The week started off as normal as any other week. I had planned this to be an easier week since we were leaving for Sedona, AZ on Friday. The week prior was a bit light due to my illness, so I thought I would try to get a little extra in during the early part of the week. This would also take some pressure off trying to get in training during the weekend as we settled into Sedona.
Monday was my typical evening trainer ride.
On Tuesday, I needed to take my dog, Yuki, to the groomer immediately after work so my run would be a little later than normal. As I was getting ready to take Yuki to the groomer I was petting him and noticed that he had two lumps on the sides of his neck. Kind of like he had swollen glands. I proceeded to take him to the groomer and was curious if she would notice this too, but she never said anything. I showed them to wife later on when she got home and she was also concerned about it. I immediately called the vet and made an appointment for the next day. The only vet I could get in with was the one we don’t care for at the animal hospital and it wasn’t until 7:30pm Wednesday.
On Wednesday morning my wife Denise and I were talking about it and I decided to call again and see if anything opened up for our preferred veterinarian. Fortunately they had a urgent care appointment open at 10:30am, but it was around $20 more. I didn’t care so I took it.
I left work early and took Yuki over to his appointment. He hates going to the vet and the groomer and now he was doing it two days in a row. Also the groomer and the vet are about a block apart, so as soon as we drive down that street he starts shaking immediately. It is amazing how they know that stuff.
The vet checked him out and asked if he had any symptoms that were out of the ordinary, which he did not. She felt his lumps on his neck and said they were his lymph nodes. She also found that the ones on the back of his legs were also enlarged. She said it could be many things like a virus, infection or the worst, cancer. I would be lying if that thought didn’t cross my mind before, but to hear her say that made my stomach clench. But basically it was his white blood cells fighting something. She took blood and samples of all the lumps to be sent to the lab. She said they should have the results back in the morning and she would call me as soon as she got them. I mentioned that we were supposed to leave for Arizona on Friday and she didn’t think that would be an issue.
To say I was anxious that night and the following morning was an understatement. My stomach was in my throat as I nervously anticipated the results. I don’t know why though. Yuki was as normal as ever. He is so energetic and is always ready for his morning walk as he keeps tabs on all the signposts around the neighborhood. He then greets me every night when I come home from work with his toy chipmunk in his mouth for what we refer to as “Chippie-toss.” This is where I throw the toy through three rooms of the house and he retrieves it and brings it back again. We have been doing this for his entire 12 and-a-half years of his life.
I was suprised to not get any call from the vet as 8:30am approached and I finally had to go to work on Thursday. I had a meeting all morning Thursday and I just sat there looking at the time tick by on my laptop screen with no phone calls. I called the vet to see what was going on and they said she was in with appointments until lunchtime. Lunchtime came and still no call. I ran home at lunch to take Yuki for a walk. I gave her until around 1pm and called the vet again.
I got hold of the vet and she indicated that she had not received the results back yet. She said the status had changed recently, so she knew they were looking at them. The fact that it was taking so long did not give me a warm fuzzy feeling. She said she would be in the office doing paperwork all afternoon and promised to call me as soon as they came in.
I pushed through the afternoon trying to stay positive and keep in mind that today was my last day of work before vacation.
It was about ten minutes after 5pm and I was in the middle typing an instant message with a co-worker, advising him on a fitness scale when my iPhone started playing my Gary Glitter ringtone and the name of the animal hospital flashed on the screen. My stomach sank. It was my vet on the other end and she wasted no time as she apologetically told me exactly what I did not want to hear, “Yuki has Lymphoma”. I was stunned. I immediately went into shock, but I knew I needed to pay attention to what our course of action would be. I know Denise would have a million questions too so I needed to focus and write everything down. I somehow maintained my composure.
The vet started giving me the plan ahead of what needed to be done immediately and then what the options were after we knew more about the implications of the disease. First, we would do what they call staging. This would be a chest x-ray at the office that night and then would have to drive down to Malvern, PA the next morning for an ultrasound. Things are about to go fast here.
I immediately texted my wife who was working to see if she was available for a phone call. I didn’t get a immediate response, so I knew she was with a patient. I then packed up my work stuff and headed for home. I was so stunned and the emotions had not really sunk in yet.
As I made my way on my 4 mile drive home from work, I saw my phone flash with a response from my wife that she was there. I pulled into a church parking lot I was passing and called her. As the words “Yuki has Cancer” came out of my mouth I burst into tears. It had now become reality as I echoed those words. My wife instantly emotionally replied words of denial. “No, It cannot be!” She was equally shaken up as we both cried together across the airwaves.
She said she was going to try to get someone to cover her remaining patients for the remainder of the evening. I proceeded the additional mile home. As I pulled in the driveway, there was my little buddy “Yukes” laying in his bed in the bay window as he always does waiting for us to come home. He had no idea what was going on, or maybe he did. It is hard to know that I guess. I broke down again and sat in the car for a few more minutes trying to collect myself.
As I came up the steps to the front door Yuki stood up wagging his tail to greet me. I gave him a huge hug and took him to the sofa to just lay with him. I stroked him constantly as he layed in my lap as we waited for Denise to come home. He is not always into being pet for that long, but today he just stayed there and never tried to leave.
Denise came in the door visibly emotional as she unloaded her stuff. We all just engaged in a family hug for how long I don’t know. I felt like Yuki understood we knew something was up.
I tried to convey what the vet had told me, but said that you should probably give her a call too. Our vet graciously repeated the entire thing again to Denise about what we needed to do. She is the best vet and this is why we prefer her to anyone else.
I told Denise there is no way I was going to Arizona now. Even if we caught this early, I could in no way enjoy this vacation knowing all this. I began looking into cancelling our plans and seeing what our options were.
I took Yuki later Thursday evening for his chest x-ray, and then Friday morning we drove Yukii down to Malvern for his ultrasound at Hope Veterinary clinic. The tech took Yuki back as he swung his head around looking back at us, just crushing us. We waited for about an hour for hm to come out. During that time another guy was sitting in the waiting room on his laptop. They brought out his Westie with a purple bandage on his leg, which was obviously for chemo. He had to let him rest a bit before he left. This did not give us a good feeling about the chemo.
Finally, I heard the familiar jingle of Yuki’s id tag and rabies vaccination tag jingling and before I knew it he was sprinting through the waiting room towards us. I could telll by the look in the Radiologists face that he didn’t have good news. He sympathetically got to the point and I felt my stomach drop again. I somehow maintained my composure as he delivered the bad news.
The cancer had spread to his liver and spleen.
He continued on, basically telling us the same things that our vet had told us. The on-staff oncologist was not in the office that day, so we had no one else to talk to. The radiologist sincerely apologized several times for the news. I could see even he was welling up in his eyes. He gave Yuki a little pet and a few words of encouragement before he left. We just sat there in shock with tears streaming down our faces. How could my energetic little dog be dying inside? I just could not grasp the reality of it all.
The hour and fifteen minute drive was a very quiet one. I went in and out of breaking down while holding Yuki in my lap. He would get up every so often to look out the front car window like he always does. We ran out to the store Friday night to load up on some fresh, organic vegetables for him and stopped at the Thai restaurant for something to eat. We started giving Yuki some Flax Seed Oil and Cottage cheese after reading about some success with the Budwig diet for dogs with lymphoma cancer.
On Saturday morning, I also reached out to the lady that we were renting the apartment from on AIrBnB. The cancellation policy stated that there were no refunds when cancelling less than a week before arrival, but I thought I would see if there were any other options. She responded back and said that we could exchange it for a different week and provided a few open weeks this year. She also wrote how she had dealt with Lymphoma in one of her dogs as well and highly recommended Dr. Dressler’s Dog Cancer book for us to read. I downloaded it immediately from Kindle and began reading it. It is a great source of information for your dog. Also check out their website at dogcancerblog.com. It recommended a low carb type diet of whole food for your dog, so we started Yuki on a meat and cooked vegetables diet immediately. Our host also said we coud re-arrange the trip for the same time next year and we would keep in touch. She was so helpful and supportive, which is above and beyond the level of service expected for sure. You don’t get that at a hotel.
Later on that morning we took Yuki for a good walk down at the local park after his breakfast and some cottage cheese and flax oil. When we got back, I kept hearing Yuki’s tags jingling away in the hallway. When I got to him I noticed blood splattered on the floor. I started panicking trying to figure out where it was coming from. It turned out to be his nose.
While I was cleaning that up, I heard him vomit in the other room. When I went in there he had vomitted all over the inside his crate. It was bloody cottage cheese and flax oil. I didn’t know if the blood was just from his nose or from his stomach too. I had to lasso him with his leash to get him away from it because he gets very possessive of his puke for some reason. He came out without too much effort though. Then he sneezed and blood just flew all over the floor. I looked at Denise and said “We have to go to the vet now!”
We rushed to the vet and they quickly took us into a exam room. Now the nose had stopped bleeding altogether. I was relieved it did, but now we were looking like freaked out dog owners. They did think it was related though. We also told them we were still waiting for our regular vet to call us, so they would try to get her on the phone.
We talked to the vet for awhile. She basically reiterated what the radiologist had said the day before. She feared that the chemo would be too much for Yuki’s liver to take and we definitely agreed with her. Not only the internal stress it would put on my little buddy, but also the stress of having to go to the vet every week and get stuck. We just didn’t want to put him through all that. So, it was a pretty easy decision to put him on the Prednisone steroid and try to make him as comfortable as possible.
We headed home and stopped off for some Pepcid at the local CVS to help calm his stomach. He ended up having a few more nosebleeds, but we held some ice on his nose and they eventually stopped altogether. Now I just hoped things would stay calm from now until Monday, because it anything happened we would have to run down to Malvern again since they are 24-7 with vets on staff. Our local animal hospital was closed until Monday at 8am.
The next stress was trying to get Yuki to take the prednisone. He now knows that peanut butter means medicine and he won’t touch it with a 10 foot pole. We tried some different food and he would smell the meds immediately. Smart little bugger! We were using up pills just trying to get him to take one dosage. Denise finally got the idea of using some butter(ghee actually) and some raw honey with the crushed up pill in it. It worked like a charm! What a relief.
Saturday night went by pretty smoothly and Yuki perked up a bit. I thought it was the meds, but he actually perked up before we gave it to him. All the grandparents had stopped by to see him, so maybe just the attention helped too.
Sunday was a good day too. We got Yuki out for a walk again, just not quite as long. Still no nosebleeds! I even managed to get on the treadmill for an hour too. Oh yeah…training how about that? Kind of funny how unimportant that becomes now. One thing that I found a bit interesting is how my HRV is affected by this. I am getting regular reminders of how stressed I am and that I should relax or change my plan. I wish it was that easy!
Well, It looks like it is going to be a bumpy road ahead here. I don’t know what to expect, but we will just have to take it one day at a time and enjoy every precious moment with our little Yuki.