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.

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.