Today is 4 days after D.J.’s first chemo treatment and he seems to be back to his old self.
During the week between his diagnosis and first treatment there was a noticeable decline in his health. He was lethargic and had difficulty eating due to the size of the lymph nodes on his neck. Our appointment with Dr. Richardson at the Ontario Veterinary College Oncology Center couldn’t come soon enough.
At our appointment I learned about the proposed treatment protocol and D.J. had an exam, blood work and an ultrasound. The blood work determines whether or not he can have the scheduled treatment and will be repeated before each treatment. The ultrasound was an investigation to make sure he had no other concerns and to assess the size of his internal lymph nodes. Ultrasounds will be repeated and changes in the size of his nodes will determine his response to the treatments.
Despite being unwell for his first visit, he still required sedation for his ultrasound. He is a super nice dog, but even at the best of times he doesn’t like being held still. When he had his chest X-rays last week at my clinic, my associate exited the room shaking her head. Apparently, even when sick he is strong. Although the sedation knocked him back for a few days, within 24 hours of his first treatment his lymph nodes were smaller.
He has continued to improve every day and today seems to be himself again. The only adverse effect other than the slow recovery from the sedation is that one of the medications makes him drink more and therefore he needs to urinate more. He had 1 accident in the house. Everyone assured him that it was OK and not his fault and gave him treats.
He will be having 1 treatment weekly for 8 weeks. First he had an injection of vincristine. Next week he will get an oral medication, cyclophosphamide. Week 3 is another injection of vincristine and week 4 is an injection of doxorubicin. This 4 week cycle is repeated and then continued with 2 weeks between treatments.
There are many factors that affect the decision to have a pet undergo this type of treatment: side effects, remission rate, and life expectancy. I decided to treat D.J. because he had no other health problems and there was a good chance that the treatment would achieve remission and he could survive to a natural life expectancy. I will not continue with treatments if they make him unwell or he becomes unwell because they are not working.
There are a few other determinants of treatment that I did not consider before embarking on this journey. The entire 6 month protocol costs $5000. And each visit to OVC will require 5 hours of my time. Finding $5,000 is a challenge but finding 5 hours every week is almost a bigger challenge. Fortunately, the costs are paid at each visit and not as a lump sum and qualifying to participate in some of the ongoing studies subsidizes some of the costs. As for time, I have had a few friends offer to take D.J. to his appointments.
To have D.J. seem healthy again with no side effects from his first treatment makes the investment of time, money and emotions all worth it.