Thursday, February 26, 2015

Beyond Halfway

Tuesday we reached the halfway point of Holly’s treatments. We still have treatments every day the rest of this week and next. Until yesterday, her energy level remained fairly normal, aside from a little travel fatigue. But yesterday she crashed and pretty much slept all day. I suspect this will be more the norm for her until radiation treatments are over. So I'm really glad that we got out as often to hike and walk in some beautiful places. I wanted to make some happy memories. I don't want to look back and only remember the daily radiation visits to the veterinary hospital. 

So while she had the energy, we went exploring...

The top of Kamiak Butte

Ridge line running at Kamiak Butte

Who knew agricultural fields could be so pretty

She will pose anywhere for the promise of a cookie

Ski trails at Kamiak Butte

Phillips Farm Park

On the weekends we are at home and we do much of the same...

Fortunately, I don't think the actually tore her left CCL on our hike 2 weekends ago. Since then, I've been preventing her from jumping anywhere and have lifted her where needed instead (hence why she's wearing her lifting harness a lot in the photos). That seems to have helped because she hasn't favored it much since. Fingers crossed that it will continue to heal itself.

But now that we are 6 treatments away from being done with radiation, she is doing mostly this...

She still feels good, but she tires more easily. I can't wait for this chapter to be done in our life. Next week I learn more about the next chapter...monitoring and possibly metronomic chemotherapy.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Are you freaking kidding me?!

Just when you think things couldn't get any worse with your know, the one you are trying to save from cancer...she goes and injures her knee too. She probably tore her CCL.

That was her last good much for that.

Sigh. Oh well. At this point in her life, with more life threatening things going on, I've decided not to do anything about it. I know she should rest, but walking, hiking and running through the forest is what keeps her sane...especially now when she's going through several rough weeks of radiation treatments and living in a boring motel room.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

3 Down, 15 To Go

Last week, Holly started daily radiation treatment for her cancer. Treatments are every weekday for 3.5 weeks. Last week was the 0.5 portion...just Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. This week is the first long one...every week day.

When I decided to try this treatment, I was worried it was the wrong decision for her...that she would find the treatment miserable...that going to the veterinary teaching hospital every damn day for three and a half weeks, would be too hard for her...that living out of a motel room during the week and traveling home on weekends would be frustrating for her.

When I finally stopped all my worrying and fretting, I realized that all of this will be much harder on me, than it will be on her. And last week she reminded me of how well adjusted and well rounded she is :)

The daily treatments are extremely low stress, and so far they seem easier for her than getting her blood drawn. I won't say she enjoys it or even going to the hospital each day, but she is handling it very, very well so far.

Motels...she's totally cool with them. She's always been very relaxed when we travel away from home, for whatever reason. She loves going to new places and getting to pee on new things...she's a marker and revels in peeing her way around a park or neighborhood.

My stress level has been a little different. But after doing the first 3 days and seeing how relatively easy it was for her, I've been feeling better. It helped that I found a really nice city park we can walk to right from the motel in the mornings...

...and two large county parks we can hike at in the evenings. I'll get some pictures of those this week. Hiking...we both need our regular fix to stay sane.

I'm still working during all this, so last week Holly and I had a "business lunch" together after her treatment. The burger was hers...she had to share the fries ;)

We'll see how this week goes. I can only think as far as Friday...we just need to get through the week together and stay sane!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Dreaded C Word

During the first week of January, I noticed a hard lump on Holly's front right leg. It was new. So new that it wasn't there a week prior when I gave her a bath and groom. I watched it for a day or two, but didn't like how it wasn't painful, but it was odd shaped and hard. I called my vet didn't like the looks of it either. So, in addition to the acu and chiro she got that day, she got a full exam, full blood workup and had a needle aspirate of the mass. She looked and felt great, bloodwork was beautiful, but the cells from the mass were indicative of a sarcoma.

We scheduled a surgical removal of the mass with the plan to take 3cm margins and to send in the mass to find out what kind of tissue it was. When my vet called with the results of the surgery, my heart sunk. The mass she removed was unusual looking and it had dozens of tendrils reaching down into her her bicep muscle. They couldn't be removed. Holly recovered from the surgery just fine...she was all ready to go for a 10-mile hike the next day...but I was a wreck waiting for the results of the tissue biopsy. Four days can be a really, really long time to wait.

The results were bad. Really bad. The tissue was called a Myxosarcoma. It's a rare soft tissue sarcoma that can be very aggressive and grow very, very quickly, especially after being excised via surgery.

Aggressive. Rare. Cancer. Shit.

My vet consulted with the vet that runs the oncology unit at Washington State University's Veterinary Teaching Hospital and 2 weeks after surgery I drove there for a full consultation for Holly. The news they gave me wasn't what I wanted to hear, and I was pretty unprepared to hear it. They don't see many cases of Myxosarcoma. They called it rare. So rare that they couldn't give me any meaningful statistics on prognosis. The good news was that the CT Scan didn't show any obvious signs that the cancer had spread elsewhere. We caught it early enough that was still localized to her leg. The initial mass was removed, but given that those tendrils could not be removed, we know that there are still cancerous cells that were left behind.

They gave me 2 options for treatment. First, treating her with localized radiation at the site of the initial mass...18 treatments in 24 days. I'll talk about this one in a second. The second option was the "do nothing" approach...metronomic chemotherapy, which is daily pills given at home, and then we cross our fingers that it will slow the cell growth down enough to prevent it from creating it's own blood supply again. The problem with this approach is that considering how fast the initial mass grew on her, it may not work for very will still grow and spread, most likely to her lungs first. The liklihood she would make it past 3-6 months was probably slim.

The good news is that she is a great candidate for the first approach to work...localized radiation. She's healthy, very fit, has excellent bloodwork, the mass was localized and only a Grade 1. Radiation treatment could work to put her into remission for at least a year, possibly longer. The drawback is a logistic biggie...she would need to get daily radiation for 3.5 weeks, except on weekends, at WSU, 4.5 hours away from home. How the hell could I possibly pull that off? And I haven't even mentioned the cost.

But they were offering me a huge amount of hope for her. And not just pointless the-glass-is-half-full optimism or false hope...real, genuine, this-can-work hope. How could I be offered a really solid chance at remission and not take it? (I will not say "cure" because until there is one, that's a full-of-crap word). I knew that if I didn't try, I would lose her in a very short time and then beat myself up over it for years afterwards.

But how? After lots of crying and talking to some great friends, I was starting to realize that I might be able to actually pull it off. It took A LOT of planning and asking for help. I'm not too stubborn or proud to ask for help when I need it...and thankfully I have some really, really amazing friends that offered it. And not just offered, they stepped up and helped me grab this shit with both hands.

I don't trust anyone to determine if the treatment would make Holly miserable, so I could not just drop her off at the huge veterinary teaching hospital for 3.5 weeks. That meant I had to be over there during the week, so I got permission to work remotely during the week days. A friend is taking care of Danee (Little Dog just loves her Auntie Kim!), other awesome friends are caring for my house and kitties, and I found a super cheap extended stay motel.

And there you have it...hope for Holly. She has a hell of a team in her corner, and I'm grateful to say, so do I.

I thought I couldn't be anymore lucky to have been given this chance for Holly from my friends..from my extended family. And then they took it up a notch.

A long time agility friend has an awesome dog collar business on Esty called Freya's Studio. She makes beautiful collars and gorgeous collar bling. Holly and Danee rock their beauty daily...

Bree is amazing. When she heard about Holly's cancer, she offered to donate a whole weeks work of collar sales to the cost of treatment. Wow. Just, wow. friend Tonya created a You Caring site to allow a way for anyone who wants to donate to Holly's treatment expenses.

There are no words to express how grateful I feel towards these ladies, and those all those that have chosen to donate to Holly and me. Seriously, I'm crying writing this.

I don't know what the future holds for Holly. But Team Holly is working towards making sure it's a good one. I will try to post weekly or more on how her treatments go, and of our adventures in Pullman, WA. Wish us luck.

October Agility and a Super Speedy Quick Update

It's been awhile...again. But before I talk about the most recent news, I thought I would do a brief update since September.

In October, the girls and I played at our local agility trial. This was Little Dog's first time in Novice, but I kept her in Intro for Regular since she wasn't ready to test her weaving skills at a trial yet. What a fun weekend it was. I had only planned on spending one day there, but I had so much fun at the clubs new trial location that I went back for more the next day. It was a great new arena in a beautiful location. I truly hope that all future Glacier Chasers trial will be held in this gorgeous spot.

Holly and I had some great runs, and some happy train wrecks. I am truly thankful for each and every run we had together that weekend.

Danee continued to surprise me with her confidence and enthusiasm with this game. All weekend she was the happy little forest sprite she is when we play at home.

Photo by Joe Fisher, thanks Joe!

We spent the rest of the fall hiking nearly every day...

We got a massive cold snap in November that had all the animals searching for the best warm spot in the house...

My sister and her dogs visited for Christmas and we had a great time together. The dogs even got US a gift...they made us Paw Print Paintings.


The last few months of 2014 were great. We spent tons of time outside, got in lots of hikes and generally life was good :)