can stop you!  Margarita encouraged me to be hopeful in continuing the things we love to do, and to start planning some new adventures for Rita and our family.

This is Margarita just a few hours after a chemo treatment enjoying her time playing in the yard:

I think all humans can learn from our fur-kids. Dogs take joy in even the smallest things.  They are thankful for each meal they are given, and throw a party every time they see their friends and family members – even if it had only been 5 minutes.

Humans should be strive to live each day like a dog!

Week 6 Recap

Margarita had ANOTHER wonderful week!  Rita had absolutely no symptoms or side effects, and enjoyed her time outside.

We were supposed to camp in Maryland this past weekend to attend a dock diving competition hosted by Delmarva DockDogs.  However, on our Easter camping trip, we discovered several leaks coming from our RV’s hot water heater and dishwasher. After some investigation, it turned out that the dealer who winterized the camper did not do the job correctly.  Luckily, this meant they were going to foot the bill, but this still meant we had to cancel our plans.  This became even more upsetting to us when we saw what our Delmarva DockDogs family had done for our Sweet Reet!

We always mention how lucky we are to have an extended family because of our pups … Well, here’s just one of many examples of just how wonderful these individuals are. These are some of our best friends – our Delmarva DockDogs family members – raising money for canine cancer in the name of Margarita. What a thoughtful, generous, and amazing gesture.

Margarita has an army backing her.  What a truly blessed gal she is to have so many people, and so much positive energy behind her in her biggest fight!

Oncology Visit # 7

This visit was the last treatment of Round 2, which officially puts Margarita at the half-way mark on her CHOP based chemotherapy treatments!  She will have blood work only next week – and then begin Round 3 of the 4 cycles of treatments the following week.

Rita’s oncologist, Dr. Risbon, said the CBC recheck results were normal, and that she was happy with Rita’s physical exam as well.  There were no abnormalities, and Rita’s weight has remained stable.

Today’s Treament:

  • Adriamycin IV in right hind limb
    • We are to monitor the site for any inflammation, oozing, or discharge.
    • Margarita will be on Cerenia (24mg) for the next few days in order to prevent nausea from the treatment.

This is one of the tougher weeks, as the Adriamycin can cause some pretty significant side effects.

This Week’s Treat:

This week we stopped at Shake Shack!

Margarita perked RIGHT up when she realized it was treat-time!

Margarita enjoyed a little bit of a grilled cheese, and a couple of french fries.

Did you know Shake Shack has a couple of special treats on their menu just for dogs?!  They have a “Bag O’ Bones,” which is a bag of 5 ShackBurger dog biscuits made by NYC’s Bocce’s Bakery , and a “Pooch-ini,” which is a ShackBurger dog biscuit in vanilla custard.

Rita loved her dessert!

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.

 

Fight Like a Girl

Second Treatment Recap and Oncology Visit # 3

Margarita’s collar “bling” is growing! She has 2 St. Francis medals, which she received as gifts, a guardian angel medal, and a “Fight Like a Girl” charm.

I am very pleased to say that the week following Margarita’s second treatment was quite uneventful.  Margarita did not have any side effects, and was much more like herself.  She enjoyed playing in the yard, and sunbathing on some of the warmer days this past week.

“Keep your face to the sun and you will never see the shadows.” ~ Helen Keller

Oncology Visit #3

Rita is extremely well-behaved while she is in the waiting room.

Margarita quickly fell in love with her oncology nurse (who gives Rita lots of treats!)

Rita tries to wait patiently while notes are taken!

Rita found out where the treats were stashed – front right pocket! Haha

Margarita’s CBC revealed a normal white cell count, her anemia has slightly improved, and her lymph nodes are normal.  Her oncologist, Dr Risbon, was pleased with her progress.

During this week’s treatment, Margarita received Adriamycin intravenously. We are to monitor the site for any inflammation, oozing, or discharge.

Dr. Risbon informed me that this week may be tough for Rita, as the side effects of this treatment may cause nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and/or diarrhea. We were sent home with:

  • Cerenia 24 mg
    • To be given (2 tablets) once a day for 5 days to prevent nausea/vomiting
  • Metronidazole 250 mg
    • to be given (1 tablet twice a day) at the first sign of loose stool/diarrhea

Margarita’s Prednisone dosage was also reduced to 5mg once a day for this week.

 

I discussed supplements with Dr. Risbon.  We will be slowly introducing the following supplements into Margarita’s diet:

  • Nupro Silver
  • CAS Options
    • an antioxidant and immune support supplement for dogs. It helps maintain a healthy immune system and contains a wide variety of antioxidants to reduce free radicals in the body.
  • Probiotics
  • Natural Source bee pollen

This treatment exhausted Margarita.

However, when I pulled up to the Popeye’s drive-through, she suddenly forgot about her chemo treatment!

WHAT chemo?!?! Bring on the chicken!

I removed the breading from the chicken and gave a few small bites to Rita as her treat.

Margarita will have her another oncology appointment next week.
Thank you for joining Margarita in her journey to take a bite out Lymphoma.