Whole Dog Journal's Blog September 26, 2011

Life With Canine Cancer – The New Normal

Posted at 03:00PM - Comments: (19)

It’s nine o’clock on Tuesday evening. I don’t know what to do with myself. The dishes are done, the dogs are fed. They are quite relaxed for Border Collies; they romped for hours in the warm spring air.

I don’t want to sleep. Tomorrow everything will change. But right now my two B&W companions are snoozing happily next me on the bed. I want to hold this moment still for as long as possible. I want it to stretch out and wrap its memories around me forever. Right now, this moment, all is right with the world.

Tomorrow at 8AM, I drop Daisy off for her chemotherapy treatment. This is our “normal.” She has cancer; we live with it. We treat it; we won’t be able to cure it. We play a lot of Frisbee and are still amazed at how much weight we are both gaining.

Tomorrow at 11AM, I take Daisy’s sibling Duncan in to see her internist/oncologist. We have him checked yearly for signs of the same type of cancer that Daisy has as it can be genetic. But that’s not the reason for this visit.

Duncan, aka Lad of the Lumps, has nine lipomas. When I found out that one in ten lipomas are malignant, I joked with his veterinarian that he has one more to go. I know it doesn’t work that way, but when you’re dealing with cancer on a regular basis, sometimes a warped sense of humor seeps out.

This past Sunday, I found the tenth growth. It is huge, almost baseball-sized, and located in an area that doesn’t seem typical for lipomas. I can’t believe that I’ve somehow missed this growth. I had just checked him on Saturday as he has an upcoming visit with his holistic veterinarian and I was searching for new lumps so they could be checked and aspirated during the visit.

I didn’t feel the growth on his shoulder then. How did I miss it? How long have I missed it?

About six months ago Duncan had his regular check up with the chiropractor. He’s a wild boy and has of late been getting a little creaky. His chiropractor examined him thoroughly, made a few minor adjustments and proclaimed him good to go for another six months or so.

Since then, I’ve noticed him limping slightly on his right front leg. Not enough to inhibit his all-out ball chasing, but just enough that I could see it ever so slightly. And then there was the overall stiffness during the evenings after these rambunctious games of fetch. It wasn’t consistent; it would come and go. But something about it kept nagging at me. So I made an appointment with his holistic vet to start the diagnostic process. That appointment is scheduled for this coming Saturday.

I’ve gotten really good over the past year at not anticipating diagnostics. Long-term cancer treatment has that effect I guess. Besides, the clinical reality and the dog reality can be two different things. I look to my girl to tell me how she is doing. I watch her play chase and inhale her food. I watch her snarfle in the pillows and wrestle with her brother. All is good.

It’s not that I forget she has cancer. It’s just that sometimes I don’t remember. And in between chemo treatments and ultrasounds and blood tests, I’ve learned not to worry about the next set of results. There’s nothing I can do about it. Besides, I think she’ll tell me long before a test will.

In this moment, everything is still okay. I cherish it. I want to drench myself in it like a favorite perfume with the scent lingering for days. I watch their deep synchronized breaths, their occasional sighs and stretches. They are happy, content, relaxed. They are not thinking about tomorrow. I really wish I could say the same.  -- Barbara Dobbins

Comments (17)

As Gregg W. and Suzi, my 12-year-old lab is being treated for cancer with Neoplasene. We are not out of the woods yet, but I can tell you it has made a world of difference and she is improving significantly. Hers is an internal tumor, so she has to take the Neoplasene orally with food rather than topically on her skin - and that means the dosage has to be CAREFULLY monitored so as not to overwhelm her system with the toxins thrown off by the cancer cells being killed.(A case of the cure potentially being as bad than the disease.) Her initial dosage had to be stopped for a few days and then lowered and fed 3 times instead of 2 times per day when it became apparent her system was overloaded when she developed some negative "symptoms": She became weak, started getting dark spots on her white face, and started breathing very heavily, almost panting, much of the time. Toxins are eliminated initially via the kidneys through the intestines ((the "poop"); if those can't cope to get rid of all the toxic materials, then the skin begins to work to eliminate toxins, and finally the lungs start working to throw out the toxins which the other two mechanisms haven't been able to deal with (thus her "symptoms"). This is apparently an individual thing, as other dogs my vet is treating with Neoplasene haven't had such an adverse reaction of toxin build-up, but her sine her immune system is already somewhat compromised by hypothyroidism, her body defenses aren't as good at throwing off the toxins resulting from the killing of the cancer virus (which is what the Neoplansene does - it kills viruses of all types and probably also bacteria). With the reduced Neoplasene dosage in place for a couple of months now (and one more "time-off" period of a couple of days), she recently has begun acting like her old pre-cancer self, again bringing me toys to throw, getting out ahead of me on walks instead of lagging behind, and just generally indicating she's feeling much better. So I'm very hopeful and definitely a believer in Neoplasene rather than a more debilitating chemotherapy treatment. One of these weeks we'll take another x-ray or sonogram to see what's become of the tumor, too. I'm keeping my fingers crossed! :-)

Posted by: Kathy M | September 28, 2011 2:46 PM    Report this comment

I concur with Gregg W. Look into Neoplasene. After losing a third dog to cancer (all different types of C) I started working with other dog owners with canine cancer patients. The dogs that I saw beat the cancer mostly were the dogs on Neoplascene. Other alternative therapies also worked, but the Neoplasene was the forerunner in "cures". My friends dog passed at 13.5 years after fighting osteosarcoma with a Neoplasene theray a few yeasr earlier. An autopsy was done just to be sure and the vets were amazed at what they found in his hind leg. I did not see this, but the owner did and all ther vets, even the skeptics agreed there was no cancer present. Of course scrappings were taken to validate this. I only wish I had looked into alternative therapies with my boy. Many canbe used inconjnction with or after conventional therapies, too....in case you want to cover all you bases. But I myself, would probably go with the Neopplasene after consulting with the vets, of course.

I have used it myself on a skin cancer (topical) so that I am aware of how it works. If there is cancer present, it can be painful. I sused it on two spot. One was cancerous and one wasn't. Only the cancerous spot was painful as that was the only spot it was "working" on. I foound this interesting. The Neoplasene treated spot has not come back. With conventional treatment, it returned prior.

Thinking positive thoughts for all C patients..... Suzi

Posted by: SUZI IRONMONGER | September 28, 2011 12:09 AM    Report this comment

All you guys are making it hard to get through a work day without tearing up every five minutes. ;)

NK

Posted by: WDJ Editor Nancy Kerns | September 27, 2011 5:08 PM    Report this comment

Barbara Dobbins, Daisy, and my BC, Molly, were both diagnosed with TCC (bladder cancer) within a month of each other. We had met once months before, in passing, where I worked and she volunteered. Our dogs were diagnosed by the same veterinarian and we both had our dogs treated with her for a period of time. We even had our girls chemo treatments scheduled for the same day so we could split the bottle of chemo drug. We formed a bond, a true friendship, through our dogs.

So, here we are, Barb with Daisy, and me with Molly, both nearly 19 months out since diagnosis. Our girls have followed similar paths in their fight with the evil "C", both living each day to it's fullest. We have become not just bonded friends, but each others support system, research partner, sounding board, voice of reason, virtual shoulders, and "give" each other (and our "kids") LOADS of virtual hugs (we live about 1 1/2 hours apart). We even started our own Yahoo! TCC group in hopes of giving others a bit of what we have provided for each other.

Molly is on her 4th chemo drug and had a urethral stent placed in late August. She continues to be full of energy and always happy, happy, happy! She, too, plays Frisbee and just 2 weeks after her stent placement did a whole agility course of 20 obstacles, here at home, with glee! Molly doesn't care that she will be 12 in October nor that she has c-a-n-c-e-r.

I do my best to follow Molly's lead and live in the moment. I do not let her know how I can't fathom the thought of loosing her. Instead we live happily being thankful for each moment. My tears are shed in private. Molly is a fighter, she has always given everything in her life 110%, and she's doing no less in her fight against the evil "C", and nor will I.

We can learn so very much from our cherished companions. Hug those special creatures (both 2 and 4 legged) in your life and try to live each day to it's fullest. "All animals, except man, know that the principal business of life is to enjoy it".-Samuel Butler
~ Joellen ~

Posted by: Joellen B | September 27, 2011 2:41 PM    Report this comment

A favorite poem of mine is "The Peace of Wild Things." One of the lines,
"They do not tax their lives with forethought of grief," has brought comfort to me when any of my beloved pets have been seriously ill. It reminds me that our animals do not know that they are sick, and, unlike humans, they are not aware of death. Instead, they live in the moment one day at a time and are joyful until the end.

Posted by: Unknown | September 27, 2011 2:38 PM    Report this comment

Barbara,

Lovely essay..brought back many feelings I had when my Dane Grace battled cancer, first lymphoma, which she beat, and 2 years later osteosarcoma, which she challenged gracefully. We relished every day together and lived her life to the fullest. I still miss that girl, but she lives on in my memories.

Posted by: Diannep | September 27, 2011 2:34 PM    Report this comment

Your article is touching and it hits home. I am living with a dog with cancer, only treatable with a radical surgery that I have decided not to put him through based on a myriad of other health issues. He was laying next to me on the bed last night as I was reading a book. He looked so peaceful. I covered him with a blanket. I thought about how I would never forget how he looked and how I hated to have to even think about searing these memories into my brain.

Posted by: kobrien1025 | September 27, 2011 2:28 PM    Report this comment

All the best Barbara. Your essay sums up my experiences. Ask your vet about oral doses of Neoplasene. As someone who has had a Lab who lost his leg to OsteoSarcoma 5 1/2 years ago, cancer has been the normal for us for some time. My boy had 5 chemo treatments and seems to have beaten that one. He had a mast cell tumor removed 2 years later when he was 10 and he was just diagnosed this summer with another Mast Cell tumor but it was in a bad location and we didn't want to compromise his mobility any more or put him under anesthesia at his age. But we wanted to do everything we could naturally to help him. We asked our holostic vet where he gets acupuncture what futher we could do and she recommended Neoplasene which is a root extract. The tumor has disappeared for the most part and his life goes on like nothing happened. He's 13 1/2 years old and we've lived every day since the Osteosarcoma diagnosis that every day since then has been a gift. Hang in there and keep a postive attitude.

Posted by: Gregg W | September 27, 2011 12:40 PM    Report this comment

I just finished writing a long message to my friends on a Flickr dog group about my Standard Poodle and his problems with year long ear infections. Knowing what you are going through with such grace and understanding you have given me strength to know there is hope. You have inspired me to be thankful for each day with Marcus and to love him and let him know that I do.

I pray that your dogs know that you love them unconditionally and will be there for them in everything that comes your way.. Bless you and Hugs and sloppy kisses to both of your loving dogs.

Posted by: Nancy H | September 27, 2011 12:26 PM    Report this comment

Hi Barbara,
I practice those moments of which you speak. Big hugs, and best wishes.

Posted by: chettich | September 27, 2011 12:23 PM    Report this comment

I'm a volunteer at a shelter and last Friday I adopted a dog that was going to be euthanized as she was diagnosed with Grade II mast cell tumors. I saw so much life left in this obese, but beautiful, 8 year old female lab that I found myself springing into action to halt her early demise. I adopted Buffy not to try to cure her of this dreadful disease with chemo/radiation, but to allow her to live out the rest of her life until she she tells me its time for her to go. I am treating her with a cancer starving diet, supplements, and a boatload of love. I do not sit with her and cry or tell her how sorry I am she has cancer. Instead, she gets an abundance of belly rubs, kisses, walks (her favorite) and brushings (her 2nd favorite)! I will continue to love her, cherish her, make lots of precious memories and learn the lessons dogs always seem to teach. Take that, Cancer!

Barbara, give Daisy & Duncan some love from Buffy and I and then give yourself a big hug!

Posted by: Julie C | September 27, 2011 12:18 PM    Report this comment

You and your little ones are in so many people's thoughts...I so know the feelings...as do so many, but the writers above are so right about keeping a positive spirit and appreciating every day, as we should regardless of any health issues. The vets so often have to make guarded statements to prevent offering false hope, and yet a number of years back, my wonderful vet (since temporarily retired) thought my little one showing dreadful kidney function and I had very limited time left. I still remember lying on a huge cushion outside with her,and intended to take all my vacation time. But our vet claimed my love and support were what enabled her to survive far longer. I'm sure being the wonderful dog mom you are, yours will do well also.

I think one of the worst things is "dropping" them off for treatment. Too often we are forced into this role of abandoning our little ones when our love and support (NOT NOT NOT filled no matter how much they try to convince us otherwise by staff)is needed, i.e. during a treatment. How many of our little ones are caged for a long while before or after for the hospital staff's convenience? Regrettably, some of these places use insurance as excuses, and some are the only places the treatment can be had...so we succumb.
For the time being I am tearfully grateful that the vet I found some annoying distance from our home is a strong advocate of allowing family to be present for any treatment they do...one can even stand outside and view a surgery through a window...which I passed on...but as soon as it was over (a routine spay) the vet retrieved me from the waiting room, they brought me a blanket to sit on, and I sat with my little one during the entire recuperation period in her enclosed space. If OUR stress is reduced, it is better for the patient...which they all claim as their concern. Never fall for the old "we've found they do better when their families are not present" BS. In some rare cases, maybe...in general we know our pups best. The last person (and I use the term loosely) who said that to me HAD been a long-time well-regarded vet who now owns an emergency/specialty practice, and she clearly crossed over to the dark side becoming a money focused manager. She rattled off over $1000 worth of tests, and they have that way of making it seem you'd be a bad dogmom if you didn't, and of course you want what is best, don't you?? I walked out and didn't let her touch my little one.
take care,

Posted by: robin r | September 27, 2011 12:14 PM    Report this comment

Barbara, what beautiful thoughts. It is common that other loving pet owners don't have the time and resources to take their dogs to specialists and have ongoing tests, etc. I have cried knowing my 8 yr. old Maltese with Cushings and Thyroid disease, breathing problems and skin problems day will come sooner than later. I have tried everything and have run out of answers and money, but not patience. All the expensive tests in the world do not have to tell me how he is doing. I pray for the day that it will not come, but in the meantime, I know he is comfortable and I cherish every moment I have with him and know I have done my best. My love for him will have no boundries even on that dreaded day to do the right thing. Blessings to you and your babies.

Posted by: GB | September 27, 2011 12:01 PM    Report this comment

Barbara, what beautiful thoughts. It is common that other loving pet owners don't have the time and resources to take their dogs to specialists and have ongoing tests, etc. I have cried knowing my 8 yr. old Maltese with Cushings and Thyroid disease, breathing problems and skin problems day will come sooner than later. I have tried everything and have run out of answers and money, but not patience. All the expensive tests in the world do not have to tell me how he is doing. I pray for the day that it will not come, but in the meantime, I know he is comfortable and I cherish every moment I have with him and know I have done my best. My love for him will have no boundries even on that dreaded day to do the right thing. Blessings to you and your babies.

Posted by: GB | September 27, 2011 12:01 PM    Report this comment

your story touched my heart - I can't imagine how difficult this must be, The canine are simple beings and so wonderful at living in the moment. God Bless you & your furry family.

Posted by: Unknown | September 27, 2011 11:57 AM    Report this comment

The important this to know is that the "C" word (cancer) is NOT an automatic death sentence these days. There are so many advances being made every single day in both human & pet medical sciences that both survival rates are increasing. Everyone's immediate reaction is to go to that dark place - DON'T. Cancer survivors will all tell you that mood, behavior and quality of life have a lot to do with surviving. As an animal communicator we have talked with many pets with cancer, including our own, who just needed to be more comfortable during treatment, have certain things adjusted in their lifestyle, and they were fine with facing the battle ahead, no matter what the outcome! Having an extra day of life certainly becomes important as long as pain doesn't overwhelm them. We develop unique signals for the pet parent to know if they are indeed in too much pain. The vet can then adjust meds for them, or when the meds don't work any longer consider the options with the pet's own voice as part of the conversation.

Being positive, happy and keeping life on track is very important, even to your pets. Don't be sad, moppy and crying all over them - they know what this means and in every case we have dealt with never wanted a pet parent to be sad. They want you to focus on the here and now and all the happy times.

Posted by: AnimalHealings | September 27, 2011 11:49 AM    Report this comment

Yes, hugs are in order every single day. Wish to tell everyone to help support the National Canine Cancer Foundation as they fund grants to find a cure for all kinds of canine cancer which in turn will help human researchers find a cure for human cancer as well.

Best wishes for a successful treatment of both of your dogs Barbara.

Posted by: Linda K | September 27, 2011 11:47 AM    Report this comment

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