Apr 27, 2011

Another alternative

I found a new alternative medicine veterinarian for Cas (months ago!). I decided on Coastal Holistic in Pacifica, CA after a few referrals. We've been to about 6 acupuncture appointments there so far. I take him once a month; they advised treating him two weeks after his chemotherapy treatments.

The first vet we saw was Dr. DeLeeuw. I was recommended to see Dr. Molly Rice, but unfortunately, she was out of town and booked until early December. I didn't want to keep Cas waiting that long, so we took a chance on Dr. DeLeeuw.

She was very sweet, and I felt comfortable talking with her.

Starting with our next visit, we saw Dr. Rice. She likes to treat him with acupuncture followed by chiropractic adjustments.

Aside from that, I discussed alternative medicine options for Castor with Dr. Rice. She prefers to wait until her patients are finished with chemotherapy to use alternative medicine options (herbal chemo's).

So, we waited.

In the meantime, she had us give him probiotics (Jarro-Dophilus) and fish oil pills. She also helped us decide on a food - finally! We chose Orijin's Regional Red formula. It was the only non-raw food diet she would feed her pets. (I am not yet willing to deal with the time and costliness of a raw food diet. I also am unconvinced that it's orders of magnitude better than something like Orijin.) I think it's kinda awesome that it has wild boar in it. (Danes were bred to hunt them!)

She also reiterated what many others have said: Turmeric Rocks!! She said we can just sprinkle some on his food. Many believe it to have many, many fabulous healing properties, including protecting against cancer. Here's a 2007 Scientific American article, "Spice Healer," about the history of is medicinal use.

Cas really doesn't mind going to Coastal Holistic. It's quite amazing, given his usual trembly fear. It's probably all of the freeze-dried anchovies that Dr. Rice bribes...I mean gives him.

Cas finished chemo about three months ago. We just started him on a low dose of Artemisinin a couple of weeks ago. Her plan is to have him on it for a month and off for a month. So far he's handing it fine; it's such a small dose for him. Dr. Rice said she didn't want to change a lot with him, since he's doing so well. (YAY!)

She also highly recommended putting him on a blend of mushrooms. In fact, she said that is the number one thing she'd give him, and any pet for that matter. She says they help with many ailments and give amazing boosts to the immune system. I have not looked into support for those statements yet, but I plan to soon.

Specifically, she recommended he eat Corioles (a.k.a., "Turkey Tail") and a blend of Maitake and Reishi from gmushrooms.com. I may start him on some soon. Maybe.

I will say that my experiences with Coastal Holistic and Dr. Rice have been fantastic. More importantly, Castor has had great experiences (for vet trips, anyway). Dr. Rice has said, repeatedly, that she is so happy we do this for Castor BEFORE he has any major musculo/skeletal problems. She said she usually doesn't get to see animals until they are in bad shape, when there's limited help she can provide.

The acupuncture and/or chiropractic manipulations help his muscle and spine tremendously. If nothing else, it really eases pain and tension in his body. Rob and I massage him pretty regularly. Before our last visit, when I ran my thumbs down along side his spine, his back muscles twitched like crazytown. Right after his treatment: no more spasms. None. It's incredible how much it helps him.

Cas and I both fully recommend acupuncture (and chiropractic care), especially for beloved tripawds...as long as you find the right vet!

(Note: We never heard back from Dr. Fong about a refund. I've just let that go. He lost the best doggie patient ever.)

Mar 1, 2011

The best word ever, lately.

Cas had his 5th chemotherapy treatment on December 29th. Another typical treatment. I took him in on January 27th for his 6th and final treatment and the nerve-racking part: chest rads.

Considering metastases
I have made it something of a policy to not entertain thoughts of metastasis, but I found myself really nervous at his 5th visit. It probably had everything to do with a woman I met in the waiting room. As all do, she inquired about Cas, smiling and telling us how sweet he is. She was there with her dog for her 6th treatment. Osteosarcoma.

She said, "but they found it in her lungs." Still waiting to meet with the oncologist, she didn't yet know what her options were. She looked at me as though she missed being where I was 4 weeks prior. Also, as if I were going to be in her situation in another 4.

That day, as Cas was being treated, I spent my time researching lung metastases and options for treatment. I discovered such useful things as inhalant chemotherapy and pulmonary metastasectomies.

Did you know that a dog can survive with about 55% of normal lung capacity? They have 4 lung lobes on the right side and 2 on the left. In some instances of lung cancer, you can have whole or partial lung lobes removed, aka pulmonary metastasectomy.

In fact, I found a very interesting, seemingly good, though not "for dummies" (i.e., a bit jargony and technical) book, Small animal clinical oncology, by Stephen J. Withrow and E. Gregory MacEwan. (You can read some of it through its Google books preview.)

Needless to say (though perhaps I already have), I got a bit carried away by my fears. I was reassured by the UC Davis staff that I could wait to take chest rads until our next visit, so I took Cas home and tried to Ctrl-Z my concerns and sleep it off with the kitten. (Bed hogs!)

The Last (planned) Chemo Visit

The funny thing is that I wasn't nervous at all that day. Rob confessed that he was, and it was very mildly contagious. For the most part though, my nerves were dormant.

We dropped Cas off. The plan was to get chest rads and, if all was clear, administer his final dose of Carboplatin. They would call when he was ready to go.

After about 2 hours, I assumed that his lungs were normal. Otherwise, they would have called already. (Right??) About another hour passed, and the call came.

"Castor's ready to go home," a brief, yet loaded statement.

Dr. O'Brien came out to chat with me after I had Cas back, sitting in my lap.

(I exchanged emails with Dr. O'Brien the week prior where I complained about one of their tech's attitudes at visit 5 and told her I wanted time to chat about how to proceed at his next visit. She was extremely friendly, kind and apologetic about my experience with the tech. She was very approachable and had the sweetest things to say about Cas.)

She told me the good news, that his lungs had no sign of metastasis. (Woo hoo!) He had his 6th dose of chemo, and now, we would just need to check his lungs every 3-ish months.

I asked her if there were any other treatments I should consider. For example, another dane osteosarcoma survivor, Nova the Great, was put on a daily dose of Piroxicam and another chemo that she didn't continue using, due to sensitivity. Dr. O'Brien didn't think there was any evidence in the literature to support that route. She said there was nothing more to do, in her opinion.

She said we had already done the best for Castor. Now, we just keep enjoying our time together and come visit our old friends at Davis every few months. (YAY!)

As for symptoms of metastasis, I read that they can exhibit flu/cold symptoms. O'Brien said they can but might not. A recent client brought in her dog, saying "he just seems off." Indeed, in that case, it had spread to his lungs. She said that usually people will just sense that something's wrong.

(I am considering putting him on Artemesenin, but our alternative medicine vet, Dr. Rice, suggested we wait until his body has a break from the chemotherapy. We will talk about it at our acupuncture visit in early March. I'll post about it then.)

I can't express how happy I am that Cas doesn't have to have chemo anymore, that his lungs are clear, that he is happily, hoppily by my side every day. Though I enjoyed our Davis day trips together, I'm sure he'd much rather romp at the park and have me work next to him on our apartment floor. Sounds good to me too (we have a lot of comfy pillows).

The best thing I heard that day and in many, many days surrounding it was something O'Brien slipped in a tad nonchalantly. After she told me the results of his chest rads, she said, "so we consider him to be in a full remission now."


The proverbial music to my ears.

Cas ♥ Treats!

Jan 24, 2011

A Noted Ampuversary

It was Castor's 5 month "ampuversary" today!
Woo Hoo!!

It's been a long 5 months; it really seems more like a year.

I feel like I've spent more quality time with Cas, more time really appreciating him since his surgery than I did at any time over the previous 6 years.

It really only took 2 months for him to be his usual, playful self. I remember the first time I saw him running on 3, chasing after a chocolate lab, trying to sound all ferocious. It was awesome.

I never thought he'd be running like this so soon:

I spent some time watching some videos of him as a quadruped the other day. The video that really took me back is probably not so exciting for you to watch, but it really stirs me up.

It's the day we left San Francisco for Santa Barbara. I took him to his park, Collingwood, as usual. It was our last walk home from the park, and I was weighed down by the finality of our departure. I wanted to capture his adorable prance, because I knew I'd never see it again.

It was pretty heavy as was, but I also had "Adia" stuck in my head. Some soundtrack for that morning. Jeez. Drama Queen, huh?

This is no sob story, though. In fact, I learned that Castor can prance on 3 legs. Happy Day!

It was weird, at first though, to see him walking around so casually in these videos. It really struck me how much more difficult it is for him to just walk around. Not that he knows that. You can't tell these non-humans that it's supposed to be hard. They just don't listen.

He's happy as ever. I honestly think that, aside from his puppyhood days on Summerland Beach, he's never been happier.

Shortly after watching him on 4, I saw his tripawd-ed-ness as strange for the first time.

It was one of the weirdest experiences, looking at him and just noticing the oddness of his stance. I saw that something was missing for the first time. This was the first time that I really noticed.

A breath later,
I left that fleeting moment outside of the dog park where I found it, and we went in to play.

And as with most days, it was the best part of mine.

Ever since that moment,
he's just been Cas again.

No more.

No less.

See how much we all love him: