Friday, January 24, 2014

Holistic Cancer Protocol: Cancer Basket

My father was not a healthy man. He had Buerger's Disease, Heart Disease and Congestive Heart Failure. His medication regimen was epic. After a long hospital stay he would always come back home with new pills and new doses. Pill boxes are fine if you take two or three pills a day. When you take a handful - not exaggerating - at a time, 3 to 4 times a day... well, they didn't make pill suitcases back in the 1990s.

So, my dad always sorted his medications in a basket. All of the morning meds, went into that basket. Afternoon and bedtime medications had their own basket too. If meds repeated, he just used empty pill bottles to sort them accordingly.

While Seka doesn't have 15+ pills to take at a time, we have our own Cancer Basket. It keeps everything in one place and I can get to the meds at all times. And our Cancer Basket looks like something the Easter Bunny would bring you. If you added some plastic green grass, a plaid bow and threw in a few Cadbury Creme Eggs, it would be a lot better.

Here's what's currently in the Cancer Basket. It's a mix of holistic and traditional treatments to keep her feeling as good as possible, as long as possible.

150mg Rimadyl
300mg Gabapentin
100mg Tramadol
400iu Vitamin E
250mg Vitamin D
400mg Krill Oil
4 tsp Immunity4Pets (Avemar)

You know that Seka has been a corn dog for a very long time. I totally credit the Immunity4Pets for improving her corn situation. After hulling the largest ones in late December, they have not come back. Her pads look more normal than ever before. I've also started Roxy on the I4P as both a preventive measure and to improve her allergies.

Lunch Time
300mg Gabapentin
100mg Tramadol
500mg Vitamin C

All pain control. All the time. I will admit that early on, I was worried about giving too much pain medication. After this past month, the one thing I have learned about Osteo is that you have to be generous with the pain meds and stay ahead of the pain. So I guess our Cancer Basket had Cadbury Creme Eggs after all - they are just in the form of little white pills.

Bed Time
300mg Gabapentin
100mg Tramadol
Low Dose Naltrexone (no longer using due to Tramadol use)
2 Artemix Tablets or 4 Artemisinin Tablets
3 Buytrex Tablets

The Artemix and Butyrex are to help kill cancer cells when they are most active (middle of the night). Lots of people and canines both have benefited from this natural herb. I give the Artemix and Buytrex between 10:30p and 11:30p in about three tablespoons of full fat yogurt. The full fat dairy is important to the uptake of the meds. There's lots of information out there about how this works, but I can tell you that NOTHING out there warns you about how bad Buytrex smells. If bad or weird smells make you gag, then find someone else to give this to your dog. If weird smells don't bother you, be prepared - you may have met your match.

I'm a firm believer that the combination of the holistic supplements and the traditional pain meds are key to keeping Seka comfortable. We are making a trip to the Auburn University Oncology department on Monday for a pain management consultation. We'll pack the cancer basket for the trip!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Cancer Is Not for Pu$$ies

Yep, it's vulgar. So is cancer.

Last Monday sucked.

Seka couldn't get comfortable and didn't want to move around too much. She was panting no matter if she was laying down or standing up. Needless to say, I freaked out. This was her first truly bad day since her diagnosis. A day where I couldn't figure out how to make her happy or at least pain-free. A day where every time she moved I felt like I needed to jump up and help her in fear of her falling over or worse, breaking her leg.

I called every greyhound expert I know. I emailed them too. If you are one of the people that I attacked on Monday, I thank you for dealing with my crazy. Adjusting pain meds and getting fancy oncologists to call you back can consume you. I'm thankful for the fantastic resources through GreyTalk and various Yahoo groups. I'm just sad that all of their experience is thanks to this disease.

Seka's limp has become more pronounced these days. She isn't panting while she is standing nor while she is laying down. I've assumed she will always limp, although some people tell me her altered gait is what I should be using to measure her pain. I don't always feel like I'm doing the right thing, but I'm trying to do my best.

Monday was the first day I felt hopeless, and realized that only the worst was ahead for the both of us. This chapter in our lives together will conclude with only one ending, and it's not pretty.

So, Monday gave me a gut check -  "Are you tough enough to care for her through to the end?"  This week I've had to have a good cry and give myself a pep talk. Hopefully my strength and focus won't waiver too much from here on out. Suck it up buttercup!

PS: My pity party is embarrassing when I think about my friend Shelley, who was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer in October. She's fighting with everything she has, including the most amazing positive attitude. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Holistic Cancer Treatment Protocol: Cancer SLOP

Cancer SLOP includes as few carbs as possible
and cancer fighting super foods
I've been feeding my girls a raw diet for approximately five years. Seka has always been a bit of a picky eater when it comes to kibble, and switching to raw allowed meal time to not be a game of begging, pleading and guessing what she would like to have that day. I used to feed lots of chicken backs, turkey necks, beef heart and ground beef/turkey, but as the girls have aged - and lost their teeth - I've moved to a ground mix of organs and muscle (both beef and chicken/turkey) with a calcium supplement. 

Most people who feed raw also feed a SLOP mixture of pureed vegetables alongside the meat. I'm no different. After experimenting for a few months, I finally found a go-to recipe that my girls ate without question. This recipe included:
  • Carrots
  • Kale
  • Black Beans
  • Tuna water or chicken broth
  • And whatever veggies I had left over from the week
According to my research, this SLOP recipe could do more harm than good when it comes to feeding a cancer dog. Evidently, cancer likes carbs. Really, who doesn't? But the goal is to starve the cancer, not make it fat and happy. 

Our new Cancer SLOP includes the following vegetables that are considered super foods in combating cancer:
  • Kale
  • Mushrooms
  • Parsley
  • Broccoli
  • Red Pepper
  • Tumeric
  • Mackerel water
I blanch everything together in one pot - just enough for the greens to turn bright green and the mushrooms and peppers to soften. I throw everything into the food processor and pulverize away. Think of this like pre-chewing your baby's food like Alicia Silverstone did for a year. The dog's stomach can't breakdown the cellulose so the only way to get the benefits of the veggies is to do some of the chewing before hand. I stir in the tumeric by hand b/c it stains everything it comes in contact with, including my food processor blade. 

Each of my girls get 1 lb of food a day. Slop usually makes up 1/3 of that total weight, but because even this mix includes some natural carbs, I've dropped that to 1/4 of that total weight. So they get 2 oz of slop at each meal (2 oz SLOP, 6 oz meat = 8 oz in the morning and at 5:30p).

My kitchen now smells a little spicy at the end of a SLOP making session (I make enough for the week). But after making Tuna Fudge or dehydrating liver jerky, the spicy smell is very tolerable. 

This is the first in a series of posts where I'll describe the protocol we are using to manage Seka's osteosarcoma. Notice I said "manage". This isn't a cure. I'm not delusional, although you may think so based on some of the things I'm doing. Please know this isn't our first choice of treatment. This is our only choice. So you play the cards you are dealt. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Digging My New Bed

We have dog beds in just about every room in our house. Cheap beds from Walmart. Expensive beds from fancy online places. Homemade beds stuffed with old clothes and monogrammed. Remember the evil Orvis bed?

They really should be called fluffy rugs, puffy stain covers, or fancy sit-upons, because rarely do the dogs use them. I use them more than they do while they consume the whole sofa. This is not a complaint. This is just a fact of my home and most of the time I love it.

I know there will come a time when Seka may not feel like jumping up and down off of our sofa or our bed, so I took advantage of the online sales and ordered 3 new beds for our Queen Bee, in addition to considering the purchase of a twin mattress for our bedroom.

This bed, from Drs Foster & Smith, is enormous and actually can fit both of my girls on it at the same time - if they are willing to touch each other. From the first day this bed was in our house, Seka has been obsessed with digging in it. She has always been a nester, but full fledged digging with both front feet is something new for her.

Yes, that front leg is the leg her cancer is in. Obviously it doesn't hurt enough for her not to do it right now and it seems to make her much more content, so I'm trying not to freak out every time she begins her efforts to dig a hole in her brand new fancy bed.The funny thing is, after all the digging, she only lays on it for just a few minutes before getting up on the sofa. So for now, this giant dog lounger is really just an overstuffed carpet.

I may or may not have tested it out while watching a couple of episodes of the Walking Dead this weekend. Someone has to break it in.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Happy 2014 - Sort Of

Happy 2014, everyone.

I've been away from this space for exactly one year. I guess I needed a long break. It is hard seeing my beloved girls getting older and slower, so I really didn't feel like I had anything worth while to share.

2013 didn't include very much in the way of exciting outings or adventures for my fur babies. Seka went to the chiropractor every two weeks. Roxy went on a couple of walking dates with our neighbor's dog. We went to the beach in April with the girls in tow and enjoyed running in the sand. Seka and I spent a second year as the READing Dog team at a local elementary school. I left the girls at Manyhounds Inn for 15 days this summer while we drove up the east coast and have sworn I will never be separated from them again for that long. I started buying raw dog food from a local butcher and the girls have become celebrities when we go pick up the goods.

See - nothing too exciting. In fact, our Facebook page is full of pictures of the girls sleeping on the sofa. We've become a retirement home.

Then in December, Seka started limping on her front right leg. And like any greyhound mom, I immediately got sick to my stomach, even though thanks to the arthritis in her back and back legs she has had limping episodes frequently that go away. After our chiropractor gave her an adjustment and we didn't see any improvement, I went in for x-rays.

When Dr. Hottie took her back for x-rays, I somehow knew what they would show. Call it mother's intuition. I was right. Osteosarcoma, in the right front leg. After a review by an oncologist at OSU, Seka officially had her cancer card.

We had no treatment options. Her deformed back hip and arthritis combo didn't make her a candidate for amputation. And without amputation, chemo is pointless. Thank goodness I have a great chiropractor/holistic vet in our
life and she has been a blessing in helping me find the right supplements and adjust her diet to give her as much time as we possibly can.

What I hate more than anything is not knowing how advanced it is or how long we have. It's like walking around in a dark room with a hole in the floor. You know you're eventually going to fall in it, but you don't know when it will happen.

What I'm most afraid of more than anything is a pathologic break. I don't want that for her. I don't want that for us.

I wish more than anything that I could explain to her what was going on. Why mommy cuddles her and cries a little each day. Why she now has to have weird powered stuff in her food. Why she has to go out on a leash instead of running after squirrels in the back yard with Roxy.

So I've come back to this space to share our journey - however long that might be. Writing has always been a comfort to me. I hope it doesn't let me down when I need it the most.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Pins & Needles

I'm so behind.

Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year.

There, I think I caught up.

We have entered a new phase of our lives with Seka - Pre-Seen. This is the period before a dog becomes a true senior citizen. The time where they start to get ornery. Where they start testing you by refusing to do things every now and then that have always been routine. When they must have their way no matter what has to happen. I've been through this period with my mother five years ago. I'm sure hoping Seka will be easier.

While Seka can still get around pretty well, she has started to show signs of neurological weirdness (that is a medical term). Like not being able to climb the stairs after having been outside for 15 minutes sniffing every new leaf in the yard. Or, getting the creepy crawly skin when you barely touch her. Or when she wakes herself up out of a deep sleep because she has to chew a spot on her back that has nothing to do with being itchy. It was time to consult someone other than Dr. Hottie and his team.

Of course I contacted my greyhound Yoda and she suggested an awesome place in Atlanta - two hours from me - that has everything I could possibly imagine in the way of chiropractic, acupuncture and rehab offerings. So in an effort to save money, I talked to Dr. Hottie about doing a referral and getting all the bloodwork and x-rays done locally. After all, country x-rays are cheaper than city x-rays.

Dr. Hottie let me in on a secret - there was a new vet in town who specialized in chiro and acupuncture and she was going to start seeing patients at his office weekly. We were first on the list, I believe.

We've been seeing Dr. Miller every two weeks since early December and I can honestly say we have seen improvement in a number of ways. Seka is moving better in general. The shaking in her back legs is considerably reduced. The creepy crawly skin thing - gone completely. The crazy chewing, over. We're on a two week schedule for now to manage her arthritis and we plan to add water rehab to help strengthen her back legs this summer.

I would never have been able to take the time out of work and afford a bi-monthly trip to the ATL for her treatments. I'm so thankful Dr. Miller came into our lives at just the right time. She has really been a huge help to keeping Seka sound as we enter this new phase of our lives.

Oh, and forgot to say Dr. Miller is super cool, childless-by-choice and is starting agility with her 16 month old cocker spaniel, Frida. Maybe I can convert her to a greyhound person eventually!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Lizard Sit

I've taken care of animals for families while they are on vacation since I was a kid. The next door neighbor's toy poodle, Muffin, practically became my dog one summer while they traveled to who knows where. The old lady down the street who had 11 cats paid me to clean her 20 litter boxes a couple of times a year.

In more recent years I've taken care of horses, cows, goats and chickens while folks were away. But I'd never had the opportunity to care for a reptile until this week.

I'm not scared of most reptiles - frogs, turtles and lizards are awesome in my book. Snakes are only ok if they don't surprise me and stay nicely in their tank.

My running buddy's daughter needed someone to care for her bearded dragon, George, while they were away this week. I was more than happy to play zoo keeper. I was psyched to feed him each morning - to watch him eye up his meal worms or crickets, then snap them up and crunch them in the blink of an eye was so cool. Should I be concerned that I had enjoyment of watching him eat living things? I was surprised how responsive he was when I talked to him or said his name.

So I can add lizard sitting to my list of animal experiences. What's next? Sheep? Hogs? Ducks?