Meg’s Progress & Treatment for Canine Lymphoma

Well Meg’s first week of treatment went better than anticipated.  She started chemo on Friday, July 27th, and the vet gave us prescriptions to continue her on Prednisone (upped from 5mg to 15mg a day), and to also treat her for nausea and diarrhea as needed. We only picked up the Prednisone prescription last Friday from the pharmacy, but by early Monday morning we realized we should have also picked up the other two prescriptions.  They were precautionary in nature, and we had hoped she wouldn’t need them.

Monday morning about 2:00 a.m. Meg woke me up licking me.  I knew she needed to go potty.  At that point I assumed it was needing to urinate, as the Prednisone has her drinking and panting more than normal.  But we knew that was a side effect going into the treatment.  It turned out it was diarrhea.  She had it 2 more times times before I had to leave for work at 6:30 a.m., and since I had to set-up for a conference that morning at work, it was almost 10:30 a.m. before I was able to get her medicine back to her.  It turns out her diarrhea medicine is actually Metronidazole, an antibiotic.  It’s actually one of my least favorite antibiotics to take as a human because of it’s metallic taste.  But Meg doesn’t seem to mind the taste.  Since the instructions said to give it to her “as needed”, I assumed it was similar to Imodium, and I didn’t want to make her constipated by giving her too much.  So I only gave it to her that day.  By Monday night she was back to normal and that continued into Tuesday & Wednesday.  But early Thursday morning, ironically also at 2:00 a.m., she woke me up with the same problem.  It took 3 hours for the Metronidazole to kick in, but she was back to normal after taking it again.  After talking with Dr. Roff (her vet from Veterinary Specialists of North Texas) on the phone, I learned I actually needed to give her the antibiotic for 3-4 days straight in order for it to truly work.  So today is day 3 on the antibiotic, and so far, Meg is still doing well in that department.

Other than that, the only real side effect I noticed during her first week of treatment was being lethargic at times.  To me, Meg doesn’t have near the energy she usually has.  At times, I think I am the only one who notices it.  At other times, Brandon agrees with me.  There are lots of moments where Meg is still Meg.  She had fun chasing a rabbit out of the garden twice this week.  That was fun to watch.  She always gets so excited.  And she ran full speed after it both times.

But there are little things I notice, like she doesn’t “fight” for attention or really try to get the toy from Poopie (her “uncle” — the German Sheppard at Brandon’s parent’s house).  To that end, most of the time she’s less energetic to play and get attention than normal.  Again though, I seem to be the only one who really sees this.

Meg started her 2nd round of chemo yesterday, Friday, August 3rd.  This time she was able to get treatment at Wisdom Animal Clinic in Texarkana.  We have been very fortunate that Brandon has a friend who is a pharmacist.  He has been able to get all of the chemo (except for the treatment once a month she has to take in Dallas) for us at his cost.  This has saved us a lot of money.  Each treatment was estimated to cost us between $300-$500, and Meg’s vet bill on Friday was only about $80.  Our cost for the chemo was right at $10, and that includes enough for two rounds of treatment.

She had to spend all day at Wisdom Animal Clinic.  I dropped her off at 7:45 a.m. and we had hoped to pick her up by noon.  But it was almost 4:00 when Brandon got the call that she was ready to have mom and dad come pick her up.  But when Brandon showed up to get her, she was full of energy.  Wisdom Animal Clinic had also given her a really pretty bandana to wear.  They kept her longer because they wanted to observe her reaction to the chemo.

We got some good news.  Meg’s labs came back normal.  That means her white blood cell count was where it needed to be to continue treatment.  The bad news (at least to me) is that her lymph nodes are still slightly swollen.  That just means the lymphoma is still there.  Of course, I know it will never go away. That’s the horrible part of this cancer.  Even though Meg has to go through these treatments, her remission will never be for life.

That has been a big point of contention for me about her treatments.  I often wonder if it’s fair to make her go thru chemo, knowing that the outcome at the end of the line is still the same.  Is it selfish on my part??  Brandon, on the other hand, has been 100% pro-treatment from the get-go.  It is his determination that keeps her going to chemo each week.  For me, I wonder often if this is the right thing for her.  Would it have been better to just do the Prednisone treatment until her body built up a tolerance to it and the lymphoma took back over?  The reality is that down the road, we’ll have to make the same decision.  So is this really fair to her??  Brandon and I have discussed that at length.  I have also discussed it with his parents.  They all seem to think it is the right decision to continue chemo.  A part of me, however, feels it’s wrong.  And then I feel horrible for feeling that way because I don’t want to lose her.  I would do anything to save her, but I also know, saving her isn’t really an option.

The vet back in my hometown of Sealy, Texas, told my mom that his dad died of lymphoma.  He said there were many times he wished he had had the option to help his dad end the pain, the same way he has the option to help animals when the time comes.  That has been weighing heavy on my mind.  Meg can’t tell me how she feels.  All I can do is watch and try to interpret the signs she gives me.  I have asked her to promise me that she’ll let me know when we’re being selfish and need to let her go.  But I wonder if I’m just being pessimistic.  I have read about dogs that have made it 2-4 years after their chemo ended.  But I also know the average time span is 6-12 months after remission starts.  This is by far the most trying and difficult thing I have ever gone thru in my life.

I still remember the first day Meg bounced out of the red Hummer looking for a home before she headed off to rescue.  She picked me to be that home.  And I promised at that point to love her and take care of her.  It does seem like that was 2 years and 4 months ago already.  I just wish we could rewind.  I wish I could see into the future what would cause this lymphoma, so I could prevent it from happening.  But I know that’s an unhealthy way to see things.  It doesn’t fix the problem.

POST SECOND CHEMO TREATMENT….

Today is the first day after her second chemo treatment.  To me, she has no energy.  Brandon even noticed she didn’t bounce out of bed this morning to go potty.  And she doesn’t want to play.  She just wants to sleep.  Usually if I’m sitting on the sofa working on my laptop, Meg is right beside me with those big brown eyes, pushing her toy at me.  But not today.  Even when I get down on the floor to play with her, she doesn’t want to play.  It really makes me sad.

I’ve been told the first 3 days after chemo are the 3 hardest.  After that, she usually returns.  Just makes me wonder if it’s the “right” thing to do.  Make her go thru this for 3 days, so she can have 3 “normal days” before we take her back for another treatment.  Breaks my heart.  I keep secretly wishing that I could do something to take her pain away, give her my energy, and just heal her.  Life is just so cruel.  How can this furry ball of white, who has done nothing in her life but bring love, joy, and smiles to the lives of everyone she has met, fall pray to lymphoma?  It’s just not right.

We did go to Target today and buy her a new Frog.  It’s the same design as her favorite porcupine toy, and we thought she’d love it.  But she just isn’t really interested in playing.  The other thing we bought was enough food to make her 2 weeks worth of homemade dog food.  We adapted a recipe from the book I mentioned in my last blog post.  She ate the chicken version of it this week and seemed to really love it.  Today we made her turkey and beef, so she can rotate thru it.  Here’s our recipe:

3 lbs meat (beef, chicken or turkey — boil chicken or turkey, pan cook the beef)
Tomatoes from garden (equiv. to 2 medium sized)
2 eggs (scrambled with shells)
1/2 cup cabbage (we’re using coleslaw, as the store has been sold out of heads of cabbage)
2 crowns broccoli
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons Flax Seed
2 tablespoons Fish Oil (C0d oil)
1/4 pound of tofu

We food process all of those things and then mix them together.  We are freezing the dog food into freezer bags with 2 cups each — enough for breakfast and dinner each day.  Then for treats, she is getting frozen fish treats (raw).  We read that the dog food mixture should also be raw, but I’m too fearful of her catching a bacteria if it’s raw.  So we are cooking all of the meat in it.  She loves the frozen fish treats.  The other thing we give her is cheese.  We’ve learned a lot about looking for hidden carbs in things.  Some cheeses have A LOT of carbs, others have none.  We found an international cheese tray at Sam’s Club that has 3 or 4 cheese types with 0 carbs per serving.  So she has a varsity of cheeses for snacks (and more importantly, to use to make her twice daily “cheese-balls” — aka, pill balls).

Right now Brandon is in the kitchen making her homemade jerky.  We can’t find dog treats that are not full of carbs.  And since carbs feed lymphoma cells, it’s not worth risking them.  Brandon’s mom was the one who came up with the idea of making homemade jerky.  So we’re giving it a go!!  We spent $88 today on meats for her dog food and treats — since becoming a vegetarian in January 2005, that’s the first time my credit card has ever bough meat — lol!

The only other thing I guess I’ll note is that I keep having the talk with Meg that it is her job to let me know how she’s doing.  I know the day will come when we have to make the decision to continue with treatment or let her crossover Rainbow Bridge.  I just hope we’re all on the same boat when we make that decision, and that Meg-Meg knows no matter what that we love her more than we have ever loved before!

Anyway, that’s an update.  I figure that by blogging, someone else who may end up with this awful diagnosis for the best 4 legged friend will have some ideas of what to expect.  That they will know it’s okay to have worry and doubt and fear and anger and to also have so much love.   My biggest word to the wise is always remember something I read … your dog doesn’t know she has cancer, so stay positive — all your dog wants to do is love you and make you happy!!   All you need to do is the very same in return!

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