Thursday, February 28, 2013

the long and winding road

 On my "to do" list everyday : Blog post!  But every day it gets shoved down.  Time has been an elusive thing lately, but I think my subconscious might be trying to tell me something.  Back when Preacher went through chemo I was On. The. Ball.  I posted after each and every round of chemo and kept up with updates fairly regularly for the year and a half after chemo wrapped up.  I do keep wondering why I have been unable or unwilling or unmotivated to do that now...time? too emotional?  too overwhelmed?  all of the above?  Check!

When last we "spoke" Clarence had finished round three of chemo.  A whole helluva lot has happened since then:
  • Round four of chemo and we were still in a good place, thinking we were cruising along.
  • shortly after round four an ultrasound revealed that the tumor had grown and was blocking the ureter to his left kidney.  We were told he only had a few weeks left.
  • we switched chemos but with out any success
  • after much research and discussion we decided to fly to NYC to have a stent placed through the tumor into the ureter to save his kidney and allow us more time to fight  (very few places, like four, do this stenting and the folks at AMC in NYC invented it, so that was the best place to go)
  • Tom and Clarence flew to NYC, met the fabulous doctors at AMC, specifically Dr. Berent, his surgeon, and had his stent inserted with little stress.  Tom met with a radiation oncologist there and we began to see that radiation was our best next action.
  • at this stage we had some amazing friends insist on doing something to help us raise funds.  Enter Clarence's Go Fund Me page.  People have been beyond amazing and I continue to be overwhelmed with their kindness.
  • shortly after flying home from NYC Clarence and I drove to Dallas, TX to meet a radiation oncologist and discuss IMRT radiation (sadly Austin has no veterinary oncology). 
  •  There, at VSNT Clarence and I met Dr. Cook and received a CT scan to make sure there was no spread of the cancer.  He got the all clear, thank goodness. 
  • The plan was set:  21 treatments, three days a week (T, TH, S) for seven weeks.  He was scheduled to get his first radiation treatment the next day.  Lots 'O driving in our future...
As I was walked out of that treatment room that day I saw this amazing dog standing in a doorway of the clinic.  She stopped me dead in my tracks because she was the spitting image of our precious boy, Preacher.  I think I stuttered to the owner "Can I pet your dog?  She looks exactly like my dog."  She asked about him.  It felt good to tell his story, there in this Dallas cancer center.  Her dog is 12 and has bone cancer.  She was emotional, I was emotional.  She seemed appreciative to hear of Preacher's success with treatment, but sad that he was gone now.  He doctor came in and I said my goodbye's.  But I quickly turned to ask her name as I left.  "Faith," her owner said, "her name is Faith."  I think I just barely made it to the restroom there before sliding to the floor.  I had the most overwhelming feeling that Preacher was right there just whacking me over the head.  I could not have had a bigger sign if it had been in neon above my head.

 After completing the first three rounds of radiation we came home to more outpouring of love from our wonderful friends.  My incredible friend Kristin set up a benefit for our boy.  A beer tasting for a large group of folks.  A wonderful couple who didn't even know Tom and I prior to this day, offered up their gorgeous home and we spent the afternoon enjoying the Texas sun, some yummy local beer, and great company.  It was one of my favorite days of all time.  One of the attendees, precious baby Stella, came clad in a tshirt that turned my waterworks on full force!
 After his weekend of fun it was back to reality.  Unfortunately the vets found another little mass that they aspirated.  We had high hopes that it would be nothing but no such luck.  Its a very long story that speaks to what a dreadful disease TCC is, but I won't bore you with the details.  Suffice it to say that it is not the cancer spreading, it is the cancer "seeding" in a new spot, probably transferred there by a medical instrument during surgery or a needle aspirate.  So we needed a surgery eval to determine our next step.  It was decided that he would get radiation on Tuesday, surgery on Wednesday, radiation on Thursday, and then home.  So the boy and I checked into a hotel in Dallas and prepared to start our three days.  Unfortunately before the surgery his bloodwork showed some elevated kidney values so the surgery was put on the back burner.  Happily after a day of fluids his levels hopped back into shape.  So, that brings us to today.  We've tabled the surgery for now, he will get his radiation today and then we head home.  He will come back on Saturday, check his blood work, get some fluids, get some radiation, and head home.  Same plan for Tuesday.  If he continues to be stable we can discuss surgery again.
Through out all of this Clarence has been a trouper.  Whether he is taking his first plane ride, jumping on a train, or adjusting to hotel life, he takes it all in stride.  And everywhere he goes people seem to fall in love with him.  Apparently he has his eye on a cute Boston Terrier up at the Dallas clinic!

I'm sure our path may sound crazy to some folks, who knows, maybe everyone thinks we are crazy.  I worry that people might think we are doing too much, that we are putting Clarence through too much.  But we have set up some checks and balances.  He has a team of doctors that we consult with regularly.  My number one question is "Is this going to be hard on him?"  Tom and I regularly discuss C's comfort level and make sure we are in agreement for every next step we take.  Bottom line, as long as he has a quality of life, is feeling good far, far more than he is feeling bad, then we will continue to fight.  As long as he still wants to play sneak-a-kiss with me, as long as he still wants to chase our pit bull with full force, as long as he still tries to dig a tunnel to China via the couch cushion, as long as he darts out the door any time it opens, as long as he is willing, we will continue to fight.