Sunday, July 12, 2015

Annual Trek to a Lookout

As part of my plan to do something special with just Holly once a week, her and I made our annual trek to one of the Lookouts on the National Forest rental system. This is the Webb Mountain fire Lookout on the Kootenai National Forest. The lookout is perched at 5,988 feet atop its namesake mountain. Built in 1959 it was used as an observation point for fighting forest fires for over 40 years. Now many of these Lookouts have been decommissioned and are available to rent by anyone who can get there. You can drive to this one if you have a high clearance vehicle, but several others are hike in only.

I have been trying to rent this particular lookout for several years, but you have to book very, very early and I kept missing that window. I finally got lucky this year and got the last open day that was available for the entire summer.

I was a little wary on how much fun we would have because June weather had been Arizona-like...disgustingly hot (high 90's) and incredibly dry. But it ended up only in the high 80's, and by the time we got to the top of the mountain the temperature had dropped a whole 20 degrees.

It was cloudy, hazy and the air was filled with smoke from forest fires in Canada, but the view was pretty none-the-less.

Holly and I explored the mountainside...she hunted for ground squirrels while I hunted for huckleberries. Neither of us were particularly successful.

 The night got cool enough that I decided a fire in the stove was needed. It stormed in the distance all night and finally brought us some much needed rain by the morning. It was a lovely night and I am looking forward to our visit to different tower later this summer.

Thursday, July 9, 2015


It took me awhile to write this post, because I haven't wanted to put it in writing and make it real. In fact, I haven't even looked at the blog in weeks because I couldn't deal with how sad it made me.

Holly's cancer has returned. It took less than 4 months for it to grow back post radiation treatment. I am beyond devastated.

A little over 2 weeks ago I noticed another hard lump on Holly's leg, just below where the last one was. I had been working to shed out her coat and had been brushing her every other day. The lump was not there when I brushed her 2 days prior. I immediately began discussions with her vets. It's a long story, with many emails and conversations between us, but ultimately we chose not to disturb the tumor again. Myxosarcoma's are already aggressive growers, and every time you disturb them they become even more aggressive in their growth. An aspirate or biopsy is disturbing it, so we chose to leave it alone.  Granted, because of this we cannot be 100% sure that it's a myxosarcoma...but, then again, given the location, history, and that it looks and feels exactly like the last one, what the hell else could it be? Both her oncology vet and regular vet agree there are very, very, very few other possibilities.

Knowing whether it is a myxosarcoma or a benign cyst doesn't change treatment options anyways. The oncology vet gave us 2 treatment options. The first being the metronomic chemotherapy that I chose to not do earlier this year. The second was injecting the tumor with a chemo drug and adding en electrical current...her regular vet can not do this and we would have to make multiple trips back to WSU for treatment. The third option was a more traditional intravenous chemotherapy treatment that had serious potential side effects that I did not want her to go through.

The second and third treatments are far more invasive and intense than I am willing to put her through again, especially since I do not believe this cancer can be cured anymore. The radiation treatment was intense enough. And I chose the radiation treatment when the cancer first showed up because we believed we had a good chance at eliminating it. If this "Gold Standard" treatment didn't work to cure it, then these won't either. They will only buy her a little more time. Time that I would rather spend doing fun happy things with her, and not getting treatment or recovering from treatments.

So this weekend she will begin metronomic chemotherapy that she will take daily, for the rest of her life. No one can give us a time frame on how long that will be. The metronomic chemotherapy could do absolutely nothing and we could only have a few pain free weeks left before the tumor grows so large that it totally debilitates her, or it outgrows it's blood supply and becomes necrotic. And it IS growing fast. It's larger now that it was just 2 weeks ago. That's the nature of myxosarcoma's. Or, the chemo drugs could really slow the tumors growth down so that we have months, possibly even a year, before all that happens. We have no way to predict, or even guess, how this will go.

I am glad that I have been treating this as our last summer together since she healed from the radiation. We had a lot of fun, have done a lot of her favorite things, and I've been doing one special thing a week...just me and her. And I am planning more of the same for as long as she enjoys doing them. We hiked to a few new places, swam in a few new ponds, rented a retired fire lookout and enjoyed a night on top of a mountain. At the end of the month I'm taking her on a road trip to get some professional photographs taken of her and visit the Beartooth mountain range. I'm also looking around for someone to video all of her many tricks and skills and create a nice compilation for me.

I am heartbroken that our journey together will be over too soon. She's been with me less than 6 years. It's not nearly long enough.