One Year Later ….

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I can’t believe it’s been a year. The blog posts dwindled (ok, became non-existent) because the truth is … we were out, busy, living Grover’s “best life”.

A year ago today we were blissfully unaware of what the future would hold. A year ago tomorrow we were still in denial when Grover came up toe-touching lame on his left forelimb during a walk around the block – I mean, we had just been hiking in the mountains a few days before, how bad could it be? A year ago the 5th we wondered if there would even be a tomorrow when we received the news.

Well, there was a tomorrow. There were 360 (and counting) tomorrows. We went to the pacific ocean, hiked the same mountains again on 3-legs just as we had on four. He was the dog-of-honor in my wedding. We moved half-way across the country to Iowa. We ate SO MANY cheese burgers, ice creams, steaks and more. We learned to love today and try to let go of worrying about tomorrow.

One year later it’s ironic because I found myself having similar conversations – staring at a different tumor this time in his intestinal tract – wondering what’s fair, what’s right, what should we do. But this time we feel grateful, instead of robbed and scared. Because no matter what, we stole back 360 days (and counting) from osteosarcoma. Latest imaging showed that he is still free of visible pulmonary metastases and his rib metastasis is still stable which is nothing short of a miracle.

Happy Hops to All –


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6 months of memories

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As we approach our 6 month diagnosis and “ampuversary” and the start of a new year I cannot believe how far we have come and how many memories we have made.

Six months ago, I was afraid that there wouldn’t be a tomorrow. Today, as I look back we have had many tomorrows. Each one sweet, savored and full of joy. A brief recap of our last few months since updating:

Grover was the “dog of honor” in my wedding.

We had a wonderful Christmas – complete with an endless supply of stuffies to kill and special dinner for all – 2 and 3 legged! Grover also had a great Thanksgiving and only needed a short course of metronidazole to recover from eating more than his fair share of turkey, stuffing and potatoes. 🙂

He’s back to hiking several days a week and we were able to complete our favorite hike at least one last time before we move… I slipped and fell 3 times to his none!

6 months ago we were afraid of what life would be like after amputation and living with cancer or if we would even be enjoying these moments.

Here’s to the moments we have had and the moments we still hope to have. Best wishes for a wonderful new year – Grover and family <3

 

Clinical trial day

We are very excited to be enrolled in an osteosarcoma vaccine clinical trial.  Grover’s first vaccine was today! The clinical trial that we chose and that we also met inclusion criteria for is out of Yale University with Dr. Mark Mamula. One of the things that really stood out to us about this trial was how open Dr. Mamula was with his results to date and willingness to share them. We understand that the point of a clinical trial is to gather more data regarding safety and efficacy so things may change- but he was 100% open and forthcoming with everything that he had to date. This was really important to us, particularly when it came to the safety data.

This vaccine clinical trial, and other osteosarcoma vaccine trials, really embrace the concept of “one medicine” – which basically states that if everyone can work together – veterinarians, human physicians and researchers we will make so much more progress for all species, than if we work separately. Funding is very limited for veterinary species, especially compared to humans. A group at Tufts recently identified that canine osteosarcoma shares many of the same genetic characteristics as human osteosarcoma making it a better pre-clinical model for therapy testing than other traditional models such as mice. This is a win-win situation: dogs will benefit from getting access to more clinical trials than would ever be funded if canine osteosarcoma was treated as a “dog problem only” and ultimately the results of these trials will improve our ability to treat both dogs and people.

Additionally, prior to the trial we obtained a new set of thoracic radiographs – good news! Grover still does not have evidence of lung tumors and his rib tumor is unchanged compared to the last 2 sets of radiographs (so about 2 months time). We couldn’t have asked for better news today!

4 months later

I cannot believe that 4 months has come and gone. Four months ago we learned that Grover had a forelimb osteosarcoma and we thought his life was over. We wondered if it was fair to amputate his leg with all of his other problems – there were a lot of tears. Oh, so many tears.

We had serious discussions with others who were afraid that he could not handle life on three legs, particularly missing a front leg.  I distinctly remember telling his oncologist “He just needs to be a happy house pet, it’s not like we will ever or need to climb Kamiake butte again” and she said “you never know, he just might.”

This photo says it all (and for the record – it’s a hike up, not a drive up ;-)).

Beach weekend

We decided to take Mr. Grover to the Pacific Ocean this weekend. It was a rare weekend that both my husband and I had off and the only weekend that we thought would be decently warm to go to the WA coast.

It was about an 8 hour trip, but the scenery was gorgeous and Grover is a great car traveler. We arrived after sunset on Friday to an absolutely lovely AirBNB right on the beach at Willapa Bay. The next morning was PERFECT. The sun was shinning, the tide was going out and we had the entire beach for ourselves. Grover has been known to get timid around big waves but with the bay and the tide going out – it couldn’t have been more perfect for him.

That night, I just had a feeling. Something wasn’t quite right. We should have been in the free and clear chemo wise – he had a normal CBC at day 9 and 2 days prior on day 14 his neutrophils were just barely under the normal range and that should have been his nadir, or lowest point. I took his temperature three times … high normal. But normal. He ate dinner and we went to bed.

The following morning Grover didn’t want breakfast which is unlike him. We took his temperature and it was 104F … yikes!!! Luckily, as we were leaving and literally pulling out of the driveway back home I ran back into the house and grabbed his antibiotics from the first time he had chemo and ended up with a dangerously low white cell count. We gave the antibiotics and started the long, long drive back home. We briefly considered trying to find an ER clinic closer but decided to make a run for it and get back to our people.

Upon arriving home Grover was still febrile with a temperature of 104F. We went into the ER. They quickly evaluated him – still febrile, but normal blood pressure and not significantly dehydrated. A few minutes later the student came out and said “His CBC was so low that they are manually rechecking it – hang tight.”  I could tell that there were a lot of very sick dogs in the ICU and ER that night – I have no doubt more sick than Grover – and she did a great job keeping us updated to ease this worried owners mind.

The doctor and student came back out and told us that the original CBC was correct. A normal dog should have >5,000 white blood cells and >2,800 neutrophils. Grover had 800 white blood cells and 300 neutrophils – meaning that he didn’t have enough white blood cells to fight whatever was causing his fever and was at risk for sepsis or potentially was septic. They contacted the oncologist who agreed that since he was stable (didn’t have a low blood pressure, not dehydrated), we lived close and would be attentive we needed to get out of the ICU/ER ASAP because he was at risk of picking up a hospital acquired infection that his immune system was in no place to fight. Luckily later that night his fever broke and he has continued to do great.

I felt so guilty Monday. A fun weekend could have killed him. But our very kind oncologist assured us that although that was true, she would have done the same thing if he was her dog and that it’s important for him to have fun too. This will probably push back our 4th dose of chemotherapy because his bone marrow will need more time to make more white blood cells which is disappointing … but right now I am just thankful he is alive and well.

This weekend drove home to me to never take a single day for granted and always have a plan. If we had needed to wait to start the antibiotics until we got home the ending could have been much different. I am so thankful to our veterinary team for taking care of Grover … and me.