Friday, November 30, 2012

Ahnung: Cancer update

Ahnung getting ready to head to hospice to visit her friend 'R'
We met with Ahnung's oncologist yesterday at the Blaine Bluepearl Veterinary. I am so grateful for the incredible care Ahnung is getting from her health care team both at Lake Harriet Veterinary and Bluepearl Veterinary. Her x-rays and records were sent over to Bluepearl and Dr. Husbands had reviewed her records before we even arrived. He spent an hour with us going over all of our options and giving Ahnung a thorough check :)

Without a biopsy or surgery and actually getting to the nodules in her lungs there is no way to know 100% if it is cancer. With her history, however, he said he is 90% certain that it is cancer. I opted not to go down the path of any additional invasive procedures for my sweet girl. My gut tells me it is cancer and I don't need to have her go through any additional procedures to confirm that ... after going through all the various options, and after consulting with my vet and just sitting with what feels right to give Ahnung the best chances while honoring her quality of life I decided to take a combo approach, combining eastern and western. Ahnung has started on 2 supplements: CurcuVet and a Green Tea extract. She will be starting I'm-Yunity early next week (this is a compound derived from a mushroom and has been shown to lengthen survival time in dogs with cancer: She will also be starting a low-dose chemotherapy treatment early next week where I have been told most dogs do not have any side effects from the treatment. It is a low dose continuous oral at home chemotherapy treatment geared towards blocking blood vessel growth of cancer cells.
Waiting to get on the elevator at hospice

Dr. Husbands was honest and upfront that there is no cure. Our goal is to shrink the tumors, or at minimum to slow the progression/growth. He indicated that a reasonable expectation for how much time a dog may have who comes in with metastasis to their lungs is 2-3 months. He went on to say, however, that there are exceptions. I know that if there is going to be an exception it will be my precious Ahnung. Unfortunately she lost another pound and now weighs 56 lbs. She has been getting even more treats and I am hoping we can stop the weight loss. Fortunately her appetite is as voracious as ever. And tonight after dinner I took my juicer out and she was ready for her dose of raw cabbage juice -- tonight I decided to add celery and a sprinkle of apple :)

Today Ahnung was her usual happy, tail-wagging, spunky self. She ran around the back yard like a crazy dog with Legacy and rolled around in the dirt :) And then we decided to visit our friend in hospice. We had a wonderful visit with our friend who was excited to see Ahnung. When he arrived he was napping so we had to knock on his door. I apologized for waking him up and he said 'I can nap anytime, but it's not every day I get a cute dog coming to visit me!" :) We sat and chatted for almost an hour while Ahnung helped lick the crumbs off of his floor and then walking over to his bedside to rest her head on his leg. I asked how he was feeling and he said he has good days and not so good days. His wife is also at the same facility and is also in hospice. He tells me, "I feel better when my wife feels better; when she doesn't feel good then I don't feel good." He goes on to tell how they met in highschool  .. how they've been married for 68 years and how she has been his only girl :) He smiles when he tells me how she would write him letters every day when he was in the military serving in Asia and then goes on to say, "My country has been good to me. They have taken good care of me." He knows I just returned from the Philippines and asks me lots of questions. And then he shares more about what he did after he left the army, his kids and how he will soon be turning 91!! ;-) As I sit and listen to him with Ahnung laying quietly by our side I feel blessed to be sharing time with him. His gratitude and positive attitude for the life he has lived and for those who are helping him today reminds me of our dear friend 'M' who told me many times, "I've had a good life."
Waiting for her friend 'R' to let her in!! :)

Today, as I spent time with our friend in hospice it touched me on an even deeper level. The time we share is not just about walking the final stage of our friend's life ... my volunteer work in hospice is now as much about walking the final stage of Ahnung's life and all of us sharing, collectively, i  learning to embrace what is to come and most importantly to live life to the fullest in the present moment ... because the present moment is all we have.

I would be lying if I said my heart doesn't hurt and feel like it's being ripped to shreds when I fast forward and think about when Ahnung won't be here with me. The truth is, I can't imagine my life without her. I am constantly telling myself to focus on the moment and to be here, to simply be here in the moment with Ahnung. She is happy today. She is full of life today. She is full of love.

I believe in the power of prayer and positive/healing energy, so please continue to keep Ahnung in your thoughts and prayers.

With heartfelt gratitude,
Marilou & Ahnung
... and her siblings Legacy, Missy and Mister too :)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Ahnung's cancer has spread ...

I returned from the Philippines on Thanksgiving night. It was a whirlwind trip and I was exhausted  after traveling for over 24 hours. Legacy greeted me in the car as he came along for the ride to the airport with Jenny. When I got home I was greeted by my other pups: Mister, Missy and Ahnung. I noticed right away how Ahnung looked like she had lost weight. As it turned out, we had an appointment this week for her 3 month cancer check up at Lake Harriet Vet. On Monday we were to go in so they could draw blood for her full blood workup. Then on Wednesday we had an appointment with Dr. Cathy. We went in on Monday and we checked her weight ... she had lost 4 lbs since her last visit to the vet a few months ago. Other than her weight loss Ahnung was not showing any symptoms. She was full of life, had a strong appetite, and enjoying her morning ritual of perusing the big back yard and rough housing with Legacy. I've been checking her regularly as well for any new lumps or bumps. Over the summer she had an ultrasound done as well and we confirmed she had no tumors in her spleen or lower organs. I've been able to catch the first two cancers because she had lumps. I noticed the lump by her nipple in July, 2011 and had surgery immediately to remove the lump and had clear margins. I noticed the lump on her neck/back and the lump was aggressively removed in April of this year and the reports also indicated a clear margin. But this past surgery was very hard on her and took a long time for her incision to heal. In April was had a Celebration of Life party for her ... what a gift to have had so many friends come together to honor her and to have a healing prayer circle led by my friend Merry Sawdey.

Since April I have been doing everything I possibly can for my girl ... we've been going in for 3 month cancer check ups and full blood work. Our plan is to have chest x-rays every 6 months and after the ultrasound was done over the summer I decided to also add ultrasounds to her plan. I have thanked Ahnung for giving me the signs .... the lumps on her mammary chain and her neck/back have allowed me to physically see the tumor .. to catch the cancer early. Since April I have struggled with the knowing that there is probably cancer in her body and I just can't see it. It's at a cellular level and my way to combat it is to do everything I can to build up her immune system and to create an environment in her body that is not conducive for cancer cells to thrive. We are so grateful to the staff at Lake Harriet Veterinary for the incredible love, compassion and care they have given to Ahnung. She has been on chinese herbs, fish oil and mushroom supplements since April along with following an anti-cancer diet. She also gets to enjoy raw cabbage juice with me :)

Ahnung after her surgery in April to remove the tumor in her neck/back
So yesterday Ahnung and I met with Dr. Cathy. We weighed her again and she had lost almost a pound since her visit on Monday. Dr. Cathy was happy to tell me her blood work came back great! Everything was in the normal range. She checked her out and nothing indicated any issues or problems. I shared my concern about her weight loss. Dr. Cathy agreed. Knowing her history with cancer she recommended chest x-rays. I asked if metastasis of cancer to her lungs could be happening even if she has no symptoms (other than unexplained weight loss) and her blood work is normal. 'Yes' was the answer I got. So off she went to the back to get 3 radiograph views. Of course, she got lots of hugs and treats from the awesome staff while she was there :)

Yesterday late afternoon I got a call from Dr. Cathy. They had sent the chest x-rays out for a second opinion from a radiologist and the results had come back. My heart just sank when the words metastasis to her lungs came out. My entire world came crashing down. So much of the conversation is a blur as much as I tried to listen. We are meeting with Ahnung's oncologist at 2 pm today to go over options. As much as I knew in my gut that this was coming, I am not ready for this. I am not ready to say goodbye to Ahnung. I am not ready to lose a part of me, a part of my soul. Today we are scheduled to visit her friend 'R' in hospice. We have been volunteering as a team in hospice and we have walked the final journey with so many. Today when we go and visit our friend I now know that we are actively begin to walk the final journey, not only with 'R' but also with my sweet Ahnung.
Ahnung and Legacy ... best friends and soul mates :)

I pray this morning for the strength to be at peace with wherever my path with Ahnung needs to go. I pray for courage to stand by her and to allow her to walk her final journey with life, joy and playfulness. And I thank my precious girl for bringing Legacy into our lives and for showing me that playful puppy side of her. There is nothing more joyful for me than to watch Ahnung and Legacy play chase and roll around in dirt every morning.

I don't know how much more time I have with Ahnung. What I do know is that I will cherish every moment I have with her. I will hold her and I will love her with every fiber of my being.

Here's a video I created back in April after her Celebration of Life party ...

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Keep my sweet Ahnung safe ....

Sweet Ahnung ....
Tomorrow I leave for the Philippines. I will be visiting my mom and will also be attending the funeral of one of my aunt's who died suddenly and unexpectedly from a heart attack (rest in peace Auntie Norma -- you will be missed by many) ... It's been a while since i've been to the Philippines; it's been a while since i've traveled as my own health has held me back from traveling, as well as the health of Ahnung. But I knew I had to make a trip back home before the end of the year to see my mother. Little did I know that it would also end up being a trip for my auntie's funeral.

I must confess I am worried about being out of the country even though it's only for a week. I worry of being so far away from my sweet Ahnung. I worry her cancer will come back with a vengeance when I am gone. I'm also hoping that my health holds out and that I don't have any issues while I am out of the country. My doctors have given me the okay to travel.

I am extremely grateful to my friend Jenny for taking care of my babies while I am gone ... well, at least 3 of them (Ahnung, Missy and Legacy). Mister will get to go and hang out with auntie Laura :)

Dear sweet Ahnung .... continue to keep those cancer cells at bay and know that your mom will be with you in spirit even though she will be on the other side of the globe :) I'll see you in a week sweet girl ... take good care of your crazy brother Legacy and your sister Missy :)