My First IV Chemo Treatment

Hi everyone – well, I had my first IV chemo treatment on Tuesday, Feb 7, at the Scottsdale Oncology Office.  My appointment was for 3:30 PM as that was the only time they had when mom made the appointment two weeks ago.  At least we got in.

Mom got a call from the Oncology Office on Monday, Feb 6, advising that I do NOT have the MDR blood marker.  You remember, that was the blood marker that was going to determine whether I could have IV chemo or have to stay on the daily chemo pills.  Since it is not present in my blood, we got the green light for the IV chemo treatment.

Since we’re in N. AZ and the office is in Scottsdale, mom likes to leave about 2 hours before the actual appointment.  You never know what type of traffic you’re going to experience.  Mom would rather be early than late.  I like that as well as it gives me time to go for a walk with mom and stretch my legs after a long drive.  We actually arrived in Scottsdale about 2:30 PM so mom headed to Whole Foods to get something to eat for herself.  I think she had a chicken Caesar wrap, I got some of the end of the tortilla wrap.  That was my treat for the day.  She already let me know that we would not be stopping for ice cream as she was not sure how my system would react to this first IV treatment and she didn’t want me getting sick on the way home. 

We arrived in the office about 3:00 PM and mom got us checked in.  I posted a photo of the board that greets all the patients.  It has everyone’s name on it and I found my name “Bear” – it’s near the center/bottom.  If you look a little to the left and slightly above, you’ll see the name “Pooh Bear” – that’s mom’s nickname for me, she calls me her Pooh Bear.  I’m not sure if that’s me, or if there’s another client by that name.  I’ll have to ask the next time we’re in the office.   

We first met with one of the vet techs who explained everything to us.  I ended up having to go in the back without mom.  She asked if she could go back with me but they explained that it was a small area and that she could not be there while I was getting my chemo.  She had to wait out front.  I know she was worried, but they took really good care of me.  I was examined next and then had blood drawn just to check to be sure the chemo pills I was taking worked well with my system. 

Next I was hooked up to an IV line.  It wasn’t too bad.  I was a little anxious and moved a few times, but not too much.  There was someone with me all the time.  I actually had a couple of small treats while I was back there.  They were good and I was happy to have them.  It only took about 30 minutes for the blood draw and the IV drip, then I was heading back into an exam room where mom was waiting for me.

Dr. Venable came in and told mom all about the possible side effects, some of which include nausea that may include vomiting (YUK) as well as diarrhea.  She said that she was going to send home some meds for those side effects, just in case.  Dr. Venable said the side effects, if they were going to occur, would happen 2-5 days after this treatment.  She also mentioned that most patients don’t really have those side effects. 

When I got back in the truck I was really thirsty so I drank a bit of water.  I laid down for the ride home and tried to take a nap, but I was really excited about getting home.  I had my dinner when I got home and ate like I typically do.  I really like my food.

The next day was OK, I didn’t have any bad reaction to the treatment.  I was a little tired and didn’t feel quite like myself, but overall I was OK.  On Thursday things were still going OK, no reaction yet.

Friday, 6:30 am, I threw up.  I tried to hold it back, and I left the bedroom where mom and dad were still sleeping.  I got into the kitchen and looked for someplace that wouldn’t be too bad.  I ended up throwing up a little on a plastic mat that is under the water dispenser.  I didn’t want to get it on the floor.

Mom was up like a shot.  I don’t think she sleeps all that well now.  When she gets up in the night to use the bathroom she comes and checks on me.  On Friday morning, she was by my side in a flash letting me know it was OK and that she would take care of me.

I took an anti-nausea pill that morning.  I really didn’t want to eat so I went back to sleep.  About an hour later I ate a little, but my stomach was still a little upset and food just did not appeal to me.  I actually slept most of the day, I think the meds may have made me drowsy.  I ate some of my dinner, then went to sleep again.

I felt a little better on Saturday and ate a little more breakfast, but not everything.  I slept a bit as well but ate most of my dinner.  Hope I feel better as the days go on.  I don’t have another IV chemo treatment until February 28th, and I think I’ll be OK in a few days.  The oncologist said if I had any side effects from the IV treatment they would occur 2-5 days afterward.  Friday was day three, so I guess I’m right on schedule. 

Mom said she would take care of me, so I’m doing well.

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Lots to talk about

Hey everyone,

I didn’t think I’d be posting this much so soon, but I’ve got so much on my mind I’ve just got to get it down in print.  I must admit, this whole blog-thing is very cathartic.  I didn’t realize it at first, but a dog like me has quite a bit to say and having a rather captive audience makes it even easier to express myself.  I’m going to try not to make these posts too long, and boring.  I know we all lead very busy lives and not everyone has time to sit and read the mussing of a dog.  However, I do hope you have a little fun and perhaps laugh a little at what I have to say.  After all, I am a dog, and we tend to do (and say) some silly things every now and then.

Well, the past week has been full of activity.  I went to see the cardiologist for an ultrasound of my heart to see what, if anything, may be going on in that area.  We needed to be sure my cancer had not traveled to my heart, yet.  The cardiologist is in the same office and my oncologist, which is nice so we don’t have to travel to different places for my treatments and exams. 

I had my grooming appointment at my Animal Hospital.  They gave me a nice bath and trimmed my nails.  I got a really good brushing as well.  I like to look, and smell, my best.  I actually enjoy visiting my Vet’s office, most of the time.  That’s where I have my laser treatments for my knees and hips.  Mom keeps up on those, every other week, so I’m still able to run around and play, both outside and inside the house.

I’ve taken to playing inside with one of my blankets.  That’s the photo you see at the top.  Mom throws it over me, covering my head and then I start to twist and turn and toss my head.  I grab that blanket and shake it, over and over again.  We play tug of war with it sometimes but mom is careful that I don’t rip it.  Sometimes, when she puts it over my head I just stand there, perfectly still.  I’m waiting for her to reach out and touch me.  When she does I go into full-on play mode.  We toss, turn, and wrestle on the living room floor.  It’s a lot of fun.  I really love when mom plays with me.  She seems happy during these times too, and I know that it’s just as important for her as it is for me.

My next trip is Tuesday.  I have an appointment with my oncologist.  Mom was instructed to stop my chemo pills this past Thursday as I need what they call a ‘wash-out’ period in preparation for the start of IV chemo treatment.  That is, if my blood work comes back without that MDR marker.  I don’t know what the IV chemo treatment will be like or what the possible side effects may be.  I’m a little scared, but my mom will be with me the whole time so that’s comforting.  I hope she does OK with it too.

It’s a complicated process, navigating this cancer thing.  There’s so much to monitor, so much to treat, and so much to take in and understand.  My mom is really good at that.  She’s started a journal about my health, the cancer, my treatments, and how I’m doing each day.  She keeps copious notes which helps her make the best decisions for me and our future together.

Cardiologist Visit – Ultrasound

Well, I had my cardiologist appointment today.  They did an ultrasound of my heart to see how well it is working, how strong it is, whether there is any fluid buildup in the pericardium, and whether there are any growths/tumors present.

I passed with flying colors!  My mom was really happy with the news.  So was I.  The cardiologist said my heart is strong and working just fine.  There is no fluid buildup and he could detect no mass anywhere in my heart muscle.

YIPPEE!

It was really great to finally get some good news.  Of course, I still have cancer, but now it is most likely isolated in my abdomen.  Still not good, but I am taking my chemo pills every day and we hope that will slow down the growth and spread of the cancer cells.  If you remember from a previous post, I told you that my liver tested negative for cancer, so that’s good.

While I was getting my ultrasound today, mom walked over to the oncology office to check on the blood results.  Remember, we’re waiting to see if I have the MDR blood markers or not.  They told mom that the results were not back yet.  So, I guess we still have to wait a few days to hear about those results.

As promised, mom stopped for ice cream on the way home.  I got a quick pee break then a scoop of vanilla ice cream from Baskin Robbins!  Our friend Sarah mentioned that ice cream really helps in these types of situations, and boy was she right.  I really enjoyed my ice cream. 

Mom made sure I didn’t eat it too fast so I didn’t get an ice cream headache.  I’m not sure what that is, but mom said it can be painful even though it doesn’t last long.  There were a couple people around while I was eating my ice cream and they mentioned, jokingly, to mom how spoiled I seemed to be.  Mom let them know this was my reward for being a good boy at the doctor’s office.

So today was a good day.  Now I’m looking forward to a grooming on Thursday. 

A little background

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Hi again, Bear here with a little more information about me.

As you may have read in my first blog entry, I’m an Australian Shepherd living in Arizona.  I live in Northern AZ, so I get to experience all four seasons.  With the thick coat I have I’m not sure I could handle the heat of Phoenix.  YUK!  My mom doesn’t like the heat either so this is a great place for us to live.

The photo I selected today is from 2015 when we had some snow.  I like to play in the snow, but we haven’t had much this winter.  We’ve had quite a bit of rain where I live, while some of the higher elevations have had snow.  When it rains and I go out for my breaks I have to be towel-dried when I come inside.  I like that, it’s fun to play with the towel while mom tries to dry my fur.  I make a game of it and mom plays along.  It’s fun.  Once inside I tend to spend the next 30 minutes cleaning my paws.  I do not like dirty paws.

Mom mentioned that she was going to set up a grooming appointment for me as soon as the weather cleared up a little.  I have to agree with her, no need getting a bath if it’s going to continue to rain.  I enjoy the groomer and I like looking my best.  I made sure that the photo I posted on my initial blog post was one of my best.  I had recently been groomed and was feeling particularly good about my appearance.

Turns out she made that appointment for Thursday, February 2, at my regular Vet/Animal Hospital.  I think she’s a little fearful about leaving me at PetSmart for four hours, which is where I typically have my salon appointments.  I tried to tell her I’d be just fine, but I think she feels better that I’ll be close to medical assistance should something happen.  Moms!  They are always worrying.  No wonder they are prematurely grey.  (Sorry mom, I still think you’re beautiful with all that grey hair)

I started my chemo this past week.  I’m on what the vet-oncologist calls a ‘metronomic’ dose of chemo pills.  I get one pill every morning wrapped in my favorite – PILL POCKET!  I’ll take this medication for a couple weeks then have another blood test (YUK) to see how I’m doing.  As an Aussie (yeah, that’s how we say it) my breed is sometimes prone to a blood marker (MDR) that has an adverse reaction to IV chemo.  I had my blood drawn when I was at the oncologist for my initial consultation and they sent it off for a test.  Can you believe they have to send my blood all the way to the state of Washington as that’s where the lab work is done?

Once the results come back, my mom will determine the best course of treatment for me.  If I don’t have that blood marker, I will start IV chemo.  That will happen once every three weeks, for a 15-week course of treatment.  After that I go back on the daily pills I’m currently taking as maintenance.

If I do have that blood marker present, then I just stay on these pills.

The oncologist said that there is a slight chance I may get an upset stomach from the pills.  So far, so good.  I have not thrown-up and my stomach feels OK.  I like to eat and I love my food, so that’s a good thing.  Who wants to eat all that good food only to throw it up later?

I think we’ll settle in to a nice routine soon and everything will be just fine.  That’s what I keep trying to tell my mom, she still cries sometimes and I do my best to comfort her.  I know she doesn’t want me to see her upset but I’m pretty tuned in to her feelings.  I feel everything she feels.  For the most part I think she understands me, but she’s got to come to that point on her own.  I have faith that she will, she’s my mom and the absolute best in the world.

Talk to you soon!

A little more about my cancer

Hello again – Bear here, a little sooner than I truly anticipated.  Seems I have a bit on my mind and not wanting to post l-o-n-g drawn out diatribes I find I may need to post a little more often.  But you know, we’ll play it by ear and see how it goes.  Things are a little bit of a whirlwind for me and mom right now and we’re trying to figure it all out and get a handle on it.

First, my apologies if you happen to see an ad on my blog page.  Mom is trying to work out the budget so she can dedicate as much as humanly (pun intended) possible toward my treatments.  She doesn’t see the point in paying for a so-called ‘premium blog site’ in order to eliminate the ads.  Please do your best to ignore the ads, unless of course, you see something you like and you want to follow it.  It’s kind of like when we head outside on the property for a quick bathroom break.  I’m walking around, looking for and smelling for a good place to go when all of a sudden – BUNNY!  I really don’t chase them, only take a few steps in their direction.  I’d really only sniff and play, but I get that they are a lot smaller than me and I may look like a predator to them.  I’m not sure about this whole “SQUIRREL” thing that’s been going around, we have bunnies out here by us.  But I digress.

Well, I started my chemo pills a few days ago, and so far, so good – no nausea.  We’ll keep an eye on that as I continue to take these chemo pills.  Mom has to wear gloves when handling this medication as it can react with her immune system, and she certainly doesn’t need that to happen. 

I have an appointment on Monday with the cardiologist for an ultrasound of my heart muscle.  Did you know that the heart is a muscle?  I did because my mom told me about it.  It needs exercise just like your other muscles.  My mom is a personal trainer and knows all about that stuff.  Oh yeah, the cardiologist – we’re going to see how well my heart muscle is functioning and if there is any fluid in the pericardium.  Do you know what that is?  It is the sac that encloses your heart muscle.  A buildup of fluid in the pericardium is not good as it can exert stress on the heart muscle.  We’re also checking for any unusual growth or mass on the heart muscle.  There wasn’t any detected when I had a preliminary ultrasound prior to my splenectomy but that scan was not done by a cardiologist.

Did I mention I had a splenectomy?  Well, I did.  This was a result of a mass that was discovered growing on my spleen.  The ultrasound that detected the mass was a result of mom taking me to the vet when I wasn’t feeling my best.  I was tired, somewhat lethargic, and she was worried.  You know, I’m not a young pup any more.  Anyway, we ended up having blood work done and my iron levels were low.  Since I wasn’t bleeding in my digestive tract, our vet suggested the ultrasound.  You have to give my mom credit, she followed me around with a ‘poop-stick’ so she could collect a sample.  She’ll do just about anything for me.  The specialty clinic I go to is about 90 minutes away, in Scottsdale, AZ, and mom has no problem driving me there whenever needed.  During our trips we’ve been listening (and singing) to the Springsteen channel on Sirius/XM as “The Boss” is mom’s favorite.  He’s my favorite too.  Mom mentioned we may start listening to his audio book, “Born to Run” – that sounds great, don’t you think?

Anyway, my spleen, along with the mass, was removed and multiple samples of tissue from my abdomen were taken to be tested.  The results were mixed, but not too good.  The mass on my spleen tested positive for cancer as did the spleen tissue. The liver tests were negative, which was some good news.  However, since the mass on my spleen showed signs of rupture, bleeding, and then healing, samples were taken of the omentum, the connective tissue that binds the organs in the abdomen. The bleeding was why my iron levels had dropped and I was feeling lethargic.  Unfortunately, those tests returned positive for cancer as well. What that means is that the cancer cells from the splenic mass have seeded in the abdomen and now have the ability to move further through my system.

Wow, that was a lot of information in one paragraph.  I hope it wasn’t overwhelming.  The official diagnosis is hemangiosarcoma, a tumor of blood vessels.  My breed can be prone to this type of cancer, bummer.  The prognosis is not the best either but I’m not going to dwell on that.  I’m going to make the best of my time and enjoy life.  My mom told me she would make sure I have the best life possible.  That’s a promise she made to me when she adopted me almost four years ago, from an Aussie Rescue group.  That’s what life is all about, right?

Talk to you soon.

 

Bear’s First Blog Entry

Hi everyone, my name is Bear and I’m an Australian Shepherd living in N. AZ / USA.  I’m brand new to this whole blog stuff.  Heck, I just created this blog site a few minutes ago.  It’s neat and I’m sort of proud of myself for being able to navigate through the process.  Then again, my breed is pretty smart.

I’ve heard my mom use the word ‘anthropomorphize’ when she was finishing up her school work and doing lots of academic papers.  She was chided by her instructors not to ‘anthropomorphize’ as she wrote about things that were not human.  It was tough for her to abide by this standard as my mom really, really loves me (and my cat brother and cat sister) and talks to me as if I understand.  Don’t let on, but I do understand, probably more than she realizes.  More about that later.

I’ve decided to start my own blog to help my mom.  You see, we recently got a diagnosis of cancer for me from a vet specialist and my mom is really struggling with her feelings.  I’ve heard her say that perhaps ‘ignorance is bliss’ and it’s probably good that I don’t know I have cancer; but, as I mentioned above, I really do understand a lot more than I let on.  I know she is concerned about me, she’s been crying lately and hugging me a little longer and a little tighter.  I’m not complaining about the hugs, but I’m worried about her and want to help her through this struggle.

I thought, perhaps, writing about it may help.  I’ve heard it said that writing out your thoughts sometimes helps.  And then there is the possibility that there may be someone out there who has been through this and can help me figure out how to help my mom.

I’m not afraid of what is to come.  I know my mom, and my dad, will be with me through anything and everything that happens in the future.  I hope we have a long future together and that we make lots of happy memories.

Anyway, that’s it as far as my introduction and the reason I’ve started this blog.  You probably won’t see me on here every day.  Right now, I’m thinking maybe once a week or as interesting things happen and I can’t resist sharing.