Condo Blues: Riding the Cancer Go Round

Friday, April 27, 2012

Riding the Cancer Go Round

Canine cancer goes round with ups and downs like a merry go round but it is not nearly as fun. 

Each week of treatment has downs as well as ups.
It is stupid of me to think chemotherapy is like taking an antibiotic for an infection. You’ll feel cruddy for a few days but during the rest of the course of treatment, you’ll feel so fine the doctors will remind you repeatedly to finish your meds.

Three weeks in I don’t’ think I’ve been living with this long enough or at its most severe to be feeling so up and down about the situation but I do.

 The chemo days are rough because they have to sedate Blitzkrieg to do it because of his abuse issues. To this day, he goes berserk if you try to restrain him or wrap him in a towel. This makes Blitzkrieg a less than ideal patient because we never know if or what extent the reaction will be to exams, or shots, or a day long IV full of drugs blasted into his body.

Blitzkrieg was so zonked he fell asleep on the way home from the vet. The chemo upset his stomach so much he didn’t eat for three days.

 Husband and I whipped up a batch of brown rice, chicken broth, and chicken baby food because we were so concerned about Blitzkrieg not eating. Fortunately, our mix is kinder to his stomach and he gobbled it down. His mood and behavior improved.  By the weekend Blitzkrieg full of energy and enjoyed a picnic in the park with Husband and I.

The following week, the oncologist suggested we try giving Blitzkrieg antidepressants to help him cope with the stress of sitting still with an IV in his leg all day. Trazadone - it’s not just for humans anymore!

I have nothing against using or needing anti depressants. In fact, I think we are lucky to have them because they can be an important component of the treatment mix for many.

In the beginning, we put Blitzkrieg on doggie downers because he was so stressed and worried he would be hit. He needed them to stop worrying so much and allow us to work with him and convince Blitzkrieg that in this house, we are consistent with our words and actions and worse thing that could possibly happen to him is an empty peanut butter jar. Fortunately, with hard work, we were able to discontinue the prescription.

The new prescription was telling because it meant part of Blitzkrieg flashed back to that very dark place where we found him.  I started wishing that I’d run into the woman with my car who abused Blitzkrieg so badly that he can’t snuggle under a blanket without a flashback. What terrible things do you have to do a living thing for the first 18 months of its life that the scars run so deep?

With your help of raising enough money for two chemotherapy treatments,  Husband and I paid off our human medical bills with eating from the pantry, cutting a few things, ditching our big anniversary plans for a low cost high fun and yum anniversary dinner(involving duct tape, a ball peen hammer, and the threat of bacon granola - you can read about it Lazy Budget Chef), and an unexpected bonus from work. That means our tax return can pay for three more chemotherapy treatments! I was relieved and thought we were over the worst of the finances.

I have to stop thinking that. Bad things happen when I think that.

The oncologist told us up Blitzkrieg’s walk schedule after his next chemotherapy visit (made possible by you!) because the drugs will make him go more frequently. Blitzkrieg started piddling in the house, which is unusual for him - not little accidents but six or so Lake Pee Mores a day. I use my carpet cleaner on potty spots so often I think we’re engaged.

I suspected Blitzkrieg was constructing a tributary because of the meds. I was right. On his next chemo day, the oncologist said Blitzkrieg is the 1% of dogs that have that reaction to the drug they used. Blitzkrieg also has a bladder infection and his white blood cell count is 300, too low to do chemo. They did tests and pumped Blitzkrieg full of IV antibiotics. When we came back later in the week for a chemotherapy treatments the doctor said she wanted to talk to us about adjusting Blitzkrieg’s projected expiration date.

Keep Going
The non-chemo visit set us back an extra $300. Husband said he thought the oncologist’s $3000 estimate for treatment might have been too low.  We didn’t say it aloud but we think there might be more times like this in our future.

It felt like a punch in the gut. On nights when I couldn’t sleep, I crawled out of bed, lay down on the floor next to Blitzkrieg’s pillow, and stretched a hand into the darkness to stroke his soft fur. Blitzkrieg always nuzzled back.

The IV and new meds at home made Blitzkrieg perk up a bit – or was that wishful thinking? It was hard to tell. Lake Perpetual Piddles were less frequent and smaller.  I still fear for my carpeting though. Replacing the carpet is not an option and I really don't want to spend almost a chemo treatment on a new steam carpet cleaner.

Blitzkrieg’s white blood cell count was 6000 (in the normal range) and well enough to have chemotherapy on his doctor’s visit late this week.  We didn’t have a serious talk either, thank goodness.

The Trazadone did its job. Blitzkrieg did not need as much sedation and didn’t come home a zombie dog. He also felt well enough to eat dinner – something he has not done on chemo day.

I wonder what tomorrow will bring.

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Mary said...

Lisa - Ugh! What a roller coaster ride of emotions for you and your husband. You are doing your best for little Blitzkrieg so don't forget to be especially kind to yourselves, too. Take a little bit of extra time to do the small things that help to soothe your nerves and psyche. In troubled times I've always turned to comedy movies, especially with my favorite comedians - usually the goofier the better. Laughter is a strong soothing and healing force. Also comfort foods, outdoor exercise and hot showers work for me. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Oh man...when our rottie had a brain tumor we had these types of ups and downs. My heart is there with you and I'm hoping for some memorable times for the three of you.
Sue Clarke

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