Thursday, November 29, 2012

round two

So round two of chemo is under our belt!  I think we got a little cocky about how we were handling things.  He went through round one like a champ, no side effects or reactions at all.  Round two, last week, no reactions.  In fact on Thanksgiving he was under the table begging from who ever he thought might be his best bet to schmooze!  But then a couple of days ago he started acting a little off.  Nothing specific, just not entirely Clarence.  He got more and more clingy and while I love that he wanted to snuggle for a change, it's just not him.  So off to the vet for blood work and sure enough, his white blood cell count has tanked.  Stinks.  I thought we were gonna cruise along and he would be that dog that just told chemo to go to you-know-where.  But it turns out we are not exempt.  So antibiotics, steroids, and hopefully we can turn this around fast.

Warm thoughts, well wishes, prayers, what ever you can spare - it's all welcome and appreciated.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sandy and hamsters and stuff

You know that saying, "when it rains it pours," well I don't know if I've ever believed that as much as I do right now.  In the last three weeks my uncle passed away, one of our dogs was diagnosed with cancer, and we got trapped in hurricane Sandy.  But before you cut and run, thinking, "geez, this is gonna be depressing," I promise, it's not.  This post is about the kindness of strangers, making friends you've never met, an unbreakable city, and the discovery of my own strength.

So I'm gonna go a little out of order here.  Yeh, we survived hurricane Sandy.  Frakenstorm.  It was a crazy thing really that we were even there.  A couple of months ago I was invited to participate in a new, up and coming art show in Brooklyn.  It's no secret, my love of I really wanted to do it.  We waffled back and forth so much that I think I almost got myself uninvited.  But we decided to go for it.  We booked our tickets and were lucky enough to get to dog sit our former foster dog, Finnegan while his person got to take an impromptu trip to Spain.  Win win.  Enter Sandy.

The show went off well, maybe a little slow since that Saturday was dubbed "storm preparedness day." But it was fun.  By this time the news of Sandy's approach was all over the news.  We considered heading home early but everyone else was considering that too and there were no flights out.  We were in for the long haul.  The night Sandy hit was honestly pretty uneventful from the perspective of a 12th floor apartment in lower Manhattan (Greenwich Village to be specific.)  I've never been through a hurricane before but it wasn't what I expected.  I thought "I'm gonna see rain like nobody's business" but I didn't.  I thought thunder, lightening, very, very frightening.  But there was none of that.  Just some gusts of wind.  And then we lost power.  So no news to see what was happening "out there."  Just this eerie view of a very dark skyline - all but the Empire State Building lit up like a Christmas tree.  It was spooky and beautiful all at the same time.

 The view from the apartment before the storm.

  The view from the apartment after the storm.

So I learned something.  Power outages in Texas are different than power outages in New York City. There are about a gazillion more people per square take my house in Texas:  if we lose power it's just the two of us, but if it were in NYC, first, my house would be divided into about four apartments and then there would be about 20 or so floors on top of me, so my two person home just became about 160 people.  That's a lotta folks without power.  And if you are above the 6th floor you've lost plumbing too, something about how high the pump can go.
  Hijacking power.

So 12th floor, no power, no plumbing, no cell service, and a dog to walk.  We had to walk about 25 blocks to charge our phones on hijacked outlets on the sides of buildings so we could sit on hold with JetBlue for an hour +... it was a crazy experience.  But I saw amazing kindnesses...restaurants cooking up their food on charcoal grills and giving it away, bodegas using their generators to help people charge cell phones instead of powering their whole stores, and I haven't even touched on my family and friends doing anything and everything to get us either home or at a minimum, to a shower!

So I think what Tom and I both took away from our experience was a stronger appreciation for our friends and family, a deeper connection to the city we love, and a strange joy that we got to share this with New York.  It might sound strange.  I know this storm caused horrible devastation and I do not mean to minimize that... it's just that New Yorkers are amazing people.  So to have shared this with them, with the city itself, it just feels special.

Right before we left town, like just days before, we found out that one of our dogs, Clarence has cancer.   To say we are devastated is a huge understatement.  It all still feels like a blur to me...we were scheduled to leave town, my uncle had just passed away and we didn't know if we were leaving town for a funeral, it was all just chaos.  Ultimately we decided to go ahead with the trip.  I didn't want to forfeit my both fees, I knew we needed the money from the show to help with cancer treatment expenses, and we had committed to dog sitting.  If it sounds like I am justifying it's because I am.  I still feel guilty for leaving.  It just sucked.  It didn't feel like there was a right decision.  

But now things are beginning to feel normal again...I tell people all the time whose pets are diagnosed with illness, "you find a new normal."   And it's true.  We learned that with Preacher.  But man, I was not prepared to go through this again so soon and certainly not with this dog.

Clarence has Transitional Cell Carcinoma or TCC.  It is a cancer found in the bladder.  It all started with some blood in his urine.  I assumed it was a simple bladder infection.  But after a week of antibiotics it wasn't any better.  We did an ultrasound and found a tumor.  He had surgery that day to remove the tumor.  We hoped that it would be benign and if not, that they could get all of the tumor.  Unfortunately neither was the case.  It was cancer and they were not able to get it all.   Crappy news.  So there were a couple of options but it seemed like chemo was the only option that might really "work."  I've read and read and read about this kind of cancer... let me tell you, getting on the internet looking for info when you are scared and confused is a real bad idea.  I'm not gonna get into numbers because we've decided that we are going to do just what we did with Preacher, be positive and beat the odds.  I'm still kind of overwhelmed, so I know I'm forgetting stuff I want to share... I can't wait to reach that calm place that I finally found after Preacher was diagnosed.

I met amazing people in that difficult time after Preacher was diagnosed.  Through an internet search I found Georgia's Legacy.  It's a great website that was started by a woman who lost her dog to lymphoma.  I swear Kerry saved my life in those early days... I'll post more about Kerry in another post.  But she is the first person I reached out to this time.  Not only did she find people who have been through this for me to talk to but she offered to personally contact the leading vet in TCC research at Purdue University.  Kerry, I love you!

So, I could go on and on, and I probably will over the course of his treatment.  I will try to post updates after his rounds of chemo... the next one is on Tuesday and well wishes are extremely welcome and appreciated.

I will leave you with this:  one evening when we were in New York I was having a particularly low moment, missing Clarence, worrying about him, you know... Tom says to me, pretending to be the vet "Did we say cancer?  We meant HAMSTER.  He has a hamster in his bladder."  Of course it made me fall out laughing.  So, now we refer to the cancer as "the hamster."  It's not such an ugly word and we look forward to the day when we can say "The hamster has left the building!"