Sunday, October 18, 2009

Jack is out of remission! SO sad

It has taken me over a week to update this, as I am in shock and so very sad to let you know that Jack was confirmed out of remission on Tuesday 2 weeks ago. There were no symptoms but the Vet found it through needle aspirate. I was gutted, he has been so well and I was secretly hoping for a cure. So it has been a real rollercoaster - deciding what to do and in the end it came down to more of not being able to do nothing!!!!! So we restarted chemo immediately and I agreed last week to continue - I will see how we go from an emotional, time and financial perspective.

One of the saddest parts is that RSPCA Pet Insurance had advised they would not include Cancer in Jack's future plan. I was of course upset, and rang them but as they pointed out - he now had a pre-existing condition and no other insurer would accept him. So my hands were tied, but at the time I didn't believe his cancer would come back so soon (10 months after diagnosis and 5 months after completion of Chemotherapy). So I renewed just in case of an accident.

They have now confirmed they won't cover the second round of Chemo, so of course now cost has to be a major consideration.

Jack remains well - he had some nausea last week after his second treatment (which he did in the first round) but over the weekend he was lively - lapped up a puppacino at our local "Cafe Bones" in Leichhardt, Sydney - walked from Bondi to Bronte and played with puppies, and just enjoyed life in his usual way.

Please think of us and send special fur thoughts

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Borrowing a beautiful story about a dog with Cancer

I am stealing a post from someone else - a blog by a Sydney journalist that I randomly came across on Friday. She writes about losing her beloved dog to Cancer - the funny thing is she writes about a beach called Rose Bay, which is the exact same place where Jack's Lymphoma was confirmed by his Vet on the phone as Jack swam in the shallows. I haven't been able to go back there out of supersitition.
I loved this story and it is how I feel about Jack - he is my "wingman" and we do so many things together....

Without my wingman
Words alone are not enough to honour a dog. They should be accompanied by treats, tummy rubs, favourite games. But there comes a time when those are no longer possible. For my dog Zach, that day arrived six weeks ago.
The first day without my dog, it rained. It was the sort of rain Zach had no time for; a drizzle too light to create the torrents and splashes he loved to chase, but persistent enough to dampen his coat and chill his paws. He disliked the discomfort of bad weather. You'd never suppose he'd once been a yard dog with only a kennel to separate him from the elements.
When he first came home with me, he went straight to a shag pile rug, reclined on it with an aristocrat's prerogative, sighed contentedly and never glanced at the outdoor kennel again. He became a mutt made good, compensating with charisma for what he lacked in pedigree and exploiting his attributes with the charm of a penniless gigolo. Blessed with an ageless, Disney puppy's face, outsized paws and tufts on the ends of his floppy ears, he was an improbable anthology of dog stories - beagle, cattle dog, glimpses of spaniel and possibly even Dachshund or Doberman - which somehow worked. He walked with a rolling swagger and a smile, his tail beating time. His accidental beauty and his comic flamboyance enchanted even those indifferent to dogs. Thanks to Zach, I grew accustomed to smiles from strangers.
That first silent day alone, I watched it rain while I wept for my lost friend. Had he been there, he would have tackled my sadness in his usual way by fetching me his most cherished treasure: a chewed up, malodorous toy flea. He would dump it on my lap or shove it under my chin then step back and search my face for a smile, his ears standing out sideways like wings. 'Bat ears,' we called that trick. Sometimes he'd lift just one. Half bat. He knew it made people giggle and might earn him a sausage. "Look at his ears!" they'd say. After his death, they wrote eulogies about his ears. He'd have preferred sausages.
Zach regarded gloom as wasted time. Whenever self pity - a condition incomprehensible to dogs - laid me low, he'd persist with his efforts to lift my spirits, trying to coax me outside, imploring me to play. If the flea didn't work, he'd pull every other toy out of his box one by one, and pile them at my feet. Denied a result still, he'd disappear into the garden, dig up some foul old bone from his flowerbed pantry and bring it inside, knowing that the stink would at least provoke a reaction.
Missing him, holding his old toy flea, I've tried to summon my dog's resistance to sorrow. But the world holds less magic without him.
Five years ago, Zach came to me from a kind family whose circumstances no longer allowed them to keep him. No-one else had wanted him because he was already eight. Too old. Someone should have tried telling him that. Then, and almost right until the end, Zach possessed the exuberance of a pup. So robust and supercharged was he that I was convinced he'd go on until 16, 17 - maybe 20. Despite legs too short for his body, he could bounce four feet in the air to catch droplets of water, bubbles from a blower or a spray of sand. Zach-in-the-box, I used to call my spring-loaded boy.
We understood each other. I knew that beneath his bravado and gregariousness there dwelt a sensitive soul, vulnerable to rejection. He was frightened of more than he cared to admit. He knew the same about me and we had a pact never to let anyone know. Together we were braver.
He was wary of the sea but fascinated by it, so I gradually encouraged him into the shallow water at Rose Bay beach. Scared of being out of his depth, he would only wade out if I went on ahead. Each time, we ventured a little further. He began to experiment cautiously with 'swimming', walking on his back legs and paddling with the front. Each time he did this he'd wade back to shore and run a grinning lap of honour. Then one day he finally swam properly, in a circle around me. His pride was delirious and so was mine. We danced on the sand. Tell people you've shed a happy tear over a mutt swimming in a foot of water and they'll most likely consider you a bit soft in the head. I'm happy to admit I am, because I did.
The last five years are a trove of those memories; big adventures built from small things. Zach transformed the everyday - grocery shopping, visiting the hairdresser - into the extraordinary. I rarely went anywhere without him. He was my wingman, my partner in crime and my best friend.
Sometimes, he was my escort at parties. He attended the opening of a Burberry store, clad in his own Burberry dog coat, and worked the room for canapes and compliments. After his death, Brooke, the event's publicist wrote: "He will forever hold a place in our hearts - a rogue in a designer dog coat, the pooch who upstaged the celebs... and perhaps our best-behaved guest ever."
He wasn't Lassie. An incorrigible shoplifter and scavenger, he once climbed all the way inside a bin in search of a festering feast. He upturned a tray of pastries in my local shop and stole from picnics in the park. If he couldn't see the point of a command, he'd ignore it. But he committed his misdemeanours with such glee and comic timing that no-one ever managed to be angry with him for long.
Zach was a demanding dog in the best possible sense. He demanded that you see his point of view. So many of his actions seemed aimed at convincing those around him of the pure joy of being a dog. He'd turn to look at me after doing something he especially enjoyed - rolling in a bad smell, weeing in an inaccessible spot - with an expression that said: "You should try this. You'd love it."
When he was prescribed chemotherapy for his cancer, I was adamant we'd stop if it even slightly diminished his zest for life. But he tackled his treatments with signature gusto, suffered no side effects and for a while, he beat back the disease. He simply refused to be ill until suddenly, in late October, his body grew too tired to contain his huge spirit any longer.
On my last evening with him, I carried him to the little beach at the bottom of my road, where he used to play in the sand. He sat on my lap and together we watched the waves. Next day, in my garden, he lay in my arms as the vet helped him depart in peace.
I still expect to see him at my feet or to hear him bark for me as he did whenever I was out of sight. Some people call their dogs; my dog used to call me. The silence is the hardest part.
But Zach's gifts remain. Thanks to my dog, I can be mesmerised by ocean spray dancing on the air. I can follow the meandering path of a falling leaf. I watch butterflies, beetles, bluebottles. I listen for distant noises and wonder what they are. I turn my face to the sun. I smile when a breeze strokes my hair. Zach taught me to seek and enjoy the small and humble. He showed me how to view the world through eyes that see only the good in things.
And so, even though I haven't yet felt able, I will return to our favourite park. I will sit on the pontoon where he and I used to sit, trail my hand in the water and watch the droplets the way we used to. I will visit his trees. I will stop to examine interesting objects on the ground. I will reach out and catch raindrops. I will greet my friends exuberantly. Most of all, I will strive to love the way Zach loved me: openly, loyally, abundantly; without ambivalence, grudge or suspicion.
In these ways I will celebrate Zach and while I do, he walks beside me still.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Jack has trouble with Sentinel

Life is back to normal with lots of walks and cuddles after a fright last week. Jack used to get an annual Heartworm injection but I have been told that it is absolutely essential with Lymphoma that a dog never be vaccinated again. So last month, I gave him a Sentinel tablet which I ground up because he kept spitting it out. This month I managed to pop a whole one in his mouth and scratch his neck till he swallowed it. The next morning I woke up to find something I hadn't seen for more than 4 months - horrible diarrhea all over my home. Ugghhh ... my heart dropped and I stayed home from work I was so worried. BUT the good news is that it was just a reaction, and I guess it was a big realisation for me that I can't afford to worry at everything and to just enjoy the moment with my Jack.

My brother had to put his 12 year old Border Collie to sleep this week and his family is so sad about it. So I just want to enjoy Jack, who is enjoying his walks and playing with other dogs. He was even wanting to go walking yesterday when Sydney was bombarded by a horrible dust storm.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

4 Months On

I have been very slack in updating - but spending the last almost 4 months since Jack finished his Chemo really enjoying every moment of our time together. Jack remains in remission and will have his next check up in around 4 weeks, with his Oncologist. He has put on a lot of weight, and at one stage, I thought I would have to put him on a diet! HAPPY DAYS!!!

Jack's coat has grown back and when I look at the photo from when he finished treatment he looks like a different dog - his coat has grown back darker and one of my neighbours described his coat as "lustrous"!! I will take some new photos of him this weekend and post.

Since Jack finished Chemo, he has been on Mushroom Extract, and I have kept his diet as it was during his treatment - i.e. I cook for him. BUT he has been able to have bones again, which makes him very very happy.

He had a holiday recently with me, and it was great to see him running along the beach and behaving like a dog with the 2 labradors who came along.

His weight is back to where it was before diagnosis (maybe a bit more!) and he is a very happy and content little Schnauzer.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Chemo is over!

Jack finished his chemo 2 weeks ago and got a natty purple scarf to mark the date. He is still doing well - eating well and putting on weight. A lot of people have commented that he looks like a puppy again and a lot of the time he is acting that way. His behaviour has changed - he now barks whereas before he never did, and he will chase dogs away in the park. A bit of a worry as I would hate for him to pick the wrong dog. He turned 7 last week and we had a little celebration at Cafe Bones, with a puppacino for him and his dog friend, Maxx. First day of winter here and it is getting cold - I hope Jack's hair grows back in a hurry!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Easter Holiday

I had a great Easter holiday at Blueys Beach on the North Coast of NSW. It turns out to be the Schnauzer capital of Australia - there were schnauzers everywhere - even another black one like me. So it was a great time.

I ran along the sand, played in the surf, ate strange root things on the beach and watched out for the sneaky brown kelpie from next door. 4 whole days of sun and surf and being spoilt.

I had another treatment when I got back - my white blood cell count had come back up to normal and they stuck some more of those needles in. I was very good, just shut my eyes and imagined I was back at Blueys.

Only 2 more treatments to go and then I don't have to go all the way to Strathfield again for at least 3 months. Yipee

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Long overdue update

Almost a month since last post. Jack is doing well although it is a bit of a roller coaster. His life has improved in some aspects - getting very spoilt, best of food, run of the house etc. He looks and acts well.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Another week

Took Jack to the Vet earlier than needed for his Blood Check this week - he was off his food, looked "sad" and was just flat. The results came through that his blood count was low - have decided to keep him back from his dog walking this week. He will be miserable when I get home as today will be his first day all alone, ever in his life! He has always had someone with him during the day, so I am expecting a ballistic welcome home. I came home from work early yesterday to take him to the Vet, and then he slept pretty well all afternoon/night.

I have tried crushed red kidney beans which had been suggested in How to Help Your Dog Fight Cancer but it doesn't appear to make much difference with him. The Oncologist told me that it seems Schnauzers drop more than other dogs and take longer to recover.

Gave him a lovely weekend to make up for him feeling flat - we went to a dog beach on Saturday, was a beautiful day here in Sydney - really sunny and warm and he had a great time. Of course this was before the advice that he not mix with other dogs at the moment .... OOPS! I took some great photos, which I will upload.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The treatment goes on

Jack back at Animal Referral Hospital yesterday where he saw the Oncologist, Dr Tony Moore. Still in remission - got his chemo drugs and was as lively as anything afterwards, when we stopped off at the beach on the way home. Was racing along the beach with his bandage on, swimming and all. He got a special treat with new bowls that sit up high from the floor so he doesn't have to bend over ... precious.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Hoping for treatment

Jack sees his new Specialist tomorrow and I have my fingers crossed that his White Blood Cell count will have recovered enough for the treatment. I really would love for his chemo protocol to be finished in time for Easter.

I have booked a beach house right on the sand at Blueys Beach, about 4 hours north of Sydney and I really feel like I will need to get away by then. I have deliberately spent as much time with Jack as possible and because he gets nervous now if I take him to other people's homes, life has been fairly quiet. He was always a dog that could go anywhere, be comfortable with anyone, but now he gets anxious when away from home for too long.

He was eating well on the weekend and was chasing a 8 month old Scottie pup around the hills and rocks at Dover Heights on Saturday afternoon. You would never have known he was sick by the way he was moving!

Monday, February 23, 2009

This blog

For those of you who know Jack and I then you will know we are putting up a strong fight. I realise I have been relatively lucky when I read some other stories on the net about what people have endured. Jack has remained relatively healthy throughout and he is being very brave. I want to keep him well and happy and that has meant I have had to sacrifice quite a lot of my social life for him. He doesn't deal well with strangers and I don't want to leave him alone for too long, so our bond is probably becoming closer than ever.

Change of Plans

Jack went back for treatment yesterday but it turns out he will now be seeing an Oncology Specialist as the specialist who has been with him since this started is moving overseas. Shame that he has to change, but we have seen the Oncologist, Dr Moore, on a previous occasion and he seems great, so hopefully it will all go well. Jack continues to remain in remission - still eating well, although not as manically as when on the Prednisone - but his behaviour is changing. He appears far less confident than he normally would be, and is nervous around strangers. Hardly surprising I guess - it must feel that everytime someone other than me comes near him they stick a needle or a tube in. Jack has been on a Cancer Diet now since January 4, and I know he is craving carbohydrates. He managed to find a bowl of cat food at a neighbour's house last night and wolfed into it so quickly it was ridiculous. He still goes out with his dog walker every weekday, and she feels he is coping well with it, but even the walker - Sally - who has known Jack most of his life commented on his lack of confidence ... she put it well when she said "he acts like he is in trouble". I am trying to give him as much love and reassurance as possible and he is very happy when it is just the two of us - less happy when others are around. He has another treatment next Tuesday as his White Blood Cell count was too low this week to take another round. It is always frustrating when that happens - I am anxious to get on with it, and it also adds another week to the protocol. I have learnt so much already - stuff I would prefer not to have learnt - but I have been amazed to find out how many others are in the same situation. So sad.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Fight Begins

in mid December 2008, my 6 year old black Mini Schnauzer, Jack, started to show some signs of illness - he was bringing up his food every now and again and then I felt some lumps on his neck. Other than that he was bright, happy and energetic. So when I took him to the Vet I expected it would be a simple case of leaving with a pack of antibiotics and directions to keep him on chicken and rice for a couple of days. He has always been a scavenger and as I live and usually walk him at Bondi Beach - known for the enormous amounts of rubbish that people leave around - it wasn't unusual for him to have a stomach upset.

I saw a locum, who swiftly mentioned the "C" word. It was a horrendous week before the diagnosis was delivered. Jack had Lymphoma and without treatment would be dead within a month! It was so much to take in and I was shocked, incredibly sad and didn't know which way to turn.

An appointment was organised immediately with a Specialist, and Jack began Chemo treatment 2 days later. He was in remission after the first treatment and remains in remission 9 weeks on. His blood count has been too low for treatment a couple of times, but he has been mostly well and happy and I have my fingers crossed for a long remission.