It’s been exactly one month since my best pal was diagnosed with oral melanoma. So, what’s happened since then? We’ve had our ups and downs but since I haven’t updated in a while, I thought I would let you know what’s been happening.
Bowser finished up his dose of meds and he’s been completely off of them for a few weeks. For the most part, my old dog is back to normal except for when it comes to eating and keeping it down normally. Unfortunately, we are still stuck in a “piece by piece” food delivery but thankfully, I’m chock full of hillbilly ingenuity. Instead of feeding Bowser one piece of dog food at a time, I’ve found that the “bird method” actually works. At my wit’s end one day, I tossed a handful of dog food on the floor (imagine you’re feeding birds). Bowser went around to each piece and he kept it down… and that has been how he’s eaten ever since. In the morning and evening I will throw him small handfuls of food. Yes, it’s messy and incredibly annoying, but it works.
We still have our “bad days” but thankfully, those are not happening as much now. Most of the time, Bowz is bounding through the house and he’s happy. It’s funny but it seems like all of this turned around after “Bowser Day”. Maybe it was my way of handling his sickness but who knows, all I care about is that things are better. I’m still filled with fear every day when I go home and I still worry non-stop but I guess it’s a different kind of worry. I don’t feel like he’s going to fall over dead at any given moment.
Our lives have changed since April 1st when we got the diagnoses. My relationship with Bowser has definitely changed drastically. Since I’ve been babying him so much, he now doesn’t want to go outside without me. When I let him out the door, he will turn around and look over his shoulder to see if I’m behind him. When he hears the refrigerator door open, he runs to it because he thinks that he’s going to get a piece of turkey (because that’s how I gave him his meds). When a cabinet door opens, he thinks I’m getting out pills which equals turkey. And the hilarious thing is that when he hears a pill bottle now, he goes running wherever it is. My dog has become a druggie. But hey, whatever works. Bowser sleeps in bed with us many nights, which he didn’t get to do before. I guess you could say that all of this has brought Bowser and I even closer than we were before. It’s pretty nice.
Last week, I arrived home to find Bowser didn’t want to get up to greet me. I was worried until I walked around the corner and saw the mess that was waiting for me. Bowser had gotten into the empty trash can and eaten the trash bag and he also got into my bag of pet food samples and helped himself to 3 bags of dog and cat food. Yup, we’re starving him. I mean, he’s getting an entire cup more than he used to but we’re still depriving him of food so much that he has to break into closed packages. So my new chore is to get a baby-lock so the damn dog can’t get into the cabinet. Next thing I know he’s going to be opening the fridge.
We’re still hanging in there and holding on for dear life. Regardless of what tomorrow brings, it can never EVER take away what we have today.
Estimate: An approximate calculation or judgment of the value, number, quantity, or extent of something.
I beg to differ on that definition. Instead, I think it should read:
Estimate: I’m going to tell you this much lower number so that after you are convinced and committed, I can then rape you with the real cost.
Okay, so I’m being a bit ridiculous but had I known how much yesterday’s Barium study would cost me, I would have said “no”. My reasoning? When I talked to Bowser’s vet on Friday, he estimated $150-$200 for x-rays to check for a blockage. I wanted to try the x-rays because the alternative would be for Bowser to be back under anesthesia for another surgical procedure (the scope and biopsy of the esophagus). Given his age, that he just had surgery a few weeks ago and his current weak condition, the vet and I didn’t think that the scope was the best idea. So, $150-$200 sounded like a reasonable quote and something that I could do to try to figure out what was happening with my best bud. When I showed up at the vets to pay the bill, I about shit my pants when they told me the bill was nearly $400. WTF? It doubled? I did talk to the vet prior to paying the bill and he told me that when we talked on the phone, he forgot about the charge to mix up and administer the Barium, that he did an additional x-ray and that Bowser’s meds added more charges. Damn. Had I known it would have been that much, I would have really re-thought the scope. At least then we would have gotten more definitive information. Needless to say, I got in trouble when Larry got home because he thought that I got taken advantage of.
So, now on to the results… the x-rays showed no obvious obstructions in Bowser’s esophagus. While that is good news, it’s also frustrating because we still don’t know why Bowz can’t eat without regurgitating. The vet took 4 films; two before administering the Barium, one immediately after the Barium and one a short time later. Barium is a chalky substance that is used as a contrast medium in x-rays. Not only does it allow hollow structures to be imaged but it also can detect any blockages that may be present. The Barium did hang up a little in one spot of the esophagus but not enough that it concerned the vet. On viewing the last film, you can see all the Barium made it to Bowser’s stomach.
Now what? Well, we are no closure to really knowing what’s happening with Bowser. While we don’t see obvious obstructions on the x-ray, we have to keep in mind that cancer rarely will show on one. We are now trying to treat him as if he has a bacterial infection in his stomach. Bowser will continue taking the Prednisone and he’s had 3 other medications added. I swear the dog is taking as many medications as I do! Bowz is now down to 1 dose of Prednisone a day. Added to that is Cerenia (a nausea medication) once a day, Amoxicillin twice a day and Metronidazole twice a day.
Bowser is holding steady, even though on Saturday, I thought he would die. After Bowz ate on Saturday, he started to regurgitate so I let him outside. He went into the yard and started getting sick and just about the time I got to him, he walked off and then kind of collapsed on the ground. I ran to him and fell down beside him and began to stroke his fur as I bawled like an infant. As the sun set behind us, we laid there in the grass for nearly 30 minutes before we could both pull ourselves together enough to go back in. I spent much of that night crying but I promised Bowser that I would do better the next day.
On Sunday, I kept my promise and Larry and I dedicated the day to Bowser. While I knew that I wasn’t promised tomorrow with my best friend, I knew that I had that day and I sure as hell wasn’t going to waste it. On Sunday we did all of Bowser’s favorite things and the day was about him and him alone. Bowser went “bye-bye” in the car, he laid in the grass in town, he ate ice cream at Baskin Robbins, he got to wee-wee on a fire hydrant, work on a race car, pretend to drive a semi and most of all, he got to be Bowser. Sunday there were no tears shed, no regrets felt and no love lost. We lived in the moment for all 86,400 seconds of the day and no matter what happens, that can never be taken from us.
It’s not much of a life you’re living
It’s not just something you take, it’s given
Round and around and around and around we go
Ohhh now tell me now tell me now tell me now you know
Not really sure how to feel about it
Something in the way you move
Makes me feel like I can’t live without you
It takes me all the way
I want you to stay
-Lyrics from “Stay” by Rihanna
When I compare my life to a song by a battered and abused pop star, I know I’m in trouble. For the past few weeks, any time this song has come on the radio, it’s struck a nerve, a painful and excruciating nerve. I’ve always been addicted to music and while a beat is catchy, it’s the words that always get to me. This particular song hasn’t come on without leaving me with tears. A sad love song that I dedicate to my damn dog. Pathetic? Possibly.
What I thought was a sign that things were getting better has again turned into that throbbing emotion called sadness. Our “good days” were short-lived, only two if I want to be exact. It’s amazing how 48 hours of positivity can disappear so quickly and so completely, almost like it never existed at all. Was I imagining it all along?
Bowser is back to regurgitating whatever he eats and he’s tired, so very tired. His eyes say he’s miserable yet his heart still remains full of love and the need to console me, his best friend. His eyes bore into my soul and it feels like my heart is being ripped out. I can’t breathe and I can’t see through the stupid tears. It’s just a damn dog.
While the signs of Bowser’s failing health may be insignificant to some, they radiate to my very core. Walking in the door and seeing his toy box is still full and that he hasn’t touched any of them since I picked them up last night, hell… I may as well walk in and find him dead on the floor. No matter how sick he’s ever been, he’s still had to have his toys out and by his side. Even when he doesn’t feel up to playing, he’ll still lay his head on his furry little animals. To see them sitting neatly in his toy box, slobber free, it knocks the wind out of me. Even the cat knows something is up. I can’t count how many times I’ve seen her walk over to Bowser and lick the end of his nose. Then she stands and looks at him a moment before she walks away. I wonder if the cat will mourn when the damn dog is gone?
I talked to the vet tonight and he’s really concerned and he wants me to bring Bowser in and drop him off for a day of x-rays. His words, “I don’t know that there is much else that I can do.” replay over and over in my head. I asked him to explain this, to make me understand how we can go from a seemingly normal life to this, all within a few weeks. He told me that he doesn’t know and that it’s “definitely interesting”. I asked him again about the scope of Bowser’s esophagus and if he thought that it was a good idea given Bowser’s age, current condition and the fact that he had surgery a few weeks ago. The vet said, “It’s not good but I don’t know that we can do anything else.” The signs still point to the probability that the cancer has spread to his esophagus, which will eventually, close up completely. There’s a slim chance that these latest symptoms are unrelated to the cancer but then what?
So again I plea with the forces that be… please let him stay. I just want him to stay with me… I’m not ready to say “good-bye” to the damn dog, my best damn friend.
There are tons of great sounds in the world. Right now, I’m hearing the best one ever… a squeaking dog toy. The repetitive, non-stop squeaking which can only be made by a dog who is happy and wants to play. Yup, it’s pretty awesome!
Last night, it took 4 hours and a lot of patience to get one chicken breast down Bowser. When he kept it down, it was the smallest of victories but it felt so amazing to have some progress. He took his first Prednisone last night so I’m not sure that the steroids had anything to do with the success but I was thrilled regardless.
This morning while I was getting ready for work, I hand fed Bowser kibbles of dry dog food, one at a time until I reached about 1/4 of a cup. When that stayed down, I was even more hopeful. Today when I got home, I was excited to see my pal but when he didn’t greet me at the door and he didn’t respond to my calls, I got really worried. I found him laying on the couch, sound asleep. After I woke him up (and scolded him for scaring me), I decided to risk giving Bowser some dry dog food to eat on his own. I poured one cup of Fromm Senior into his stainless steel bowl, added some hot water and I handed it to him and walked away and sat down. Bowser went to the food and started eating and I sat watching him and waited for the aftermath. He finished up the food and stood there looking at me, trying to figure out why I was staring at him. Obviously getting a complex, he got mad at me and he walked away and laid down. 5 minutes passed, then 10, 15, 30 and when an hour struck, I ran through the house with excitement. It’s now been 3 hours and all is well! Not only did he hold down the dog food but he also felt up to mooching some spaghetti noodles off of my plate.
A few minutes ago we went outside for a bathroom break and when we came in and I started to dry the rain off of him, he started to bite at the towel and act like he wanted to play. All I had to say was, “I’m gonna get him” and he took off running around the house and he grabbed his toy for tug-of-war. When I thought he had enough, I sat down to share a Bowser update with all of you and Bowz sat and started squeaking his toy.
I know they are small things but they are the things that make my heart hurt less. I can smile, I can laugh and I can’t wait until we beat this thing. If any dog can do it, I know Bowser can.
For all of you who have offered support, love, prayers and warm wishes… thank you. Every moment that someone spares for us will not be wasted. You are all giving us the gift of time. Sappy as it may be, I still have faith that those things really can save us.
Love & slobbery dog kisses,
Dare & Bowz
Since Bowser was diagnosed with cancer 8 days ago, I told myself that I was going to have to live in “the moment” and that every second of our remaining days together had to be perfect. Unfortunately, life and fate has other plans and I must say, I don’t like the interference one bit. Was it not enough that fate had to invade my life and give my best friend cancer? Bitter? Who me?
I promised that I would track Bowser’s progress so here is our update…
Bowser hasn’t been able to hold food down for days. His last regular meal was Thursday night. On Friday, he started vomiting any time he was given anything. And it didn’t take but a minute for the food to come right back up. He would eat and walk from our kitchen to the living room and immediately lose what he had eaten. By Sunday, I was at my wit’s end. I pulled out the Pepto and I gave him one pill, rolled up in a piece of turkey. When that stayed down, I followed it up with one saltine cracker. Yes, I gave my dog a cracker because he had an upset stomach. I didn’t know what else to do. After the cracker stayed down for at least 30 minutes, I gave him another one. Feeling a little hopeful, I sent Larry a text message and I asked him to bring home a rotisserie chicken for my boy. That evening, I pulled off enough chicken to make about one breast and I gave it to Bowser very slowly, piece by tiny piece, over the course of a few hours. Success! The chicken stayed down!
On Monday, I had meetings but I was planning on calling the vet as soon as I was done. When I walked out of my meeting and I picked up my phone to call them, I saw that I missed a call from their office. I called back to give them an update and to tell them what was happening. A short time later, the vet called me back and we discussed what was happening with Bowser. Based on my description, Dr. H thought of 2 possibilities. One was that Bowser just had an upset stomach and the last, was the suspicion that the cancer may have spread to Bowser’s esophagus or intestinal tract. Dr. H said that he wanted me to continue doing what I was and to follow-up with him the next morning.
Last night when I got home, I warmed up some more chicken and I slowly gave it to him over about an hour and a half. At one point, I thought that he was going to lose it but somehow, it managed to stay down. Another small success! He managed to eat about a cup of meat.
This morning, I was trying to get myself and the kids ready for school so I warmed up some chicken and I tore it in small pieces and placed it on a paper plate. Because I didn’t have the extra time to sit and feed him by hand, I held the plate while he took bites. When I thought that he was getting too much too quickly, I pulled the plate away. When it was all gone, I sat the plate down and I walked away. I made it to the bathroom before I heard the familiar sound of Bowser getting sick.
I called the vet this morning and Dr. H said that today’s description sounds a lot like his suspicion of yesterday, that Bowser’s cancer could have spread to his esophagus and that he could have a partial blockage. Water gets by okay and very small quantities of food can get by. When I feed small pieces or when Bowser drinks, it can slide by. When a larger amount or big bites are consumed, they are blocked and sent back out. So now we have 2 options. The first is to treat Bowser with Prednisone to see if inflammation may be causing the disruption and if so, hopefully we can get it under control. The second step is to send Bowser to Blue Pearl for his second surgical procedure in a few weeks. Dr. H recommends a scope and biopsy of the esophagus so we can see what is causing the problem.
No matter which route we go, we are still faced with the ultimate decision on how to handle the cancer. Bowser is 13 and he’s lived a full, long and happy life. Will he survive treatment? What will happen to his quality of life? Will he still be “Bowser”? Sadly, no one knows. That would be far too easy and life is never about “easy”.
I’ve received great support from my friends and the rescue community all over. Many have asked if I would set up a fundraising account because they would like to donate to help cover treatment. At this time, I’ve turned down the offers because I don’t want to take anyone’s money when I can’t even decide what I’m supposed to do. I keep looking to Bowser for answers but I haven’t gotten any, yet. He’s keeping quiet. As the sun sets on each day, I look to the stars and seek what I hope will be written there. By the time dawn comes, I’m exhausted and no closer to knowing anything. My heart aches, my eyes are raw from the tears and my hand reaches to scratch the ear of the brown mutt beside me. Right now, the only comfort I have is knowing he’s right here next to me, if even for the moment.
How hard it is to live in the moment when everything in life is screaming to run back to yesterday.
Lastly, I’m sending a big hug to my friend Allie who lost her beloved Gobo to cancer today. I know Gobo will be running and playing at The Bridge until his best friend Allie is ready to meet him some day far from now. My thoughts are with you Allie, Joe and Gobo.