I’m not sure how often I will be posting here, nor how interesting any of this will be to anyone but myself, but what the heck. This will likely be a place for me to regurgitate all the thoughts and feelings running around in my brain (and there are a lot!) in the hopes of them permanently leaving my brain.
I suppose that if one is to start a blog, this is a good time in my life to do so. We just got done with 3 months of insanity with our dog. She developed a mass on her left elbow that ended up being a nerve sheath tumor. As far as cancers go, I suppose this is the type to get if you’ve gotta get it … this type of tumor doesn’t usually invade the body beyond the site of the tumor. But getting rid of them is a bear. Especially with this particular tumor since it was right above lean muscle tissue.
Before we could attack the tumor though, we needed to get her arthritis under control. Cindy is 13 but she thinks she’s 5 and acts more like about 8. And as with people, as she gets older she’s got issues. She has hypothyroidism and is prone to weight gain as well as having arthritis in her back and hips. It’s hard to get out and exercise when you’re hurting (I know about this firsthand) so she’s a bit overweight. And having only dealt with a vet who only does Western Medicine, we were given some information that wasn’t indicative of the whole picture (typical of Western Medicine … take a pill and stay sick). So when we started out to get her better, we ended up changing vets.
Don’t get me wrong, our old vet was a fine, fairly compassionate person. And while he never disparaged alternative medicines, it was pretty clear he had no interest in educating himself on the subject. So I started out just looking for someone qualified to perform acupuncture on dogs. And I stumbled onto the most awesome vet. I was almost afraid to see the bill after the first visit because she seemed too good to be true. Her clinic isn’t like any veterinarian’s office I’ve ever been in. It has the feel of a “Doggy Day Spa”. And it’s clear that the animals appreciate it … Cindy plopped herself down in the middle of the floor happy as a clam … she’s never been comfortable in a vet’s office. I was very pleasantly surprised to find out that the services there were no more than any other vet I’d ever visited. So now we have a new vet who’s got Cindy on Chinese herbal medicines as well as the acupuncture and it’s amazing how well she’s responded. She’s still stiff and has bad days, but on average she’s acting like she did 5 years ago.
By June of this year we finally had Cindy to a point where we were comfortable dealing with surgery to remove the tumor. The results of that surgery were about as good as we could have hoped for … but it had been growing into the leg muscle and probably the bone as well. The surgeon didn’t want to lame her by removing muscle tissue and made it clear that we’d have to follow up with an oncologist. So once the stitches were removed, we headed off for a consult. I had already decided that we needed to attack this thing with radiation … I wasn’t about to poison my dog with chemo. And it turned out that this is exactly what we needed to do. The recurrence rates with chemo weren’t promising … about 55% after 2 years and close to 80% after 5 years. Plus with dogs needing the chemo for the rest of their lives, well that pretty much closed that option off. The radiation numbers were more promising … only a 10% recurrence after 2 years and about 35% after 5 years. Pretty much sealed the deal. But the cost … yikes that stuff is expensive. We’ll be paying this off for at least the next 6 months.
The time involved was another shock. Radiation treatments are every day for either 18 or 22 sessions. Every day. So for a month hubby and I went to work, came home in the afternoon, took Cindy to the oncologist’s, then I went back to work while hubby stayed with her to monitor her. It was brutal. Then about halfway through the radiation therapy, the poor baby got a spider bite. Probably a Brown Recluse based on the look of the wound and the subsequent infection. So now we were dealing with another surgeon and having the bite area debrided, packed, and wrapped every day.
The bite area was sewed up only 2 days before we were due to leave for a scheduled vacation … a vacation we’d planned before the tumor was found. But we decided that a trip to the Mt Shasta area would be perfect to help the pup finish healing so off we went. Not much of a vacation for me. I spent the entire time trying to find creative ways to get Cindy to take the antibiotics and pain medications she was supposed to have, not to mention getting food into her. We never did finish off the antibiotics … once she was off the pain meds she refused to take them and I had to make a judgment call. She’d already been on them 11 days at that point and when the results of the culture taken at the time the surgeon closed the wound showed that there were no resistant bacteria present, I decided that forcing the meds was more traumatic than the risk of infection at that point. So far so good … the surgery site is healing nicely as are the radiation burns on the leg.
We finally were able to put all this behind us a few days ago. Fresh off our “vacation”, we saw both the oncologist and the surgeon this past Monday. Both were very pleased with her progress, the surgeon removed the sutures, and she doesn’t need anymore meds for either the tumor procedures or the spider bite. All three of us finally can look forward to some normalcy. The next steps are to see if we can get some of the weight off and switch from medication to herbs to control the thyroid. It’s been a rough 3 months, but we all made it through and can finally close this chapter in our lives.
Wow that was a lot wasn’t it? Hopefully getting this all out of my head will allow me to move forward again … I’ve been stuck in the caretaker mode for so long now, and barely getting any sleep on top of it, that my body feels like it’s permanently stressed. At least I’m looking at a 4 day weekend … maybe I can actually get to some of the things I want to do after I catch up on some sleep. Of course, that’s after I get done with all the household chores that need doing.
One last thought. For now I’ve got a picture of my Cindy as my Gravitar … a nod to her bravery while dealing with all this. She’s a trooper and such a sweet girl. And as long as her spirit wants to be here, I’ll help her fight to have the best life she can.
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