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Jul 29 2012

The Journey So Far

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I decided to write two posts today.  This one will focus on the recovery and chemo experience to date.  I have posted many times in the forum, but felt like this information should be here in one place so that the full story is told here in the blog.  This really is a roller coaster, but I have to say that the highs have far outweighed the lows.  This is our experience so far:

It has been almost eight months since amputation.  We went through six rounds of IV Carboplatin and overall Zeus tolerated it well.  He threw up once after his first treatment and had a day of diarrhea, which prompted the vet to give him an injection of Cerena at each subsequent treatment.  That seemed to do the trick and we did not have further problems with those issues.

Each treatment brought increasing lethargy.  Chemo is definitely cumulative in its effects.  After treatments one and two, Zeus was lethargic the day of the treatment and for two additional days.  The literature states that the effects are usually seen three to five days after administration, but that was not the case with Zeus as his always started the same day as treatment.  After treatments three and four, the lethargy lasted for at least a week.  After treatment five he was very tired the entire time leading up to treatment six.  He seemed to feel especially bad a few days before the sixth treatment was due, but when we went for the sixth treatment the vet felt like he probably just had a bug that he was recovering from.  All of his bloodwork was fine so we proceeded with the last Carbo.  Unfortunately, Zeus caught pneumonia and had to spend a night in the hospital.  He was quite sick for a couple of weeks, but he bounced back fine.  I think it was likely caused by the fact that his immune system was already weakened from fighting whatever bug he had, then we heaped on the chemo treatment which dropped his WBC count (which is expected) and allowed that bug or possibly a new one to take root.  In hindsight, I would have either held off on the sixth treatment or not done it at all, but you know what they say about hindsight…

We found early on that Zeus’ system was very sensitive to the Carbo.  It is supposed to be administered every three weeks, but we had to go to a schedule of every four weeks because every time his WBC count was too low at the three week mark.  The vet also lowered the dose just a bit.

Even though he was lethargic, his quality of life was still good, so I do not regret doing chemo.  Also, Zeus had a met that was visible on the CT scan at the time of diagnosis that the vet said was small enough that it would not have shown on x-rays (see our very first blog post).  We did more x-rays at the time of his first chemo treatment and the met was a bit bigger (not huge, but big enough that it showed on the x-ray).  We did several sets of follow-up x-rays to see if the chemo was working or whether it needed to be adjusted.  Fortunately, as of the end of chemo 1.5 months ago, the spot was still just a single spot and did not appear to have grown since that first post-amp x-ray.  That is unusual, but wonderful.  I do worry now that he is done with chemo that the mets will grow and start to spread (in fact, my next post will be about my concern that spread has begun).

Two weeks after amp, we switched Zeus to a 1/2 kibble (Halo), 1/2 homecooked diet (the homecooked is a combination of Dr. Dressler’s cancer diet and Dr. Ogilvie’s diet – Dr. Olgivie is a vet at CSU that also has a recommended cancer diet.)  Dr. D and Dr. O have similar diet recipes but Dr. D uses fresh veggies/cottage cheese/turkey necks, etc for certain nutrients, whereas Dr. O’s diet appears to use supplements to replace these fresh foods.  We decided to do a combo using the meat portions of the diets and certain veggies recommended by Dr. D that we could keep on hand because you could use frozen veggies  (broccoli, cauliflower & brussel sprouts) but we replaced supplements for some of the fresh items that I knew I would have a hard time keeping on hand (cottage cheese/turkey necks).  Zeus LOVES his food.  I truly believe that the theories behind these diets (low carb so that you are not feeding the cancer) has played a huge part in how well Zeus has done.  The vet is always pleased that he has not seen evidence of the cancer cachexia that is expected.

Unfortunately, after completing IV chemo, we tried the MP chemo and Zeus did not tolerate it well.  The MP chemo is such low-dose that I’ve never heard of a dog that could not take it.  Apparently, Zeus is the exception to the rule.  It caused him great GI distress and he ended up with pancreatitis (which he has had twice before – he just has a VERY sensitive stomach).  After treatment for the pancreatitis, he seemed to bounce back for a really really good week but the last couple of days he seems to not feel so great (see my next post).   So, we have discontinued trying the MP treatment.  The vet mentioned that we could try maintenance doses of IV chemo, but we just don’t want to put him through more vet visits, pokes, etc.  So, now he just gets to be a dog.  I once read a post where someone said about their dog “it’s between him and God now” and that is where we are.

I hope we have many more months, or even years together.  The thought of ever being without him is unfathomable to me.  We will see where this journey takes us now.

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