What to do with this space?

It’s been over a year.  Over a year since Jackie left us and over a year since I posted.  This site was left an untouched-digital-monument. It didn’t feel right to post updates of our life after Jackie and it felt even worse to delete it.  In the background I started to lay down the foundation for a new blog but that didn’t feel right either.

Today I sat down and saw the future for this site: a new chapter for A Year With Jackie. It felt so right I deleted my work-in-progress, reactivated this site and whipped up a post.  After all,  Jackie isn’t gone;  he resides in our hearts and the lessons we learned during his final months forever changed us.

Gone but Forever in our Hearts

Jackie left us.  Left his pain. Left his sickness.  Left his cancer.

In the aftermath of his departure there is a palpable emptiness.  It hurts.  I see his shadow in the outline of boxes…a pile of toys…the darkness of corners.

As I walk through the house, I catch myself stopping and staring at the spots I know he sat.  His memory wakes me at night and chases away my sleep.

I find myself measuring time in relation to his death.  Last time I saw so-in-so, Jackie was alive.  Last time I went to work, I came home to his smiling face.  Last time I made this dinner, he was in the kitchen with me.  Everything I do I can compare to a time he was with us.

The smallest thing throws me off guard and overwhelms me with grief.  At this point in time, I would say, those who can’t understand or relate to my pain don’t fully understand me.  His loss consumes me. While I am shackled by heavy sadness, he is now free from his illness.  That thought keeps me from irrationally regretting our crucial decision.  His absence highlights what an important part of our life he represented.

He is missed as deeply as he was loved in life.  I hope he can now run free.  I hope he feels happiness.  I hope he is joyous.  Mostly I hope he swings by to visit every once and awhile – wiggles around with excitement when we get home, eagerly leans in while we have dinner and curls up by the fire at night.  There will always be a spot for him in our home and in our hearts.

He will forever be our buddy… forever our big, big boy. 

When enough is enough

Yesterday’s appointment with Jackie’s oncologist was long – literally and emotionally.  The very real conversation of what options we have left was sobering and painful.

We returned to the original chemo – Vinblastine, however, another option was put on the table.  We can now do radiation. Having this option available is not really a good sign.  It’s the choice that opens up when a tumor is so large is causes discomfort.  It is not a cure.  Nothing for Jackie at this point is a cure.

Only two places in our area provide canine radiation. We will probably go for a consultation but at this point we are coming to terms with the limited time we have left with him.

I wish I had a magic cure that could make this all go away but mostly I wish there was more awareness of mass cell cancer. I wish I knew back then as much as I know now – not just about Jackie’s current health but about his disease. I wish I could go back in time and tell myself to have that little lump removed.

Jackie at the beach

Doggie Bucket List: Swim in the ocean. Labor Day Weekend 2014

A long silence

Jackie’s blog has remained silent for a long time.  There is a reason.  I told myself I would keep this space a positive place.  I wanted to spare the web another blog spelling out the heartache of a sick dog  –  specifically the heartache of a dog with a high grade MCT.  I hoped this blog would be the tale of an impossible recovery.

The past 6 weeks of Jackie’s life have not been good.  In an attempt to find a maintenance medication, we switched him from Vinblastine to CCNU.  That didn’t work.  We then tried palladia for a month.  During that time the tumor grew and Jackie experienced terrible side effects. In the hope the medication would kick in after a few weeks, we persevered.  The tumor doesn’t seem to be getting any bigger (at least for the past week).

The most concerning part of the last 4 weeks has been the decline in Jackie’s quality of life.  He can no longer stand for more than a few seconds.  He can no longer climb the stairs. He can no longer go for walks.

Today we have a follow up visit with his oncologist.  I hope returning to the original treatment plan will restore his sparkle.

Hopes and doubts

It’s been awhile since our last post.

Since the last update we have discontinued the use of Vinblastine.  Jackie’s cancer just didn’t respond as dramatically as we hoped so we decided to give CCNU a try.  It wasn’t that Vinblastine wasn’t working.  It kept Jackie’s tumors from grow and {minimally} shrank them.  This is a good sign.  It means the cancer was held at bay and {perhaps} didn’t metastasize to other areas.  Jackie’s oncologist was hoping to find something that would actively shrink the tumors so we switched to CCNU.

Jackie is feeling low.  He doesn’t seem to be himself.

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.