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


Laura and The Corgi, Toller, & Duck said...

So glad that part is done!!! Now we all just hope and pray with you.

Mike Williams said...

Oh Holly it does look painful. Hope it heals and you can pull out of this. Hugs.

KB Bear said...

I'm very glad that part is done. I remember K's radiation burn, and I also remembered that our oncologist had us put aquaphor on it to help. Just a random detail...

If it's any help, I did two different kinds of metronomic chemo with K, and I didn't see any side effects. We were warned that some were possible but they were all reversible by stopping the meds.

I hope that Holly's burn feels better soon!