Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Stitches are Out!

Kirby August 25
Three weeks post-surgery, Kirby finally got his stitches out today. Unfortunately, while the stitches were ready to come out, there is some seepage from one of the surgical sites. It could be that there is an infection because somehow our contortionist has managed to lick the wounds this past week despite the cone of shame (which is actually called an econe, by the way). But Dr. M. is more concerned that it might be an indication that the cancer is still in there. Wow - that was not something we wanted to hear! Kirby's weight is also down two pounds from pre-surgery, and that is pretty significant on a dog his size. I imagine they will be monitoring that as well, though I do think some of the medications affected his appetite.

For now the vet prescribed more antibiotics and prednisone to hopefully help with the itching, though I would have thought the Benadryl would have done the trick. We also put a larger cone on him, so there is no way for him to reach the incisions now. On the plus side, this cone is clear and he seems more comfortable with being able to see better than he could with the opaque cone. With any luck, it will only take a few days to clear things up and we can remove the cone. They want to see Kirby again in two weeks, or sooner if we see any problems. We got the name of the oncologists, so we'll be scheduling an appointment with them after Labor Day as our schedule is pretty booked until then.

A new pickleball friend of mine had asked me last week if I minded if she added Kirby's name to a Facebook group called Fur Angel Blessing Blanketeers whose members pray for pets in need. Of course I said it was fine. She also asked for my address, and I thought it was because she wanted to mail us a card. Imagine my surprise when a package arrived in the mail yesterday, addressed to Kirby. Inside was a note and a blanket with a  matching toy, telling Kirby that they hoped the blanket would bring him comfort as he heals. It was postmarked from a woman I do not know in North Carolina. How amazing is that? Even more incredible was the fact that Kirby sniffed it all over, and then laid down on it. He usually shies away from something he hasn't seen before. It was as if he could feel the love coming from the blanket. Puppy love from 600 miles away! Maybe I'll curl up on it too - I could use some comfort right now as well.

Kirby's new blanket

Monday, August 22, 2016

Kirby Update

Kirby August 16
It's been over two weeks since Kirby had surgery to remove his tumors. Until the diagnosis of cancer, it was intended that his stitches would be removed on the 18th. Because of the type of cancer he has, the vet wanted to leave the stitches in for an additional week, so they will be removed on the 25th. Dr. M. said we could try taking the cone off to see how Kirby would do, and we removed it after dinner on the 18th. He was such a happy boy! He could finally rub his ears, and get around without running into things.

Unfortunately, it also meant he could get to the two incisions. He went and hid behind a chair and licked them until they were all red and swollen. Man, he is so much like a toddler sometimes. So the cone went back on, and it will remain in place until the vet removes it on Thursday.

Other than that, he is doing quite well. We are taking two walks a day, and could probably add back in his third now that the weather has cooled a bit. He is done with his antibiotics and his pain pills, so that just leaves giving him Benadryl. I think he will have to take those the rest of his life, but I will ask the vet about it on Thursday. His appetite is pretty much back to normal. I'm thinking that his post-surgical medications probably acted as an appetite suppressant. All in all, things are okay for now.

We celebrated our 38th wedding anniversary Friday night at Annie Gunn's with Jim's business partner and his wife. They were also celebrating special birthdays, so it was a big night. We we seated in one of their special booths that has a sliding door for privacy, and they brought us each a complimentary shot glass of sparkling moscato. It was very good. Then after dinner they gave us two pieces of warm apple pie ala mode to share, complete with a candle in them. How nice was that? The best part is that both couples had gift cards, so the entire deal only cost us $10 out of pocket. Nice!

Sunday was so gorgeous that Jim went for a motorcycle ride, and I headed off to the Missouri Botanical Garden with a friend. It was such a treat to have a day in August that began in the low sixties with even lower humidity. Here are a few of my favorite photos from the day.

Missouri Botanical Garden August 21

Monday, August 15, 2016

Stupid Cancer

Kirby June 2016
When the new vet called me late last week, I did not immediately think the worst. He was asking how Kirby was doing, and truly the dog is doing well. He bounds up and down the stairs, jumps off the couch and bed, and does not seem to be in any pain. He has adjusted to his new normal of wearing the cone of shame. The only thing that has given me a little concern is the fact that his appetite seems to be off. Fortunately he still will take a bite of ham from me, which is great as that is how I disguise the pills he has to take. And he will normally eat the hard boiled egg that he and Jim share each morning, but he has not eaten much of his dry food. I suspect that he may be playing me a little, hoping he can hold out for more ham.

But then Dr. M. mentioned that the pathology report came back, and that is when my heart dropped. I figured it was probably bad news if he was calling me himself. The report stated that Kirby has mast cell cancer. Mast cells are present in all dogs, and they help other cells get to where they need to be to fight an infection. The mast cells release histamine, which causes tissue swelling so the white cells can travel through the tissue to reach the infection. But when a dog has mast cell cancer, the amount of histamines being released can be dangerous. A tumor is formed when the mast cells reproduce out of control. Mast cell tumors are the most common form of skin cancer in dogs. Certain breeds are at increased risk to get this type of cancer, including the Boston terrier, Boxer, English Bulldog, Bullmastiff, Labrador retriever, and other bull breeds. As a cockapoo, Kirby does not fall into any of those, so it is certainly odd that he got this.

Because Dr. M. found a second tumor when operating on Kirby, and that tumor involved a lymph node, Kirby's cancer is considered a Grade II out of III, and he has been given a "guarded" prognosis. I was advised to start him on 25mg of Benadryl twice a day to help combat all the histamines that the cancer is pouring into his system. And removal of the stitches was pushed back one week as this type of tumor has a tendency to come "unzipped". When asked if this means Kirby has to wear the cone for an additional week, the vet said that was up to us. He said we can remove it and see if Kirby leaves the stitches alone. My plan is to keep it on for the full two weeks, and then remove it to see how he does. I don't want to take if off and then have to put it back on.

Dr. M. said at this point he can recommend some veterinarian cancer specialists in St. Louis if we want to go that route. I have been reading up on mast cell cancer, and it sounds as if the first six months following surgery will be crucial. If Kirby doesn't have a recurrence of the cancer in that time period, studies show that 44% of dogs survived over four years following surgery. Since he is already over ten years old, that would be a good run.

Jim & Kirby
Jim was out of town for work when I got the call, so I waited until he got back home to tell him about
Kirby. He wasn't going to be able to do anything from where he was at, and I certainly didn't want him driving home alone with this weighing on him. We both love Kirby, but Jim is number one in Kirby's eyes. They are best buds. Jim and I are on the same page as far as thinking that we'd like to meet with a specialist if only to learn what to expect with this disease. We certainly would not be in favor of doing anything that would cause Kirby unnecessary pain, or make him extremely ill for whatever time he has left with us. But if there is something that can give us more time together without hurting him, we'd like to explore the options.

Skin cancer on both me and my dog - what are the odds?