Final Chemo . . . the Next Steps

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Casey received his fifth and what was likely his final Carboplatin treatment on Monday.  Now, we move on to the osteosarcoma vaccine.  Maybe.

I spoke with The Oncology Service yesterday and was quoted $460 for an initial exam with X-rays plus $1,200 for each of three treatments, over $4,000 I total.  We didn’t discuss the cost of follow-up exams.  Geez, the cost to participate in this extended field trial just keeps going up.  We looked at outside funding sources, and at least one would not consider Casey due to age; they consider cancer a normal disease of old age, and Casey is 11 1/2.

I need to schedule his initial exam for next week, as his first treatment will be April 6.  Tough decisions.

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Being a Dog

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Our pack is four dogs plus Ann and me.  Jake is an English Spaniel/Setter rescue who will be 15 in May and is in hospice due to lumbosacral stenosis which is slowly paralyzing his hind quarters.  At times, he forgets and thinks he’s still a puppy.  Casey (the Pirate) is our Tripawd Golden who, at 11, often thinks he’s a puppy.  Bode is an 8 year old Boykin/Wachtelhund hybrid, and Jet is our  6 year old Golden.  Bode and Jet are in the prime of their adult lives, and really don’t understand why we only walk 2 1/4 miles daily.

We have great memories from when the whole pack was more active, some of the best being at Great Meadow.  Great Meadow is a steeplechase race course here in near-Northern Virginia, with about 140 fenced acres and two ponds, one of which is known as Swan Lake.  It’s somewhat teardrop shaped with a shallow, under water “bridge” that the horses run across in races, a tiny island where the geese build their nest, and yes, seasonally, there’s a swan.  The original swan story involves Casey who was surprised when after half an hour or so of harassing the swan (during which the swan teased the dogs incessantly by “hopping” twelve feet past them every time they got close), the swan got fed up and decided to leave.  Have you ever watched a swan launch?  These are big birds, and they “run” across the water developing speed before flapping their wings and taking off.  Well, Casey’d grown bored also, and was on shore, about twenty feet from the edge of the pond, when the swan surprised him flying about four feet overhead . . . whoosh whoosh whoosh.  Well, Casey just pivoted and took chase as the swan slowly gained speed and altitude, and they both disappeared over a rise.  I can still see Casey just SPRINTING after that swan, and remember thinking I hope the gates are all closed.  I expect to keep this memory of Casey running like that for ever.

Now, a few years later, Jake doesn’t interact a lot, and while he forgets and tries to run, it’s not very far and he regrets it.  Casey became a Tripaw 80 days ago or so, so he’s not chasing any swans very far, but Bode and Jet well . . . like I said, they’re in their prime, and when it’s walk time, it gets pretty exciting.  Of course, the dogs can read our minds, so yesterday, as Ann was at her desk, I was pulling another layer on and the dogs just knew . . . WALK!  Bode and Jet lose it, and Casey joins right in.  He’s biting at Bode’s legs, and Bode is in there, biting at Casey’s one arm and they’re all tussling and barking and rolling around and it’s getting pretty rough so Ann panics;  “Casey can’t do that.  He’s romping like the other dogs.”  I just looked at her and said “We have to let him be a dog.”

Of course, he is more fragile, and common sense is warranted, but it’s just such a joy watching him be a dog again.

Casey goes in for round five of Carboplatin today.  I checked with his oncologist last week and they raised him to the maximum allowed dosage last time, which is 300 ml per square meter of body area.  He tolerated that well so that’s likely what he’ll receive today.  That makes two doses at 200 ml, one at 250, and two at 300.  This may be his last round of chemo, and now, spring is coming to Great Meadow, and he can continue being a dog.

New Vaccine Studies

I’ve mentioned previously that Casey is on the short list to participate in the extended field trial for Aratana’s live listeria vaccine.  This study requires prior completion of amputation and carboplatin chemotherapy, and no pulmonary metastasis.  Unfortunately, participating in this trial will be quite expensive, so I’ve been researching alternatives.

I’ve learned that UF (Florida) is starting a new study with their own vaccine, but for their study, the vaccine is administered concurrently with, rather than at completion of chemotherapy.  Penn, where they did the initial study with the Aratana vaccine, is also testing a slightly different vaccine, but their protocol requires all phases, amputation, chemo, and vaccination be conducted at their facilities.  Those with newly diagnosed but untreated dogs with osteosarcoma may want to consider enrolling in one of these studies.

Dogs  are living for an average of nearly 1,000 days (and counting) with the Aratana vaccine, so this new field of research is very exciting for our dogs and people, as these vaccines may well prove effective in human osteo and other cancers such as breast cancer.

Exciting times indeed!

His Puppy is Back

It struck me yesterday that the puppy in Casey is back.  We’ve all seen that puppy, even in our older dogs, when the mood strikes them.  They’ve got that great big smile, the energy level ticks up a notch, and that tail’s a waggin’.  Shucks, Jake can barely walk some days with his lumbosacral stenosis, but when it’s time for a bye-bye, he gets his puppy on, starts prancing, his tail goes up, and his ears start to bounce.  He’s on a mission.  I see this referred to as our dog’s “sparkle” here on TriPawds, but I like to think of it as “Puppy”.

Well, Casey lost his puppy last summer.  I shared in my initial post that he just seemed to get really old really fast.  Sure, he was happy to see us and eager to go on walks, but something had changed.  Now we know that his cancer was likely the cause, and with the cancer gone (or at least controlled), along with the pain, his puppy is showing again.  What a joy.