Tuesday, October 23, 2012
I wasn't going to write about this, but the more time it takes me to digest the news, the more I feel like I just want to share what's going on. I tweeted about it, and have almost said something on Facebook, but just can't. I have a weird relationship with Facebook, but my blog! I have my blog to write about whatever I want to, so here I go. Dakota's lymphoma is back, and it's aggressive.
Many of you might remember our dog Dakota getting a lymphoma diagnosis this time last year. You've been there with us as he's responded well to the prednisone, and we've had all this stolen time together.
Two weeks ago, Dakota stopped eating his food. At first, it seemed like he was just being picky. He'd not be interested in it at all initially, but then an hour late he'd scarf it down like he was starving. Then it started progressing to where he'd miss entire meals, and it wasn't getting better. On Wednesday, we took him in and the vet diagnosed him with colitis and anemia, and he'd lost 7 lbs since July. We had caught him going to town on some mushrooms outside after the rains, before we could get rid of them, so it made sense. His red blood cells were low, too, so we bought him all this special canned food and put him on antibiotics and de-wormers and probiotics to treat him. We were asked to bring him in on Friday for a follow-up. He was at least eating the canned food, but had terrible diarrhea, which the vet said should not be a side effect of his meds. If anything the meds should be preventing diarrhea. They note that his red blood cell count has only improved by one point, and ask us to come in again for a follow-up on Sunday to measure it again. By Sunday, he is not eating at all anymore. Not even the canned food. The Chief of Staff at the vet does another physical and notices that his spleen is enlarged and now he feels a mass. We are referred back to the Central TX Specialty Hospital vet who had diagnosed him with lymphoma this time last year, for an ultrasound and diagnosis.
We got him in for his ultrasound yesterday and the news was what we suspected. It was a miracle that the 6 months he was on heavy prednisone actually killed back all his previous lymphoma in his brain, eyes and liver... A miracle! Yet sadly, he now has a large amount of lymph nodes in his liver and spleen and the only treatment that will be effective at this point is chemo-therapy.
Now, if you had ever asked me prior to yesterday if I'd consider chemo-therapy for a pet, I'd have said: No way. However, the vet explained to us that it doesn't usually make the pet sick as it does with humans, because the goal isn't to kill the cancer, it can't be cured; but just to kill it back enough to make the pet feel better and give them a little more time. She told us that if it were her dog, she would do it. And, not only would it make him feel better, but if it doesn't work, or the cancer cells are unresponsive (this happens once the pet has already been treated with prednisone, as he was), we can stop at any time.
We needed no further convincing, we had him injected with his first chemo-therapy treatment and will be taking him in weekly for chemo for about 8 weeks initially, then once a month. She said that it usually extends life about 6 months to a year, but that a year for him is not realistic. He is also back on prednisone, for the initial part of the chemo.
We are doing surprisingly well. The truth is, we were told that he was going to die this time last year, and we spent months watching him on the prednisone, and preparing ourselves to lose him. His recovery was in one short word: miraculous. The fact that he has cancer again is just not surprising. And, he just isn't ready to die. He still wants to play, and go on car rides, and take walks. So, we will do this for him, until the chemo no longer makes him feel better. We have promised to Dakota that we will do right by him, and when he's ready to go, we'll let him.
That all being said. It really really still sucks. I know in my heart that I am so very lucky to have had this year with him, and that we are in a position financially that we can put other things on hold and make this work. But knowing his time is limited, and knowing that these really are his last days/months, still sucks all around. I go through waves where I am just angry. I want to shout at people who are inconveniencing me, MY DOG HAS CANCER AND IS GOING THROUGH CHEMO, FUCK OFF. I want to have a healthy attitude about all of this, focus on just being grateful, but I am still human, and it hurts. I worry about where we should have him put to sleep when the time comes, will it be at the vet or here at home; what will Tex do without him? Dakota is my first dog (I grew up with cats, a ferret, a hamster and some fish, but never had a dog), and the reason why I became so active in dog rescue. He has taught me just how amazing dogs are, they don't hold grudges, or have the capacity to cheat or be cruel, they just move on and live in the moment and love you unconditionally.
I am greedy. We have had this extra year, and yet at 10 years old, the journey together still feels too short. He is my best buddy, and no matter how much we prepare, losing him is really going to hurt.