Sunday, May 6, 2012

What a Difference a Day Makes!

If I didn't see it with my own eyes, feel it with my own hands, I wouldn't believe it. Tara woke up this morning (after a good night's sleep), and the tumors are smaller. I'm not crazy. Maybe I am crazy, but the lumps really ARE smaller. Some of the little ones are gone. The bigger ones that were about the size of a goose egg are smaller. They have maybe decreased by half. One dose of chemo, and the lumps are going away. I can't tell you how thrilled I am. I had to share right away since I know so many people are following her progress and sending prayers, vibes and healing thoughts her way. We feel all of that support, and are truly appreciative. It makes a huge difference.

I've tried to get photos, but it's hard with her long fluffy hair. The best I can do is show you this one from May 1st. She is eating a french fry after one of her vet appointments, and you can see a couple of lumps on the top of her head. That was five days ago, and they were just getting larger every day.


Here is a picture of her this morning. Can you see the lumps? Nope! They are so small that you can't tell they're there unless you feel her head. She looks a little grumpy in the photo, but that's just because I've been following her all around and rubbing her all over, keeping her from getting her morning nap.

Tara 5-6-2012 One day after first chemo
She is tolerating the chemo really well, slept great, and had a hearty breakfast. One of the lumps in her mouth was bleeding quite a bit yesterday whenever she would lay on her right side, so her "hearty breakfast" was all soft foods, but she enjoyed it just the same.

I don't have any false expectations, and know that each week she will get a different chemo drug, and she may have side effects. Her best case prognosis is 18 months, but they will be 18 quality months. It would have been a few weeks, at the most, without chemo, and I have to believe they would have been rough weeks for her. Right now, every day with her is a blessing.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Too Numerous To Count

This past week feels like it has been at least a month long. This past month seems like a year, or a decade. I feel like I have been walking through a fog, with occasional episodes of a reality so freaking unreal. I've got to tell you, the fog is looking pretty good right about now.

Four days ago we got the detailed report on Tara's tumor. You know, the ONE tumor she had on April 9th. The ONE tumor that was removed on April 10th. The ONE tumor that, one week later was joined by six others. The six tumors, that just one more week later were joined by 20+ others. And then this morning, I found out that if there are more than 50 tumors on your dog, the doctor lists it as "too numerous to count." Yes, indeedy.

Two days ago we saw an Oncologist in Malvern, PA. Wonderful facility, but they kindly said that they don't take cases as extensive as Tara's, and referred us to Red Bank Veterinary Hospital in Tinton Falls, NJ. That same day we took Tara to an Holistic vet. Somebody asked me what holistic is, and I don't know what the official definition is, and I'm too tired to make the effort to link to wikipedia, but it's all natural remedies, with herbs, massage, acupuncture, and stuff like that. I learned a lot about the body and blood, and got some really good suggestions on changes to make to their dog food recipe. I also got a couple of supplements to aid in digestion and restore energy. The holistic vet also highly recommended Red Bank Veterinary Hospital. Her exact words were, "run, don't walk, to an oncologist." Not something you want to hear.

That brings us to this morning. We left at 7:00am for our 9:40am appointment with the head of Oncology at Red Bank Veterinary Hospital. (By the way, if anyone is keeping track, that's seven visits to four different vet offices in 4 weeks.)


 I have to tell you that I was immediately impressed with the facility. Bright, airy, immaculate, well thought out. You have got to go to the link above and click on "virtual tour." Really, really impressive. Every staff member I dealt with was kind and compassionate, even though I had been up all night (and looked it) and couldn't stop crying from the moment I got there. There was something so very final about this appointment. This was our last hope, and it is incredibly terrifying to take your sweet little girl through this door:


The doctor was so good with Tara, and kindly did not comment on the fact that I was a blubbering idiot. He was incredibly calming, he took his time with us, and answered every question. Even the stupid ones. In a nutshell, we learned that Tara's cancer is atypical. Lymphomas usually appear in the lymph nodes (around the neck, in the groin area, etc.) and then go to the internal organs. Tara's cancer is sub-cutaneous, under the skin, and is over her whole body, but ONLY directly under the skin. No organ involvement. That's a good thing. It is also extremely aggressive. Remember the "too numerous to count" comment? That's a bad thing.

Typical lymphomas have a 75-80% remission rate after chemo. That's good. With Tara, he said all bets are off, and would estimate a 50-50 chance of remission. That's either good or bad, depending on the whole is the glass half full or half empty kind of thing. Apparently dogs have only about 10-15% chance of having side effects from the chemo, as opposed to 90% chance in humans. If this was a typical lymphoma, we could expect an 80% reduction in the lumps in the first week. Again, Tara is not typical, so no guarantees.

With all that in mind, we elected to begin chemo. With such a low chance of side effects, we had to go for the 50-50 chance. She goes back next Saturday to be evaluated, have more blood work done, and round two of chemo.

It is wrong for me to hope that since the tumors appeared so quickly, they might leave just as quickly? Maybe I'm not hopeful. Maybe it's wishful. More than likely it's delusional, but let me have my little fantasy, OK?

In the meantime, I am sitting here watching her.  Watching, watching, watching.


Is she breathing too fast? Too slow? Does she look thirsty? When did she pee last? Are those lumps any smaller yet? Less numerous???

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Burgers and Fries!

Thanks to everyone for your kind and supportive comments to yesterday's post. Tara would really appreciate them, if she could read. Now the hugs and belly scratches from everyone...that's a language she understands. She says keep them coming! I appreciate the good thoughts, healing vibes and prayers, too.

Tara had a fun time at the vet today. She got to visit all the the vet techs, she saw her nanny, and she even got a massage from Dr. Bill. Truth be told, he was just checking out how many lumps have popped up the the last 7 days, but Tara thought it was a massage, so we're sticking with that. The decision was made not to remove any of the lumps. There is no reason to put her through another surgery at this point. Dr. Bill just did a needle biopsy of some of the larger lumps, took some X-rays, and then came back in the room with some choice expletives. Gotta love him.

Tara didn't care. She got to see her friends at the office, and then she got burgers and fries on the way home. The burgers she saved to share with her brother and sister at home, but the fries? Nope. She ate them right down.

Watch those fingers, mommy!


Emma and Cooper were not pleased that Tara got to go for a ride without them, but all was forgiven when she came back smelling like the Vee-Eee-Tee. The burgers she brought home helped, too.

What's next? In addition to the holistic vet appointment on Thursday afternoon, we have a 9am appointment with an oncologist in Malvern, PA. Unfortunately, we already know where that facility is. We took sweet Mellie there in 2007.

Oncology and Holistic in the same day? Sounds like we don't know what we are doing and are trying to cover all bases, doesn't it?

That's just about right.