One week in

So Jackie started chemo.  Vinblastine to be exact.

The plan: Try it for two weeks.  See if it works.  If it doesn’t, we will try something else. 

The first week: The tumor didn’t shrink.  {disappointment} ..but it didn’t get bigger {silver lining}.

Jackie’s surgical site finally healed enough to add his much needed steroid.  Our oncologist informed us this addition is critical.  Alone, the chemo isn’t overly effective, however, the steroid beefs up the chemo and makes it significantly more powerful. He received his treatment and we were sent home with prednisone.  Again he seemed a bit depressed but better than last week.  

I can only speak for myself, but today I was down.  I expected the chemo to work it’s magic.  I expected Jackie’s diet (which I tirelessly researched) to destroy the tumor. Despite the words of the doctor, I questioned what the steroid would do.  

I was wrong.

Today we felt Jackie’s tumor.  It’s noticeably smaller!! Unbelievable. Ironically it’s national dog day.  Perhaps the happy dog karma of the day blessed us with some much needed good news.  

Only in the darkness can you see the stars

Jackie started chemo this past Monday. {sigh}  We were optimistic his last surgery nipped his MCT in the bud but the oncologist can already palpate a reoccurrence (just two weeks after his operation). 

Let me repeat that: Just two weeks after it’s removal, Jackie’s tumor has returned and is large enough to feel and measure. 

With this news, our optimism was swept out the door.  Dr. Rau is hopeful the chemo will quickly wipe out this mass since the cells obviously grew rapidly. Two treatments should tell her everything she needs to know.  If it shrinks, it’s working, If it stays the same or grows, we move onto something else. 

He has a small area which has not healed from his surgery.  They wrapped it up and hopefully, figures crossed, it closes up. It’s important for it to close so he can start taking steroids.  Steroids enhance the effectiveness of his chemo, Vinblastine.

His first treatment went well.  I’m use to human treatments which always seem to involve hours of intravenous chemo.  Jackie’s drug is a simple 10 minute injection.  Although his doctor said he wouldn’t experience any side effects, I can tell you he has been depressed since Monday afternoon.  Is it the tape all over his chest? Is it the drug?  Is it the cancer? We don’t know.    

Super Jack!

Another picture of Jackie wearing something shirt-like

Antibiotic Treatments: Complete!

Since Jackie’s abscess was extremely nasty it needed to be treated with an equally nasty antibiotic.  For a week Jack went to French Creek for daily injections.  These injections, however, were not as simple as a needle prick.

Jack was prescribed Amikacin.  It is used cautiously as it can cause kidney damage.  To mitigate any unwanted side effects,  Jackie received half a bag of fluid subcutaneously before getting his shot.  Although he looked a bit like a lopsided camel when he was done, it didn’t seem to bother him too much.  That being said, he was very excited to go home. 🙂

Out of the frying pan…

I received a call from Jackie’s surgeon, Dr. Schwab.  The results from the abscess biopsy were in.  I was told it contained the canine equivalent of MRSA.  He was confident none of the infectious material made it into his body, however, he wanted to be safe since it’s highly resistant to most antibiotics.  Jack started an injectable antibiotic.  He will need 1 injection everyday for the next week.

Jackie just can’t seem to catch a break these days.  

Information Overload

Everytime I’m hit by upsetting news –usually medically related – , I do the same thing.  I jump on the internet and immerse myself in information.  I become obsessed.

Jack’s diagnosis is no exception.  The initial information was extremely upsetting.  The kind of news that makes you slam your laptop shut and push it away. A life expectancy of only a few short months. Failed treatments. Lost hope.  

I took a deep breath and dived in once again.  I knew if I looked long enough, I could find something positive.  I have already reached out to a few specialist.  A holistic vet in Seattle (no response so far) and Dr. London, a vet who studies mast cell tumors at Ohio state vet school.  Dr. London responded quickly and compassionately, something I greatly appreciate.  She confirmed our course of treatment is the standard of care for these tumors.  Sadly she knows of no new drugs, treatments, or effective holistic methods.  

Yesterday I found two support groups on Facebook.  Although they are still filled with sad stories, there are also people on there just like Tim and myself.  People looking to make the best of their dog’s diagnosis.  I’ve already received a lot of great ideas.  

While the internet may be a hive of misinformation and negativity, if you look long enough, you’re bound to find a community of people who are just like you.  

Homeward Bound

Jackie is home!!

The surgery went well and he looks great considering the scope of his operation.  The surgeon removed three concerning lumps and a tennis ball sized abscess.  He is recovering.  He is medicated.

Our Saturday visit.  Check out his awesome Surgi Sox he is wearing.

Our Saturday visit. Check out his awesome Surgi Sox he is wearing.

While I appreciate everything our primary vet has done, Metropolitan vet associates goes above and beyond.  Jackie spent his time there recovering on fleece blankets.  When he wouldn’t eat, they gave him fresh chicken to encourage his appetite.  They are open 24 hours.  We can call and visit whenever we want.  After our consultation and Jackie’s surgical discharge, we were given full reports (2 pages single spaced) outlining general information, conversations, procedures and decisions made during the visit.   We even received a Surgi Sox to bring home (see picture).  They provide an impressive level of service.



Jackie hanging out with the family after getting his ultrasound results. Later we took him out for a cheeseburger

Jackie hanging out with the family after getting his ultrasound results. Later we took him out for a cheeseburger

Today we had our much-anticipated follow up visit with the oncologist.  We were told to wait until he was fully healed from his last surgery.  It was a long road but eventually his wound healed and we were ready – or so we thought. 

Today’s visit was devastating. Heartbreaking. Impossible to accept.  Words that are difficult to type let alone hear or say.   

We have a year left with Jackie.

I wrote the above post moments after Jackie’s consultation.  Raw with emotion and waiting for his ultrasound results.  We had just received a lot of information and our minds were fried.  I saw no light at the end of the tunnel.

Jack has an extremely aggressive form of cancer. The tumor removed 2 months ago has reappeared and spread to the local lymph node.  No treatment can provide him with great odds of surviving.  He may only have a 5% chance of beating it.  We were presented with options.  We were considering our next move.

The results from the ultrasound were positive and negative.

Positive: the cancer has not spread to his liver or spleen with no sign of inflamed lymph nodes.

Negative: There is a large abscess near his bladder, a souvenir from his surgery in February.

The abscess is full of infection. If we don’t remove it, our window with Jackie shrinks to 6 months or less.  It could rupture tomorrow and we could lose him.

Tomorrow Jackie goes into surgery for the 3rd time in 6 months.  The cancerous material and abscess will be removed.  With the positive results from the ultrasound and follow up treatment, we are optimistic we can keep Jackie healthy and happy for far longer than a year.

Please send your positive thoughts our way.