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Roxie's cancer journey is quite a roller coaster

By Heather Published: May 21, 2009

Boy oh boy have the past nine days been a roller coaster when it comes to canine lymphoma, helping your loved doggie through it and over all dealing with it. Everytime I had the intention of sitting down to write her latest venture in her journey, things would change that minute so here we are with another story to tell.

Roxie and I made a trip down to OSU last Wednesday to get what we thought would be a dose of Doxirubicin (the same as what may have worked her previous visit). Although we had to be there before 9am, they were short staffed, her treating veterinarian was out of town and she was not even looked at until 3pm! Since I had trouble sleeping the night before our trip down there (worries seem to fill the head when you try to rest) we decided we would just stay down in Columbus if she received her chemo so we could get a good night's rest and head up bright and early the next morning.

At  4:30pm, I finally got to speak to the vet that examined her that day- who turned out to be the head honcho in the oncology department! Dr. Coutto had to be flown in that morning from a speaking engagement in Dallas so that he could fill in and treat patients and turns out that Roxie was a lucky gal to be seen by a well known oncology veterinarian. Turns out though that Roxie's lymph nodes had gotten bigger because she had a small remission period and we had one option he wanted to explore.

He gave her a quick dose of a chemotherapy drug that is $900 a vial, but provided free of charge to us and sent us home with her next dose of chemo in pill form (Ceenu) that needed administered in 10 days. If this didn't work, nothing would and he also notified me that 100 % of his patients who were treated with the Wisconsin based version of the CHOP protocol she was previously given RESPONDED to the chemotherapy. Oh I was so angry that everyone else's dog did well and Roxie didn't, but at the same time it made me realize that maybe Roxie will make their team evaluate the study and see how they can treat dogs like Roxie who do not respond. The doctor did say that Roxie is indeed a fighter and understood why I am fighting with her. He also noted that besides the swollen lymph nodes, she was not clinically ill.

We spent our night in Columbus filled with hope and promise and thought that maybe things happen for a reason. Perhaps it was a blessing Roxie got to be treated by the chief of oncology and be graciously given an expensive form of chemotherapy- but no, that was not the case we would soon find out. We came home the next morning and lived life day by day, but Saturday night her lymph nodes in her face and neck became swollen and by Monday we had reached the point where it was soon time to let go.

After consulting with the OSU staff on Monday, I decided to give her the oral chemo Ceenu earlier than the 10 days to see what would happen, so we were going to visit her vet on Tuesday to do so. Tuesday morning came and Roxie's face was swollen as big as a balloon, she had difficulty walking and breathing and she appeared to have finally lost hope. I could not wait any longer for her vet here to administer her chemo pills, so I donned the latex gloves and administered it myself, I thought I might as well since I have the medicine and tonight would be the night to let her go. I also decided to finally give her the herbal remedy called Essiac that a friend recommended to me for her to use, but her OSU veterinarian advised to wait until after all 25 weeks of her chemo to give. I thought at this point I HAVE NOTHING to lose but her, so I gave her a dose of Essiac.

Two hours later and my hope had diminished. No physical changes, no apparent miracles so I let her veterinarian know that tonight I was letting her go to heaven and her journey had come to an end. At 4:30pm that day, we laid out in the yard one last time in the sun and shared smiles (and many many tears on my end). At 5:30pm I called my contact at Hummel Pet Services to let them know I would be there at 8pm with Roxie's body. We took one final car ride to Sonic in Streetsboro to see if she wanted one last breakfast burrito (she didn't) and we drove back to pick up my mom and make the journey to Akron Vet Referral- that dreaded time had come.

Soon before we pulled up to pick up my mom, I looked over at Roxie and noticed her face had reduced in swelling and her breathing was better! Was Roxie still fighting to live the life she so loved? Mom and I spent an hour with Roxie to give her one last call before we made the final journey- mom saw what I saw and Roxie decided to eat chicken breast! So, we decided to put her final goodbye on hold and see what morning would bring. If she had any discomfort in the middle of the night or made a turn for the worse, we knew it heaven couldn't wait for Roxie and we would take her in asap. I had to follow my gut at this point and she is she would continue to improve.

Morning came and Roxie's face had become much less swollen, she was breathing easier and she pranced around the yard........could I have been given more time with my girl? Is she still fighting? I figured if Roxie wants to live and is happy and comfortable, who am I to make the decision to let her go? I also wondered, perhaps all the online bloggers and my friend who swear by Essiac and other herbal remedies were right, so why not go full steam ahead on that?

I gave her another dose that morning in addition to picking up the red clover my friend recommended (thank you Miss Tia) and that is where Roxie's journey became moment by moment, no longer day by day. Roxie also felt so great that day that when her grandma stopped by at lunch, she decided she would rather spend time with her than with me, so her and grandma spent an afternoon together eating Vienna Chicken Sausages (no, I don't eat those) and running errands.

It is now day three of her herbal treatments and her face is back to NORMAL and she is breathing with NO difficulty. I thank God for these extra moments, no matter if it is hours, days, weeks or months we will have together. I cannot live day to day anymore with canine lymphoma as I made that mistake on Tuesday.

Roxie is not done yet. Roxie won't give up so neither will I, so I will do what I can to help her as long as she wants to live and as long as that tail wags and the smile is flashing back at me. I never realized just what a roller coaster canine lymphoma can be for dogs and the humans that love them.

Hopefully Roxie's journey is far from over, even if the distance is measured with moments. Don't lose hope you have in others or in yourself because someone who needs you to have that hope just may have their life in your hands. I know that Roxie did and I am glad she pushed me to realize that before I made a decision that I didn't want to make yet.

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