Thursday, August 30, 2012

Conan's Canine Lymphoma: Today We Start Chemo


What a whirlwind week it's been for us. After some research and very little debate, Jarrod and I opted to go with the intensive (and expensive) five-drug, 25-week chemotherapy treatment plan for Conan's stage 2a lymphoma. When I first heard the words "chemotherapy" come out of the vet's mouth and through the phone, I instantly thought of human chemo and the hair loss and nausea and general crappy feeling that seems to accompany it and my initial thought was, "There's no way we can put Conan through that."

But it turns out that most dogs tolerate chemo pretty well. The dosage is drastically decreased from human chemo and many dogs only experience more minor side effects like fatigue and some vomiting. Still, last night when I was Googling the names of the five drugs Conan will be receiving over the next six months, my own stomach churned in nausea. Side effects (for humans, at least) include such fun as mouth sores, finger and toe nails coming loose from nail beds, stomach cramping and painful urination, not to mention the ubiquitous hair loss and loss of appetite. If any of the fluid happens to leak out of IV catheter or his vein, it would likely cause extensive tissue damage.

I'm horrified at the thought of these harsh chemicals that sound like they could strip paint off a wall running through my beloved Conan's veins. If I were the one having to undergo these treatments, I'd be scared out of my mind. I'm terrified of needles, for one thing, and just the thought of Conan suffering through an IV treatment every other week makes me blanch. But the only other real option was to simply let the cancer run its course and lose Conan in a few short months. And that wouldn't do either. So paint-stripping chemicals it is.

With all that running through my head, it was pretty hard to drop Conan off at the vet this morning. And even harder because he was clearly anxious, and when it was time for him to head through those evil swinging double doors he kept jumping up on me as if to say, "Please, Mom, don't leave me here!" Perhaps he could sense my own worry, though I tried so hard to keep my own emotions at bay for his sake.

Today Conan is scheduled for a chest x-ray to check for any additional swollen lymph nodes or tumors and to receive his first chemotherapy treatment: an IV of vincristine, an injection of aspariginase, and the oral steroid prednisone. But Conan might not even be able to start his chemotherapy this week because the incision on his neck from his lymph node biopsy may not be healed up to the vet's satisfaction. And, obviously, it's not a good idea to kill all of Conan's immune defenses while he has an open wound.

I want to get Conan started on the treatments ASAP, so I'd be disappointed if he wasn't able to begin today, but I'd also be relieved -- it would mean I get one more week of my sweet Conan as he is, without the impairment of drugs or cancer.


  1. Oh, thoughts are with you and Conan. So difficult for you to go through with your husband away.

    1. Thanks for thinking of us! Luckily Jarrod will be back in a couple weeks to help with vet visits and pills and home-cooked meals. Conan survived his first chemo treatment yesterday... I'm sure it will get easier with time but I was a bit of a nervous wreck!


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