Yuki’s Story: Week 3 & 4

Vincristine Returns and Doxorubicin bows

This week Yuki received his second helping of Vincristine. This was the first time the oncologist made an adjustment to the dosage by backing off just a little bit due to the diarrhea Yuki had after the first time around with Vincristine. Yuki tolerated the week 3 therapy quite well and showed no signs of adverse effects. We continue to give him the Ondansetron as a daily dose just to make sure he doesn’t have to deal with stomach upset.

I don’t really know if this is the case for most dogs, but the oncologist has made a point to mention how well Yuki is doing with his chemotherapy. Of course, we won’t know until completion of the 20-week therapy and the eventual ultrasounds to know how well the fight against the cancer is going, but his lack of side effect and almost imperceptible size of his lymph nodes are good signs the treatment is at least keeping the cancer at bay and keeping Yuki comfortable and alive.

Since week 3 is a repeat of week 1 (with fewer side effects), there isn’t much new to report. So, I’ll add in week 4 to this post.

Week 4 is, as they put at the oncology center, “the big drug” (although I’m not quite sure why). This week is Doxorubicin or Adriamycin.

Doxorubicin is a somewhat dangerous drug if administered incorrectly or poorly. It is given via IV and if the needle leaks or the Doxorubicin gets out of the vein, it can cause blistering and damage to the surrounding tissues it comes in contact with. The person administering the IV has to be specially trained for this exact procedure. This medicine can also result in damage to the heart muscle so Yuki has to have a cardiac workup done before administration of the therapy. This workup makes sure he doesn’t already have heart problems that could worsen quickly with this therapy, but also create a baseline to be compared against another cardiac workup at the end of the 20 weeks.

This drug inhibits a (good or bad) cell’s ability to divide and multiply. The more rapidly a cell divides, the more effective Doxorubicin is on that cell. This, naturally, includes cancer cells, but also includes cells that have to divide rapidly to quickly heal areas that can’t have a long-lasting wound such as the mouth, stomach or bowels. We keep Yuki’s stomach acid in check by giving OTC Pepcid every day, but still have to watch for mouth sores, as he loves to have something in his mouth most of the time he’s not asleep, such as balls, sticks or other toys.

In another week Yuki will be done with his Prednisone so we’ll see if he stays in good spirits and active or if he’ll go back to a more sedentary life when all his aches come back and are combined with the cold winter months.

Next week is week 5, or the “rest week”. No chemotherapy just a CBC panel to check his cell counts after the week of Doxorubicin completes.

One piece of personal insight that’s come from this experience for me is that I need to do better by Yuki in the time he has left with us. When we first adopted him, I took he and Archie for walks behind our house where they would run through the forest chasing anything that dared move. Deer, squirrels, groundhogs we all scattering when these two ran into the trees.

After Archie left us, Pecos made it a lot harder to do the same activity. Pecos has a nasty habit of chasing things … and then continuing on into the distance, never to return. He quickly became well known in our local area. Unfortunately, Pecos’s tendency to run off eventually led to a fenced-in back yard. It was necessary to keep Pecos at home and the neighbors from coming after us with pitchforks and torches.

This, of course, also hemmed in Yuki who, while having the run of the neighborhood, would be more likely to sit on the front lawn and watch time go by. We used to be able to leave Yuki and Archie in the front yard for an hour or more and they’d just sit and watch the neighborhood activities around them (and perhaps chase a marauding squirrel hoard from the premises). Life gets busy, dogs are safe in the back yard and before you know it years have gone by and Yuki hasn’t had a free walk/hike in a long time.

Yuki Resting in the leavesDon’t get me wrong, it is not like Yuki minds much. He loves spending hours in the back yard watching the day and sniffing whatever scents drift by. He’ll roll in the grass scratching his back and snooze. In the fall, he’ll find a pile of leaves and snuggle into the middle of them and enjoy the day.

I think, however, that he deserves more walks and time with the family out in the world. I’ve studied the local trails around our area and have an idea where we can walk. It will be tough with two dogs on leashes (Pecos simply can’t be trusted off-leash) but I’ll manage.

As I said, Yuki deserves it for all he’s going through.

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