Sunday, March 29, 2015

A Happy Spring Weekend

It was a happy and fun spring weekend. Holly's healing up well. I'll post something real soon, but we are approaching 4 weeks post-radiation and she's got healthy pink new skin again. She had a good time this weekend just being a regular happy dog again :)

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Home, and Healing

Holly completed her last radiation treatment for cancer last Friday. It was a seriously emotional day for me. We got through the hard part...daily treatment away from home for nearly 4 weeks straight. But, did it work? Did it kill all those myxosarcoma cancer cells we knew had been left behind after surgery? Last Friday, I chose to believe that it did :)

Taken at WSU after receiving her last radiation treatment

Since then, my reality radar has kicked in, and I will have to have to come to terms with the emotional roller coaster ride the rest of this journey will be. Because this 'battle with cancer' journey is far from over.

It's impossible to know if radiation was effective in killing all the myxosarcoma cells. That is until it returns or metastasizes, then we'll know it wasn't. While the prognosis I got from the oncology veterinarian at WSU prior to beginning radiation was really good. However, there is very little actual hard data to rely on specific to this cancer type. They see so few myxosarcoma cases, and each one is so different from the other that you cannot statistically compare them against each other.

So, in comes the metronomic chemotherapy discussion, and I keep wavering back and forth on whether to put her on it. On one hand, what if radiation was truly successful? Won't I be treating her needlessly and risking side effects do to long-term low-dose chemo use? If radiation wasn't successful, I won't know it until it comes back. Once that happens, doing anything more might be too late.

I'm feeling like I'm damned if I do and damned if I don't on this. Thankfully, I have to wait until her radiation burn heals before doing anything more. So it will be at least another 2-3 weeks before I need to decide whether to start with metronomic chemotherapy, or not.

As for the radiation side effects...well...she was doing so awesome right up until the last 2 treatments. Thankfully, major pain didn't hit her until 2 days after we returned home. That was a week ago, and she's been profoundly lame and uncomfortable ever since. It's been hell on us both...trying to find the right combination to maximize her comfort and also keeping her from licking/scratching it.

I started out with her wearing a regular t-shirt, but she quickly learned how to just push up the sleeve to lick. So I switched to a long-sleeved shirt. But her skin is so raw that having the shirt touch it at all was getting too painful. Unfortunately, she has complete mental and physical paralysis while wearing a traditional cone, so I got her a inflatable neck collar instead.

It long as I am around to monitor her. She's a secret licker. She will never attempt to lick in my presence. She tries to hide in places around the house or in the yard where I can't see her to try and get her nose around that donut. So at times, she has to wear a shirt or the cone if I need to leave her alone for more than a few minutes at a time. The up side is that if I put the cone on her, I can pretty much guarantee that she won't leave the spot I put her in while wearing it...she'll be in the exact same place and exact same position when I get home. The downside is that I obviously can't leave her alone for very long while wearing the cone.

A radiation burn is no regular skin burn. And I'm shocked at how painful this is for her. She's on maximum doses of pain meds and anti-inflammatories, and it's still driving her bonkers. I've never seen her so uncomfortable, pretty much all the time, before. It causing her to limit her leg motion, and curl her body inwards toward the leg. The result is that she's causing muscle aches and pain all over the place, particularly in her neck and back. And the shoulder muscle that was radiated also hurts. We added a muscle relaxant and that has helped with relaxing the rest of her body aches. Next week we might add a second pain medication as well.

I'm also applying lots of skin ointment to keep the burn moist. As it heals it gets crusty and the itch drives her completely batty. Last night I got up to apply it 3 times because she woke me up whining...desperately wanting to lick it. It is healing though. It's just going to take several weeks to heal completely. I just need to be patient. Patience is something neither Holly nor me is particularly good at.

How it looked 6 days after the last radiation treatment

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Gettin' Healthy

Holly is officially retired from agility, while Danee is still in the beginning stages of her agility journey. These two girls have two very different body types, two totally different minds, and two very different needs for being healthy.

Holly is both poorly put together and very hard on her body.
My hiking buddy

Her physical conformation and her way of doing everything has lead to all kinds of injuries...eye, shoulder, iliospoas, knee, lower back, etc. But she loves to exercise both her body and her mind, so we do regular conditioning and balance exercises designed to keep her shoulders, back and hind end strong. We usually do these 2-3 times per week for 15-20 minutes per session. I take her every 3-4 months for chiro and acupuncture. We do a lot of hiking. It's the best form of exercise she could possibly get.

We have always played different kinds of games at home that work both her mind and her body. Agility was just one of those games.

All of these activities help to keep her body healthy enough to keep up with her mind.But staying healthy means something a little different to me today than it did a month ago. Holly was diagnosed with cancer in January. She had a tumor on her front leg removed that turned out to be a Myxosarcoma. Never heard of it? Few have,it's not a common form of soft tissue cancer.

Holly waiting for her radiation treatment last week

She is currently finishing month-long daily radiation treatments in the hope of killing the rest of the cancerous cells that couldn't be removed via surgery. Only time will tell if this works.

Danee, on the other hand, is pretty much the total opposite of Holly. She's fairly well put together and is generally thoughtful with her body.

My other hiking buddy
She doesn't bore easily and is perfectly happy to do the same thing over and over again. She's learning some new games, but loves the balance and conditioning stuff the most.

While both girls immediately loved the physical aspects of agility, Holly was born with confidence and a healthy mind, but Danee was not. It has been a two year journey get Danee's mind as healthy as her body. As a result, her agility journey has been an intentionally slow one. I work hard at keeping Holly physically healthy, and I have to work just as hard at keeping Danee mentally healthy.

I have two very different dogs with two very different health needs. What are your dogs physical and mental needs? Contribute to the conversation and read what other bloggers are doing at this months Dog Agility Bloggers Action Day.