Tuesday, January 19, 2010

First Check Up - Monday 18th January 2010

My first check up since the end of radiation didn't go exactly to plan....

On Saturday, I had this little itch. So I put my back paw up and started to scratch. And took a large piece of skin off my nose. The skin peels because of the radiation effects. Within 10 minutes, Mum and Dad put the horrible collar on. And it hasn't been off since.

So we went to the vet this morning. Dr Val and Dr Rod had a look and they were both happy with how my face looks. Except for the bit I scratched. 

I have to stay on my antibiotics and both pain killers for another two weeks and by then it should be much better. I'll let you in on a secret. I've figured out Mum hides my antibiotics in chicken skin and I've started spitting them out. But Mum and Dad are clever. Now I get minced meat balls twice a day and I haven't seen an antibiotic since the mince balls started.

Anyway, tonight my nose was really itchy and I figured out if I worked real hard, I could rub my nose on the side of my bed by bending up my plastic collar. Then there was much more skin missing. Mum heard the noise of the rubbing and came running but it was too late. So less than twelve hours after the check up  I had another trip to the vet - the Emergency Centre attached to the radiation centre. They checked my nose then fitted me with a bigger collar. There's no way I can bend this one now.

My photos were taken before my second trip to the vet. We won't be taking photos now until the wound heals a little. 

Mum is calling the new collar the "Calf Slicer" because I keep running into the backs of everyone's legs. As well as the doors, the walls and Misty.

I think its going to be a long two weeks.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Celebrating Adoption Day - 11th January 2010

Today is the ninth anniversary of joining my pack. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was born at the Peninsula Animal Aid and when Mum picked me up, it was my first trip in the car. And I was a little bit scared. And I did a big vomit. And ever since then Mum jokes they called me Gromit because it was the only word that rhymed with Vomit.

Anyway, to celebrate, Mum baked cupcakes and I visited our local vet with Mum and a plate of cupcakes to see my friends Jacqui and Jenny and Jennifer (Sorry Trisha, you missed out). Tonight, after dinner I even got to have a cupcake. Dad broke it up for me and helped clean up the icing (it was everywhere). 

I passed my golden rule of cupcakes on to Misty. Paper case OFF. As a stealer of food as a young pup I learnt this lesson the hard way, when Mum reached in and retrieved a half-swallowed cupcake - still in its paper case. Anyway, Misty thinks cupcakes are pretty good, and icing is a food from the gods.

Again there's no photo of me today. My mouth and nose are still sore and they tell me this is about as bad as it will get. Mum says if you look straight on at me, it looks like someone drew a sad clown mouth on my upper muzzle with pink lipstick. That's the burn.

But I am getting my "happy" back. Tonight on our walk I wanted to play to the sports field, and I've been eating all my food without having to be coaxed. So I think we've turned the corner and I'm starting to get better.

Fingers crossed it continues.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

End of Radiation - dose #19 - 5/1/10

It's over...

Today was my last dose of radiation. The last few days have been a bit tough and yesterday I started a new pain killer on top of my anti-inflammatories. It made me really drowsy and I slept all night. I yawned my head off on my morning walk and dozed in the car on the way to the vet.

We had a celebratory spaghetti bolognaise at home tonight and I'm now nodding off again - my belly is full and my eyes are drooping.

Here's some photos of my nose. Dr Val says the effects of the radiation will get worse over the next week, and it will start to heal within 2-6 weeks. I might have no hair on my nose where the burn is, or the hair might grow back white. Doesn't really matter. So long as the cancer is gone.

And that last photo - that was on the weekend. Mum was keeping me company stretched out on an air mattress, doing a crossword and watching the cricket. She went to get a coffee, and when she got back, Minty Bear and I were also watching the cricket. One of the good things about being sick - no-one goes mad if you lie on the bed.

I'm looking forward to a few quite days, although I'll miss all my new friends at the vet. I'm due back for a check in two weeks, or sooner if I'm not well.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Happy New Year - 1st January 2010

Happy New Year.

I don't feel much like celebrating. My nose is really starting to break down now (the radiation gives a delayed burn which worsens over time) and I have a quiet New Year. Mum sets my crate up in the garage, and we move downstairs to let Dad do the painting. 

Some people say crating dogs is mean. I don't agree - I love my crate. I use it when I am sick, or for short visits when tradesmen visit, or if I need to be kept safe. Like when there are New Year fireworks at the Leagues Club two streets over, because fireworks really scare me.

Anyway, Mum and Dad knew I felt bad when I crated myself and didn't come out. I don't want to play with Misty, and I even snapped at her today, which is rare for me. But no matter, she still stayed by my side all day, as you can see from the photo.

Radiation Days #15-#17 - 29-31st December 2009

This week the routine changes. 

Dad's work closes for the festive season, so he is doing the drop offs and pick ups. Its great because he leaves home later, and arrives to collect me earlier than Mum. He shows the nurse my nose with its broken down skin when I am admitted and she promises to tell Dr Val.

Dr Val tells Dad there is a possibility we may stop after 17 treatments if my nose isn't coping. 17 treatments will work, but not as well as 19. Mum and Dad are torn - less side effects with 17, more chance of long term survival with 19. Then Mum says "Well, we don't really have a choice - Gromit will let us know what happens next."

Dad decided to try and repaint the deck floor boards - not an easy task when you're at home alone with Misty. And its raining on and off. He is waiting for the weekend when Mum won't be working to do the painting. So, in between trips to the vet, he is sanding and preparing. Misty is helping - stealing pieces of sandpaper, lying in the way and tracking mud across the deck. Somehow I think Mum and I have the better deal here - we don't have to listen to Dad asking Misty to move every three seconds.

On Thursday, Dad asks if we are stopping at 17 treatments. It appears not. So, we are due to head back for #18 on 4th January.

Merry Christmas - 25th December 2009

I love Christmas normally. Lots of treats for everyone, our pack heads down to the farm and I get to lie round in the paddock being a dog.

But this Christmas is different.

Late last night, the Mum and Dad found the first breakdown of the skin on my nose. It's down the side of my wet black nose tip and it looks like a blister. I'm given strict instructions not to touch it, paw it or rub it, and being a dog I ignore these. So Mum and Dad keep me pretty close by.

Our pack has a quiet Christmas - ham and eggs for breakfast, and a cold feast mid afternoon for lunch/dinner. After breakfast we unwrap our presents. My Auntie Allison sent me (I mean us, sorry Misty) dog treats and my Auntie Rachel sent us a fabulous-looking set of dog biscuits. I say fabulous-looking because despite my begging, I'm still not allowed to chew and they are not opened. NOT HAPPY.

Mum and Dad bought me a 500g bag of lamb puff (which can be crushed and sprinkled on my food) and a stuffed dog that barks "We wish you a Merry Christmas." Misty gets a flashing light to attach to her collar for the farm - no more disappearing into the dark. She begs for some of the dog treats as well, but Mum stays firm. They are going into the cupboard until this is all over.

I have a four day break from radiation because of the public holidays. It's nice to not get in the car everyday. And its pouring with rain - perfect for lying around the house doing nothing.  My muzzle is worse now and my whole top lip looks burnt. Mum and Dad resort to hand feeding me and the custard meant for the Christmas pudding is diverted to me. (No brandy in it either - Mum bought plain just in case).

On Monday, Mum walks Misty to the off lead dog park for a run. Dad and I go down to Wynnum for a walk along the beach. It's great getting out into the fresh air, and I feel ready to face the week ahead. 

Radiation Days #11-#14 - 21-24th December 2009

The week did not start well.

All Sunday, Misty had been annoying me, trying to sniff my mouth. Mum thought I might have a burn so she mentioned it when we arrived at the vet on Monday.

When she came to pick me up, her suspicions were confirmed. Dr Val says in her experience there are two types of dogs - "burners" and "not burners". I am a "burner" which means I will show all the obvious signs of radiation burns, and it has started. There is nothing on the outside, just redness on the inside of my mouth.

So I came home with 60 horse-sized pink antibiotic tablets, enough for a whole month. There were so many they came with their own carry bag!! I am to have one twice a day, and if I seem to be in pain I can have Metacam, the anti-inflammatory as well. Mum draws up a chart to cross off when the doses are given so we don't forget, or accidently double up. 

My Mum and Dad are pretty tricky. They don't come at me waving the pink tablet. One of them offers me a bundle of BBQ chicken skin, and knowing this is a rare treat, I snap it up. I rarely chew such special treats, so the tablet slides right down no worries. I haven't managed to spit one back yet. 

Before I know it, it's Christmas Eve. Mum drops me off but I get a special treat coming home - Dad picks me up and we have time for a quick walk with Misty before Mum and Dad head to their family Christmas Eve celebrations.

The antibiotics and the anti-inflammatories upset my tummy a little, but I'm still looking forward to my Christmas treats. If I'm lucky Mum and Dad will sneak something for me into a doggy bag tonight.

Merry Christmas everybody. 

Radiation Days #6-#10 - December 14-18 2009

Here we go again. 

After a weekend off, I thought I was finished. But then Mum didn't give me breakfast on Monday and I realised I was off to the specialist centre again. I'm a pretty smart cookie, so I have learned the routine now.

You'll notice there aren't any photos of me right now. That's for two reasons - firstly I don't look any different yet, and secondly Mum and Dad are trying not to take photos. Its hard enough doing radiation, they say we don't need reminders of this time in our lives. 

So I will leave you with a some photos of Misty, and you'll see what has become of my kitchen bed.... 

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Radiation Days #2-5 - 8th-11th December

We are getting into a routine.

We are still walking first thing, but no breakfast. Mum is doing the drop-offs before work, Dad stays home and feeds Misty after I leave for the day. She gets a big ice cube with some frozen steak in the centre - keeps her busy for many hours, so she doesn't dig up as many things when she's by herself (she really is naughty some days).

Meanwhile, I am reclining with my Minty Bear (my green teddy bear, sorry I don't have a photo) in air-conditioned comfort awaiting my trip to the radiation room. They give me an anaesthetic, do my treatment, wake me up, then return me to my bed to sleep until Mum comes back after work. I run out to greet her and then we hop in the car.

Dad goes straight home and walks Misty, and gets the dinners ready.  Mum drives in, and as soon as I get out of the car, my dinner is ready for me. Which is good, because I am not allowed to eat before I go. So I am very hungry when I get home.

I have no effects visible from the radiation as yet, and I am no different to normal. The anaesthetic is knocking me round a bit, but I'm ok. Just sleepy. Mum thinks this is because instead of sleeping 20 hours a day, I am busy sticky beaking at what everyone else is doing at the Vet Hospital.

Five days down, fourteen to go.

Radiation Day #1 - 7th December 2009

Another early start, and no breakfast. We have an early morning appointment, and will progress to radiotherapy from there.

At this stage, Mum and Dad are saying yes, providing I won't go blind, or lose my ability to do all the things a dog loves, like eating, walking, tail wagging, playing. They know I might have some temporary symptoms, but will recover.

We sit down with Dr Rod and Dr Val, our radiation specialist. They listen to our concerns and talk through them. They show us photos of their star patient Laban (forgive my spelling if its wrong) - a black lab who had radiation on his nose. Not quite the same place as me, but close. They show us a series of photos. At the start it isn't too bad. By the end, Mum is crying and Dad looks shell shocked. Maybe my nose will look like that. Maybe it won't. 7 months post radiation, Laban is healed, happy and being a dog. He played all during treatment.

Mum and Dad have another talk and decide to go ahead. I leave with Dr Val and my teddy bear to have my planning session and then to start radiation.

Decision Time 3-6th December 2009

Mum and Dad have spent a lot of time trying to decide what to do. Mum's mum had radiotherapy for a brain tumour and survived six weeks after the treatment finished. The treatment made her blind and affected her memory, and didn't fix her cancer problem. Mum is worried.

They watched a video showing another dog's radiation therapy and listened to what his parents had to say.

Then they made a list of what's important:
  1. Gromit's quality of life during and after radiation treatment
  2. Gromit's likely survival with or without radiation treatment
  3. The family's ability to deal with the side effects of radiation (what if Misty put her nose into Gromit's face and a fight ensued? Should Misty be boarded out?)
Then they made a list of what's less important:
  1. The cost of treatment
  2. The logistics of getting Gromit to treatment (thank you Brisbane Veterinary Specialist Centre for offering day hospitalisation)
  3. Everything else going on right now - work, Christmas etc.
Dr Rod answered all of their questions. The average survival time of dogs with oral fibrosarcomas without treatment is 6 months, with treatment the average survival is 18 months. This sounds bad, but my tumour is in a "good spot" meaning that radiation will reach the right tissue, and it will minimise the damage to other tissue. BUT my tumour is described as high grade, which means it will invade locally. 

Everybody's decision at this point will be different, because their list of what's important and what's not important will be different. But I truly believe everyone makes the right decision for them.

One wise soul helped Mum and Dad immensely with their decision making. They said "When you make your decision, you need to know you aren't choosing between the good option and the bad option. The good option is off the table. You are choosing between the bad, the very bad and the ugly options." This did help because they were trying to choose the good option.

Yet another really long weekend as we all wait for the Monday appointment. We took a trip down to the beach at Wynnum and enjoyed the sunshine and tried to forget about Monday.

Pathology Results - 3rd December 2009

Well, Dr Rod left a message and Mum rang him back as soon as she could. 

And received very bad news.

The margins around the tumour, despite being large, were not clear of cancer cells. Which means some of the cancer cells have been left behind. 

I need treatment with radiation. Dr Rod tells Mum I will need 19 treatments, starting as soon as possible. He emails mum an information sheet explaining the way the treatment works, the side effects and what will happen.

Mum rings Dad and shares the bad news.

They are both upset when they get home from work. I do my best to cheer them up, but they both look sad as they talk about the radiation treatment and whether or not they will give me the treatment.

Dr Rod makes an appointment for us on Monday morning (the 7th). We will talk to him and Dr Val, the radiation specialist, and if we proceed, we start Monday.

Another long, long weekend.

First Check Up - 27th November 2009

Today is my first check-up with Dr Rod.

Mum and Dad had strict instructions not to turn my lips back to look at the wound, because the tissue is still really fragile, so no-one at my place knows what's going on in there. Misty has had a bit of a sniff, but I think that's because I smell like custard.

When I get to the Specialist Centre Dr Rod is very happy with my mouth. When the tissue was removed it was sent to pathology to make sure there were clear margins around the tumour. The pathology result isn't back yet. 

So now we just wait for the pathology. 

Post surgery - 21st-26th November 2009

This is the life....

I can only have soft and smooth food, so Mum has been cooking me scrambled eggs, chopping up barbeque chickens, making tiny meatballs and opening custard cups for me.  And because my mouth is sore, I need to be hand-fed. OK, so maybe I don't need to be hand-fed, but it is heaps easier (sometimes things don't go into my mouth as planned). I am eating dog bikkies, but Mum has to soak them to soften them up. 

The only down side - no chews!!! No rawhide or bones or Dentastix. Now, I am a clever dog, and I know the way to get a treat - you shake hands, listen carefully to instructions (sit...down...) and do what you're asked. 

But... nothing is working. I've offered up my paw so many times, and Mum keeps saying "No sweetie, you can't have one." Misty is also trying very hard to get treats - remember she is at dog lessons. Well she has learnt sit and down and shake and is trying hard on my behalf. But Mum stays firm. No-one gets a treat.

Gee I hope everything goes OK at my check-up and I get my treats back.

Hospital Trip -19th/20th November 2009

Thursday the 19th... Radical surgery day.

No breakfast again today. I am admitted early, given an abdominal ultrasound, chest xray and a CT scan of my upper jaw to see where the fibrosarcoma has grown. Then off to surgery for a premaxillectomy. I stay in overnight and they treat me like a queen.

Dr Rod has taken the tumour from the inside, so there are no cuts in my skin, they didn't even need to shave my muzzle. I feel different, but I'm not sure if I look different. Mum and Dad ring and the nurses say hi to me from them.

On Friday the 20th, I am discharged home. Mum and Dad are so happy to see me. I have a pain-relieving patch on my leg, and I will be having some Metacam each day as an anti-inflammatory.

If you look at the photos, you wouldn't even know I'd had the operation. 

Fibrosarcoma - 16th November 2009

I woke up feeling hungry and knew immediately that I was heading to the vet - no breakfast! The vet is across town from us, at least an hour in the traffic going through the city and about 45 minutes if we travel via the Gateway Motorway. I like the trip through town better because I get to stick my head out the window. But we're going Gateway, and the window is up... Bummer.

Our pathology is back. The tumour is an Oral Fibrosarcoma, one of the "big four" oral tumours. It is a local type of tumour, in that it rarely forms secondaries. Even so, because I have had a melanoma (which does form secondaries) I need to have a chest xray and an abdominal ultrasound before we go too far. Just in case.

Mum feels relieved that the tumour is not a melanoma, but doesn't know anything about fibrosarcomas. Dr Rod explains that he can remove the tumour by cutting away part of the top jaw (Premaxillectomy)  - save the canines but remove all the teeth forward of these. He will take wide margins, which means he will try and cut out a wide enough area that any small tumour cells in the tissue are also removed.

I am booked in for surgery on Thursday 19th.

Lump regrows - Friday 13th November 2009

Friday the 13th....

Mum checked my mouth and there are definite signs the lump is regrowing. We ring our vet, but really there is nothing we can do but wait till Monday.

It looks like being a really long weekend. 

Biopsy Day - 11th November 2009

As instructed, I headed off with Dad to the vet on Wednesday the 11th November, having been fasted overnight. I was given an anaesthetic and the lump was removed level with my gum line and the wound cauterised. The lump bit was sent to pathology for testing.

Mum and Dad collected me and we went home to Misty. Because it was her first experience of me being sick, I was in the kitchen for the first few hours until I woke up a bit. Misty wanted to keep me company, and didn't leave my side (that's her in the purple collar). She's a great little sister.

All our favourites were on duty at the vet again. Mum sensed something was really wrong when we were suggested to make an appointment with the Brisbane Veterinary Specialist Centre, before the pathology came back. So mum emailed Dr Rod the photos of the lump, and we made an appointment for Monday 16th November.

Diagnosis Day - 10th November 2009

Tuesday started off the same as every other work day. Mum does the early morning walk and breakfasts, then gets in the shower to head off to work. I wasn't all that hungry (sometimes I can be fussy with my food) and mum hid my bowl from Misty, and headed off to get ready for work. It was while Mum was in the shower that Dad checked my mouth.

And found something growing. Dad said it was an ulcer, but Mum said it looked like a cancer. They took some photos and Mum said she would ring the vet as soon as they opened.

Email is great. They emailed the photos to the vet and when Mum rang, we had an appointment for after work. 

Now, I have a great relationship with the vet, so I love going up there. My favourite vet and vet nurses were on, so I stopped for pats before the consult. The vet took one look and said "This is bad." Plans were made to cut it out, and when we went back to reception we were already pencilled in for surgery on Wednesday (the next day). That's when it sunk in for Mum. 

This is bad.

All about Gromit

I was born in October 2000, one of four pups born to a labrador cross mother at Peninsula Animal Aid north of Brisbane ( http://www.peninsulaanimalaid.com.au/ ) and at 12 weeks of age I was adopted into my pack. My early years were great - regular trips to the dog park, walks twice a day, trips to the beach and to the farm. I loved my new pack, especially when they took trips in the car. There was one other dog called Wallace and Mum and Dad.

In 2007, my carefree existence came to a temporary halt. A little bump on my rear was diagnosed as a melanoma. No worries though, Brisbane is home to the Brisbane Veterinary Specialist Centre, so in May 2007 I went in to have the melanoma removed. And everything was great again because my fabulous surgeon Dr Rod made sure all of my cancer was gone.

2007 was not a good year. In October I did my cruciate. So off to hospital I went to have it repaired. This leg gave me niggles all through 2007/8 but eventually came good as we welcomed 2009. I continued to have physio/hydrotherapy into 2009 and I loved going "swimming" on Mondays with my mum.

2009 was looking good health wise for me, but Wallace's arthritis and health was going downhill and we were all devastated when she went to dog heaven early one cold winter's morning. I was lonely without her, and later that Winter, mum and dad took me across to the RSPCA ( www.rspcaqld.org.au ) and with my help we recruited a new pack member, Misty.

Life was looking great again. It was hard getting used to a new pup, but we were surviving. Mum had enrolled Misty in dog lessons, Dad was making sure I had plenty of attention, taking me for trips to the farm and for long walks while Misty ran off her energy at the dog park (off limits for me since my cruciate troubles).

We celebrated my ninth birthday with a cake while Mum and Dad were on holidays. At the start of November, they went back to work and our routine went back to normal. On the 7th November, we went for a trip to the farm and everything was fine. On Monday, I was a bit off my food, which sometimes happens after a big weekend. Nothing unusual though.

But on Tuesday 10th November, everything changed.