Archives for posts with tag: cancer

So it has been about a month since Sophie has passed. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about her. I miss her like crazy. I am in the process of adopting a new little friend so I can use all the information Sophie has taught me and give all of the love and kisses and cuddles that I have left for Sophie to another deserving dog. She really has taught me so much.

I was thinking about ways I can honor her and pay it forward; something I can do to continue being an advocate without having a little one to advocate for. I decided to run a half marathon in order to raise funds for the National Canine Cancer Foundation. My best friend/roommate, Teasha and our friend Amy will be running and fundraising as well. We are combining efforts in order to raise $5,000. The race, The St. Luke’s Half Marathon in Allentown, PA, is on April 28th. If you would like to donate, and I hope you do, please visit our donation page. 100% of your donation will go to NCCF in hopes that it will help fund research to find better treatment options and a cure.

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Last night, Saturday December 15, 2012 around 7:45, I lost my best friend. Tonight will be the first night I am in my bed completely and utterly alone. I just feel numb.

She’s been declining pretty quickly ever since her medicine needed to be reduced because it was no longer working.  The tumor inevitably grew and the symptoms worsened as new ones showed up.  The worst was sporadic paralyses. At any time, completely randomly, either her front legs or back legs would stop working and she would crumble to the ground like someone stuck in wet sand. In my research of all the symptoms, this was not one I was expecting. It was the hardest to witness. It happened the first time on Wednesday with her back legs. Then on Thursday with the front. Friday she was sitting on my lap at work, I answered a call and she somehow lost balance and fell to the ground.  She didn’t/couldn’t even try to get up and my heart broke. I knew it was time.  I had originally scheduled for her euthanasia on the 21st.  I knew she was getting worse and I never, ever wanted her to suffer. At that moment, I knew while she could have continued to fight for as long as she could, she didn’t and shouldn’t have to continue this. There was no chance of a cure and to prolong this would have meant she would inevitably suffer. That afternoon I called her doctor and told him tomorrow would be the day Sophie would end her fight.  I left work and promised myself and her that we would have the best remaining hours possible. We did.

Our afternoon in the park.

Our afternoon in the park.

We went to the park near my house and I let her off her leash.  She took off, little legs locked and prancing as though she was in a dog show. She ran around in circles as I took a million photos and ran alongside of her. She leaned her head back to catch every bit of sun the day had left.  I could tell her was getting tired so I put her back on the leash and let her lead the way.  She took me to the tennis courts where we used to play games of fetch until I was the one who got tired.  She never lost energy.  I sat on the cold concrete while Soph ran around in circles.  She had lost interest in games of fetch and all toys in general over the last few weeks. I ran around with her a little more and knelt down.  She came over and game me a bunch of kisses and I started to cry.  We walked home and I sat on the couch and she cuddled up next to me and went to sleep.

Love.

Love.

Later that night I went out and bought a filet mignon.  She had about three dinners that night.

Last walk in Wissahickon. One of her favorite places.

Last walk in Wissahickon. One of her favorite places.

The next day, my boyfriend, my roommate and her dog, Sophie and I went to Wissahickon Park. Soph has been going on walks there since she was a lil pup. She never displayed many pug characteristics and I attribute her sense of adventure to her Boston side.  We walked along the path, Sophie leading the way again.  She led us off the trail by the stream where I let her off the leash again. (Illegal, I know. I really didn’t care right then.) She pranced all around the sandy trail leading the four of us wherever she wanted to go. She was the boss. We walked four miles.  She was having a good day and seemed to be having a great time.

We came home to relax and spend our last few hours together.  She took turns cuddling everyone and the hours flew by. It was time to go. We drove down to the city and I let her sit on my lap.  She perched her little paws up on arm rest and pressed her face against the window.  Halfway there, I put the window down so she can stick her head out.  Never quite being a fan of that, she did it but faced backwards instead.  Such a goof.

We made our way in to the building as I tried to remain as calm and collected as possible.  I had decided a long time ago that when this awful day would come, I’d donate her remains to the neurology department at Penn. Due to the location of her tumor, a biopsy was too risky and not possible. I always saw this awful death sentence with somewhat of a weird silver lining: the hope that from studying the tumor once she passed would be able to help another pet, family or even human. She would be helping someone which gave some peace to this disgusting, unfair illness. We made our way up to the private rooms where we would be explained the procedure and what to expect. The doctor took Soph for a few minutes to complete his exam and returned her to us.  We held her and told her we loved her. I spent a few minutes with her by myself and told her what I needed her to hear. Everyone came back in the room and I knew I couldn’t delay having this done.  I would’ve sat in there forever. The doctor injected her with a sedative to relax her.  It set in and she nuzzled her head into my arm. She looked up at me with those big, round eyes. I felt she knew and, with that look, she was telling me it was going to be ok. She rested her head on my arms and I held her.  The doctor gave the second injection and within a few seconds, she was gone. With my heart heavy and my face soaked, I told her I loved her and that she was ok and she was going to help someone else. I kissed her head and the doctor took her away.

My last picture of Sophie. Sticking her head out the window; feeling the cold December air.

My last picture of Sophie. Sticking her head out the window; feeling the cold December air.

I spent the car ride home in silence. I didn’t have anything to say. I still can’t really talk to anyone; only those that were there. My heart hurts. My whole entire body hurts. I miss her more than I ever thought was even possible. I would give anything to have her back but I know that’s not the way this thing works.  Sophie was my best friend.  She was a terrible, little brat at times. She was hilarious.  She made most of the people who saw her smile.  She taught me that I’m going to be a great mother someday. She taught me unconditional love. I was so incredibly lucky that she picked me that day that I just went to look at some pups. She loved me and I loved her more than I ever knew I could love anything. She may not have been cured and even though this disgusting disease took her life, she beat cancer in a way.  I am so proud of her.

I will miss her. Every single day.

This is going to be a tough one to write. And a forewarning, it’s depressing. Soph is getting worse and it’s undeniable. She is still having good days and bad so it makes it very tough to know what to do. Yesterday was the worst. She had an episode where she just hung her head and then continued to stumble around my room as though she had a few too many (also known as ataxia.) This lasted around 20 mins. I decided she would be safest in her crate while I was out and when I returned (with plenty of bones; her favorite thing as of late) she seemed back to “normal.”
The doctor said this is the last time we can adjust her medicine. The prednisone does a number on her liver but he said that is a secondary concern right now. Today is day three of the increased medicine. She had been experiencing small focal seizures lasting seconds but unnerving nonetheless. Her medicine had been increased for that as well. The seizures aren’t as frequent now, maybe once a day, but the circling is still constant. It
is my fear that the increase in medicine will not make a difference. This is tough.
I told myself yesterday that I will give it this week to see if there is any improvement. I don’t ever want her to suffer. Trying to do the right thing and not be selfish is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done. She is so tough… such a fighter.

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I actually did it…albeit for only 24 hours but still, I managed to pull myself away for a little Labor Day getaway to Avalon. I left Sophie in the mindful care of my roommate and didn’t even call to check up (I was tempted, trust me.) I had a nice day away and actually had a good time.  I thought about her from time to time and knew she would be fine.  It was nice to take some pressure off myself and to realize that one day away doesn’t make me selfish or a bad dog mom; it makes me a regular human that needs a break from time to time.  I came home Monday morning and that little dog ran up to meet me at the door, all excited and wiggly, and it made the trip even better.

Sophie’s final visit for the OM study was yesterday.  She had her SVAP (a subcutaneous access for anesthesia) removed and will be wearing her Vineyard Vines whale collar in no time. She is still doing incredibly well and is back to her normal goofy self.  It is great to have her back.  It is just bizarre how this time three months ago I had a shell of a dog and now she is back like nothing ever happened.  When we visited the doctor in Boston he told us that radiation was our only option.  The oncologist confirmed, however when I picked her up yesterday one of the other doctors that has worked closely with her over the last two months told me Sophie had a neuro consult and since she is doing so well and is recovered from the radiation they would like to discuss the possibility of chemotherapy. Of course automatically I start to think the tumor must have shrunk so much that with a good dose of chemo, maybe she can be cancer free either for much longer or for good.  While I know this is unlikely, it is not impossible.  Sophie’s tumor was never biopsied because of its location.  The doctors have always told me they have a “really good idea” of what it could be, but they can’t be sure.  So if they can’t be sure, how can they be sure that this won’t work.  Stranger things have happened and science can be wrong. In the meantime, I will  try to keep my hopes within an arms reach.  Appointment is Tuesday morning…better than a Monday.

On our way home from the "last" appointment

Sophie had her last treatment today. For some reason, I was a little emotional saying goodbye to some of the people at the hospital. As I walked to my car, I started to choke up.  I had just exchanged emails with one of the other owners that I had been speaking with, five days a week for a month, so we can update each other on the progress and news surrounding our dogs.  It’s something about the relationship we had that was based off of the responsibility to our dogs that just made it different. We both know how the other will turn out but it is more than that and I’m not sure how to describe it.

Then there is the parking attendant, Sly. Every day that I would see him he would come and say hello, make a comment about how his day was better after seeing me and ask how Sophie was doing.  He shared a biscotti with me after knowing me for three days just because he thought I might be hungry. He always had a smile that would make the morning a little better. Genuine kindness.

Going into radiation, I never expected to form relationships with anyone other then the doctor… if that.  Instead I met a group of people who would rather carry my dog than walk her just because they like her.  I met a doctor who kisses my dog on the head when she says goodbye to her for the day.  I met people I care about.  I met people that care about us.   I am grateful for every one of them.

I let her sit in the front this time.

So it’s been a fast week and Sophie is almost finished with radiation.  Three more days.  Not long ago I was telling a friend that we had about a month left.  I was a bit off.  After that it is more or less wait and see.  I still need to talk to the doctor and find out specifics of what happens next but I think it is mainly just hoping for the best and enjoying this little peanut dog.  She has been doing really well and is about 85% back to her regular self.  She hasn’t shown any signs yet of having oral mucositis and her main symptoms of circling and staring have practically disappeared.  It feels good to have my girl back.  She has been making little improvements here and there and I get excited to get excited when she does something so simple like jump in the car (which she did three times this week!)  Around a month ago we were in Boston, hearing the horrible news and making a big decision on how to let the rest of this play out.  It feels good right now to be happy and content that she is doing well.  I was talking with another owner who’s dog is going through chemo and radiation and we discussed how this is hard, and terrible, but they’re doing alright.  Through all the ups and downs, the machine malfunctions and stress, we’re doing all that we can and we’ve accepted that it is enough.  I can honestly say that I have given Sophie the best of everything I can. It feels good right now to see her in high spirits, constantly bringing me the squeakiest toy she can find, chewing on a bone which I haven’t seen her do in months and just being content.  It makes me feel good to look at her next to me, asleep next to my pillows, feeling the cool air from the fan blowing on her face. It feels good to know that she is ok today and will be for a little while now.  And I am ok just focusing on this right now.

Waiting for the doctors. Bright blue "scarf" to stop the irritation from that ugly activity monitor.

Day 12 ride home. She perched herself up and looked out the window at every red light.