Dec 28, 2010

Presence on the 25th

Okay, so I've become a bit of a knitting addict over the past year. It's true. This time of year, though provides a great reason to indulge in my addiction.

I made my mom this cute hat and scarf. The hat is from a pattern I bought, and I designed the scarf to match. My first cable project was a success. Yay! My mom loved them too. I still have to get pictures of her in them.
(Yes, I am posing funny. Good call. =P )

We all had a lovely time together on the Christmas. I am not religious, but it's wonderful to have a day to focus on gratitude for loved ones and to spend lots of quality time together. And since the 25th is already part of a tradition in that vein, I decided I'd go with it.

Plus, both from lack of funds and aversion to super-consumerism, our house managed to have a great balance of presents, goodies, and QT.

So, we had a few presents, some lovely lights, and made food all day. This chocolate candy cane cake (from Cook's Illustrated) is unbelievably moist, rich, and addictive. Thankfully, all the dairy and sugar hurts my belly if I eat more than a little. So, moderation wins this time!

We had a special house guest for the holidays too. Olivia, the (thank-the-lords potty trained!) persian. (I've had some bad uriney experiences with others of her breed.) She was a doll, and she learned to tolerate the kitteny advances of Hoshi pretty quickly.

I let Cas sleep in...okay, and myself. After all, I was up until 3am wrapping presents, though to be fair, I didn't start until 1-ish. Plus, most of that time was occupied with present - a Tartine bread book. (Aside: Tartine is the best bakery I've ever encountered. If you're in San Francisco, you MUST try it. Yes, you may spend some time in line. So worth it, though. We get bread from them every week. Yum!) I created a cute little carrying book cover using a Bi-Rite handle bag. (I bet you can't wait to see it unwrapped...)

I pretty much lost steam after that one, but luckily, there were only a couple more to wrap. A few for Cas and one for Hoshi, the kitty sis.

Cas sniffed out one of his gifts right away. Bully stick! Score!! (gross. I know, but he loves 'em.)

(The video's a bit long, but I know some of Cas's family wanna see every second. Really. It's not that I don't want to take the time to edit it. I don't know why you'd even think that. Ridiculous, really. Many people want to see all of this... Really. They will.)

Our dane meet-up group had a secret dane deer gift exchange, and Castor scored big time! A large, green box arrived a few days before Christmas, and we finally got to see what was filling it. OMG there were 1,000 toys inside. Cas's emotions ran the gambit - curiosity, excitement, boredom (as I struggled to detach all of them from the box), glee, and finally, overwhelm (see: right).

There were so many, after they were all freed up, he froze, eyes glazing over. Time for a break, it seemed.

So, I put them all away except for the fuzzy one that he just loves to nibble on. Nibble, nudge, nibble, nudge, ... ad nauseum.

Hoshi's turn! We got her a cute little brown mouse that makes chirpy noises every time you tap it. She was less curious than I'd expect from a cat, but eventually she wrestled a bit with her new, chirpy friend/foe.

A week later, after assuming that she must have lost it, she reunited herself with it as I was trying to sleep. It turns out it was hiding just behind the head of my bed... Did I mention that it chirps incessantly? (Just listen to the soundtrack of the Castor video above.)

Anyway, she doesn't leave it alone now...unless of course, we hide it from her. (Wah ha ha.)

On to people presents. Well, Rob got some yarn, sweetness note cards, and, as I mentioned, an awesomely packaged bread book. ;-)

I got some Addi turbo knitting needles (yay!), a Mary Oliver poetry book (ahh...), and a "curiously awesome" Koi toy. It's a fish that lights up when in water. Think of it as a plastic, fish-shaped, color-changing, floating candle-replacement for a curiously awesome bath time experience. (It is pretty awesome.)

After all the cheer, toys, goodies, and way, way too much Aimee Mann and Sinatra Christmas songs (yes, possible), we all veg'd a bit. We watched Angel on the couch with Cas.

Afterward, he retired to the floor cushions next to his bed. It seems he likes variety. Even if that means scrunching into a tiny ball to experience it. He has tried to curl up on our little 16x16 couch cushions before. No joke. What a goof.

I had such a beautiful time. Even without snow! I hope you all experienced oodles of warmth, laughter, and color too. ♥

The best part of this holiday has been reconnecting with loved ones from afar and spending time with those here, especially Cas. I have never been so continuously grateful to have him in my life. Every day. That's the one great thing that's come of his battle with cancer...You know, the thing he beat the S out of, the thing that is G-O-N-E...

Oh, how I love this boy!

Dec 14, 2010

The Fourth

At three weeks, I took Cas's blood again for All Pets to run a CBC. Assuming his numbers would be fine, I was not concerned with getting antibiotics from Davis ahead of time. The doctors had reduced his dose by 15%, after all.

I had to wait until Friday to get his CBC results, due to Thanksgiving.

Another drop off
It seems Cas is just really sensitive though, because his WBC was down again. This time, it was 770, even lower than the last time (when a dose reduced by 10% left him at 980). (Ugh.) So, I picked up a few days worth of Clavamox from All Pets* to get me through to weekend until I could speak with someone at Davis.

Monday, I spoke with Dr. Obrien at UC Davis about his numbers. She definitely wanted him on antibiotics; ideally he would have been on them since Wednesday or Thursday. I explained that he had been on them since Friday afternoon but that I they were about twice as expensive here. She said that since he'd been on them for a few days and his numbers were likely rebounding by now, I could discontinue them.

She also told me he was more anemic than before (i.e., his red blood cells were down too), so they would consider lowering his dose slightly more than last time. However, she also didn't want to lower it much, as a lower dose could affect efficacy.

Over the weekend, it started getting colder here. And drier. I assumed that's why Castor coughed periodically throughout Saturday night, but it worried me. To some extent, when treating cancer, I imagine anyone can get ensnared in the waiting game. Waiting for metastasis.

I wholeheartedly assume, stubbornly at times, that that will not happen to my boy. However, signs of even slight respiratory distress are not kind to me. Beyond that, he's more susceptible to infections while his WBC count is so low. That concerned me too.

He coughed a bit the following day, but by Sunday night he was back to normal. I told Dr. Obrien, but she didn't seem worried, especially after telling her how high his spirit and happy his attitude is.

It's quite amazing to me that he seems entirely unaffected by the chemotherapy, save the first evening, but on a cellular level, he's rather sensitive to it. Thankfully, it doesn't stop him from enjoying himself.

Obrien said we could take chest rads this week, if I wanted to, but she would be surprised to see anything after only 4 weeks. (The last set on November 4th was clear.) I told her I'd monitor him; she said to call her right away if anything worsened.

Thursday, December 2nd

Fortunately, Cas was back to normal. Nothing worsened. And we were back at Davis again.

A different drop off
This was a rather uneventful and short trip. We dropped him off and went to our mainstay of sustenance (veggie burger and garlic fries place). Shortly after getting to Mishka's for some work time, they called to say he was ready. It was very quick.

One thing I don't love about UC Davis so far, is that I feel, at times, that I'm inconveniencing the busy Docs. When I email Dr. Obrien questions, for instance, she answers them in a terse manner. While I prefer Dr. Cadille's responses though, Dr. Obrien does answer every question. I am confident that all the doctors and hospital technicians pay careful attention to his case and that he gets great care there.

When we picked up Cas, I asked to speak with Dr. Obrien. We chatted for a few minutes. After the team (that's awesome, btw!) discussed Castor's case, they decided to leave his dose alone. They didn't want the chemotherapy to become less effective. Rather than lower it, we would just put him on a prophylactic course of antibiotics at 3 weeks. This time, it's Baytril.

So, I can check his blood levels at 3 weeks again, but I don't have to. He'll be covered; we're assuming his WBC count will drop low again. And we'll continue, on course, in 4 more weeks.

Only two more to go!

They also listened to his lungs, per my request. She said they sound fine; he looks great. It's so wonderful to hear such good news. Castor is still doing extremely well! =)

He's such a goof too. Watch him telling the Big C to stay away:

*Note: After checking prices for Clavamox 375mg tablets at my old vet, also in SF, I was astonished by how much All Pets charged me. I knew Davis was ultra low, but two other hospitals in town, including SFVS, which is known to be pricey, charged $2.45 and $3.60 per pill. All Pets charged me $4.50 per pill! Outrageous, in my opinion. The "practice manager" said she'd look into the prices, at some point, but that right now, that was a "fair price." It is beyond me how that's a fair price for them, and another clinic about 5 miles away manages to sell the same meds from the same manufacturer at almost half the price. I called with a good attitude. I tried to be fair, explaining that I really love their clinic but was feeling rather upset about this price discrepancy between them and other local vets. I am not a happy customer now. Bad customer service. Bad manager. I never once felt that she was speaking from a service place, understanding place, or a friendly place. I felt like she was talking very carefully around the issue and not validating any of my feelings. Bad.

Dec 10, 2010

An apology goes a long way

I have an update for the Or Alternatively... ordeal. After a round or two of phone tag with me, Rob was able to connect with Dr. Fong on the phone two weeks ago. (Yeah, I'm behind.) Rob told him of a couple of our concerns, explaining our overall unsatisfactory experience at his consult.

Basically, he told him we felt uncomfortable asking questions after several of mine were left unanswered and that he seemed to not be present. His response?

It was as good as it could have been. First, he apologized that we didn't have a good experience. Then he spent some time going over a few examples that Rob gave, including the giving of treats to Castor. He asked if Castor was okay after the visit. (Fortunately, he was.)

Before getting off the phone, he offered to speak with someone at SFVS about getting us reimbursed for some of the consult. He also provided Rob with his email address, offering to answer our questions by email if that was more comfortable for us. He did both of these things without prompting, which deserves to be noted.

Though I'm told there was a bit of defensiveness at first (who wouldn't be?), Dr. Fong validated our feelings, apologized, and offered solutions for us. That is good customer service. I will still take Castor to the new alternative veterinarian in Pacifica for future acupuncture, mostly because I still don't feel entirely confident that I will be fully able to communicate my needs to him. I really appreciate Dr. Fong's response, nonetheless. (I received terrible customer service from my regular vet in SF the same week, which made me appreciate his even more. More on that later.)

Maybe he was just having an "off" day when we came in, and maybe not. Either way, I have no complaints about how we left things. Hopefully, I can get better information from him via email. I might as well try.