Tag Archives: meds

Live Blogging from the Chemo Chair: Cycle 4.2 (part deux), Back in my Shoes!

Here I sit, once again ready to have toxic poison pumped into my body. Ah! The joys of Chemo Day! Today, my worthy partner is my pal Cindy. We had a wonderful lunch at a local ‘Burg sports bar, C.J. Chumps, where the patio is shaded and the food is fabulous! We’ve been discussing hitting the local Dairy Queen on the way home for mini-sized Blizzards. Ummmm! Ice Cream!

Actually, my chemo treatments are also under discussion. You may remember that last week my chemo was cancelled because the edema in my legs had caused my feet to swell to the size of small hams. american horror storyCoupled with the very bright red rash covering my legs, my gams were a sight right out of American Horror Story which properly freaked out anyone who saw them including my favorite Chemo Nurse Jenna who notified my oncologist who cancelled my chemo for the day. (And isn’t that a lovely run-on sentence.)

Last Tuesday I left the Chemo Cafe with two new prescriptions. I now have a prescription for lasix to help with my water retention. I also have a prescription fora corticosteroid (Dexamethasone) — which should help with both the water retention and the red rash. I’ve also got a steroid cream (Clobetasol) for the red rash. And lastly, I’ve got better knowledge on what to expect over the next few days and how to mitigate the issues.

My feet are in the air like I just don't care (actually, I seem to care a lot about my ham feet...)

My feet are in the air like I just don’t care (actually, I seem to care a lot about my ham feet…)

I’ve spent the past week taking my new meds, wearing my compression stockings from the time I get out of bed until the time I crawl back into bed, smearing the steroid cream on the red rash when I’m not wearing the compression stockings, taking every opportunity to recline with my feet over my head (OK, I really mean higher than my heart), and cutting back a little on my water intake (yes, I may have been drinking too much water — but only because some of the instructions I’ve received encouraged me to try and drink more than 64-ounces daily). The result? I’ve done a lot (seriously, A LOT) of peeing, which has made for a 6-day weight loss of 12 pounds.

Ham Foot (before)

Ham Foot (before)

Not a pretty picture

Not a pretty picture

I appear to be at a cross-roads of sorts. I’m receiving treatment today (technically, the second of three treatments for Cycle 4). Then on Monday, my Oncologist will take a look at how bad my side-effect symptoms are (water retention, bright red rash, hemoglobin count, shortness of breath), and we’ll decide whether I can continue on Gemzar (7 treatments / 2 cycles left), move to a pill form of a different chemo, or quit chemo all together.

I have mixed emotions. I’m really ready — I mean REALLY READY — for the whole chemo battle to be finished. Each Chemo Day, I am more and more resistant to the idea of Gemma as my alley in this fight. She’s a wicked bitch who doesn’t care which cells she kills. And she’s really messing up my life. Sucking down this toxic cocktail has become one of the toughest things I’ve ever had to do. But the hope of Gemma giving me a few extra years of life is like a designer drug of bliss — sweet and addicting. I want the best possible chance to beat this stupid monster that’s tried to take over my life. I want to absolutely crush this stupid cancer and eject it from my body.

This morning, I had a “foot moment.” There is approximately an hour in the morning — from around 8:30 to 9:30 — when the trees around our yard block the sun from shining full on our patio. It’s one of my favorite times of the day. I am enchanted with the way the light is shady and yet dappled with splashy spots of bright sunny pools of light. And I can sit on the patio, enjoy the birds’ songs, and not worry about putting on sun screen.

A more  normal sized foot (after)

A more normal sized foot (after)

Today, my enchantment was multiplied ten-fold when I noticed that the veins in my feet were actually standing out, ribboned above the level of my skin. I haven’t seen the veins in my feet standing at attention like this for probably 10 weeks, because of the swelling. The meds, the stockings, the feet elevation, the cream, and limiting myself to 64-ounces of water instead of trying to do 90 — this system seems to work.

I can’t help but feel that I have a better chance at dealing with my side effects this week because I have better tools and more knowledge. I don’t want ham feet. Watching my hair get thinner was nothing compared to seeing my feet swell up to the point that I couldn’t get my shoes on. This morning, seeing my feet closer to their normal size and shape was like a benediction. Do I continue the battle with my chemo War General, Gemma? Or do we adjust to a new plan? I’ll find out on Monday…

A big THANK YOU to my friend Karen for sending me a box of Killer Brownies to cheer me up. She was successful in her endeavor. They were delicious!

A big THANK YOU to my friend Karen for sending me a box of Killer Brownies to cheer me up. She was successful in her endeavor. They were delicious! Click my photo to check out Karen’s brilliant Cat Scouts web site.

No Booty Biting, Please!

Tyler had surgery on Thursday. His anal glands were removed.

Tyler with his e-collar "donut"

Tyler has been on and off antibiotics for the past several months because his anal glands keep getting infected. To treat this, our dogtor has to pack the glands with antibiotic ointment. This treatment is not without dangers–for instance, the possibility of tearing the gland opening when the ointment is inserted. So after much discussion and thought, we decided the best thing for Tyler is to remove the glands.

 

So, he had laser surgery on Thursday and now has 6 tiny stitches around his butt. And his butt had to be shaved. You know those baboons that have the really pink butts? Tyler’s butt looks remarkably like a baboon butt!

Tyler's favorite place to lay--on my chest!

I’ve spent the past 3 days  (I took Friday off from work) coddling and petting and stroking him. And he’s milked it for all it’s worth. I know he’s milking it because one of our neighbors was over last night and Tyler was totally his normal stinker self, until she left. Then he reverted back to this needy little sorrowful soul who had to be held and loved on. I’m cutting him some slack, though, because I know the stitches are uncomfortable (even though he’s on pain meds) and the fact that his butt is hairless has got to be freaky-feeling.

He’s been in an e-collar, until today, to keep him from chewing on his butt. When I found out he would have surgery, I purchased an e-collar that looks a lot like an inflatable life-preserver. It fits around his neck and keeps him from bending his neck to get to his butt. I even had time to get him used to it before the surgery. I took it off him today–and I know he’s happier without it. But that’s meant I’ve had to watch him like a hawk so that he doesn’t chew on his stitches.

So all the regular household stuff I wanted to get done this weekend has not happened. But at least my dog is happy. Well mostly happy. He’s not going to be totally happy until his hair grows back and his butt is no longer bare. Sucks to have baboon butt.

The Last Day

I look back now and realize that Bailey’s illness didn’t happen overnight. It’s been going on since before Thanksgiving.

On a normal evening, I’d lay down on the couch and read or watch TV or whatever and Bailey would always cuddle up with me. But several weeks ago her cuddle positioning changed. Though she tried to lay as she normally would, she could not seem to get comfortable and so would move to the end of the coach in a kind of a frustrated huff. A couple of times she even gave a very soft yelp, as if she hurt herself.

This also happened at bedtime. We had a routine–I’d put a couple of kibbles under her pillow, and after she ate them she would crawl under the covers, cuddle for a while, and then move back up to her pillow. But her cuddle position changed, again as if she couldn’t get comfy.

This never struck me as something major–in fact, I’m not even sure I conciously thought about it until Thursday night.

Watching her on Thursday, I realized that all week I had been seeing her gait degenerate, especially her back legs. As she walked, her butt was swaying left-and-right and her back legs seemed to swing outward and away from her body instead of just back-and-forth.

Over the week, her squats when she pottied had become more-and-more clumsy till she finally just wouldn’t squat anymore. By Wednesday I would carry her outside, she would look like she couldn’t figure out what to do, and then walk back to the door to be let in. Twice her bladder released its load just as we got inside the door. I know now she could no longer squat.

I gave up trying to get her outside to potty. I kept her gated in my room/office. She was welcome to pee on my carpet.  And for once she made no objection to being barred in the room. In fact, she didn’t seem to want to leave her bed. When she looked up at me, it was like she didn’t see me, as if she were in her own world. It might have been the drugs–I kept her pumped with pain meds–but I don’t think so. I’m not sure the pain meds were taking care of all her pain.

Thursday evening I again brought her out to the sofa to join us. The prior evenings she seemed to notice we were there and every time I got up she kept track of where I was. This time she had no interest. And she could not get comfortable. I finally carried her back into her bed in my bedroom.

And I started thinking about the times when she seemed to be experiencing what I thought was arthritis pains, and the light bulb went on–we’d been looking in the wrong places. The problem was in the area around her back legs. Over the past week, it was her hind end that had gotten progressively weaker and troubling.

I left her in her own bed. During the night I heard her get up and lay on the carpet. Around 3 she shifted again and I realized she had again had an involuntary bladder release while she slept. By 6 AM I think I had made the decision. I gathered her up, put her on my bed and lay down beside her to tell her it would soon be over. She allowed this to go on for maybe 10 minutes and then indicated that she wanted down. Up until Thursday she made an attempt to indulge my cuddles. Now she wanted none of it.

For the third morning, I called Dr. B to speak with her before her appointments started. I told her about my theory about Bailey’s hind end. She agreed that it made sense and we both wondered if perhaps the cancer was back.

Doing x-rays of the area would cause her needless pain because of the way her body would have to be twisted (we had been forced to do this a couple years ago and I had promised myself I would never put her through that again). Even if we did discover it was the cancer, we had already made the decision of no chemo/surgery.

And now that I knew where to look I could see that with all the treatments we had tried over the week there was no progress, only degeneration in her condition. She was not responding. She was in pain. So we made an appointment for the big sleep.

For the 3rd morning, Bailey was coaxed into her Sherpa bag and my mom and I drove to the clinic. We were met at the door by one of the techs and taken to an exam room. We talked through what was going to happen–all of us in tears. Bailey’s groomer, Aunt T came in to say goodbye. My little pooch touched so many hearts at the clinic! They took her back to the hospital area and put a catheter into the vein in her leg, then brought her back to us. My mom and I had spread one of Bailey’s blankets out on the table. Dr. B joined us. We said our goodbyes to her and as Dr. B gave her the final injection through the catheter she so peacefully hid her head in the folds of the blanket just like she used to do when we would go to bed at night. Eventually, Dr. B wrapped her in another blanket and took her away. She really looked like she was just having a good sleep.

As we left, we were hugged by the receptionists. Later that day I heard from Dr. T–he was not at the clinic on Friday, but her had called in for something and they told him that Bailey was gone. Friday evening T (Bailey’s groomer) called us to see how we were doing. She told me that everyone at the clinic was affected by Bailey’s passing. They are such wonderful people and took such good care of my girl.

So many people–friends, family, co-workers, neighbors–have reached out to me with kindness. It warms me to think that Bailey had such a large group of friends and fans, and I am so grateful for the thoughts and prayers that you all have shared. Thank you so much.

I look at her bed that still holds the indentation of where she lay only 48 hours ago, and I feel the empty loneliness of her absence. I miss her so much.

Bailey Today

She slept pretty deeply overnight. Woke me around 3 am with a little vomiting, then at 6 am with a request to be set on the floor so she could get a drink. It’s been 2 and a half days since she ate–but Dr. B says that’s not a huge concern. As I watch her, I am more firmly convinced that her tummy is upset and she’s in some pain in her backend.

When I sat down at my desk today, she sat at my feet and kept looking at me and at her bed under the desk. She did not move to get into her bed, just gave me that “I’m miserable” look. Her bed is a nice orthopedic one–I got it specifically because of her tendency towards arthritis and back pain, from a mail order catalogue that claims veterinary expertise. But here’s the oxymoron: The bottom cushion of the bed is very thick, which means that any dog using the bed has to make a “jump” to get into it. The bed is marketed for dogs with arthritis issues. Wouldn’t you think that the creators of the bed would have thought about the fact that it might be painful for a dog with arthritis to “jump” into a bed?

1-13-10 BaileySo, I’ve removed her bed and put a couple of bed cushions under my desk. She was very happy with that, and seemed almost eager to curl up. Just goes to show you: Who needs the expensive new-fangled orthopedic stuff when you got 2 bed cushions?

Around 10:30 we made a trip to the clinic. More anti-nausea/anti-acid shots plus something for pain. And sub q fluids. When we got home, she vomited more water. It was like someone had hooked a hose up to her other end and the water spewed out. She looked surprised.

Still not eating. And we still don’t know for sure what the heck is causing her to be sick.

An Update on Bailey

We’re waiting.

Bailey has stopped eating. In my heart, I’m certain it’s the food. But remember where I work (Consumer Relation, Iams). My head knows it’s NOT the food.

Our usual routine has been topsy-turvey because of the holidays–I’ve taken some massive vacation time and our usual day of get up/dressed, walk the pooch, feed the pooch, sit at my desk and work with pooch in bed under desk, has been totally disrupted. And Bailey has been annoyed because of this disruption. Nearly every morning of my vacation, as we finish up the dress/walk/feed chores that never change, she stands in the hall outside my office, looks at me and says, “Time for work, aren’t you coming to your desk?” And when I go in a different direction she gets this confused and then annoyed look because I’m deviating from the routine. So when she started to skip a meal here-and-there I put it down to the upheaval in our routine.

Looks like I was probably wrong.

I’ve mentioned before that I feed Bailey 4 times a day. Tuesday night, she refused to eat at her last feeding of the day. Wednesday, she would only eat lunch and supper. Thursday, she refused to eat all 4 meals.

Now the thing that has made me crazy is that she’ll eat her biscuits, or a handful of MiniChunks (which I happened to have on hand) or scraps from the table (yes, I know, bad mom) no problem. So I thought “There’s nothing wrong–she’ll eat other stuff, just not her regular meal. There must be something wrong with the food.”

My head knows it’s not the food.

Remember, Bailey is diabetic. She was due for a check on her blood sugar, so I took her to our favorite clinic on Wednesday and a wonderful vet tech pulled some blood. Her blood sugar was at 213–which is good.

Then Thursday she totally would not eat her regular meals. And each time I offered it she looked at me like I was missing some kind of crucial ceremony that would allow her to eat. Her eyes said if only I would say the magic words or do the magic hand wave she would be able to eat the food I was placing before her. But obviously I was too head-stupid to figure out what the magic charm was that would allow her to eat, so she sadly ducked her head and walked away from the bowl.

I still thought this was part of the routine-disruption. Eventually she would be hungry enough to eat.

I didn’t give her her shot on Thursday evening–I didn’t want her blood sugar to bottom out because that can be life-threatening. For the short-term it would be far less harmful if her blood sugar was slightly elevated.

During the night on Thursday she woke me 4 times so that I could lift her off the bed so she could drink water. And twice insisted that she needed to go out to the patio to pee (she seems to be on strike against the pee pad). I kinda expected this–after all when her blood sugar level is high she gets thirsty. I did not get much sleep.

One of the advantages of working where I do is I have access to a team of veterinarians who are never too busy to discuss Bailey’s health. Friday morning I talked the situation over with two of my best buds–Dr. Dicke and Jen-the-vet-tech. They both agreed it was time to call my vet.

My vet was in emergency surgery, so I left a long voice mail for her. Before noon she called me–she had a family commitment and was about to leave for the day, but she felt I should bring Bailey in today rather than wait till she was next in on Monday so she had made arrangements for us to see her colleague, Dr. C. at 2. I was very comfortable with this because we’ve seen Dr. C. in the past (though it was several years ago), and he’s very nice and very smart.

After I told him our story, he did a full exam on Bailey. And found that she has an infected tooth. (I am a bad mom).

The tooth didn’t seem to be painful (yet). He didn’t want to rule it out, but he also didn’t want to jump to the conclusion that the tooth was the problem. So blood tests were needed. It could be a bladder infection (she has a history), or her liver or her thyroid or her pancreas. Or it could be that the cancer is back. Blood tests will give us better indications.

In the meanwhile he prescribed clavamox (an antibiotic) which will help with the tooth and also the possible bladder infection. And he will phone me before noon tomorrow (today? I think it’s after midnight) to let me know the lab results on her blood.

And so, we wait.

Sleepy Sunday

Around 3 AM Bailey woke up. And that was basically the end of sleep for both of us. She continues to fight me when I try to apply the Tritop®, and so far no salve has made it to Bailey’s neck (I’ve gotten it on the sofa cushions, my shirt, the ends of Bailey’s ears, my bed sheets, etc).  Today, the hot spot looks much better.

Asleep under my desk as I write this post.

Asleep under my desk as I write this post.

But I’m wondering if some of the urge to scratch that Bailey continues to feel might be due to a little razor burn. When they examined and cleaned the hot spot yesterday, they cut/shaved away the fur around the edges of the wound. Today, I can see what is either the scratches from when she was able to itch before I stopped her OR the rash that indicates razor burn. I’m sure everyone says this about their dogs, but Bailey has very delicate skin. Nearly every time she’s shaved to treat a health issue she winds up with razor burn (there are a couple of exceptions associated with Dogtor B who truly understands how sensitive Bailey’s skin is).

Well, she’ll be able to spend today sleeping and getting well. I, unfortunately, have chores to do so I will have to put off making up for the sleep I missed last night. At least she seems to be more comfortable.

An Update on Bailey

We had a vet appointment today, and it wasn’t exactly fun. The cancer remains MIA–no sign of it {HAPPY DANCE!}, but Bailey has a hot spot that’s nasty.

Warning: This post has an “ewwww!” factor of 9. Stop reading if you’re easily grossed out.

10-10-09 1 Old-dog-wart

Close up of the wart that was on Bailey’s neck.

For a long while now, Bailey has had old dog warts. Califlower-shaped nodules, they’re all over her body. However, there are two that have always been a little troublesome. One is located on her head, the other on her neck.

Bailey likes to rub her muzzle and face against the side of the sofa as she walks by–which often causes the two warts to break open a bleed a little. There’s almost always a little scab of blood on both of these warts. I’ve talked about this with the Dogtor–to remove them would mean putting Bailey under anesthesia, which we want to avoid. The Dogtor says it’s better to just leave them alone–even though they’re icky looking–and to clean the scabs off as needed.

On Tuesday we noticed that there was blood smeared on Bailey’s neck where we expected the wart to be. Somehow, she had managed to slice off about 3/4 of the nodule.

I cleaned it up and put some Tritop® ointment on it, and that seemed to be the end of the matter. Except Bailey kept scratching it with her back foot. I did all I could to discourage her from scratching. I even tied a scarf over the wound so that if she scratched when I wasn’t able to stop her it wouldn’t do damage. I thought the wart was getting better.

When I went to put the Tritop® on her yesterday, she wouldn’t let me get near that part of her neck. She did her best imatation of a board, and stiffened up on her hind legs with her back against the sofa cushion so that I couldn’t get to her neck. I knew we had a vet appointment scheduled for the next day, so I didn’t worry too much, and didn’t press the issue.

Bailey's hot spot after the fur was clipped away and Tritop® applied.

Bailey’s hot spot after the fur was clipped away and Tritop® applied.

Today, when she would not allow me to put on her collar, I knew there was a real problem. When we got to the Dogtor, the technician was able to hold her in such a way that I could finally see that Bailey’s skin around where the wart used to be was seriously red and angry looking. When the tech brought her back from the treatment room, she had a 2-inch  patch of fur cut off and a very mean looking scab where the wart used to be.

The Dogtor put Bailey on antibiotics and gave her a shot of pain medicine. Bailey’s diabetes adds some complications to how the wound is treated and what meds we can use–no styroids. It’s already looking better, though it still makes me cringe. She’s stopped trying to scratch it, and she seems to be comfortable.

I feel stupid for not taking her to the vet sooner–but up until yesterday I thought it was healing. Poor little dog! I’m a horrible mom!

Sometimes a Crystal Ball is All You Got

Christie Keith is a part of the blogging machine over at the Pet Connection blog. She posted today that her dog, a beautiful senior Scottish Deerhound named Sindar Rebel of Caber Feidh–Rebel for short–has crossed over the Rainbow Bridge.  My heart goes out to her!

Rebel was 10.5 years old, had recently been dealing with some health issues, and wasn’t bouncing back to good health as he did when he was younger. As I have seen with Bailey (and my mom) recovery for older animals (four-legged and two-legged) sometimes doesn’t bring them back to the same point of health they were at before they got sick. Little health problems are of much greater concern as we all age. Nothing is ever simple.

Sometimes, the meds/health care don’t work. The cure seems to be worse than the disease. Last fall, Bailey hurt her back. We did x-rays, but the way the vet team had to position her body seemed to aggravate the injury and made her even more miserable.  Plus she had a bad reaction to the pain meds. We (me and my vet) wanted to do what was best for her, and ended up probably making matters worse.

Rebel’s simple (for a younger dog) problem of a bladder infection was made so much more complicated and dangerous because Rebel was an older dog. I have been in this same situation with Bailey. These things are never simple.

What can a pet parent do to give an older pet a better chance to recover their health back to where they were before they got sick?

VISIT THE VET: For a senior dog it’s advised to schedule a vet visit every 6 months. For Bailey, we actually see Dr. B. once a month to monitor her cancer–and I’ve learned to do without a few things so that I can afford good veterinary care. Being a canine hypochondriac may be embarrassing, but treating little illnesses before they become big problems keeps Bailey in better health.

KNOW YOUR DOG: Because life changes can be so gradual, it’s good to have a (written, hard copy) list of “normal” behaviors to refer to–a list of how your dog behaves when she’s happy. This can become your doggie health barometer. I made up my list when Bailey was first diagnosed with cancer. Here are some of the items I use to check Bailey’s mental and physical health:

  • Bailey barks when the doorbell rings.
  • Bailey “grooms” my feet (she licks them–which tickles tremendously) when I brush my teeth.
  • At every opportunity, Bailey will pull the kitchen towels off the rack. Sometimes she gives particularly recalcitrant towels a shake before dropping.
  • For attention, Bailey will tear off pieces of the newspaper if we leave it on the floor–and will run with a “chase me!” attitude when noticed.

When Bailey stops doing any of these things, I go on alert looking for other health clues. And I usually consult Dr. B. because for an older dog nothing is ever simple.

MAKE A PLAN: While your dog is well and your own emotions are under control, think about what you would want to do if your dog’s health suddenly deterioated. Think of this as a living will for your pet. Talk to your family members. Get advice from your vet. Figure out how you want to deal with things like invasive surgery or heroic measures before the decision is forced upon you.

ACCEPT: OK, bottom line is that no matter how much you plan, consult, talk, examine and make lists, in the end it may still come down to a crystal ball decision. What kind of medical treatment  and how much medical treatment your senior dog receives might still be determined by your gut feeling. So make what choices you can ahead of time and hope that your crystal ball is not cluttered with clouds.8-7-09 Bailey

My heart goes out to Christie. I know from reading her posts that she loved Rebel and gave him a good life. And he’s waiting for her on the other side–of this I’m certain.