Like a boss

I can’t believe it’s been so long since I last posted.  But so much has happened, as predicted.  And more.  But that’s not what this post is about.  I got my renewal notice for supporting the Tripawds blog and realized that day after tomorrow is Dieter’s one year ampuversary!  Wow.  He has been on such a long journey (I hate that word, but it’s appropo).  And you know what?  He’s beating it like a BOSS.

We have been so lucky to be in Utah.  There is an amazing vet center, with amazing doctors (and staff!) who have really brought the latest in cancer care science and rehabilitation to the forefront of their practice.  I drive 30 minutes to see them and have no trouble doing it.  I’ve recommended them on the blogs, so if you’re in Utah, you’re in luck.

Interestingly, I wrote a post a long time ago about the importance of rehabilitation.  At the time, I had not started Dieter on rehab, but had been convinced by others that it was worthwhile.  I can now say that Dieter’s current state of health (mental and physical) is significantly improved through rehabilitation.  I can’t stress it enough; if you have access, do it.  You will be amazed at what your dog can do with help.  In addition to rehab, his vet recommended a change in diet, weight loss (he’s lost 14 lbs), and some ongoing medication that will help protect his joints (Adequan and meloxicam).  She’s run a barrage of tests on him over the last few months, and his chest x-rays have been completely clear so far.

The last post I wrote before this was was about the ups and downs, and the down I was referring to was the sobering conversation about average life expectancies for dogs with osteosarcoma.  Jim and Rene responded to that post by reminding me that each dog is different and that the averages are just averages.  In looking back, I realize that there was no way to know, at that time, whether or not Dieter would fall into that average.

About a month ago, Dieter finished his rehab, and he had a general review check-in with his vet.  She told me that she had never seen such a strong three-legged dog before, and that Dieter had responded to therapy extremely well.  Of course, the therapists are all ladies, so Dieter was happy to do whatever they wanted him to do, ha!  I was very pleased to hear that Dieter could now basically do anything he wanted, from a physical standpoint.  I asked the vet what else I could do, aside from what I was already doing, to help him.   She said nothing, that I was a model dog mom in this situation.  Again, I was pleased.  Then she got quiet.  One of the things I like most about Dieter’s (and now Otto’s) vet is that she’s a straight shooter.  She’s quick, to-the-point yet personable, and operates from an evidence-based perspective.  She is a CSU graduate and keeps in regular contact with them to keep up on the latest.

But her going quiet made me anxious.  Then she said, “You know what?  I think he can beat it.  His systems are all super healthy, his images are clear, he shows no signs of cancer or evidence that he’s fighting anything, and there are a bunch of things we can do to avoid factors that have known associations with osteosarcoma. [apparently certain vaccinations?]  He’s on the right diet, and is physically and mentally very healthy.  I think we have a success story on our hands.”  I was shocked.  I asked her if she’d had other patients who had beat it, and she listed off a short list, most of whom had osteosarcoma, and one dog that had lymphatic cancer.  All lived out full and healthy lives.  I just couldn’t believe it.  But she’s no BS-er; she would not have said anything if she didn’t believe it.  I asked her if she was serious about 10 times, and she said yes every time.  As with Jim and Rene, she reminded me that every dog is different, and Dieter has a good combination of things going for him.

I probably won’t ever clear the cobweb of anxious possibility from the corners of my mind, but in that moment I realized that I’d been approaching life with Dieter as a short-term proposition, waiting for the other shoe to drop.  It started to dawn on me that there was a real possibility that he would be around for a while.  I honestly can’t remember something giving me as much joy as that realization.

Here’s a recent picture of my beautiful, healthy boy, enjoying the grass in Utah.  Like a BOSS.  😀

Dieter 9-14

Ups and Downs

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve posted, and it’s because school had been taking up all my time.  I’m finished now, and things are slowing down a bit, which is nice.  Some of the big things on our plates have dropped off.  Today is a day of ups and downs and as this blog is my means for getting some of this stuff out of my system, here goes.

Ups:  Dieter is done with chemo, and his first chest x-rays post chemo are clear.  Confirmation will come from the radiologist later this afternoon, but his primary oncologist said everything looked great.  He can go back on salmon oil and glucosamine chondroitin for his joints.  He is doing so well.  He can still only take short walks, but he loves those walks and going out and about.  I took him to Lowe’s with me a couple of weeks ago and he loved it.  They also loved him, of course.  He plays hard and has fun with his buddies in Phoenix more often now, as I’m able to go up more often.  For him, life is good.

Downs:  There’s really only one down.  And it’s really not for him, it’s for me, and for that I’m thankful.  I asked his oncologist today what to expect in terms of average life expectancy at this point, given that his lungs are clear now.  She said that on average, the lungs start to show the cancer about a year after the initial diagnosis, and then with low-dose chemo, to only expect another 6 months.  Now, I know there are other things I can do, and as a researcher, I will look into stuff pretty thoroughly, but it’s still a sobering conversation.  I’m not sure I was prepared for it, to be honest.  There are still so many other things going on (moving, graduating, a conference coming up) and he’s just so normal and happy, that it’s hard to take in.

I’m glad we’re moving somewhere where D can experience some fun stuff.  He’ll have his own backyard, with grass (we’re all ready to leave rocky, sandy AZ), snow to play in, lakes to swim in.  I’m hoping to be able to bring him into work with me some days, and if I can’t, it’s ok, I’m just a 2 minute drive from campus.  Until then, the answer is no, you can’t have too many bones.  Haha.


Week 0 or, how much can you handle?


If you haven’t read the “About” section, you need to know one thing for now.  This blog is not for my dog, this blog is for me.  It’s *about* my dog, but *for* me.  One week ago, I was happily at home with my two dogs (Otto and Dieter), doing our normal Sunday night thing — barking at whatever they think they see outside (in the case of the dogs), and watching The Walking Dead (in the case of the human).  Dieter had been limping for a couple of weeks, but he plays rough with Dozer, his step-brother, and so I thought it was just some random strain/sprain.  He always comes home from visits to the BF’s house with random little scars or scrapes from carousing.

I thought it best, though, to take him into the vet, just to see what was up.  Two weeks seemed like a long time to limp.  That’s when it all started.  So fast.  Too fast.  Tuesday at the vet, range of motion tests, x-rays, valley fever titer started (we live in AZ).  Wednesday nothing.  Thursday, valley fever titer negative, hip x-rays, chest x-rays, phone consults with a radiologist, oncologist, and a surgeon, large-gauge needle aspiration, dates for in-person consults scheduled, surgery scheduled and holy cow all the stuff that had to be considered, decided, done, bought, installed, fitted.  It all came crashing down, hard.  When Friday came around and the biopsy results revealed osteosarcoma, it was old news; I was already three steps ahead of that game.

I’m a pretty tough cookie.  I’ve been around the block a time or two.  I’m very good in a crisis; very focused, decisive, able to take in and process a lot of information quickly and deal with it effectively.  I’m comfortable making tough decisions.  Unlike a lot of others facing my situation, the decision to amputate was easy.  Cut off the source of the cancer, alleviate the pain, improve his quality of life.  A painful decision, a tough decision, but an easy call to make.

Of course Dieter is just dealing with it on a moment by moment basis, and he’s fine.  Especially since he scored the hat trick of pain meds – rimadyl, tramadol and gabapentin.  He’s already sitting, standing and placing most of his weight while in motion on his good leg.  He uses only his good leg to get up and down off the couch (which he’s only done once or twice in the last week; he’s feeling it).  If there is something particularly interesting outside, he’s trotting on three legs.

But that’s not how people work, and as a community it’s important for us to understand that the process of arriving at a diagnosis of osteosarcoma and the subsequent treatment can happen VERY fast.  Especially if you are not in an area where valley fever is a problem and your vet team can come to the sarcoma conclusion faster.  That’s why this blog is *about* my dog, but *for* me.  It’s the only way I can think of to process all that has happened in such a short period of time.

The good news?  Clarity.  All of us have a lot going on in our lives.  I’m a PhD student; I’m on the job market, in the middle of my dissertation as well as other research projects, teaching a class and in a long-distance relationship.  But I’ll tell you what, this week, I got a huge dose of clarity, and I am immensely grateful.  More on that later…