9/22/2016 – Mighty Meaty

January 18, 2017
It has taken me almost 4 months since Meaty passed away to be able to repost the whole 3-month ordeal from GoFundMe here.  I hope you will read my extreme ramblings with empathy and really appreciate and cherish the limited time we have with our four-legged friends.

There are a TON of holes in this story that I am going to have to fill in using my FB and IG, and I’ll also add some commentary in a different color. [Update as of 9/22/17, I have slacked MAJORLY and still failed to fill the tons of holes.  Please be patient and stay tuned, as I’d really like to give closure on Meaty and a full and honest narrative of this whole experience.]

So here we go…

July 1, 2016
I noticed Meaty’s face was kind of fat around 7pm but just attributed it to his neck fat bunching around his collar.  By 10pm, it had become an all out growth, like a fluid-filled sac, and looked like he had a second head attached to his head.   Pet ER (Animal Emergency Hospital in Bel Air) prescribed him Cephalexin (antibiotic) and Benadryl.

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July 5, 2016
The Cephalexin and Benadryl appeared to work as the lump had gone down and solidified, but our vet at the White Marsh Animal Hospital did not think it was doing enough.  She switched him to Cipro (once a day) and Prednisone (twice a day) which we were to continue for five days, and then after that, no Cipro and only one Prednisone daily for 5 days, then one Prednisone every other day after that.

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July 11, 2016
We came home from a wedding out of town, and his lump had gone down significantly, to about the size of a golf ball.  Sunday was the last day of Cipro and 2x a day Prednisone.  Meaty was so energetic, his tail was wagging a mile a minute, and he was extremely playful.  We noticed he was panting a lot but that is a common side effect of Prednisone.

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July 13, 2016
We noticed in the morning that Meaty’s lump had started growing again.  Alarmed, we made an appointment with the vet at 2pm.  By the time I got home from work at 1pm, his lump had doubled in size from that morning.  It was basically the original size from Day 1, but almost completely solid.

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When we took him to the vet, she was stumped.  Not only had this massive lump returned with a vengeance, but he had a fever of 104.5 and he was down to 92 lbs (when he was 101.5 on 7/5/16).  She gave him fluids, and a shot of Baytril to help with his fever (which went down to 102.5 before we left) and immediately suggested we go to Internal Medicine in Towson, but he’d basically have to sit in the Towson ER until Tuesday.  She said Internal Medicine in Annapolis would be able to see him tomorrow (Thursday) or Friday, but I’d have to take him to stay overnight tonight.  Didn’t even hesitate; off we went to good ‘ol Naptown.

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An hour later, the big guy and I arrived at the Anne Arundel Veterinary Emergency Clinic.  It took him some time to get out of the car (not to mention I had to pull over 10 min into the ride at a seedy gas station to get him out of the front seat, and hoist all 92 lbs of him into the back seat so he could lay more comfortably) because he has no energy and is extremely weak.  The saddest thing was that I housed some string cheese and crab chips (a most nutritious dinner) on the commute, and he didn’t want any.  This is the first time it really struck me that something was really wrong.

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Meaty’s temperature had gone up to 103.5 (slightly feverish again), but he was now up 5 lbs to a whopping 97!  Probably from the fluids they gave him at the vet.  After a thorough examination and telling the tale of our arduous journey to Annapolis, the doctors took him back and said they would monitor him overnight and make sure that someone from Internal Medicine would see him tomorrow (Thursday).  It broke my heart to say goodbye, but I could only hope and pray that they would make my Meatball all better again.

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July 14, 2016
A sleepless night without my Meat Sauce.  Zippy is definitely feeling confused and sad without her brother to annoy.

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I called Pet ER around 8am.  The doctor I spoke to said they weren’t there overnight, but that he seemed okay and he’ll see Internal Medicine later this afternoon.  Very informative.  Right?

Dr. Gonzalez called me around 10am to let me know that they haven’t done any tests yet, but they’re thinking it may be cancer.  Really not the news a doggie parent wants to hear.   The game plan is… they’re going to do an ultrasound on the lump, then aspirate it for cytology, then do a biopsy on tissue samples.  And anxiously, we wait.

He calls back around 4pm.  Forgive me as I tried to write down as much as I could, but I’m sure a lot of this isn’t going to be medically sound or make sense.

1)  There have been no major changes.  There was reactive tissue in the lump AND fluid pockets, which means abscess and/or infection.  They drained out some of the fluid, but are not sure what could cause it.  It could be a tumor?  Sialocele (salivary gland obstruction causing pockets of saliva to form)?  Foreign body?  The Cloverfield monster?  They got some samples of the fluid which are being cultured and/or sent off for cytology… the results of which we should have within 24 hours.

2)  There is a fair amount of fluid in Meaty’s chest.  They removed some with a chest tap and got about 500 mL of white milky fluid.  Again, no idea what it could be.  Cancerous change?  Cardiac disease?  Obstruction?  A rare Pokemon?  He’s going to need a cardiac consultation.  Cha-ching.

3)  Surgery.  No way around it.  It’s scheduled for tomorrow (Friday).  It’s going to flush out whatever is in the lump, and put drains so it all gets out.  The unsettling part is he has had elevated kidney levels over the past year or so, and being put under anesthesia might make it worse.  But what can ya do?  Anddddddd… he’s going to need to stay in the hospital a few more days.  More cha-ching.

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July 15, 2016
We went to visit the Meat Man last night at the Anne Arundel Veterinary Emergency Clinic. As much as I didn’t want to, because it would make me sad, and also selfishly, because I don’t like to feel vulnerable, I knew I just had to suck it up and go see my baby. Even with the extremely able doctors and nurses, he was there by himself, and feeling lousy.

When they first brought him out, my jaw dropped to the floor. His head had ballooned to triple its original size, to the point where he couldn’t even open his right eye. In addition, the lump had spread to under his neck and almost to the other side of his face. As jarring as these pictures are, they don’t even compare to how sad it looked in person. We got to walk him around and laid with him for a little bit, just telling him over and over again how much we loved him, as if it would make him feel any less bad.

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His cardiology results came back good, so his heart will be strong enough to withstand surgery. However, they did notice that there is a thickening of his pericardium (lining around the heart… I swear I have to Google every word the doctor throws at me so I can make sure I’m spelling it correctly), which could be a secondary reaction/systemic reactiveness from the rest of what’s going on. The results from his cytology were consistent with an infection (inflammatory cells/bacteria), and the culture is still pending to see what kind of bacteria so they can make sure he’s on the proper antibiotic. The results from the chest fluid were inconclusive. They keep wanting to say cancer, but there’s nothing (yet) that is confirming that.

The surgeon called me this morning and said Meaty would go under anesthesia around 10:30am, and surgery would be completed around noon. He said he has concerns of the fluid in Meat’s chest and abdomen. His thoughts of the cause are either 1) a stick or some foreign object that penetrated and caused an abscess, 2) ruptured salivary gland causing pockets of saliva to form in his head; or 3) a cancerous process (like lymphoma) that got infected. He said that the swelling of Meat’s head is so bad that it’s to the point where it could affect his breathing.   He mentioned that if it got life-threatening, they would give him a breathing tube.  This is all so hard to think about, but I’m trying to stay strong and remain positive for Meatball.

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July 15, 2016  – 2:00PM
After driving home from work ugly-crying (and go figure, my AC didn’t work with it being 95 degrees outside), here is the latest update. Don’t worry, Meaty is still with us and fighting.

The surgery was supposed to be done by noon, but I got a call from the surgeon that they did another chest x-ray prior to surgery prep. His middle right lung is demarcated (meaning, it’s not attached to him, just moving around freely and not filled with air). Awesome.

So the original plan was to just fix his face, however, with the lung issue and the fluid around his heart lining (which can hinder his heart from beating properly), they don’t know if his body will be strong enough to recover. Which leads us to the Plan G.

They’re going to “explore” (slice open) his chest, insert a chest tube, drain the fluid out from his heart lining (and take a biopsy of the heart sac), remove the AWOL lung, then move onto his face… get the liquid out, put drains in, and remove his mandibular salivary gland. Original cost of face surgery: $3000-$4000. New cost of chest, heart, lung, face surery: $6000-$9000. Cue panic attack.

The money isn’t even the worst part. This is the very first time in this whole process (been trying to stay strong for Darren) that I am actually TERRIFIED he might not make it. They’re basically turning Meaty into a science experiment, and I really really hope his body can handle it. I’ve always been a strong proponent of not hanging on too long… ya know, if a dog is older, and it’s gonna cost too much to fix them, then the quality of life sucks, etc… just let them go. But this is my Meaty. I can’t just let him go.

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July 15, 2016  – 7:00PM
Surgery is completed, and Meatball is stable and resting, woo woo!!!

Where to even begin…

1) They removed a lot of cloudy fluid from his chest and the thick lining around his heart. Chest tube inserted.

2) They went in to remove the middle right lung lobe because they thought it had demarcated, but it was actually the one in front of it that had scarring/mineralization (both of which are abnormal), so they removed that one.

3) THE BIG KAHUNA. The doctor said the massive abscess they removed from Meaty’s face was the BIGGEST and WORST-SMELLING of his entire career.  I mean, if you’re not first, you’re last, right? They went in to remove his mandibular salivary gland, but… COULD NOT FIND IT? However, there was this free-floating piece of tissue… which they believe was the gland… THAT DIED. Lastly, they found a piece of GRASS in his NECK TISSUE, which he said is completely baffling because he has no way how that could have happened.

4) They are going to run a tick screen (what’s another $200 on the arm, leg, and Zippy’s college tuition that this is already costing me?!). Why, you ask? Apparently, vasculitis (blood vessel inflammation and organ necrosis) can occur from a tick bite… and we HAVE found ticks on both pups since we moved in December! Crikey!

5)  They did not find anything to suggest cancer, but they also have not ruled it out.  Ugh.  That dang C word.

So, that’s about it. All in all, they achieved a lot, but the doctor is still struggling to put the pieces together on what happened. Meat’s still got the adema/swelling, but is on plenty of fluids, a urine catheter (why get up to pee?), pain killers, local anesthesia, and is resting comfortably.

Hoping he keeps hanging in there, and we should be able to bring him home on Monday/Tuesday if he continues to recover well. I can’t thank all of you enough, but am sure going to try, now that I can breathe again. ❤

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July 16, 2016 
We were allowed to go visit him today. I felt a lot of trepidation on the drive down because I couldn’t mentally prepare for what he was going to look like. I envisioned the dog from Frankenweenie, his body all stitched together with bolts coming out the sides of his head.

When we got there, he looked just like my lil Meatyball.  Just really swollen (with a pretty sweet buzz cut, that I’m sure he’ll be jazzed about when he wakes up from his nap).  He was wearing a vest, which I’m guessing is covering most of the bad part, and had tubes running in and out of him in all sorts of places. He was passed the F out the whole time we were there, but we petted him and talked to him for a few minutes. His ear twitched when Darren was talking to him, so I think he knew we were there. Although it was so much driving for only 5 minutes of time with an unconscious Meat Sauce, I already can’t wait to go back tomorrow.

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I thought his face would be a big loose sac of nothing after his surgery, but his face is still incredibly swollen. His legs are also swollen, because he has lost so much protein. He hasn’t eaten since Wednesday morning, but his vitals (heart rate, respiration) are still good. His chest tube is producing fluid, which is good… but it’s also producing AIR. Which is not good. This might mean he has a LEAK from the surgical site when they removed his lung lobe. The doctor assured us that this is not entirely uncommon and that the leak may seal on its own. But if it doesn’t, they’ll need to go in AGAIN and restaple the site. Can Meaty catch a frickin’ break?!

With the hard part (surgery) being over, I wish we could say Meaty’s out of the woods, but he’s not. He has set up shop IN the woods.  He’s got a long road of recovery ahead of him, and I just hope he keeps fighting.

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July 17, 2016
Meaty’s surgeon went on vacation today, so a different doctor called me this morning. The test results should be coming back over the next few days. He said that Meaty’s condition was no better nor no worse, and because of all the mystery surrounding the cause, they can’t really give us any indication on if it will be up or down from here. Great. I just lost it.

I thought surviving the surgery was the hard part, but it’s becoming increasingly more apparent that whatever caused this might be more persistent than we originally thought. I’m praying the test results come back in our favor, but it’s the uncertainty that is driving us insane.

We went to visit Meaty around 2pm, and I instantly felt a lot better from when I first received the ambiguous phone call. I could tell that his swelling had gone down, even just by the tiniest bit. Don’t get me wrong, he is still not pretty to look at, but any progress is good progress! The vet tech assigned to him said that he had actually gotten up and walked around the hospital the previous night!! That was so good to hear. He wasn’t entirely unconscious on this visit, and even opened his eyes a few times to look at me and Darren. He still hasn’t eaten anything since Wednesday, but is getting plenty of fluids and antibiotics. They also gave him a steroid shot today in hopes of bringing down the inflammation.

I left our brief visit feeling more optimistic because all of this is a slight improvement from yesterday. Darren, however, cannot get over how bad his current condition is. I’m trying to stay strong for everyone, but just need Meaty to keep on truckin’ and get better!

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July 18, 2016 
FINALLY, some great news!!! Went to visit the big guy today. Not only was he awake, but he RAN out of the crate towards me when I walked in! My heart pretty much exploded.

I took him on a little walk outside. The catheter is out so he’s peeing on his own again (victory!). When we went back in, I sat in the crate with him and fed him pizza crusts (which he gobbled up), and some canned food (he ate about half a can and then was over it). This is the FIRST day since Wednesday that he has eaten!!! It was such a relief!

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All in all, he definitely seems brighter, more energetic, and the swelling has gone down a great deal. The chest tube is still producing air with the fluid but the amount of air has lessened (more good news).

As excited as I am for his much improved condition, the doctors don’t want me to get my hopes up. I get that, but I’m just ecstatic that he’s feeling better!!! They said the earliest he can go home will probably be Thursday or Friday. He’s pretty much signed a lease at Pet ER. We should have the results from the biopsy back around Thursday as well.

Seriously can’t thank you all enough for your thoughts and prayers. You’re doing more for Meat than he’ll ever realize. ❤

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July 19, 2016
This has been such a roller-coaster of emotions.

First, the good. Meaty’s attitude has continued to improve… he is so bright and alert, and everybody at Pet ER absolutely adores him. The swelling is almost completely gone, and his doctor even said he looks like a completely different dog. His chest tube is no longer producing any air which means that if his lung lobe removal wasn’t sealed properly originally, it has sealed on its own. All fantastic news.

So… although there is no more air coming out of Meat’s chest tube, the amount of fluid coming out is not slowing down. He is still producing around 1.5 liters a day. At this rate, they cannot remove his chest tube or he’ll drown. With all the uncertainty, the doctor is not sure if the cause is survivable. 😦

His biopsy results should come back around Thursday or so and they are running some tests on the chest fluid which should come back later today. How it was explained to me… dogs can develop microscopic abnormalities in their chest ducts, and as a result, chyle (lymphatic fluid) can leak out. If the fluid is chyle, there is a surgery that can ligate (close off) the main ducts… but there’s a catch. The surgery is only 50% successful. If the fluid is not chyle, then the surgery is useless and we’re basically screwed.

If the fluid never slows down, he can never come home. There is too much risk of sending him home with a chest tube that can be knocked out if he sleep-twitches (which he does) or Zip attacks him (which she also does). Meaning, we would have to pay $600/day to keep him alive at the hospital for the rest of his life. Although we’re still waiting on results to come back, my head has already gone to the worst case scenario, and it breaks my heart that I might have to face the situation of putting my wonderful handsome happy smiling dog to sleep. If he were in pain and discomfort, that would be a much easier decision. I just can’t even wrap my head around all of this. 😦

In addition to the $9,055 we have already paid, we owe about an additional $4,000 from Saturday through today, and it will be $600/day going forward. The money, however, is the least of my thoughts at this point. We have raised almost $8,000 so far, which is absolutely incredible. It’s amazing how many people care about Meaty and want him to pull through. I just wish it mattered to his body. 😦

We need your prayers more than ever. Please pray that his test results come back well, and most importantly, that the fluid from his chest tube starts to decrease. I can’t bear the thought of saying goodbye to my beautiful Meatball.

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July 20, 2016

Lymphoma.

Big. Fat. Lymphoma.

Vision blurs, room spins, my world falls apart.

I got the call yesterday afternoon but have been so much of a disaster that I’m just now updating you guys. As much as the doctors have been reminding us everyday for the past week that it could be cancer, I refused to acknowledge that was even a possibility. It still doesn’t feel real.

The results from his chest fluid came back with lots of lymphoblasts (cells consistent with lymphoma). The pathologist and oncologist believe the massive swelling/abscess in his face may have also been lymph node related.

I gave them the go-ahead to give him a chemo shot of L-asparaginase (aka Elspar… which is a subcutaneous injection). The hope is that this will lessen the amount of fluid coming out of his chest. The worry is that the steroid they administered a few days ago may make the cancer more resistant.

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So where do we go from here? We just hope and pray to the puppy gods that the fluid will stop, and we can take our Meatball home. Lymphoma is a malignant cancer… even if it goes into remission with chemo, the average survival time is about a year. The average life span of a bullmastiff is usually about 8-10 years. With Meaty being 6, I knew that there would be a day in the not-so-distant future that I’d have to say goodbye, but just wasn’t expecting it to be this way.

If he gets to come home, we’ll start him on a weekly chemo regimen. And do everything we can to make the last few months of his life the most memorable and special.

After worrying incessantly about Meaty, the second hardest part is worrying about Darren and Zippy. My husband has become an empty shell of himself. My Zippydoodle is so depressed without her brother around to annoy and hump (we dropped her off at doggy daycare today so that she can play with her friends and maybe cheer up a little). Through all of this, I’m trying to bury my emotions and keep it together for everybody.

The donations keep trickling in, and my heart breaks every time I get an alert because it’s a reminder of how many people love and care about my baby. I know I’m way past the point of sounding like a broken record, but please continue to keep Meaty in your thoughts and prayers.

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July 20, 2016 – 11:00PM
Don’t worry, it’s 2 hours past my bedtime so I’m not going to write you another novel of an update. I’ll try to keep it (relatively) short and sweet – just like tonight was.

I honestly believe whatever you guys are doing… is working. On our visit today, Meaty was in SUCH great spirits. Definitely feeling a lot better than yesterday after his chemo shot. We still had to wear our hazmat garb, but he didn’t care. Lots of laps were sat in.

Despite the discouraging prognosis we received yesterday, the fluid coming out of his chest… is FINALLY decreasing! He was producing 1.5 liters daily since his surgery Saturday, but they said his past two chest tube drains only had 125 mL and then 45 mL. That’s a HUGE improvement. If this progress continues until there is no more fluid coming out, they can remove his chest tube, and our Meatster can come home!!! 🙂

We’re really trying not to get our hopes up, and just taking it one day at a time. Off to Lala-land. Please keep doing what you’re doing. Love you all. ❤

PS: Don’t worry, he didn’t try to eat the socks. This time.

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July 22, 2016
After exactly 3 weeks from the day the lump started, an exorbitant amount of tears and sleepless nights, and a disheartening diagnosis… our Meatyball is coming home.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m so happy that the fluid stopped and that they were able to get the chest tube out, and even more pleased that I’ll get to see him everyday for more than 5 minutes without driving 45 minutes each way. But this lymphoma is looming over us. No matter how much love and care we give him, something inside his body is trying to kill him.

Now that the surgery is over and we’ve finally figured out what is wrong with him, where do we go from here? Weekly chemo treatments. But for how long? What if it doesn’t go into remission? All this uncertainty is weighing heavily.

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Meaty’s normal weight is usually around 120-130 lbs. When we checked him in last Wednesday, he was about 95 lbs. If I had to guess, I’d say he’s probably anywhere from 75-80 lbs now. His head is sunken in, and his spine juts out of his skin. It’s jarring to see. We need to keep him eating, and not just any food, good food so that his body can be the healthiest to try to fight the cancer. This will probably be one of the greatest challenges we face. Someone recommended thehonestkitchen.com which looks like really healthy human-grade food for dogs. Would love any other recommendations you guys have.

We are considering seeing a holistic vet in conjunction with the weekly chemo. We’re also exploring the idea of administering CBD to Meaty, which is basically medicinal marijuana without the high. We’ve had many people message us both about CBD and holistic options and their incredible success stories. If you have any good/bad experiences with either, please share them with us. We’re trying to get as much information so that we can help Meaty in the best ways possible.

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Although this journey is far from over, I just want to reiterate how grateful we are for the support, donations, prayers, everything… from all of you. The past week has opened my eyes to how astonishingly kind and generous people can be, especially and even when it’s not required of them. It has inspired me to want to live every day as a better person (cliche, I know). I truly cannot thank you all enough. ❤

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July 27, 2016
It has been almost a week since Meaty was discharged from the hospital and we were able to bring him home. He has had his ups and downs but he’s hanging in there.  Darren even shaved half of his head so Meaty wouldn’t feel self-conscious!  #mancrush much?

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Essentially, Meaty is Meaty, but he’s down about 40 lbs (weigh-in this morning was 83.6 lbs) from his normal weight. He’s noticeably more tired than usual (unusual for a dog who usually sleeps 18+ hrs a day) and seems pretty weak and frail when walking around. Zippy has been pretty good at leaving him alone, but she’s her usual psychotic self when people come over and want to pet Meaty (we’ve been harnessing her for those occasions).

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Eating and taking his meds has been accomplished daily through a LOT of trial and error. When I offered him peanut butter on Friday and he refused it, my heart immediately sank. Peanut butter is his JAM. But nope, couldn’t even stomach the smell of it. Over the past few days, we have learned he loves chicken, sweet potatoes, meatballs (we’ve minced kale/spinach/carrots to put into them), cottage cheese, string cheese, and blueberries. So we’ve been giving these to him almost every hour just to keep him eating. Yesterday, he ate half a cup of Taste of the Wild kibbles (hand-fed), about 6 Primal freeze-dried nuggets, and 2 spoonfuls-worth of Honest Kitchen dehydrated food (after water was added). These little victories are the only thing getting me through the week. They didn’t record his weight when he got discharged on Friday, so we’ll need to wait until next week’s chemo drop-off to see if we are making any progress.

All in all, he had been doing pretty well. He even tried to be a jerk and counter-surf on Monday when I was making meatballs. Old Meaty is still in there somewhere. Last night and this morning were a little rough for him. He did not want to move at all (not even to go outside and potty). Darren hoisted him into the car for me this morning, and off we went for his next round of chemo.

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I thought about a lot of things on the hour-long commute. What exactly is the chemo doing? Is it just keeping him alive and he’s going to be depressed and feeling ill the whole time? Is that a quality of life we want him to have to live with? How will we know if the cancer is in remission? And what if Meaty doesn’t have cancer, and we’re pumping him with chemo for no reason?

When we arrived at Internal Medicine, he was a whole different Meaty. He bounded into the waiting room, running to every nurse to pet him (he’s reached celeb-status at Pet ER, apparently). He picked up another dog’s stuffed animal and sprinted around with it like a lunatic. His tail wagged the entire time. He was happy. This mug is the only dog, possibly EVER, that has been excited to be at Pet ER. And this is when I realized… maybe Meaty needs human therapy. Kind of like when sick humans need therapy dogs. He just wants love and attention from as many different people as possible. Light bulb!

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We talked to a nurse named Jada who was very informative and helpful. She said that unlike chemo for humans which makes you feel like crap so that you can have a better quality of life later, that doggy chemo is supposed to make him feel good and jolly. The reason this may be taking some time is because he did just undergo three major surgeries and is still healing up. They’ll be running tests every week to see how the cancer is responding. She will also send us home with some high-calorie food in an effort to get him to gain some weight.

It was incredible seeing Meaty so happy and finally getting some answers about his treatment plan. I’m optimistic, but just going to take it one day at a time. The grand total of Meat’s 10-day stay at the Anne Arundel Veterinary Emergency Clinic was: $16,051.82 (did he eat caviar daily and sleep on a bed of gold?!). To date, we have received $11,336.00 from friends, family, his Instagram friends, charitable strangers… it is truly unbelievable. Thank you so much from the bottom of all our hearts, especially my Meaty’s (which is a little mangled from surgery, but he still means well). ❤

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July 28, 2016
Meaty returned to Internal Medicine and Oncology yesterday for another round of chemo. His bloodwork came back with his red blood cell count normal (so no anemia, which is good), but his white blood cell count was too low to do chemo because Vincristine is a bone marrow suppressive. They said not to be alarmed because chemo attacks rapidly growing cells (like lymphoma cells… or white blood cells that defend the body against infection). They said the low white blood cell count was no reason for concern because he will continue his antibiotics to stave off infection.

They did, however, find mast cells in his blood, which is not typical… and could indicate a DIFFERENT KIND OF CANCER (seriously?!?!). There were only 2 found though, so they said not likely significant, but they will keep monitoring.

They noted a possible mass/lymph node near his heart on the x-ray (awesome, just awesome), but noted that the pleural effusion (chest fluid) was almost nonexistent. Because the lymphoblasts had presented themselves in the chest fluid and weren’t really found in his biopsy or anywhere else… this could mean he has made excellent progress and is possibly in… REMISSION! Rejoice!

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But not so fast. A few hours later, they did an ultrasound to try to get a better view of the mass/lymph node/random object by his heart (which is apparently 5-6 cm in length), and noted that there was a mild amount of fluid in the chest. Ugh. We could either brush it off, agree to monitor it next week, then take him home and just hope for the best… but what if the fluid doesn’t stop? Other option was to do another dose of the L-asparginase (Elspar). This is the only chemo drug they can administer despite low white blood cell count. I asked the difference between Elspar and Vincristine (which he had originally come in for) and they said Elspar is more for use in case of emergencies. And costs a little more. Of course.

I had already arrived at Pet ER for pick-up around 5:30 when they gave me all this information, so I said to go ahead and do it. Most of the vet techs had already gone home for the day, but they were considerate enough of how far away we live to find someone to administer it. I waited about an hour for him to finish and get fluids and everything. And off we went on the trek home.

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Meaty’s spirits were SO high when we got home. I think all the extra attention he got all day did him really well. He ate so much food (had to skip breakfast because of chemo), EVEN a half scoop of hand-fed kibbles. And the best part was… he humped his monkey!!! Which he hasn’t done since all this started almost a month ago. It’s the littlest victories that mean the most.

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This morning, he’s not doing as great. I’m not sure if he’s just tuckered from all the excitement yesterday, or just sleepy, or both. It’s now 11AM and he hasn’t peed since 10PM last night, and hasn’t pooped in probably almost 24 hrs. He ate a little bit this morning, but is feeling pretty down and just laying in his room. I know I need to take it literally one hour at a time, but I can’t help but worry.

I’m hoping the chest fluid stops, that the mast cells are nothing, and that the thingy by his heart is also nothing. I hate having to update you guys with more sad developments and wish I could just write a post that says “Hey everybody! Meaty is healing and feeling great! All uphill from here!”. Back for the next round of chemo next Wednesday, and we’ll see what – if any – progress he has made. Please pray for lil Meatball.

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When Meat was first admitted to Pet ER for his lengthy stay, they told us we could bring toys/blankets, but that there was no guarantee that we would get them back due to the rustle and bustle.  I immediately went out and bought a new toy – this dog bone – in the same texture and similar color as his monkey… even rubbed it against the monkey for a few minutes to get its smell, lol.  Well, that toy did make it home with us.  It was covered in drool, and blood, and God knows what else.  After I washed it, this was the first thing Meaty did.  ❤

August 12, 2016
Good morning, everybody! It has been about 2 weeks since the last update, so I wanted to keep you all in the loop!

1) Meaty is doing VERY well. He has his good days and his bad days, but I’d say it’s 1 bad day for every 6 good days. He’s back to being his bad rambunctious self… counter-surfing, being an a-hole… the old Meaty is back.

2) He was stuck at 83.5 lbs for 11 days (from the day he came home on July 22 until last Monday, August 1). It was so frustrating because he had been eating more and more, but the scale just would not budge. At weigh-in this past Monday, August 8, he was up SIX lbs in a week to 89.5 lbs!!! His appetite is back to normal, and he is eating/inhaling his food out of his bowl again (let me tell you what a pain it is to hand-feed)! The weight is distributing evenly throughout his body, aside from his still-pointy head. We hope to continue making more progress!!!

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3) We have transferred Meat’s oncology care from Annapolis to Towson. This has saved us an immense amount of time, and is better for Meaty not to have to sustain as long of a drive.

4) At Meat’s last chemo appointment, they took some x-rays. The good news was that there were no enlarged lymph nodes or any noticeable fluid in the chest, which is a HUGE relief. However, they did notice two nodules on his left lung lobes (it was his front right lung lobe they removed)… and believe them to be more than just benign. They also said there is a bulge around his heart (that would be the 5 cm mass/lymph node/thingamajig that they noted 2 weeks ago). We are definitely worried, but they assured us they would monitor both issues in 6 weeks to see how they have progressed.

5) My entire life has been consumed with administering Meat’s meds, feeding him, driving him to and from chemo, and meal-prepping for him. I do it without hesitation, though. Even though I’m exhausted beyond belief and my wallet is crying, it all melts away when he smiles at me.

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The main thing now is just to focus on the positive. We have our lil Meatyball home and he’s happy. Although we may only have 11 months left with him, we’re going to enjoy every single minute with this special dog.

This past month has been the hardest month of our lives, and we couldn’t have done it without all of your support. For that, we thank you immensely. ❤

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August 22, 2016
I know I said the last update would be the last update, but this is certainly warranted.

36 days after the heartbreaking lymphoma diagnosis, Meaty is IN REMISSION!!! 36 days ago, he was 83.6 lbs. At today’s weigh-in, he was up 8.8 lbs in a WEEK, bringing him to 98.8 lbs!!! His appetite is great, and he is definitely looking and feeling more like his normal self.

However… a few things to note:

1) Contrary to what I thought, we still need to continue with the 15-week chemo protocol even though he’s in remission (this week was week 5). This is because the lymphoma never fully goes away. Being in clinical remission means the cancer cells are low enough to not be detected, but the next 10 weeks will continue to add to the cancer kill log. In addition, they will be monitoring the nodules on his lungs and the mass around his heart in a few weeks.

2) Meaty has always had callouses on his front elbows due to his hip dysplasia. Not sure if they are getting worse because he is not walking normally, but they are very fleshy and bleeding. The physical therapist measured him for “DogLeggs” which will protect them from getting worse. It’s gotten to the point where he’s in pain laying down on his elbows, so I really hope they help.

3) Over the past few days, we noticed Meaty was having issues with his mouth and tongue drinking water and eating kibbles. All cookies and treats we gave him would tumble out of his mouth in pieces, but he’s HUNGRY. They took a look in his mouth today and noticed a mucosal overgrowth in the back left corner of his mouth (opposite side of where his abscess was). Imagine biting your cheek, and the irritation you feel each time you accidentally bite the same spot. He’s got that EVERY TIME he chews. We have an appointment with the oral surgeon next Monday to discuss surgically removing the overgrowth. Can Meaty catch a frickin’ break?!

So, yup, there’s the remission… but he’s far from healthy. This journey has been exhausting, but he’s worth every bit of it. ❤

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August 24, 2016
This is truly paining my soul to write again after such a wonderful announcement only two days ago that Meaty’s cancer was in remission.

We dropped him down to Prednisone every other day, so yesterday was the first day without. His right paw/arm ballooned up to almost the size of his left, and his paw wrist is bright red. He’s uncomfortable walking around and laying down. We took him to the vet yesterday, and they think it’s some sort of infection and gave us Cephalexin.

Last night and this morning, he has almost no interest in food. I think his mouth is bothering him, and he feels like crap from whatever is going on with his elbow calluses and puffy arm. He ate just enough to take his meds and then a little bit of steak, mac & cheese, and blueberries. We called oncology today to ask them about his arm, and they asked to see him right away. The concern is that this all started with swelling in his face, so they want to see what is causing the arm swelling.

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They’re going to do a fine needle aspirate on his wrist to check for abnormal cells, do x-rays of his puffy arm and chest, recheck bloodwork and do an abdomen ultrasound. The bill for today? $1,886.00. This may seem like a drop in the bucket after the original $16,051.82 that I paid for his 10-day surgery and treatment in Annapolis.

Rewind back to July 22nd when he got to come home. We had received a little over $11,000 from everyone and were ecstatic that we only had to pay about $5,000 on that exorbitant bill. We were informed that his next 3-4 months on a weekly chemo treatment would be about $4k-$6k, which seemed pretty manageable. We were so extremely grateful for everyone’s donations, and were just going to make some life adjustments and budget out to treat Meaty, and everything would be fine.

Wrong. Chemo is coming out to $1000-$1500 PER WEEK!!! The explanation? He’s a big boy and needs more medicine than most dogs. Well, that’s just dandy. So take into account that he just finished his 5th week of chemo, has TEN MORE to go, and now has an $1800 bill for paw tests, AND ORAL SURGERY NEXT WEEK. It’s so depressing, but we are drowning in a futile attempt to save our baby.

So yes, I feel like an absolute loser asking AGAIN, but if you have even a couple bucks to throw our way… anything would help tremendously. I know many of you are probably thinking… ALL of this for a DOG? I know Meaty isn’t going to live forever, but it’s not his time. If you had just seen him a few days ago, counter-surfing with his tail wagging a mile a minute, you would feel the same way.

Ultimately, I know there will be a day we have to make the toughest decision, and Meaty will let us know that he’s ready. But I know he’s still fighting and it’s not time yet. 😦

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[What was I doing for almost a month?!  SLEEPING?!  Fill in the gaps with FB & IG.]

September 20, 2016
Not feeling too hot after the last round of chemo.

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September 22, 2016
It is with the absolute heaviest of hearts that I write this, but our beautiful little Meatball has crossed the rainbow bridge. This emotional roller coaster has finally ran its course.

He had been doing SO well. He had gained 30 lbs back in the past 2 months, was responding phenomenally to his chemo treatments, smiling all day, tail wags all around, eating voraciously… you wouldn’t have even known he was sick if it weren’t for his crazy half fur-cut. After his chemo treatment on Tuesday, he seemed a little down yesterday… we just assumed it was his typical chemover (chemo hangover) day. He hadn’t had one in a while, but it can’t feel good to pump your body full of poison. This morning, he was panting heavily, drooling more than usual, and the kicker was that he didn’t want to eat. We embarked on the drive to Bel Air’s Pet ER… a journey we’ve made time and time again (and the last one only 13 days before). I thought nothing differently on this commute… Meaty is a fighter. We’ll get there, they’ll give him some fluids or a shot of something to stabilize him, and off we go on our merry way home. When we got to Pet ER, they took him back and they put me in a waiting room. I waited a few minutes for the usual: the doctor to come in and tell me Meaty was fine, and then to inform me of what crazy new condition he now had to add to the mix. This never happened. The doctor came in, choking back tears, said that Meaty had something called a pneumothorax (basically an air bubble which causes the lung to collapse). He had gone into cardiac arrest, and they were going to try to do CPR… but that it didn’t look good. She then rushed back out, and I sat there in this cold empty room, stunned. It only took a matter of milliseconds, and I just started bawling before reality hit my brain. A few minutes later, she came in and told me he was gone.

It was a severe punch to the gut. I felt completely blind-sided. Never did I expect that to be my last interaction with my sweet Meaty. He had finally used the last of his seemingly infinite lives. Our hearts are completely shattered. He had overcome so much over the entirety of his life – so many surgeries, procedures, the endless amount of socks… and he had been kicking cancer’s ass for the past two months.

The sorrow comes in waves. One minute, we are laughing, reminiscing about what a character he was and all his crazy antics… and then we’ll see a picture of his beautiful face, and just completely lose it. Meaty was truly one of a kind. He was the sweetest dog, with a heart as huge as his head, and he possessed an infectious smile to all he came in contact with. Even the doctor (who sees pets die all day) said she was so shaken up about his passing that she called her husband afterwards. The world is a much less wonderful place without him. With Meat, I lost a giant chunk of my heart that can never be replaced.

I’m saddened we never gave him that proper last day, filled with things on his bucket list… but in a way, I’m glad he left our world this way. I would have never wanted his condition to slowly decline- for him to be in pain- and then for us to have to a make a decision I’m not sure we could have ever made. It will take a lot of adjusting. Every little aspect of our home life revolved around Meaty… from closing every door behind us, locking the trashcan, keeping things away from his reach… it all came so naturally to us after six years.

I know he is up there, smiling down on us… wagging his tail a mile a minute as he inhales tubs of ice cream, generously sprinkled with cheese… barking and pawing at the doggy god if he stops petting him for even one second… wolfing down socks without any consequences. Run free, my sweet boy, we will never forget you. ❤

 

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