Early Again…Almost 3 Months

Well, the last month has been kind of up and down.  Tate was sick for a good part of it and there were so many things happening at once, we weren’t sure what it was.  First, the new puppy completely disrupted Tate’s kingdom.  Then, he had his third chemo treatment (CCNU capsules, which he’s never had a problem with) but the doctor added an antibiotic and gabapentin because Tate still had an open sore at his incision.  The very next day, he starting vomiting and had poop problems.  This went on at various levels of severity for over two weeks, with a fever of 105o thrown in for good measure, plus an assortment of new meds trying to get this controlled.  Poor little guy, and through it all he had this monkeybutt little sister biting his ears and his tail at every turn.

Finally, the vet said, “Take him off everything.”  So the poop problems subsided but in the meantime the weather turned blistering hot and he started barfing whenever he drank water.  Now he gets his water in a little bowl instead of a bucket, but he really is much less able to take the heat.  Used to be he’d rather be with us no matter what but now he stays inside with air conditioning more often.  So he’s back in reasonable health and the sore has finally healed.  (Whew!  What a relief that is!)  He had his fourth and final chemo treatment with only minor effects.  This is a normal we can live with.  We’ll see about putting him on a low-dose chemo next time we see the oncologist but certainly not if it makes him miserable or even uncomfortable.

Thanks to our own personal Tripawds Puppy Advisory Board (Ge’Lena, Shari and Charon), Little Sister Sam is now under control.  She cries at the back door to go out, she stays out of the kitchen, she sometimes drops the rock or whatever on the “out” command (even a robin one time), and most importantly, she lets up on the “be nice” command.  Then she licks his head and ears.  We don’t leave them alone together very often, and Tate’s getting plenty of time with us away from her.  So enormous gratitude to the T.P.A.B., your wisdom and willingness to share it saved the day!  Tripawds is the best!

Along the way, a number of friends have celebrated ampuversaries in the double digits and I realized, I’d been starting to count on Tate joining their ranks.  Lucky for me, I had a reminder from an Angel that every day is precious, things can change quickly.  And so my priorities are back in order…even if the garden is full of weeds.

A special note to all the Angels out there – you don’t even know the blessings your blogs spread around the Tripawds community and I’m sure to even more guests that we don’t even know about.  So an extra-special thank you to each and everyone one of you.

Three Week Ampuversary…Chemo Started Today

Tate has had some really good, “new normal” days in the past week, and some days of long naps.  His paw licking is rising to new heights!  His appetite is ravenous.  And everyone once in awhile, he will just sit bolt upright and stare at me.  For a long time.  What’s up with that?

We met with the oncologist today, and he is sticking with his 1-year prognosis.

They did not assess any lymph nodes because they couldn’t find any.  They couldn’t find any lymph nodes.  They were so focused on (bla bla bla and all that) they couldn’t find any lymph nodes.  At least he had the decency to struggle with remaining unemotional while he delivered this news, because it sounds to me like someone screwed up and just forgot that, gee, maybe the lymph node would be important.  So we don’t know if Tate’s cancer is really localized.

So we are without that bit of information.  Doesn’t matter, our Tate is in the hands of a Power higher than either the pathologist or the oncologist (which is not to say he’ll live a normal life span because, after all, God is not Santa Claus…just my own personal theological hot button.)

We are proceeding with chemo, CCNU, the same drug almost everyone else with histiocytic sarcoma gets.  Luckily for us, it is pill form (much cheaper than the IV form).  Blood work in one week to watch especially his white blood cell count and platelets, then again on the day of his next dose in three weeks.  One risk of CCNU is it damages the bone marrow and this would affect platelet production.  With insufficient platelets, his blood will have trouble clotting.  This damage is permanent.  Of course, there are other potential risks but this one sounded the most troublesome to me.

Interestingly, he put Tate back on Rimadyl because it has cancer-fighting properties.  I asked about the risk of liver damage with Rimadyl and he basically said I spend too much time on the internet.  Needless to say, he was not big on any supplements, either.

I’d like to consult a holistic vet but the $170 consultation fee put me off a bit, still reeling from the $400 for a second opinion (they said it might be blasto…in January?)  I’m on the nutrition/diet research trip and boy, there’s a lot of information out there.  Thanks to everyone that posted their pup’s regimen, very helpful.

So for now, until I unravel this, we’re sticking with Taste of the Wild adding a bit of olive oil and chopped-up green veggies, adding sardines to his list of snacks or mix-ins.  Cutting out the canned pumpkin and all the fruit.  Tate loves fruit, bananas, pears, watermelon especially but we don’t want to be feeding any cells that we should be starving.  On the other hand, this feels a little bit like using a pea-shooter against, I dunno…maybe King Kong.

Tate has Turned the Corner

On Day 16, I would say Tate was at about 40%.  On Day 17, I’d say 85%.  He popped up with the alarm, tail wagging, and resumed a lot of his routine behaviors.  Plunked himself outside the bathroom door while I brushed my teeth, went completely around the block with no rests (okay, it’s a short block but still a milestone), wanted to play with his ball, pushed open the door to the garage to run out when he heard my car coming home.  All while wagging his tail.  A blue-ribbon day.  A big change just that fast.

He tried walking over to Grandma’s but I made him come home, too far (0.6 mi).  But we drove over and they were so happy to see each other!  And Grandma did really, really good at holding back her tears.  She may not have much memory left but she still has her great big heart.  She knew better than to cry in front of Tate!  I was so proud of her.

Now that we are past the amp, I’m back to researching histiocytic sarcoma.  Now I know the stories of Harley, Barney in Texas, Ruthie, Tehya, Marley and Barney the collie.  Thank you so much for sharing!

Another Tripawd blog (Toby) led me to Peter Moore at UC-Davis.  It’s the best summary I could find, at:  http://www.histiocytosis.ucdavis.edu/  (I think this jump is in the Resources but it would not link for me.)  (BTW, it seems blogs show up in Google searches but not the forum?)

So the pathologist mentioned “curative” in reference to the amp, the surgeon said “Tate might enjoy a normal lifespan”, and the vet said “We may well have saved Tate’s life.”  All very promising, as it appears he has “localized histiocytic sarcoma” and not “disseminated histiocytic sarcoma.”  I am trying not to get my hopes up until we speak with the oncologist on Tuesday because I know how insidious those evil cancer cells can be.  But I’ve realized, I’m kind of counting on this.

Just a couple other oddball observations.  Tate’s started licking his bed or the carpet next to his paws.  I guess they do this.  The other thing is that Tate used to sneeze a lot when he got up in the morning, and he used to have a discharge from the corner of his eye a lot (eye boogers, to be descriptive about it.)  Neither of these things is happening anymore.  Very odd (to me).  Not that I miss them.

Clean Margins!

Tate’s path report is in, the diagnosis is histiocytic sarcoma.  Good news is, she got 2 cm of clean margins!

Here’s what I know about histiocytic sarcoma:  Someone did a retrospective study of synovial cell sarcomas and reclassified the biopsies.  Some number of them (over half, I think) were actually histiocytic sarcomas and the outcomes for these was worse than the true synovial cell sarcomas.  This is roughly accurate but I don’t have the paper here.  Plus I’m not a vet.

Okay, so here’s my philosophy about statistics:  Acknowledge them and then discard them.  Duly noted, now let’s move on.  Two main reasons for this:

1.  If they tell you 95% of dogs do well and your dog is in the 5%, that statistic does you no good at all.

2.  On the flip side, statistically speaking, my mom should be dead by now.  When she was diagnosed with Stage 3 lung cancer, they told us the 2 year survival rate was 30% and that was with chemo.  We stopped her chemo early because she was dangerously close to “failure to thrive”.  Two years later, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, which we chose not to treat at all.  And that was almost 2 years ago now.  So like I said, she should be dead and she’s not.  So there!  : )

On the home front, I think Tate has turned the corner.  Woke me up early (4:15!) to eat, laid under the tree outside enjoying the great outdoors until the thunder started and I had to bring him in.  No panting, no stress, moving pretty well once he got the early-morning kinks out.  So thank you for all the positive juju headed his way, keep up the good work!