And There Was Great Rejoicing!
Our little girl Myra, the 8 year old Cavachon, has been fighting a mighty battle against lymphoma in her stomach and small intestines. We were devastated 8 weeks ago when we learned her diagnosis, and our world was rocked 6 weeks ago when we learned that after removal of six inches of bowel, the cancer had come back with a vengeance, causing tumors to grow in her stomach and small intestine. Even though the laboratory testing showed her cancer was the slow-growing, less malignant form of lymphoma, the cancer did not follow the rules and morphed into a rapidly growing, deadly foe.
Faced with life-altering decisions, we decided to fight the cancer using deadly chemotherapy drugs, which goes against our beliefs in treating disease with more natural options. But in the spirit of treating holistically (which means treating the whole animal, not just targeting the cancer), we decided to fight the disease with everything we could. We opted to treat her with chemotherapy because she was very strong overall and had a strong will to survive. The great thing about dogs is that they cannot see the future - they live for today. Myra lives every day "in the moment". And most moments revolve around "Mom", "Dad", and dinosaurs.
She loves to open packages and pull out squeaky dinosaurs, which resulted in dozens of dinosaurs arriving on our doorstep. Videos of Myra opening packages flew around Facebook, accompanied by hundreds of promises of prayers, healing energy, and encouraging comments. Myra's zest for life encouraged everyone following her story. Her followers cried when she felt bad from the chemo and fevers from low white blood cell counts; they cheered when she had a good day and ate all her meals. The love and encouragement surrounding this little bundle full of life truly helped us keep an optimistic outlook.
In addition to the weekly chemotherapy, which went from L-spar to vincristine to cytoxan to chlorambucil, Myra had weekly laboratory testing to watch her cell counts and liver enzymes. While "Mom" was not happy with most of the test results, our oncologist, Dr. Kate Vickery, told us these were perfectly normal for dogs with this disease and drugs on board. Mom had to get used to a "new normal".
In order to keep Myra's immune system in the best shape possible, it was imperative to find a diet that would support her without feeding the cancer. Cancer cells grow on carbohydrates, so we made a home cooked stew of mostly meats, organs, and low carb vegetables. This was great, right up until Myra turned up her nose. She was nauseous from the chemicals and the tumors. Once an animal vomits a meal, they will have an aversion to that for quite a while. Luckily, we have lots of animals and lots of meal options at our house. Myra settled on freeze dried raw cat food, which was really fine because the products contain 90% meat, bone, and organ. No carbs in kitty food. We also supported her with cerenia (anti-nausea medication) and famotidine (to protect her stomach from ulcerating secondary to the high dose of steroids she is taking). She gets injections of Dexamethasone once daily as part of the chemotherapy. The Dex is much stronger than oral prednisone, but the oral medication made her vomit.
While I haven't been happy about the high drug intake, I have been realistic. She needed the medications. To offset that a bit, she has been taking high quality CBD oil twice daily to help with nausea and to give the cancer cells an extra kick in the butt. She also takes Wei Qi Booster and a Wellness tablet to support her immune system, along with Si Wu Tang to help build red blood cells. I had to give up on coconut oil; she refuses it. She gets an injection of vitamin B12 twice a week to support her bowel function and increase appetite, along with a probiotic.
Myra's appetite returned with a vengeance about two weeks ago. She has been eating big meals three times a day and has finally been able to go back to eating her beloved Allprovide. That's a blessing for those that live with her because the toxic gas associated with eating kitty food was really bad!
This week we returned to the Hope Veterinary Specialists for a follow up ultrasound and to begin the round of chemotherapy again. (She is scheduled to go through four rounds.) We watched her ultrasound with bated breath. Ultrasound barely existed when I graduated from veterinary school, so I can barely read the images. But I didn't see anything that looked like the tumors we had seen in her stomach and small intestine four weeks ago.
The news we received from the oncologist and radiologist confirmed our hopes: MYRA IS TUMOR FREE!!