G’day, Dr. Claire (Part 2)

7 Jun

Having tried surgery and chemo without success, radiation was our next – and likely last – option. It’s really starting to sink in that Jasper has a terminal disease. I’m also beginning to realize that this will likely be our last summer together. I’ll comment more on that thought in a future post, though.

J began twenty-two weekdays straight of radiation in mid-April 2010. Each morning he had to be in to the hospital before 8AM and I was able to pick him up in the late afternoon.

Around the fifth day I started to notice something. The same group of us were there in the lobby each morning with our dogs. Silently going through the same experience but never really reaching out to one other beyond the cursory “Good morning.” Strange in hindsight because it probably would have been nice to chat with someone who truly knew what it’s like to be in this situation.

Jasper relaxing before going to the vetJasper was doing so well throughout the experience, that by week three we asked the vets if he could continue getting zapped beyond the 22 scheduled visits. “Nope, that’s the maximum for a dog with his condition.”

Thrown into the mix, there was also the new low-protein dog food and loss of appetite to deal with. By the end of radiation Jasper had lost nearly a quarter of his total body weight, but he soldiered on.

When he was discharged on day 22, I actually felt a bit sad. Throughout the radiation treatment I had the comfort of knowing that we were doing something to try to save him. Now that we were at the end, it started to sink in that there really wasn’t anything else we could do other than wait and hope the radiation stopped or slowed the tumor growth.

On the last day, the doctors and nurses gave us a beautiful card with words of encouragement for J.

“Congratulations, Jasper! You are such a brave guy! Have a great summer.”

“So happy for you! Love you, Jasper.”

“Congratulations! You are the sweetest guy and I will miss you.”

They also gave Jasper a new squeaky toy that Zooey (our other Vizsla) has been eyeing like a hawk checking out the latest road kill.

A few days after his last blast, we started to notice the hair loss. Slowly at first until fur started coming off in clumps. His side looked awful, but I took it as a positive. “Perhaps it’s a sign that the radiation is having an impact.”

Two weeks after the final treatment we were back to meet with good ol’ Dr. Claire, the veterinary oncologist from Australia.

“G’day. How are you doing, Jasp?”

There’s something strangely comforting about discussing a deadly disease with someone who has an Aussie accent. Plus her nickname for Jasper made me smile.

Following the initial exam, we got down to some serious Q&A.

Q: Did the radiation work?

A: The tumor has only grown slightly, so that’s a positive. The best result is to shrink the tumor, but slowing the growth is the next best outcome.

Q: I guess I need to mentally start preparing for the end of his life. Does he have three weeks or three months or something else to go?

A: Definitely more than three weeks. Beyond that it depends on a number of factors.

Q: Such as?

A: Have we slowed the tumor growth? Will it metastasize into the lungs?

So where we once had a ray of hope, now we just have a bit of light coming through the window shades. Have to stay positive and really try to live in the moment, though.

Next appointment: One month from now.

*Note: Apologies for the choppy entry today. Sometimes the emotion of the situation gets to me and it’s tough to be poetic. More upbeat entries coming in the weeks ahead. Promise.


6 Responses to “G’day, Dr. Claire (Part 2)”

  1. Amy June 8, 2010 at 9:42 AM #

    My heart goes out to you! My cat got an injection site sarcoma and I did everything I possibly could to keep him alive. He was only 8 and was my first kitten, and my little baby love. His tumor was removed, but the vets didn’t think radiation or chemo would help him due to the location of his tumor.

    Just know that the ups and down emotions are so very normal, and that stages of grieving even during Jasper’s life are normal. You obviously love him so much, and that love is returned.

    I’m sending you all good energy and positive outcomes!


    • treubold June 8, 2010 at 11:23 AM #

      Thanks, Amy! It’s really nice (and comforting) knowing that there’s a community of people out there who’ve experienced the same thing. Appreciate the kind words and encouragement.

  2. Carole Leonard June 9, 2010 at 6:03 AM #

    Todd and Veronika,
    Experiencing Cancer with myself and family members, I really do know know this is just so hard for the ones watching the process. At times it is harder than being the actual patient. Keep remembering what a wonderful life Jasper has had and will have till he no longer is. They are all our loved ones, being human or animal, every inch of the journey hurts right along with them. This is really really such a wonderful way to “help” you through it all.
    To help all four of you, keep positive!

  3. Susel June 11, 2010 at 10:31 PM #

    I am rooting for you!

  4. Huguette September 29, 2010 at 7:16 PM #

    I love coming to your wesite and reading about Jasper.I had the same agonizing dilemma with 2 of my “fur-family” members: when is it the right time to say goodbye?I went through it and still don’t have the answer.
    You are doing the best thing you can: you’re savouring every moment.I LOVE that you took that great staycation and did things the dogs would love. My thoughts are with the four of you…..and please tell Jasper that he is loved by so many of us.

    • treubold September 29, 2010 at 11:38 PM #

      Thank you so much for commenting. Really means a lot to us knowing that there are others out there who have also agonized with these decisions. And it makes me really happy knowing that you thought our stay-cation was a good idea, too. 🙂

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