Used to be a ‘new’ Jersey Girl   : now A Colorado Girl

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Tilting with Frequent Flyer Miles

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Double Dragons

My little world tilted on its axis big time last Saturday. Rick and I were sitting outside on the deck BBQing when Alex walked up and wanted to be petted. I threw my arms around his neck like I've don a zillion and two times and gave him a bit sloppy kiss on the top of his head. And that's when my world wobbled. I felt big swellings under his neck. My heart just sunk to my feet because I've been there before with our dog Sailor. I looked at Rick and I know my face must have shown all the agony I was feeling. A quick check of other lymph nodes gave us the rest of the picture. Alex must have lymphoma. Damn. Where did that come from all of a sudden?

I took him in to our vet as soon as I could on Monday and after drawing a small sample from two different lymph nodes, the vet was pretty sure we really were dealing with cancer. Not that I didn't already know that in my heart. 

The particular vet that I saw was not my preferred vet of choice in our clinic, but she is good. She loves Alex and thinks he's a sweet boy who is exemplary of the breed. She told me she is an advocate of positive thinking and I should be thinking that he is going to beat this instead of the other way around. It's hard to envision since the last time we faced lymphoma in a dog it did not go well. She said Alex has a stash of "frequent flyer miles" he hasn't used up yet. He certainly beat the odds last year in March when he had his spleen removed and it was cancer. At that time they had given him 8 months before a recurrence of the cancer.

Without waiting for pathology report to come back positive for lymphoma I went ahead and scheduled an appointment for Alex at the specialty vet for Friday, which given the holiday week was the best that I could manage. And, not the same place I had taken Sailor for treatment. That particular ER/Specialty vet is a toxic environment. We have never had a positive experience any time we have taken our dogs there. The oncology vet that practices there must have been a former enemy of mine in another lifetime and we were destined to act it all out again in this one. She hated me on first sight.

Another vet that works there and mostly for emergency situations is also not a fan of mine. I took our dog Bode in who happened to have a fast spreading cancer. He told me my dog was basically dying when two days prior to that I had no idea he was sick. And Bode was very sick. They took samples and he said he'd call with the result. Bode was still alive and doing "ok" a week later and I still had not heard back about the biopsies. When I called the vet got on the phone with me and said (his words) "I didn't call because I thought that dog would be dead by now." Thanks, #######. 

ANYWAY … we took Alex to the same ER/specialty vet in Paramus, NJ  that saw him through his spleen surgery last year, only this time we saw the oncologist, Dr. Dennis Bailey. I read his resume on line and it looked good including that fact that he had two cats named Laverne & Shirley. He was very blunt and to the point and explained everything to us. He was a little worried given Alex's history with his spleen cancer and wanted to do a barrage of tests to make sure we were treating him correctly. He wanted us to leave him for the day. If he passed his screenings for lung, heart, kidney, liver and any other type of cancer infiltration into those body organs then they would go ahead and take a bone marrow sample and yet another lymph node sample to be sure it was lymphoma and not another form of histocytic cancer that can mimic lymphoma. He said he would call if they found anything  that would alter our course.

We left the poor dog and came home. Every hour that went by I began to feel better and better. This is the time when you don't want the phone to ring because it would most likely be bearing bad news. When Dr. Bailey finally called us at 3:30 p.m. he had good news for us. Alex had been x-rayed, ultra sounded, urine tested, bone marrow tested and had passed with flying colors!! Hurrah! We still won't know on the lymph biopsy until next week, but he said that given what they saw on ultrasound (or what they didn't see) led him to believe that this cancer is totally unrelated to what he had last year. You go Al! If the biopsy shows something other than lymphoma, all that means is a different course of treatment.

With the barrage of testing done and out of the way, they gave Alex his first chemotherapy treatment, which he will undergo every week. They don't use the same drugs every time and according to the statistics, 80% of dogs respond favorably. Too bad Sailor was not in that percentile. Hopefully Alex still has enough frequent flyer miles stored up to beat this this thing, if only for a while. We can only try.

Might I just add that this treatment protocol is hideously expensive and that new carpeting we were going to put in this year is not going to happen. You might think we are crazy, but our dogs are our children. Alex has way too much life left inside him to just let him slip away without trying. It's the least we can do after all the joy he has given us over the years. He's our Boo-Dog. 

He's pretty much exhausted from his trials of yesterday and maybe a little bit high on the prednisone that we started today, but we can already feel the swelling receding a little. Whether it's the swelling around the nodes or the nodes themselves we don't know. But there is a difference. When I put my hands on him I can feel the heat rising from the node areas. His body is working really hard to fight and we applaud him. 

So, that's my little curve ball.

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Alex in May

On the flip side of my world is something equally as disturbing. I know I've mentioned Donna and Larry before on this blog. They are our friends that live year-round up where we have our cabin and we pay them to look in on our place every few weeks or so. Larry had a bad heart attack a few months back and with that had also suffered kidney failure and one lung collapsed. He was on and off of dialysis and the last we heard he was in therapy but not bouncing back as quickly as they hoped.

He died on July 1st. The bizarre thing is that on that night, I had a dream that he had died. Completely out of the blue, and a very disturbing dream. I told Rick about it the next morning. I didn't really think too much about it as I have strange dreams all at the time. When I heard on the 4th of July of his passing, I completely freaked out. I still am freaked out. Just too weird. He will be greatly missed.


I’m so sorry about your friend Larry.  ‘Psychic’ dreams (if you want to call them that) are pretty weird - I had one when I lived in NYC.  How and why they happen is a good question.  Strictly coincidence??  Possibly but strange to have on the very night that he passed away.  And the fact that they happen frequently makes you wonder.

So happy that the news on Al is so positive.  The Dr. is right - positive vibes are definitely what he needs right now.  Sending them to all of you now!

So glad it was good news for Al.  Hoping the rest of the test results come back equally as positive!

Thanks C! We’ll take all the positive vibes we can get!

Kathy, thank you!

Sending all my extra frequent flyer points over towards Alex. I hope your world rights itself soon.

Susan, thank you! We’ll collect all the miles in an envelope!

I’m so sorry to hear about the challenges facing Alex! The poor guy! I hope all goes well and the treatments are effective.

Sorry also about Larry. That must be shocking news.

Steve, Alex IS responding the the treatments and at this point is in partial remission. Thank for caring! We are hopeful he can beat this thing.

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