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My darling dog has cancer

My darling dog has cancer

About two-and-a-half weeks ago, on a Friday evening after the Husband had been away for work for the week, the three of us, He, Chewy and myself were sat on the sofa, having a catch-up. The Husband mentioned that Chewy’s glands (lymph nodes) were really big.

A bit of back-story, he eats EVERYTHING! He has a keen eye for what we’ve termed a ‘poopsicle’ and happens to chance upon these seemingly tasty snacks rather regularly on his walks. He’s also partial to stale bread that some unwitting fellow has left out for the birds. Or the remainders of a teenagers discarded dinner. Let’s not mention the rotting snacks the fishermen leave behind during fishing season…

I think you understand then, that we often have a dog with a bit of a dodgy tummy*. We’re no strangers to probiotics.

So, obviously we squeezed probiotics onto his handcrafted meals, and kept and eye on what was going on. But coupled with the swollen glands, we called the Vet and they recommended coming in for a visit.

We’re fairly regular visitors to our wonderful Vet, Chewy is known and greeted! Often, it’s just so that we can have a quick weigh-in or pick up his deworming tablets. I’m a big fan of making the vet a fun place to be. It also helps that they have the super tasty Thrive Liver treats, of which he’s a very big fan!

We were kindly squeezed in and the Vet went through the process of examining Chewy. He felt the swollen lymph nodes, then he took out the thermometer… but there was no infection and when I wrongly said, “ooh that’s a good thing” I was given a look by the vet and was told that actually no, this was potentially a very bad thing.** And then the tears welled.

Chewy is my baby. When I started a new job, he was listed as my dependant. I would do battle for him… And now I was going to have to put my armour on.

We were advised to leave him at the Vet while some tests were run, we could pick him up in 1 ½ hours. So, we went for a walk. And quite dramatically, as we, somewhat dazed, took one step after another, the brooding grey clouds released their contents, drenching us, adding the weight of the water to our shoulders.

Arriving a bit earlier back at the Vets, we were told that the blood tests weren’t able to completely shed further light, but that symptoms pointed towards Lymphoma. Other samples (fine needle aspirates) had been sent off for further analysis.

We were given some meds for him, to treat the symptoms and were asked to begin the first of the Big Waits.

We waited. The results came through, but we needed more, to determine that it was 100% lymphoma and what type. There are two types. Type B is the better type, the treatable one. Type T is the terrible type, you don’t want this one.

While still waiting to find out what type we were dealing with, the vet, in consultation with the Oncologist, decided that they would need further aspirates/samples.

I’m afraid that I was mostly trying to control the tears during these conversations, understanding the seriousness of the nature, but with the details being washed down my cheeks. For this reason, I was either armed with the Husband who remembers all the terminology, or a pen and paper while the patient vet slowly explained the details and waited for me to illegibly scribble them all down.

The night before dropping Chewy off for his further tests, which would involve him going under general anaesthetic, I slept on the floor next to him. GA is a big deal and for an elderly gent who was clearly struggling, it wouldn’t be an easy occasion for him. We took one of his blankets, which I’d made sure to sleep on and, I have to admit, even stuck under my armpit to make sure it smelt extra of me… or just extra!

That evening we picked up a very woozy Chewy. He was out-of-sorts, but we were delighted to have our boy back at home. Even if he was staggering around as if he’d taken ownership of the Port and had subsequently made some excellent but controversial decisions!

And then the next Big Wait began. It didn’t help that it was also the bank holiday weekend, causing additional delays. And thank you to the lovely ladies who patiently answered my phone calls wondering if they’d had any further news. And then for going over-and-above and calling back to let me know that they still hadn’t had any update.***

Finally, on Thursday evening last week we got the call. Chewy has type B lymphoma, in an advanced stage.

Throughout this process, the prime importance for us has been to ensure Chewy’s comfort. Obviously, I’d like to have him around forever. But we all know that that’s not going to happen. So, it was with this understanding by all parties that whichever decision we decided to embark on, it would be to ensure that Chewy was in the least discomfort. Not with the focus on extending longevity. If longevity was a side-effect then that would be a win.

Over tears and a snotty nose (by me) the vet explained that actually if we wanted Chewy not to be in pain, then chemo would be the way forward. This was how to treat his discomfort. Otherwise we’d have a few weeks left with our boy who would be suffering.

So, on Friday morning last week we took our boy down to the vet, armed again with one of his blankets and his lunchbox, packed with his breakfast (we’d been advised not to give him his breakfast before the treatment, just in case). He is a trouper and such a good boy, we passed his lead over to the nurse and said how much we loved him and that we’d see him again later. Then quickly hot-footed it out of reception.

Midway through the Big Wait I had to make a decision. I could either be teary and constantly upset, which Chewy completely picks up on. Or, I could make an enormous effort to be happy and positive… and then go off to the allotment and bury my sadness in the ever-growing pile of weeds in the compost bin!

I chose the second. He picks up on my moods and responds appropriately. So, in order to give him the best opportunity I’ve been ‘happy’.

Saturday was a hard day, he wasn’t eating all of his food. Well, let me clarify. He ate all of his raw food, wasn’t a fan of his nuts. On Sunday we figured out that he’d eat the nuts if we hand-fed them to him. Great. But then we over-fed him in our exuberance that he was eating again and he was ill, there went his evening meds! Both days he was so tired he couldn’t really manage a walk of much substance, but he did what he needed then came home and slept.

Yesterday we turned a corner. Having worked out the feeding strategy and with the Husband working from home we had a Chewy who seemed pretty content. So, we set off on our evening walk, where once again he sought out the vaunted poopsicles he so enjoys. Then he tried to chase a cat and was pulling on his lead, eager to go to the big field. Of all the local fields around our house, this is by far the best. It comprises forested area, open fields, loads of paths and two rivers! With no treats in my pocket I was hesitant to let him off the lead (recall is still an issue). But he was just the goodest of boys and his shear joy of being able, and wanting, to run was completely worth watching him scamper around, nose to the ground, tail in the air.

His tail does this wonderful full-circle wag when he’s running around, you just know that he’s having the best time. He even jumped into the river for a quick refreshment! He was full of beans again! Alert, running around the house and playing! He even chewed a piece of cardboard and chased the Husband in the garden! We haven’t seen him like this for a while, and it’s given us the reassurance that we’ve made the right decision to undergo chemo.

We are only at the beginning of our chemo journey. On Friday he’ll go for another session (should the tests give the go-ahead). And I expect that we’ll be repeating the process of tired boy for the weekend, hopefully picking up again into our fun-loving boy.

We’ve had a few sleepless nights – he is now sleeping downstairs as there is a period of toxicity that we need to be aware of after his treatment. But, this has mostly meant that one of us has, on occasion, slept downstairs with him.

We are so proud of how well he’s handling this. It can’t be easy, especially when nobody can explain what’s happening. But, in a way, maybe that makes it easier. I don’t know. There’s a lot I don’t know, but with my pen, paper, positive mentality and the wonders of modern medicine I’m hoping to find a bit more out.

Lucky x

*When we first adopted Chewy, through the amazing Wild AtHeart Foundation, it took us 9 months to get him up to weight because of his tummy is so sensitive. Seriously, how he survived in the wilds of Cyprus on his own, we don’t know. We’ve had to monitor what he eats and we feed him a combo of raw and dry food, aim for recall training with Thrive Duck treats and general everyday treats by Pooch & Mutt… We’ve recently been recommended treats from The Posh Pet Kitchen, which look dog doglicious!

**We’ve previously had growths removed from Chewy’s feet, one of which needed to be tested for the big C. It came back negative, but the week spent waiting was a strain on our sanity.

***We go to Molesey Vet, based in Park Road, Molesey and they have been so kind, caring and understanding though this process so far. Thank you.


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