Cancer and Chemo

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Ugh. Those are two ugly little words no one wants to use in a sentence.

But here we are. The news of lymphoma in Teva, a very healthy 4-year old dog, came as a shock.

Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymph cells of the blood. The most common sign is enlarged lymph nodes. This is not painful, but very tiring. You could argue that chemo is a good word – after all, chemo is what we kill cancer with, but it isn’t something we readily sign up for.

A little background

Teva’s human is my dear friend Heather. Teva is the Dog of Her Life. My Sophie and her Teva are great buddies, especially when Sophie needs a Greyhound break – when she needs to hang with one of her own kind. We all needed a day or two to let this news sink in. But we didn’t sit immobilized, we got a plan in place.

First stop: WSU veterinary oncology. The first appointment was 4 weeks ago, when the Madison-Wisconsin chemotherapy protocol was started for Teva.

This week was week #4, and we traveled back to WSU for a re-check and to get the drug doxorubicin, which is in extremely short supply now and only available at the university.

The journey

As horrible as it is for us humans to grapple with, dogs still live happily in the moment. Walk?! Cookie?! Ball?! All good things that Teva gets in extra doses right now. She has no idea she has cancer – she might want to take a nap rather than hike on the day after chemo, but hey – naps are good too.

The goal of chemo is to shrink those lymph nodes, put this cancer in remission, and have life be as normal as possible for Teva. Lots of hiking, swimming, tennis balls and yummy food.

Here is a mini photo story of our trip to WSU this week

Teva bursts into WSU just like the first time – eager to greet anyone who will say ‘hi’ – no fear here. She, like all Goldens, adores balls. We let her take in this ball while she had her treatment. For her, it is like those squishy balls humans can squeeze to relieve stress. Pleasantly comforting and distracting.

Dr. Choy told us that Teva enjoyed lots of cookies while she was getting her chemo (administered slowly over the course of an hour with IV fluids) and warned Heather that Teva might not be as hungry for dinner later. An unnecessary warning, as Teva’s appetite has remained very good. Even extra-extra good, thanks to prednisone, one of the drugs used in fighting lymphoma.

Give this dog a treat and a ball, and she is all set. Living in the moment is a good lesson that I must learn over and over from my pets.

The next morning, we met for a coffee break. Doxorubicin is a strong chemo agent, and Teva was feeling a little quiet. As Heather and I sipped coffee, we looked down to find the girls hanging out on their own together.

Argos cares. So does Purl. But wow! Check out this uber-comfy special bed that Teva has! Argos notices that it way more deluxe than our beds at home. But again … dogs live in the moment. He did not retain any feelings of envy. It’s all good.

And now for some good news!

Teva’s lymph nodes have shrunk to almost normal size. Something great to celebrate.

Continuing onward

I am thinking of writing up Teva’s continuing story and more about lymphoma and chemo on About.com, including interviewing oncologists at WSU. What are your questions about Teva-cancer-lymphoma-chemo? Feel free to post them as comments here as I gather up info and ideas to write more.