Oct 14, 2010

Castor almost has seconds

Thursday, September 30th

No second chemo yet
I took Castor for a blood test two weeks post-chemo to check on his white blood cell (WBC) count. The oncologists have to monitor the levels to make sure they don't drop too low. The normal range for a WBC count in the dog is around 6,000 to 17,000 leukocytes (a blood component by any other name would smell as ...well...bloody?) per microliter.

At Davis, they will not administer chemo drugs if the WBC count is below 2,000. If it's below 1,000, they put the animal on an antibiotic course to safeguard against any infections that might arise, given their low immunity.

Castor's CBC (complete blood count) was normal at the two week mark, so we went to Davis on the 30th for his second chemo treatment. Again, he was to get treatments every three weeks for a total of six treatments.

Rob, Robyn, and I dropped him off and ventured into the six-block area of downtown Davis to find sustenance. The plan was for the hospital to run a CBC prior to treatment, treat, and go home. It takes a couple to a few hours each time.

It was on the short side of that when a tech called to let me know Cas was done. Almost rhetorically, I asked, "so everything went fine?"

"No, we couldn't treat him today," he says.

"Ha ha," I thought. I do like smart asses, so I just chuckled. Just to make sure though, "are you kidding?"

"No, really. His white blood cells were too low to treat him today."

My heart sped up, and suddenly my fancy for garlicy fries vanished. (Poof!) And though I waited patiently for further explanation, the line was mute. It turns out he needed an invitation to provide further details. Odd.

After failing to be reassured Cas was alright, I decided to just speak with someone (else, preferably) in person. We finished eating in about 2 minutes and left for the hospital.

After speaking with someone (else - yay!) when I picked Cas up, I felt better. Apparently, some pets' counts dip down again around the three week mark. The tech explained that his body can uptake the chemo again from his kidneys as it's being processed causing that second dip in the numbers.

His WBC count was about 700, so they sent us home with Clavamox...again. =\ It doesn't seem to be worryingly abnormal. It just means he'll have to be on a once-every-four-weeks schedule. We would have to go for another visit next week.

Fortunately, we already had an appointment with the physical therapist the following Thursday. Unfortunately, Cas would have rather not visited with the oncology staff again. Oh, well. We've already agreed to roll with the punches, to expect the unexpected.

On the bright side, we learned more about chemotherapy and what to expect from Castor. I was also reminded of the power of support and solidarity.

Being there, wherever there is
In the waiting room, we met a couple with a beautiful mastiff, just diagnosed with Cancer. He had a seriously large tumor on his spleen. ("I've never seen a tumor that big with a dog still up and about," said the vet, clearly oblivious to the impact of her unnecessary candor.) Talking to them took me briefly back to the first day I found out about Castor's tumor.

I was grateful to be in a less hysterical, more familiar place. I found a place of acceptance, which allowed me to find a path of care and treatment. The optimism with which I managed to imbue Castor's and my path has made all the difference.

Still gently wafting his head in disbelief, the mastiff's friend said, "it's just not fair," after I told him why Castor was at the hospital. I could only smile and say, "it's so great that we get to help them through it though." Of course, despite my sincere gratitude, I could hardly keep my tears in their tear duct home.

Then, I decided to let them roll on down. There's nothing wrong with expressing these emotions. It's not about defeat or grief. It's all about love.

It was good to feel my love, feel their love, and share our burdens, if even for a few minutes. As Cas hopped out to me, wholly excited, full of love, and dragging the tech behind him, they both said, "that's the prettiest dane I've ever seen."

My thoughts and prayers are with them all. ♥

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