Thursday, July 29, 2010

Murphy's tumor

This is an actual scan of Murphy's big ole noggin & the tumor is in red. Thank you Lynn for getting this to us so quickly...

Official Diagnosis: Adenocarcinoma

Two things of significance happened today: (1) we got the biopsy results back and the news is good in that it could've been worse. Had the cancer been either osteosarcoma or squamous cell the prognosis would be less promising; (2) we had our first consult with the radiology oncologist, Dr. LaRue. She walked me through the radiation plan using their Varian imaging software.

I had previously seen the CT scan but it's difficult to fully appreciate the size of the tumor unless it's rendered in 3-D. I hope to get a pic of it up here soon but I assure you it is massive, occupying the entire left sinus cavity. No one can know for sure how long its been growing in my boy but the damage it has wrought is extensive.

Parts of the septum, the wall between the two spaces, has been eaten away by the cancer and it's spilling into the other side now. All of the bones used for filtering in the left passage have been consumed completely. Thankfully it was detected before it breached the brain barrier and invaded the occipital space.

This monster means business.

No Stephen King or Wes Craven could ever imagine a beast as absolutely sinster as cancer. It takes your own cells and turns them against you. And since the cells still look normal your entire defense system is rendered helpless. It's nature's perfect enemy.

Hell it even fooled me. I was so preoccupied with the tumor in Murphy's neck that turned out benign, the nasal congestion never seemed anything more than a URI. I was looking the other way. While on the walk, I came up with the 5 'L's for early signs of cancer: lumps, lesions, lameness, loss of appetite, and lethargy. There should be a sixth: the opposite of what Luke thinks.

Forgive me for the self-indulgent guilt but unfortunately, it's part of the process of coping. I should have been paying better attention but we are very, very lucky.

Tonight Murphy & I are camping at Horsetooth Reservoir, a basin at the foothills of the Rockies. We're out in god's country where Murphy loves to be with his papi. An evening out here with my boy is all I need.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Radiation Therapy Starts Today

In a few hours I'll be taking Murphy back up to CSU for his first dose of radiation. While I'm still learning everything I can about it all, the 'Gold Standard' of Care seems to be 18-20 doses of radiation over three to four weeks.

Dr. La Rue will be the radiation oncologist caring for him. The tumor sits atop his hard palate so the biggest concerns from radiation are mouth ulcerations and the outside chance that it'll burn a hole in his sinus.

Things happen so fast in life and my head is swimming in scientific data, informed opinions, and my own hyperemotional state. I think back to one of the lessons we learned on the road.... crude... crass perhaps, but one that not only served us well on our travels but may have saved our lives.

Just outside Buffalo TX there are a series of three bridges which I affectionately referred to as the 'bridges of death' - there's a blog & photo in the archives here. It was the first time I was truly terrified on the walk. Narrow shoulders, supersized semis coming from both directions on a two lane highway, surrounded by mudflat marshes filled with water moccasins preventing any flanking strategies.

After thirty minutes of analzying traffic patterns, running calculations in my head on how to safely cross these bridges, I realized I was petrified. But I knew I had to act so I turned to Hudson & Murphy and said, "Well, boys, we can't stand around all day holding our peckers in our hands"...

Life demands decisions and even though Buffalo TX seems light years away, I find myself back on that bridge again.

After reading extensively and consulting with thought leaders this seems the best course of action. Thank you to everyone who sent us alternative ideas and treatments.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Murphy Has Cancer

Looking at murphy's blood stained snout from the biopsy that was performed some hours ago, I could ask why. Why give him cancer, my boy who walked across the country for all others who suffer from this horrible disease. It may seem a cruel irony that just over a month after its completion he was diagnosed.

I choose not to ask because the answer is as unknowing as it is extraneous. What I felt when I awakened this morning was truly blessed. God's love for us is so great that he held the cancer at bay until after our mission was completed . He got us from Austin to Boston safely fulfilling his promise.

From what the vets said yesterday, nasal cancer can come in several varieties so we're awaiting the results of the biopsy. While I am still digesting all of the information and articles that were provided to me it seems the 'gold standard' of care is radiation therapy over a three week period. The prognosis of nasal cancer especially caught this early is promising even though the tumor has invaded part of Murphy's bone.

I want to thank the staff at Colorado State University Vet School for taking good care of Mr. Murphy yesterday, especially Drs. Woorley and Venable and Jennifer who's a fourth year student.

I'll post regular updates here... puppy up!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

'Way Leads Unto Way'

Yesterday it became perfectly clear to me what the first cancer study we'll work on is and it's not going to be an easy one.

A little historical context first. After reading an article that pathogenic infections are more and more likely suspects in causing some cancers in humans I talked with several physicians about it. HPV is thought to cause the majority of cervical tumors and it seems now that lung cancer is not caused by the tar and nicotine from smoking but the repeated respiratory infections from diminished lung capacity.

I took this notion to several veterinarians I met on my journey and their response was that dogs are not susceptible to all of the same pathogens humans are. They don't get sick like we do. True but we know dogs have a different threshold of pain and they don't tell us when they have a slight case of the sniffles like the other snowflakes in our lives. Diagnostics in dogs is different than humans.

I think there's something there. Since Boston I've been meditating on what's next - now that the walk is over the work begins - and the correlation between pathogens and cancer has always been one of the possibilities.

Touring Lily's Haven outside of Colorado Springs yesterday convinced me completely. Lily was a gorgeous Italian Greyhound whose unfortunate fate landed her in a puppy mill. Lack of dental care amongst other atrocities later, Lily was rescued but by then she was completely toothless and had suffered countless oral infections.

As I listened to her story it astonished me that Lily was diagnosed with oral cancer which metastisized throughout her jaw bones and surrounding soft tissue. While I don't know all of the facts about her circumstances, it re-awakened my curiosity and confirmed what I had previously suspected.

The road from Austin to Boston to Colorado is more than about the book now. As Robert Frost said in his poem, 'Way leads unto way'. I was lead to Lily's Haven for a reason.

What we're going to study first is the causal relationship between infections, immune response, and cancer. It'll take us a little time to put this together but in the interim, we welcome your feedback, input, and involvement.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

repost - Midnight with Malcolm

*This is something I wrote whilst in the basement of a host family in Bowling Green KY on the 3rd anniversary of Malcolm's passing. I hadn't read it since I originally posted it over a year ago*>

January 11th 2006. I still remember every moment of that day with absolute clarity. The cancer that began in his bones had spread to his lungs and besieged his beautiful body. At the time, he was on both Rimadyl and Tramadol which I had stopped the day before so that I could better assess his quality of life. I'm glad I did because I discovered his mobility in his hind legs was markedly diminished something the meds were concealing.

The tumor had grown so large in his lungs putting him into congestive heart failure which caused a secondary condition known as hypertrophic osteopathy. His body was succumbing and he was tired from the long struggle. But I wasn't ready to let go of my boy.

When his cancer first metastisized I wondered daily how I could possibly establish the criteria to know when it was time to let him go. It's not purely a scientific question unfortunately. How could I let him go? We had this saying that helped get us through the tough days when he wasn't feeling well. "We don't give up, we don't give in until the end, my friend."

I can't recall where or how I came up with that and I'm sure I said it mostly for me... to keep me from breaking down. Not once did I cry in front of him... not when his leg was amputated nor when the cancer spread. To do so, I believed, would've been tantamount to telling him that it had beaten me and I wasn't going to go the distance with him.

You see, Malcolm just didn't have quit in him... it was amazing to see the rugged determination in his eyes and the unwillingness to give up. He was that way about everything and that was apparent from the first day we met.

When he first came into my life, a present from an ex-girlfriend which should've automatically sent off alarm bells in my head, he was a wee lad. I sat him down for the 'father-son' talk. "If you respect my rules in this house and behave yourself then I'll treat you with respect. Oh, and, I don't do baby talk. That's for girls." That's what I told him.

He broke me in less than a fortnight. I started singing him good morning songs, planning my day around him, and looking for excuses to stop by the pet store and buy him yet another toy and more treats. I recently saw a shirt that said, "You had me at Woof". Indeed he did and in retrospect, I'm quite sure that was part of his master plan.

My family had animals all throughout my childhood. Jenny, a beautiful black lab, and a supremely cool cat my brother Jon named Wally are two of the ones I remember most vividly. I've always considered myself a dog lover but up until Malcolm, I had never experienced a deep and profound bond with one. Such a thing just wasn't possible from my upbringing. "Dawgs is dawgs". That's what a nice and well intentioned fellow from Arkansas told me when I was traveling through there. He just couldn't believe I was walking across the country for canine cancer.

Dogs are dogs sure enough but Malcolm was my boy, too. My day rose and set with him and it was three years ago today I knew it was time to let him go and that the sun that had filled my life with so much joy and simple happiness was going down forever. I held him in my arms as he was given rest and he left this world as he lived it with a strong, quiet dignity.

It's because of his strength and courage that I began this walk and some 900 miles and nine months later, there have been times when I've faltered, doubted, and even despaired but I won't give up, I won't give in, until the end my friend. And today, I give thanks to Malcolm for that and toast that spirit which was his. I miss you, mate.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Malcolm would be proud.

On behalf of the entire Tripawds community – now 1,400+ members strong and growing – we are honored to give Luke and the Boys a big three paws up for completing their epic journey, and embarking on their new challenge to end the scourge of cancer in dogs!

Jim, Rene and Jerry celebrate Launch of 2000 Mile journey with Luke and the BoysWe have been walking by their side in spirit every day since the kickoff barbecue in Austin nearly two and a half years ago. Every step of the way, their courage, passion, and determination never ceased to amaze us.

Words cannot describe the pride we share knowing we played just a tiny role in the 2 Dogs 2000 Miles adventure – except to say we know Malcolm would be proud. We're sure he and Jerry are both smiling down on the entire 2 Dogs crew from the Rainbow Bridge.

And to think, this is just the beginning... Big Dog, you will always have our support. We can't wait to see you again. The Tripawds Colorado contingency will be waiting.

The 2 Dogs - Tripawds Connection

For fuzzybutt fans who may not know, we met Luke after discovering his first first 2 dogs 2000 miles video. We had hit the road in an RV with our dog Jerry when he was diagnosed with bone cancer to enjoy the time we had left together roaming the country as a pack. Sound familiar? Header Honors Canine Cancer Hero Malcolm
When we learned about Malcolm and this amazing man's mission to keep a promise he made to him – needless to say – we connected immediately. The timing was right, so we planned a party and headed for Texas. Thousands of miles later, Jerry is no longer with us. But inspired by Luke's relentless resolve, we have grown his little three legged dog blog into the largest support community for those faced with a cancer diagnosis or amputation for their dogs.

Find out more about the evolution of Jerry's blog by reading our How do you .com? contest entry, then please vote for Tripawds to help us prove to the world that it's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.

And don't forget to Puppy Up!

Monday, July 5, 2010

We Made It Malcolm... We Made It

Two weeks later and I'm still wrestling with how I want to talk about Boston. That may surprise you since it was without doubt a spectacular way to celebrate the final day of this amazing journey.

Just before Boston a reporter asked me if I had accomplished everything I set out to and I still don't know how to answer that question.

The short answser is - I got Hudson & Murphy from Austin to Boston safely which was the single most important part of my mission. Against all odds I did that, defying countless skeptics and disbelievers. Some said we'd never make it 100 miles... others said we'd never make it out of Texas.

But this journey was never about proving myself or my abilities to anyone. I leave that to people like Bear Grylls and Shaun White. So what did I hope to accomplish with the walk?

Sharing Malcolm's story and educating thousands of people about canine can.cer and comparative oncology was a big part of it. It brought together so many from disparate backgrounds and distant lands that I'm only beginning to understand the implications and possibilities. Even still that wasn't why.

I set out from Austin some two and a half years ago with a simple hope - to find out what took my boy from me and until and when I accomplish that there will be no rest. As long as cancer is the greatest scourge known to mankind it can count me as its greatest enemy.

Boston wasn't a victory lap for me. Not by any stretch of the imagination. I suppose some people after an endeavour of this magnitude congratulate themselves. I am not one of them. I was born in the Year of the Dog. Nuf said.

But I do owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to all those who made this walk possible - a debt that can only be repaid by fulfilling Malcolm's legacy.

'Is Eram Meus Filius'