The Journey Ends

It has been nearly two weeks since our girl passed away. These past days have been lonely, grief-stricken, and sad. Everything we do reminds us of her…

We knew from the time that Addie started taking Prednisone (and not taking Neoplasene) that there was a good chance that she might succumb. Unfortunately, what we feared did come to pass. However, without the Prednisone we would have lost her sooner as she could barely walk and would not eat. The Prednisone gave her several more weeks of relatively pain-free and enjoyable life. For this reason we do not regret the decision that was made.

During the last day of Addie’s life I was not here to be with her. I had left to make a long overdue family visit and had left Denice here alone with the dogs. We had originally planned to travel together but I knew that we couldn’t leave Addie in the care of someone else given her fragile condition. I couldn’t bear the thought of neither of us being with her if she were to have passed while we both were gone. So, I stayed behind to care for Addie while Denice traveled and Denice stayed here while I was away a couple of weeks later.

During the morning of the 7th of June, a mere two days into my absence from home, Addie collapsed. Denice was able to load her into our vehicle and rush her to our veterinarian. Dr. Ana evaluated Addie, determined that she was extremely anemic, and sent her for a chest x-ray. After the x-ray was taken, Addie’s condition worsened dramatically and the decision was made to euthanize. The next day, Denice buried Addie with her tennis ball on the banks of the lake near our home. I returned several days later knowing that I would not see my girl again.

What happened?

What typically happens to hemangiosarcoma patients who have had emergency splenectomies is that the cancer spreads via the bloodstream to another internal organ where another tumor grows and ruptures. This process usually occurs within 4-6 weeks after the splenectomy and is fatal. For nearly 5 years Addie successfully avoided that fate while she underwent a Neoplasene regimen. Addie stopped taking Neoplasene in favor of Prednisone on April 29, 2013. 5 weeks and 4 days later she passed away. The veterinarian who took Addie’s last x-ray confirmed the presence of an internal mass. We believe that the mass was a tumor that had probably started to grow after the Neoplasene was discontinued and eventually ruptured. Was Neoplasene responsible for giving Addie that 5 years of additional life expectancy beyond what we were told she would have after the splenectomy and hemangiosarcoma diagnosis? You must decide for yourself.

What happens now?

It is our hope that Addie’s experiences with hemangiosarcoma and Neoplasene (which we have tried our best to document here) will continue to offer hope and real results for others who struggle to find a way to help their pets live with this cancer. For this reason this blog will remain here in silent tribute to our faithful companion and the life she led. We will still receive notices if anyone wants to make a comment and/or ask questions of us through the blog. We are more than happy to continue to help if possible. In this way, we hope Addie’s legacy will live on.

Thanks

To Dr. Friedly and Ione at the Natural Healthcare Center for Animals in Falcon Colorado for everything you did for Addie during the time we lived in Colorado and afterwards.

To Buck Mountain Pharmaceuticals for producing Neoplasene, taking the time to speak with us about how to administer it, and for helping us find a way to obtain it.

To Addie’s veterinarians in Costa Rica, Dra. Leandro, Dra Ana, and Dr. Mario.

To our family, friends, and all of you who followed Addie’s Journey.

IN LOVING MEMORY OF ADDIE18 - Addie

A few days after this post was published we sent an email to Dr. Friedly thanking him for his help through the years.  They sent a nice response which we wanted to share:  Friedly_email

15 years old

Well, here we are at the end of October 2012. Approximately 15 years ago Addie came into the world as a blind little pup. Two months later we met her for the first time in the parking lot of a hotel near where we lived at the time.

Her mama was a full-blooded Rottweiler owned by a couple who bred her for the purpose of selling the puppies. Mama had accidentally gotten pregnant by a non-Rottweiler and the owners were giving away the little ‘accidents’ one pup at time.

When we brought her home that first night she was understandably a little scared.  Everything she knew and had become familiar with up to that point had just changed. Now she was in a new place with people she didn’t know. I vividly remember her trying to hide under one of the bar stools we had in the kitchen. (Now, her head wouldn’t fit in that space) Within a few days, after giving her a lot of attention and love, she finally started to warm up to us and her new home. Now, I can’t imagine not having her around.

As any owner of a large breed dog can attest, having your dog attain the 15 year mark is a pretty extraordinary feat. There is a price to pay for such longevity, however. In Addie’s case, she is having a lot of trouble with locomotion. Her hips and back legs seem to have lost a good deal of muscle mass and there are times when she has a really hard time getting up and around. A couple of weeks ago we let her outside to do her business after dinner. She usually walks over to the side yard (maybe 20 yards away), does her business, and comes directly back to the house within 5 minutes. That evening we noticed she had been outside longer than usual. I went out and found her sitting in the yard. I wasn’t sure why she was just simply sitting there so I called for her to come. She wanted to come but when she tried she couldn’t get her back legs to work and she was sort of dragging them along behind her as she used her front legs to move. I immediately stopped her, picked her up, and brought her inside to her bed. Fearing the worst (a now persistent feeling) we decided to see how she did the next morning before deciding to take any sort of action. Well, it turns out that she didn’t need the night to get her strength back. Within 10 minutes of putting her on her bed she was up and walking around through the house again…

Energizer Addie?

Neither of us fails to be amazed by her resiliency.

Disconcertingly however, the one thing we have feared the most seems to be exactly what is happening.  That being that what finally brings the end is going to be mechanical and not an internal failure which would provide a clear signal for us.  With mechanical issues it is much more difficult to determine ‘when’.  Will we ever really be sure that she might not have rebounded again?  Selfishly, I find myself hoping that she passes quietly during the night in her sleep.  We know that the odds are that  this won’t happen and the whole process is going to be a lot more difficult and emotional.

Regardless, at this point she is doing reasonably well, still likes to play with her ball, still has a healthy appetite, and still wants to be near us.  Until the majority of those things change, we will continue to cherish every day she is with us.
Happy Birthday girl.

May Update

Addie waiting NOT so patiently for her food to be prepared. She still LOVES to eat!
Odd, but in the last year or 2, she hates to have her picture taken – this is a rare moment as she was distracted by food!

I was reminded yesterday that it has been over 2 months since the last post.

I remember the urgency and the stress when Addie was first diagnosed.  Because of that  I posted every 1-3 days because so much was happening and everything was so new.  I am glad those days are over.  However, when we receive a blog comment or an e-mail from someone who is entering week 1 of the hemangiosarcoma battle, I recall that time like it was last month.

For the past 2 months, Addie has been doing well cancer wise.  She is now 14 1/2 years old.  Very soon we hope to be celebrating her 4 year, post diagnosis anniversary which is just a few short weeks away.

I feel we did everything we could do for her then and still today.  But as she gets older day by day, I know that we will have the face the inevitable sooner rather than later.  I honestly don’t think it will be from the cancer.  Although she does have many lumps (on her paws, on her sides, etc)  they are internal and do not seem to be growing at an alarming rate.  She has had these types of lumps for more than 4 years.  I think when the time comes, it will be age related.  It chokes me up every time I think of it but I keep telling myself that she has had a good quality of life for each of those 14+ years.

We ask ourselves those quality of life questions on a more frequent basis now: Is she in pain?  Does she still like to be around us?  Does she still love to eat?  Does she still want to play on occasion?  At this time we can say an absolute yes to all but the first.

How do you know if they are in true pain or just achy from age?  It is harder for her to get up and down but it doesn’t look like she is in pain.  However, we know that dogs are great at hiding pain sometimes, aren’t they?  For now, we do not believe her pain (if any) is at a high level.

I think we really just need to keep cherishing every day she is with us.  We have had a lot of practice with that since we have been doing it every day for over 4 years.  I guess that is an upside to the cancer.  We now make sure to appreciate our dogs every day with hugs and kisses.

Have you given puppy kisses to your pups today? 🙂

And Yet More Blood Work

Addie after a recent snow storm. She loves the snow!

As the time gets nearer for us to depart the country, we worry more and more about Addie.  Because we will be flying next week, we had Addie’s blood work tested again to see if there were any improvements from a month ago, or at least hoped that the numbers had stabilized.  The results were not good at all.  Her ALP and ALT are still rising at an alarming rate.  See grid below:

Test July, 2011 Sept, 2011 Dec, 2011 Jan, 2012 Normal Levels
ALT 93 129 190 224 < 120
ALP 93 119 200 220 <140
Glucose 94 98 87 89 75 – 125
Protien 6.9 6.3 7.2 6.5 5.5 – 7.6
Creatinine 1.7 1.4 1.5 1.9 .4 – 1.4

After the last blood work, we did increase her Hepagin-C up to 4 capsules/day and added Sam-E at 400mg/day.  However, that has not seemed to help.  I have a call into the vet to see what recommendations he has.  It could very well point to liver damage/failure, but it could also still be a few other things such as thyroid or possibly Cushings though Dr. Friedly did not feel that Cushings was a possibility last month.

We are still also waiting on Addie’s MSU test results to come back.  That is a test for a thyroid issue which Dr. Friedly did not rule out last month.

In addition we found out yesterday she has a yeast infection in her ears, so she is receiving some nice ear cleanings 2 times per day.  She loves those!  NOT.

On the bright side, she doesn’t seem to effected by all of this.  She still likes to hang out with us continually, she still plays with her toys each day, and still gets super excited when we come home.  She also does not seem to be in pain.  She sleeps a lot, and does not have the energy she did even a year ago, but is that a health issue or old age?  We just don’t know.

Time for a Change of Scenery

No more snow for Addie!

Looking back, it is hard to believe we picked up and moved from Indiana to Colorado 9 1/2 years ago with our little girl Addie.  At the time, Addie had a little white on her chest, but not the gray she has today.  But she wears it well and with pride!

It is now time that we start the next phase of our life and Addie of course is coming with us!  In January, we will be packing up and moving to Costa Rica.

We have been very apprehensive about the move with Addie.  We have been considering it for over a year, but now the time has come.  My concerns were of course for her health.  Not only was she diagnosed with cancer – hemangiosarcoma 3 1/2 years ago, but she did just turn 14 in October.  But she has been doing wonderfully.  We spoke to both of her vets (I still laugh internally when I think about the fact that Addie has TWO vets!), and they both agreed that although it would be a little stressful for her, it would not be a problem.  We made sure we did find an airline that had a direct flight from Denver and is known for being wonderful when it comes to flying our furry friends (Frontier Airlines).  I have spoken to them no short of 4 times now regarding taking both dogs and they have always been great.

I was also concerned about having to give her all kinds of shots prior to leaving.  But Costa Rica only mandates rabies vaccinations, so my worries were greatly alleviated.  She had her rabies shot about a month ago.  The last step is for her to have a heath certificate completed within 10 days of departure, which just means a general health exam and a form to be completed.

Addie has never seen the ocean and although it may seem “cheesy”, we can’t wait to take her to the beach and let her play in the Pacific 🙂