Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Tricks with Teas and Tinctures

It is becoming apparent that my usually voracious pup, who can be counted on to eat anything I need her to eat, will test my tricks.

It's important for her to eat all the things she needs to keep her strength up, to keep her body healthy through the anesthesia, radiation, and medication for the next month.

Here are the tactics I'm starting with... so far it's going... ok.

The prednisone makes her thirsty. Well, why have her drink plain water when I can have her drink medicinal water.

So this morning I made a witches brew of immune and digestive helpers that I could add to her water and her food (ugh, more about food later). Mainly Astragalus, with Nettle, Chamomile, Slippery Elm, and some of my medicinal mushroom tea. I thinned it down in her bowls, and though I can see that she would prefer to have plain water sometimes, she drinks it.

Now sometimes she feels so crummy she doesn't want to drink either. And frankly, she shouldn't have to if it's just going to come up again (see, she's never been good at holding a lot of water, but she can't help herself right now, poor thing). So I also have some tinctures that I can just squirt in her mouth to ensure she gets something medicinal that will help her feel better eventually.

Animals' Apawthecary to the rescue! Detox Blend, Astragalus, and Ginger/Mint are all on the menu now. I'm so glad to have these easy products to use - I'm pretty discombobulated right now.

So, is my dog feeling chipper this evening (having had an unusual mid-week day off from treatment)? No.

I'm doing my best to leave her alone, but I can't lie that I was a disappointed that she didn't want any of the fabulous dinner I put together for her. I cooked, dammit! She tasted a tiny bit I gave her in her bed, but then I had to pill her with her Pred in a tiny bit of raw, and man was she offended.

Luckily flower essences are always easy. I'm going to use Yarrow Environmental Solution before and after her treatments - misting her because the taste is harsh. I also made her a custom blend - a big mix of stuff that I can give direct and put in everything she eats and drinks. Leave a comment if you want details on these:

American Ginseng (from Woodland Essence)
Goldenseal (also W.E.)
Crab Apple
Five Flower

As I said, I'm trying to leave her alone, but I do work some of the Earth acu-points on her rear legs to try and bring that energy back to it's place. It's almost like her body's energy has abandoned it's post/s in response to the radiation attack, leaving other aspects vulnerable.

Tomorrow's a new day. After 9:30 tomorrow morning it will be 3 down, 16 to go.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Zap Away!

It's day two. I'm writing this as I wait for Vida at California Veterinary Specialists Angel Care Cancer Center.

Yesterday the bleeding finally caught up with her and she was anemic. Did refused to eat food in the morning. I syringed some chamomile and slippery elm tea in to her to quite her gurgling stomach. She felt awful! I moved her appointment up a day. Who knew we would not only have a consult, but would start her treatment the same day! Her inappetance turned out to be fortuitous.

[Oh! J from Jimbo's dropped in to see me and brought a bearclaw muffin from Panera - what a sweetheart!]

So - a whirlwind of veterinary news, and a week of really positive veterinary experiences. Started last week with Holly Mullen DVM, continued Sunday with a vaccine seminar by Drs Schultz and Dodds where I saw lots of supportive folks including Dr. Weingardt. Yesterday we met Dr. Proulx and his staff and are starting down a treatment road that my instincts say is the right decision.

Vida is getting radiation for her tumor. 19 treatments! Yes, it seems like a lot, but that's because they want to ensure that they don't too so much per day that she can't function. They want the dog to have good quality days during treatment. So if you need to find me I'll be at CVS in Carlsbad, Monday through Friday, from 8:ooam to 9:30 or 10:00am for the next month.

It's pretty amazing how things have advanced. They can target it so they don't damage any other organs or tissue. They use light sedation (Propofol, Michael Jackson's favorite, causes amnesia of the procedure) that is easy for them to clear from (I brought her breakfast and tea, they feed her right when she wakes up). The actual radiation itself only takes about two minutes, maybe less. The time consuming part is hooking her up to all the safety monitoring stuff.

They say they expect at least 80-90% shrinkage (it doesn't start to shrink immediately from radiation, but does continue after the treatment stops), and control for at least two years. That's the least they expect, so it could be even better.

Here is a photo: Day 2. You can see how big it is, and how important it is for us to treat it. The photo was taken outside the hospital, so she looks really unhappy for that reason ("we're back here again?"), and because she thinks she looks ugly with this big tumor everyone notices.

Side effects? Well, there are no long term side effects because of the cells that are targeted (vs bone cancer). Short term she will have some skin and oral "sunburn" that I'll be treating topically with herbs. This will start in about 10 days and last about two weeks. I feel confident that I can treat that, and look forward to showing how well herbs can work on that sort of thing (I'll be posting details on that when it comes up, so look for the recipes then).

One surprise was the including of Prednisone in the treatment. Dr. Proulx was funny ("you'll probably hate this but….")but explained that Pred induces apatosis in plasma and lymph cancers, so it can help kill it, making the total treatment more effective. So she'll be on 15mg for six weeks. I can give her herbs for her liver during this, so will be picking up some Animals' Apawthecary Dandelion/Milk Thistle tincture (though then wondered if I should go for Detox Blend….).The pred will hopefully cause some immediate shrinkage so it's less in the way.

The other surprise was that I have to take her off antioxidants during treatment. When you think about it it makes sense, because we are trying to ruin those cells, not save them. So, I have to stop using most of her supplements. The thing is, when is it a supplement and not a food? Because the fresh food is ok (Yes, I can feed her raw during radiation treatments!), but the supplements aren't.

I can keep: enzymes, probiotics, fish oil, and Connectin.

I have to ditch: mushrooms (all of them? Still checking), PetLife, Green Mush, Cell Discovery (obviously).

I'd like to think I've "banked" a lot in her system, but many of these things work on a daily basis.

Radiation works best on oxygenated and hydrated cells, so while she can't eat after midnight, she can drink anything, and they use oxygen during sedation in part to make sure cells are well filled.

You're probably wondering how much this is all costing. Well, a lot (for me, not for a rich person). $5,600. Am I crazy? I don't think so. The only other alternative is amputating half of her jaw. She would be miserable (I had a preview this week as the tumor grew more and she couldn't do anything fun without dinging it). And euthanizing this vital, vibrant dog would be murder. If I didn't do this there would be nothing but regret. Doing this is nothing for me but a change in my morning routine and a credit card bill (so send those clients my way, haha!).

I never thought I'd feel this positive sitting in a vet's waiting room, but I do. And you should check this place out, they are an emergency hospital too, and I have to say, the vibe of the place is terrific!

Oh! Vida's done… we're be off to work at Dexter's.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Night & Day Surgeon Consults


All I can say is get good, honest referrals from people you trust.

The first surgeon I consulted with is the big shot in dental surgery around here. His website has photos of him with anesthetized tigers and such. He works at the fancy specialty vet hospital in Sorrento Valley. It was a total waste of my $100. Within 2 minutes he'd decided what should be done (lower jaw removal including the first molar), and barely entertained my questions. Nothing more rude and condescending than a phrase like "well, that's the owners decision of course" when you ask about other options.

It took me a few days to decide for sure that it wasn't just my general worry that was getting in the way, I really didn't trust him.

Today I had a consult with Dr. Holly Mullen at VCA Emergency in San Diego and she was wonderful! The complete opposite of the previous fellow. She explained everything in detail, answered all my questions with compassion and respect. She called the oncologist she was referring me to and then called me later in the day to tell me what he said.

This is the surgeon that my own vet would use on his dog, and that Vida's chiropractor ("Dr Cheryl, 760.744.1111) highly recommends.

She didn't even try to get my dog in for surgery! Yep, it was more important for her to recommend what she thought was best for the dog!

Surgically Vida's cancer is such that unless we go for a radical surgery it will just come back and look just as it did today. So that would mean removing the lower jaw back to the second molar and putting two pins in to keep the two sides aligned. That would probably work, but she would have to radically adjust how she eats and plays. And sometimes the body rejects the pins and they have to take them out.

Dr. Mullen said if it were her dog she would do radiation instead. This type of cancer is very sensitive to radiation (the oncologist, Proulx, said "exquisitely sensitive"), and might be cured by it (the original biopsy report said that too). At the very least it should shrink it and require less surgery, and it could even get rid of it for a few years, no surgery necessary (mouth intact!).

She felt, and I agree so far, that Vida would have an easier time with radiation treatments than with the surgery.

I never thought I would do radiation on my dog.

I guess my lesson is to experience integrative treatment for my dog. For example, I will use herbs to soothe her mouth after radiation. That is definitely something I can do! And all the supplements she's getting will certainly support her through the radiation treatments so her immune system doesn't get too damaged.

Yesterday Vida got to playing with her dog friend Max and somehow her tumor got slashed. She was bleeding for so long I actually drove to the vet, and of course it finally stopped when I'd gotten there. Cleaning up the blood reminded me of old punk shows where we would be worried about the cops seeing evidence of a fight. That brought some humor to the situation. Luckily my co-worker Heather (Max's owner) is similarly level-headed, and helped so much - she even drove to the market to get some sage to use as a styptic because the store-bought stuff we grabbed off the shelf sure wasn't working. Today it was still not healed well and she bled at the surgeons office, poor thing. Hopefully that settles down until we get started on this new stuff. Fresh chewed up Plantain will be pressed on in a little while (a leaf of plantain and a leaf of sage were in my pocket earlier, ready to be put to use of she started gushing again).

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Other Than Food

Vida is getting a lot of stuff put into her food these days.

The current list:

Homemade Mushroom Tea
Organic Pet Superfood (mushrooms)
Jarrow PetDopholus
InClover OptaGest (enzymes, prebiotics)
InClover Connectin (joints)
USAnimal Cell Discovery (antioxidants by VetriScience)
Quantum Herbal AT/BC (anti-tumor herbs)
PetLife (LifeOne's pet formula)
Sardine/Anchovie Oil
Green Mush

Yep, I think that's it.

Just finished Animals' Apawthecary Dandelion/Milk Thistle tincture. Will do that again when there's another surgery, but in the meantime it's dandelion season so she's eating fresh.

Almost out of probiotics, so considering whether to let those go for awhile (had started those just before surgery).

Waiting for some NK9 supplement to come in - we're tripling up on mushrooms.

[about the NK9 - vet's get info retailers don't - that this supplement is made from a mushroom specially bred to have higher amounts of AHCC, and grown on a substrate to also encourage higher AHCC levels.]

It's been interesting to see how her system has shifted again. No more need for chamomile in her food, and she's back to eating Primal's pheasant blend without a problem - a month ago she was vomiting that food up.

The latest article I read is one that Dr. Weingardt gave me, and we used as a "restart" guide for her care: A Holistic Approach for the Treatment of Cancer by Joe Demers (PDF format)

So yeah, my dog is getting a ton of supplements, but she eats them just fine, she looks great, and is happy.

What supplements should your dog be eating?

Most of us think our dogs are in pretty good shape most of the time, so we don't think that they need supplements. But if you think about preventing illness, you should consider some. Maybe not every day, but plant-based supplements that enhance the immune system should be part of your dog's diet - especially if you live in "civilization" - i.e. suburbs and cities where toxin exposure is an everyday occurrence.

I pretty much consider greens and fish oil to be food, so then my vote goes for medicinal mushrooms.

You can make your own, or get prepared supplements (some are definitely better than others). I've been adding a large spoonful of the tea to my own juice/joint supp. combo morning and evening and I really think it's helped with my own allergies.

It's hard to say what a therapeutic dose is with medicinal mushrooms, and I'm sure it depends on what is being battled. That was one of the discussions we had about what to give Vida. I feel comfortable with what I'm giving her because she's comfortable.

I'm not getting any kickbacks from recommending certain supplements. Heck, I've posted on how to make your own plenty of times, and that's my preference, especially if you're interested in maintainence and prevention. What I'm doing now for Vida is perhaps what I should've done a year or two ago - really go in heavy with larger therapeutic doses. But hey, live and learn.

If you're dogs not sick yet, use nature's preventatives!

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

OK, I’m done freaking out….

…for now.

I wanted to write about Vida, but I just couldn't. Not when I was having such a hard time NOT worrying constantly. Writing would've been a reminder, not a catharsis.

She had a "cosmetic debulking" done on the tumor because it was getting in the way of daily fun. Literally. She'd catch a toy and make it bleed. It's called "cosmetic" because we knew it wasn't cutting away enough to be curative (more on that later). I wanted to do enough to make her comfortable again and to let me (us) regroup on treatment.

Imagine my shock when, five days after surgery, I opened her mouth to take a photo of it and it was back! Like a horror movie monster you can't kill. It wasn't nearly as big, but where the cutting had left a concave region at the front, it was convex.

Let me back up a minute.

The vet who did the surgery is the same one who did it a year and a half ago. So at this visit he read aloud from the original biopsy report, which I hadn't revisited since the first time I read it after the original surgery. It's full of doom and gloom, and not a lot of detail (turns out there isn't much info on plasmacytoma). It talks about bone removal, radiation, aggressiveness, etc, etc. He then gave me the name of a surgeon who specializes in orthopedics (read bone cutter). Basically he made me feel like there was no hope but cutting half her lower jaw off (though he consented to do what I'd asked).

So I spent a couple weeks being scared. I woke up most nights worrying about it. I gave the dog and myself lots of flower essences to deal with it. I tried to answer questions from concerned friends and customers as simply as possible, and insisted that they not feel sorry for her (she HATES that). And I felt alone because I was trying so hard not to share it with the dog that is reading my mind all the time.

I used an animal communicator because I wanted to get Vida's perspective, and that really helped clear my mind, mainly because it helped confirm my own instincts on how she was doing. I wanted to be sure she understood what was being considered (she did, and didn't like the idea). I wanted to know whether it was causing her pain now (it's not, and in the scheme of things pain isn't her biggest worry - being deformed is). It reaffirmed my belief that right now she's ok, and if we need to do more radical surgery we will, but it's not something I should rush in to.

My holistic vet wanted me to email him before our post-surgical visit two weeks after with my ideas and questions about what to do next. I wrote most of it immediately after the surgery, and rewrote some just before the appointment. He could tell.

When I walked in the first thing he said was "He scared you, didn't he?" We talked and had a good meeting. We talked supplements (next post) and surgery (going to have a consult with a dental surgeon he recommends so I have that in my pocket when needed). Vida was on the other side of the room glaring when we talked surgery, but friendly and happy when we talked supplements. When I left the last thing he said was "Remember, next time you're freaking out, call me. That's what I'm here for, that's part of the relationship." That's why he's our vet!