Our Roller Coaster Ride…

It has been quite a roller coaster ride since Ginger was diagnosed with cancer in January, but now our car has returned to the station, thus ending Ginger’s Story. 

She was so good.  She was recuperating from the TPLO, and her chest x-rays were clear!  So when she started to whine on and off, for no apparent reason and had difficulty finding a comfortable position, we knew it was time to go back to the vet.  We were hoping for a tummy ache, we got a very large mass at the site of the amputation.  The doctor said ‘melon sized’.  We took her to the hospital last Friday, 9/10/10, so that we could get an ultrasound.  According to the ultrasound, it looked large, but contained – not invading the surrounding organs.  They thought they could take it out, but would not really know until they opened her up.  We went for it.  The doctor called in short order to tell us that it was indeed invasive, and huge…and the surgery now, was far more risky.  We told her to continue because, slim as it was, it was our only hope.  A couple hours later, the surgeon called again…Ginger didn’t make it through the operation.

Heaven has another new, sweet angel.  We miss her terribly.

New Chapter

Hello all.  It has been quite some time since our last update.  Sorry about that, but it has been very eventful to say the least. 

First off let us send our condolences to all the wonderful tripawds that have crossed the rainbow bridge lately.  It seems like too many good dogs have left us recently and they will all be in our thoughts and prayers.

Grab a drink and get comfortable, we have a story to tell.  🙂

As a quick refresher, Ginger is a 6 year old Golden who was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in mid January 2010.  She had a left rear leg amputation on 2/23/10.  She has gone thru 6 doses of chemo, 3 carboplatin and then 3 andriomycin at the University of Pennsylvania in Phila. 

Now for the update. While we were at the U of P during Gingers final chemo treatment, waiting for her return in the waiting room, we were approached by 2 Dr’s.  I knew it couldn’t be good if they were “ganging up” on us.  It turns out that they saw some swelling at the injection site after about 95% of the VERY LAST chemo had been administered.  They immediately stopped the treatment.  They were afraid that some of the chemo had escaped from her vein.  Something called Extravasation.  Apparently potentially devastating to her right front leg.  As I told the Dr. “Ginger is already operating at 75% leg capacity.  She can’t go down to 50%!”  We had to return to U of P for 3 straight days for special injections of Dexrazoxane to try to counteract the possible effects of the extravasation.  Then it was just wait and watch for the next 14 days to see if anything happened.  Fortunately, their fears were unfounded and thankfully Ginger showed no signs of problems.  Another hurdle covered.  But a darn long 14 days.  2 weeks second only to the 2 week hell after amputation!

The next visit to U of P was to be for restaging.  X-rays, blood work, etc.  that was scheduled for July 29th.  Well, on the 28th, Ginger was at home, out back with her littermate and life long companion Jack.  I was out front with an electrical inspector.  We went around the side of the house and when we got to the rear, Jack heard us and came running.  Ginger tried to run with him and she gave out a yelp.  Well in all that she has gone thru, I have only heard her cry out in pain once before, so I knew something had happened.  When I got to her, she was sitting down and could not get up on her back leg.  Oh no.  Now what?  Our regular vet, Glenmoore Veterinary Hospital is wonderful and got us in almost immediately.  After an exam, the vet was leaning towards the diagnosis that Ginger had blown out her knee on her only remaining rear leg.  We decided to wait until the next day and have the U of P take a look.  I called first thing in the AM and they were able to schedule us to see the orthopedic guy at the same time as the restaging.   After x-rays and an exam, the diagnosis was confirmed.  Ginger could no longer support her weight on her hind end.  Like our regular vet Dr. Koehl said, it was a catastrophic development.  Dr. Runge, the ortho vet at U of P, a big bear of a man who gives off the feeling that he thinks he has the coolest job in the world, suggested that Ginger get a TPLO operation on her knee, saying it was pretty much her only chance, so on Friday, July 30th Ginger underwent surgery on her remaining rear leg.  She stayed at the U of P until Monday.  We got updates all weekend long and it all sounded very promising.  On Monday we went down to U of P, not having any idea what to expect.  They had her outfitted in a “Help em up” harness.  Sorry Tripawds, U of P doesn’t handle Ruff wear harnesses, in addition, this one has 2 handles, the standard one between her shoulder blades and another one right near her tail.  It worked wonders!  We took our girl home and have cared for her for the last 2 weeks.  Why does all this seem to go in 2 week cycles?  🙂

Now for the today update.  It is 14 days since the surgery.  Ginger is hoping around, at times on her own!  Talk about a amazing!  Dr. Runge is a miracle worker.  We went back to the U of P today for suture removal and the smiles on the staff were all we needed to see.  Ginger is doing absolutely fantastic!  Dr. Runge had us walk outside with Ginger so he could see her walking and take pictures.  It seems that a tripawd with a TPLO surgery is somewhat of a sensation at the U of P!  We were also told that we had to take Ginger upstairs to the floors to see all the people who have been involved with her.  It was funny to see and hear the intern who was handling Ginger when she told us that she had a long list of people she had to Nextel when Ginger was available!  So upstairs we went.  Ginger is a rock star at the U of P and with all the animals they see there, it is amazing that they can get so attached to any animal. It was also amazing to see the outpouring of affection that Ginger received when they all saw her.  One of the ladies even said that seeing Ginger walk up to her was the highlight of her day, no wait week, no wait month!  It was heartwarming to say the least.  And then on top of all this, Gingers restage showed up absolutely clean!

We are cautiously hopeful and just loving our girl like crazy.  We are at a point where we don’t know what anniversary to celebrate, no signs of cancer 7 months post diagnosis? almost 6 months post amputation? 2 weeks post knee surgery?  Oh what the hell, we are gonna celebrate them all!

Ahh, Summer’s on its way…

We opened our pool early last week, just in time for a springtime heatwave!  It was 90 degrees here over the weekend!  Though neither of the dogs are swimmers, they are not often very far from the edge when people are in the pool.  Our nephews came to visit,  so there was plenty of action at poolside – splashing, barking, wet noses and wet paws!  Ahh, summer…I can feel it…just around the corner.  🙂

Ginger was back for her second round of chemo today,  and seems to be doing quite well.  She isn’t as tired this time, which is nice.  This was her second dose of Carboplatin.  She gets one more of those, then 3 doses of Adriamycin and then we’re done.  She was on antibiotics last week due to a low white blood cell count discovered during one of the interim blood tests,  but everything was in range today, so she got her second dose.  

Except for the ride to the hospital – which is a nightmare – everything is going very smoothly, so far.  Ginger has had lots of energy, and has a great time rolling and running in the yard.  It is really hard to believe that she is sick!


Oncologist – Take 2

Hello everyone.  It has quite a long time since posting the last time – things get very busy outdoors in the spring, and I haven’t sat down to do this in a while.

Ginger got her first Chemo treatment last Tuesday – finally.  As my last post indicated, we had an appointment with an oncologist on April 5th, but that didn’t really work out.  We just weren’t comfortable there.  Why, you ask??  Well…

-Is it really normal for a vet to completely ignore the patient??  …not what we are used to from our normal vets at Glenmoore Veterinary Hospital.  Kudos to the docs, especially Dr. Koehl, and the staff there for helping us through this journey, and for pointing us to Tripawds!

-The oncologists first question was ‘So why are you here?’  She didn’t understand why we waited 6 weeks after the amputation to get an appointment.  Made us feel like the worst Pawrents.  

-From the upfront paperwork (too much financial information required) to the high end price quote, it just wasn’t the place for us.  

Fast forward to last Tuesday.  We had an appointment at the University of Pennsylvania Vet Hospital in Philadelphia.  In the first 5 minutes that we were there, more attention was paid to Ginger than the entire visit to the other place.  She had a thorough exam by a student  – who clearly loves animals – and then a consultation with both the student and the oncologist (who also did an exam).  We decided on a course of action, 6 treatments over 12 weeks, and Ginger had her first treatment that afternoon.  It was a long trip into Philly, but well worth it.  We only need to go there for the treatments.  The blood tests can be done  by our vet, close to home.    

Ginger is handling her Chemo like a champ.  We are giving her the nausea meds, as recommended by the vet, for the first week of the first course.  She was very sleepy on Tuesday night, but I think that was more from the long car rides than the medicine.  Since then, for the most part, she has been full of playful energy, chasing her dad and Jack, her brother, around in the yard, and tearing up some more cardboard tubes!

Just another tidbit…Ginger has begun to occasionally lie on her surgery side.  I know, that doesn’t sound that remarkable, but she has been lying surgery side up for so long, that I was surprised.  I was glad to see that it doesn’t seem to bother her at all.

Overdue Update

Ginger playing Tug o War with her leash.
Ginger and her cardboard tube.

Well, figure it is about time for an update on Ginger – I can’t believe it has been over 2 weeks since we posted!  Ginger has healed very well.  Her fur is growing, her scar looks amazing, and we are very happy with how all of that turned out.  She has finally finished all of the antibiotics! Yeah!

We have also gotten the pathology report from the vet.  Ginger has been diagnosed with Osteosarcoma.  The vet said that we caught it early and she is hopeful that Ginger can beat the odds.  We are now scheduled for our first oncology appointment next Monday.  Turns out that the practice we are going to has an ongoing cancer research project specifically for Golden Retrievers.  Lucky for us, it is close to home as well!

Ginger is doing terrifically.  She is back to herself.  She is interested in running around, and chewing on the cardboard tubes and pieces of wood she finds, chasing her frisbee – which she never brings back – and barking at the dog in the yard behind our fence!  She has very few down moments, where she “just doesn’t want to” get up, or go out, or meet someone at the door.  We’ve done some walks in the neighborhood, and she does great.

So, why wouldn’t Monday’s appointment be just as good???  The power of positive thinking… 🙂

More on Ginger

Good afternoon all.  Well, it’s been 19 days now since surgery.  Things seem to have settled down. Ginger still has a bit of an infection that shows in what has been draining out of her for 18 days now!  She is on her second round of antibiotics. This round more potent.  Today has been our first day without drainage and can I say it’s about darn time!  Since Ginger has come home she has not been alone at all.  Between days off for both Gingers Mom and Dad and our poor son having the disadvantage of having his college break last week, we have been able to have someone home with Ginger 24/7. The main reason for the constant supervision is Gingers total hatred for that darn lampshade she would have had to wear.  Put that darn thing on Ginger and she gets the deer in the headlight look and will not move.  If I could get her to balance on her one rear leg and then put that lampshade on her, she would stay balanced on that leg indefinitely!  She just totally freezes up so the lampshade was not an option.  And Ginger is a little lady and likes to keep clean so she would definitely lick if we left her alone.  It has been 18 days of sleeping on the air mattress on the floor and spending all our time with her.   The things we do for our pets!  But she is worth it. It is for certain she is handling this better then we humans are!  🙂

Ginger still amazes me.  If I went thru 10% of what she did, I’d be still in bed, whining about my bad luck.  Ginger is walking around, living each day to it’s fullest.  We sure can learn from our pets.  I am going to steal Lincoln’s line (Lincoln the Golden tripawd) and say that we are gonna make this a Ginger summer.  She deserves it.

We are still waiting for the results of her leg biopsy and next Tuesday she gets her remaining stitches out, so we still have a long way to go. Like it is said here, we are living one day at a time.

Have a great day all.

Two weeks down…

Well, our 2 weeks are up…

Most of the posts I have read say the first 2 weeks of the recovery are the worst, with lots of ups and downs.  We sure have had our ups,  but not too many downs!  Ginger continues to do well though the drains are still draining.  Her stitches will come out Thursday, and we’re hoping for a prompt end to the drainage so that we can stop the constant vigilence that we are all so tired of.

This is night one without pain meds, and she seems to be doing fine…so far.

Ginger is loving her outdoor time.  She still rolls around in the bit of snow that is left, and loves to drag Dad all over the yard.  She loves her treats, but will not eat her regular food.  🙁  We bought some food that looks like treats, and that seems to be working for now.  🙂

Ginger’s Home

Ginger joined the Tripawd club this passed Tuesday, 2/23/10.  She had her left rear leg amputated, and we brought her home today.  ( Shhh…We’d really appreciate it if you didn’t tell Ginger that she doesn’t have that leg anymore, because we really don’t think she knows it’s missing!)   Since the surgery on Tuesday, we have been getting updates from the doctors and staff, about how well she is doing.  I decided that I would take those words with a grain of salt.   Their ‘doing great’ might not translate so well to us since we have never been through this and have no idea of what ‘great’ means for a post-op Tripawd.   Even the people at the front desk were excited when we entered the office to pick her up today.  Fast forward through the questions and answers, and the discussion of meds… when they brought Ginger into the room, it was as if nothing had happened to her!   It was amazing!  Okay, her gait is a little hoppier now, but she plowed right in there and buried her head in Daddy’s lap, and flopped down on the floor intent upon a good ear rub and belly scratch!    After 5-10 minutes of chilling there on the floor while we  went over the care details and the doctor explained what is what, and what to expect, we told her that it was time to go, and she popped right up on all 3, and off we went!  Lots of people have been telling us that Ginger will amaze us, and you were right…we are amazed.

We got home.  She bounced through the snow to get to her normal potty spot, squatted and did her thing.  I was kind of worried about some steps leading down to the patio…she wasn’t.  She didn’t hesitate – she went right down.  She came inside, got her treat and has been resting and sleeping since then.   She’s glad to be home, and we are glad to have her here.

Overall, this bone cancer experience has been stressful.  I have said so before, and probably will say so again, we deeply appreciate the support of those on this site.  Posting your experiences, asking questions, and just sharing your feelings with others who are riding on the same roller coaster as you are is just so helpful.  The support on this site is just incredible.  So with that in mind, I will share one more thing that I was not prepared – the mess.  (my husband may have neglected to tell me this info that he got from the doctor…) Ginger has a drain that allows fluid to exit the wound area.  (I haven’t seen it mentioned here, and I don’t know how common it is)  I knew that she would have a drain, but I didn’t know that there wouldn’t be something to catch the drips.  We are going to need to be diligent about cleaning her up and cleaning up after her.  I’m glad we went with cheap area rugs to help her with traction on the hardwood!  It usually leaks when she gets up and down, and isn’t so bad when she is just walking around.  She gets the drain removed on Monday, so I think we can cope till then!

So far, we are happy with our decision.  No regrets!

Surgery scheduled for Tuesday Feb. 23rd

Hello all.  Our Golden girl Ginger is scheduled for an amputation of her left rear leg next Tuesday because of bone cancer.  Like everyone else, we are struggling with the whole decision. Our problem is that Ginger does not seem to be in pain.  She went on pain meds about 3 weeks ago and she is running around like a puppy!  She just LOVES all the snow we have out there now.  I know she is in pain though so it is the right decision.  I also worry that she will hold it against us.  I know I am putting human emotions on her and I’m trying not to, but it’s hard.  We would love to hear other’s experiences with this whole process.  Ginger is a golden retriever who is not even 6 years old yet, so this is hard to take.  I am trying hard to be the Alpha for her and we will get thru this I am sure.  Looking for words of advice, what to expect, etc.  Thanks to everyone.