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Toby's Tale

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What a Year!

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I love my float coat!

It’s been almost a year since my last entry and life has been good. Toby went to A&M last October for a check up and was found to be cancer free. Naturally, I have felt like we “beat” this awful disease but unfortunately this past May, another lump started to develop on the same side (left) near the amputation site. After biopsy surgery, our worst fear has been confirmed –  the cancer has returned.  I guess I always knew this time would eventually get here… The good news is that he doesn’t seem to be in any pain. His attitude is still very good and he enjoys swimming every evening with us.  The bad news is that we’re not going to be able to have it removed.  It’s too “unorganized” and sits on top of his rib cage so there is no way to get clean margins.

My heart is heavy.  I have not logged in to this site for fear of learning about the many wonderful dogs that have passed before Toby.  It’s a inevitable event and I’m trying to enjoy every day and monitor his quality of life.  God bless all of you who are enduring this painful experience.


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Coming up on our 1 year anniversary

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September of last year was one of the worst months of my life! I couldn’t believe my beloved Toby had bone cancer and had to have his leg amputated. Here we are – approaching our 1 year anniversary and things are going great! He feels good and doesn’t exhibit any signs of that nasty cancer.

I love my Float Coat!

5th & Final Round of Chemo

Glad to report that we’re almost through with the chemo treatments.  Tomorrow will be the last one.  We went to A & M today for a day of tests (ultrasound, xrays, blood tests, etc..) and there is no sign of cancer except for two broken ribs which can’t be explained.  Toby hasn’t had any accident that would cause this so my fear is that the cancer has gotten into his bones and made them break.  The vet couldn’t explain it other than to say that dogs that undergo amputation are more prone to broken bones.   I don’t get it.  To know for sure would require a bone biopsy which is very painful and would require general anesthesia.  The type of chemo drug that would then be prescribed is VERY expensive and there is not much evidence that it would even do any good.  For now, we’re going to just assume he broke them in a fall which may have occurred when we weren’t home or the worse – the cancer has spread.

He acts like he feels great.  He’s happy and active and doesn’t appear to be in any pain.  Enjoying every day is our goal.

I’ll take him back for more xrays in a month to see if there are any new developments.

Happy New Year to all,

Tina

Fifteen Minutes of Fame

As we go through the Thanksgiving holiday, I realize how much I have to be thankful for.  We have made it through our third round of chemo and Toby feels great. Reading this story made me realize how lucky we are to have our beloved pets.  Who can love us this much? I can relate to this story…  Toby always shows so much love and appreciation for me.  My heart is heavy…

Fifteen Minutes of Fame
By Marty Becker

I dashed out an exit at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago and ran towards a waiting cab. I was greeted by a cab driver with a three-day-old beard, an old baseball cap and arms the size of tree trunks. As he tossed my bags into the trunk, he spotted my luggage tags and said, “What kind of doctor are you?”

“A veterinarian,” I said. Instantly, his grizzled face broke into a smile. This happens to veterinarians all the time, as people love to talk about their pets.

The doors slammed, he put the car into gear and hit me with this opening salvo, “My wife claims I love my toy poodle Missy more than I love her. Just once, she wants me to be as excited to see her as I am Missy. But Doc, it ain’t gonna happen. Ya see, when I get home from a long day in the cab, dead tired, I open the door and there are the two of them looking at me, Ma and Missy. Ma has a scowl on her face and is ready to tear into me. Missy, on the other hand, is shaking all over, she’s that happy – her face is grinning so wide, she could eat a banana sideways. Now who do you think I’m going to run to?”

I nodded my head in agreement because I understood his point only too well. He loved his wife, but he simply wanted permission to savor his fifteen minutes of fame.

Everybody gets fifteen minutes of fame once in his lifetime. We pet owners get our fifteen minutes every time we come home – or even return from the next room.

A few days after I saw the cab driver in Chicago, I returned home. I was tired from my travels and looking forward to seeing my family. Pulling into the driveway, I peered through the windshield, straining to catch a glimpse of my loved ones. My two children, Mikkel and Lex, are very close to good ol’ dad, but I didn’t see their faces pressed against the window looking for me. Nor did my beloved wife, Teresa, come running in super slow motion across the yard, arms open wide ready to embrace me.

But I didn’t despair. I knew I was still wanted, a Hollywood heartthrob, hometown hero to my two dogs: Scooter, a wire haired fox terrier, and, Sirloin, a black Labrador retriever!

As soon as I exited the pickup, Sirloin and Scooter charged to meet me. Their love-filled eyes danced with excitement, and their tail turbochargers whipped them into a delighted frenzy of fur.

Was this affection-connection routine, or ho-hum for me? Was I cool, calm and collected? Heck no. I turned into a blithering idiot as I got out of my truck and rushed to meet the hairy-princess, Scooter, and Sirloin, the fur-king.

There I stood, all these false layers stripped away, masks removed and performances canceled. It was my true self. Extra pounds, bad-hair day, angry people, travel strains, no matter. Scooter and Sirloin came to the emotional rescue and allowed me to drink in the sheer love and joy of the moment. I was drunk with contentment.

I was glad this took place in the privacy of my own home. What happened next might have spoiled my polished professional image. I immediately smiled, and raised my voice an octave or two, exclaiming, “Sirloin, yuz is daaaaddy’s boy, aren’t ya?” And, “Scooter have you been a good girl today? Yeah, you have, you’ve been a goooood girl!!”

They responded by turning inside out with delight, pressing themselves against my legs and talking to me. I felt as if I could tap directly into their wellspring of positive, healing energy. Gee, it was great to be home!

I bounded up the steps to find the rest of the family, heart open, stress gone and spirits restored by my fifteen minutes of fame.

Six Weeks and Counting

Enjoying the beautiful morning in the backyard.

Enjoying the beautiful morning in the backyard.

It’s been over six weeks since the surgery and it’s nice to report that life in our house has gotten back to normal.  Toby doesn’t quite trust his skill coming back through the dog door so sometimes he just sits outside.  It’s kind of strange because there is no height differential.  I think the stained concrete floors feel slick and he’s afraid of slipping so I’ve put down rugs but he still is apprehensive – oh well, another adjustment we’ll learn to live with.

He’s a week into his second round of chemo and is feeling good.  This morning his appetite wasn’t quite as good but I think he was holding out for what we had for breakfast (eggs, bacon, etc).  I saved a small amount and put it in his bowl then he ate what I had prepared for him.  His meals are very good since all of this started.  I make homemade dog food – cooked turkey seasoned with garlic powder, brown rice, cottage cheese, mixed veggies, omega oil, brewer’s yeast – heck, when I get it mixed together, I’m tempted to try it .  I combine it with high quality dry food and he is a happy pup.

His spirits are good.  He just loves us so much so if we will just sit on the floor and play with him and pet him – he’s in heaven.  The hide and seek game Buck plays with the ball is entertaining to all!

Ahhh there it is!

Ahhh there it is!

Determination

Determination

Every day is a gift – we will hope for many more happy ones ahead of us!

Trip to the Vet Today

We went for a blood test today… His white count is pretty low but not quite low enough to put him on antibiotics.  Because we live out in the country with no exposure to other dogs or possible infections, they feel that he will get better each day.  We’ll go for another test next Friday.  He seems to be feeling great.  My sissy Robin came by for a visit – he loves her!

Life is Good – so far..

Things are getting back to “normal” around our house.  There have been no visible side effects from the chemo and his mobility is very good.  He gets tired easy so we don’t do the same rigorous activities but he still wants to play with the ball.  I’ve been throwing it to him and he catches it in his mouth without moving.  I did throw it a pretty far distance in our yard and he ran after it.  Because he was running with his head down, he tumbled forward/flipped in the soft grass but rebounded very well.    I felt sorry for him – he just got up and brought me the ball with the look of  “Let’s do it again”!  I bought a Frisbee and hope he can get use to catching something that’s airborne instead of on the ground….  He didn’t act interested at all so this may be a waste of time.

We go Friday for the first blood test.  I have a list of things/concerns to discuss with Dr. Portie but all in all, Life is Good!

Round 1 of the Fight Begins

Today is our first round of chemo.  I had a hard time giving him the medication.  My thoughts of chemo bring up images of pain and suffering so I feel like I’m poisoning him.  I went ahead and gave him the four pills with some food so there’s no turning back now.  I keep reminding myself that the doctor said this drug will be on a “seek and destroy mission” to help rid him of any peculiar or rogue cells that may turn cancerous.

They called with the results from the bone marrow test – ALL CLEAR!! Yeah!

What’s Next

After little sleep last night, we awoke around 6 am to prepare for our trip to A&M….    Let me just get it on the table that I’m a huge Texas Longhorn fan and being from Austin, I felt as though I was going into enemy territory but I have to say – those Aggies ROCK! Now we’re a house divided.  It was tempting to purchase an A&M tee shirt on the way home.  WOW, I have such respect for that wonderful program and the people who are there to help us during these trying times.

Dr. Heather Wilson is a veterinary oncologist who has such a great attitude and personality.  From the moment I met her, I felt that my vet – Glen Portie from Dripping Springs Veterinary Clinic made the right decision in encouraging me to make the 2.5 hr drive to College Station just to meet with her.

We know that Toby has histiocytic sarcoma and that it’s a cancer that they don’t know a whole lot about.  It’s aggressive and has a good chance of appearing in some other part of his body.  There is a doctor who is the pioneer in this field of cancer named Peter Moore and I’ll be reading more about his findings tomorrow.

Today was about getting the cancer staged – and from what they discovered, we have caught it very early.  Removing the limb was the correct place to start and the ultra sound and chest ex-rays all came back clear.  By the way, the knot I was concerned about on his right foot is arthritis..  Never thought I’d be so happy to hear that!  His bone marrow test results will be back tomorrow morning but from what she could tell, there wasn’t any indication of irregular cells.

She didn’t sugar coat the prognosis…  While so much of the information is good and encouraging,  the bad news is the average life expectancy is only 9 months. There have been many cases where the dog has lived much longer – and I have a feeling Toby will surpass that “average”.

Our next step is to FIGHT!  We start our first of 5  rounds of chemo tomorrow.  The drug is called Lomustine aka CCNU.  He will take these treatments every three weeks for a total of 15 weeks.  She said that most dogs tolerate the drug very well and show few side effects.  On day three after the drug is administered, I may notice that his appetite isn’t as good and maybe he’ll sleep a little more but beyond that, we shouldn’t notice much difference in him. Before I administer it (she sent it home with me), I will do more research.  I’m not sure it will make a difference because without it, there is a greater chance the cancer will appear faster.

Because I’m feeding him homemade dog food, she recommended that I consult with a veterinary nutritionist and is against antioxidants or raw meat (due to salmonella) while he’s undergoing these treatments.

At the end of next week, I’ll bring him in to our regular local vet for a blood test to check his white blood cell count.  If it’s good, we’ll keep on truckin’ if not, she’ll prescribe something to get him back on track.

He got his stitches out today while we were there.  They shaved even more belly hair to do the ultra sound so he looks like he’s had a very bad haircut.  He ate a good dinner and crashed in his favorite spot – next to his daddy’s side of the bed.  Sometime during the night, he’ll make his way over to my side…   Ahhh, I’m so glad we get to sleep in our own bed tonight..  There’s no place like home!

The Diagnosis

We finally found out that Toby has histiocytic sarcoma.  I don’t know much about this form of cancer but from what I’ve read, it’s not good.   The process to figure this out was quite lengthy – as you may remember, the initial test showed “probable sarcoma” so I asked for a biopsy to make sure.  As you know, amputation is pretty radical when the word “probable” is involved.  The biopsy came back “sarcoma” – frustrated but convinced the amputation would eliminate the pain, we made the decision to move forward.

Once the limb was sent in for more testing, the test came back with indications it was either synovial or histiocytic sarcoma.  I’ve spend more time than I care to admit researching osteo and fibro sarcoma so this is very new and I feel totally ignorant.  The testing is being done at A&M and the oncologist that is diagnosing his type of cancer has done extensive staining of the cells and confirmed that he has histiocytic sarcoma.

Our vet has recommended that we go to College Station to meet with her and have the “staging” procedures done so we know how far along it is and what our strategy will be.  That includes a bone marrow aspiration and an ultrasound.  Because it’s a teaching hospital, we can only hope we can have these test done tomorrow and come home – otherwise, we’ll be spending the night there and returning home on Friday.

Any way I look at it, it doesn’t change the fact that our dog has cancer.  We knew that going in.  The type of cancer is what concerns me most.  I’m almost afraid to do too much research for fear I won’t sleep.  I’m going to continue to fight this with dietary changes (I’m now making homemade dogfood) and maybe some supplements.   Boosting his immune system is the best thing I can do right now.

We’re now two weeks removed from that procedure.  He’s doing pretty well.  Some days are better than others but for the most part, he’s adapting to his tripawd life.   I can’t even imagine what life will be like when he’s not here anymore.  I’m trying to stay strong but I’m struggling.  If anyone knows anything about this type of cancer, please share your experiences with me.  Hopefully, the vet will be patient in trying to explain it.

Thank you all for your love and support.  I’ll keep you posted.


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