Tuesday, February 8, 2011

17 Stones: Dei Gratia

If I had to sum up this past month it'd be: heavy hopes, long odds, hard choices, and secondary consequences.

With no evidence of potential therapeutic benefit, I chose to follow up Murphy’s 2nd course of radiation with chemotherapy and then to compound my temerity I decided on a cocktail never tried in canine nasal adenocarcinoma before; carboplatin and gemcitabine a protocol used primarily for osteosarcoma and lung mets.

Wednesday, January 19th, the day Murphy was to receive the first round of chemo his breath was stinkier than normal. We'd tented out the night before on the banks of Lake Somerville and the three of us were all a mite ripe, so I didn't think much of it until I unclamped his maw and noticed an ulcer on the roof of his mouth.

Radiation erosion. Goddamnit.

I knew this was a risk when he went under the Gamma Knife in December at CSU and I knew what it was the second I saw it. It looked like the pink rubber eraser students are required to purchase in grade school only carved out canoe-like.

Not everyone at TAMU was convinced it was erosion – some speculated the tumor was punching through from above, a sort of 'Here's Johnny' from a maniacal, axe wielding Jack Nicholson. Scares the hell outta you either way you look at it.

But I wasn’t particularly thinking about the ulcer that Wednesday. My focus was on stopping the tumor’s growth.

“Start the chemo”, I said simply.

Week one was uneventful and it wasn’t until several days after the second dose of gemcitabine the floor fell out beneath us. Murphy spiked a temperature Monday the 31st and spent two nights in ICU at Texas A&M Vet School. The chemo had wiped out his bone marrow, stripped him of his defenses, and made him susceptible to spontaneously bleeding out from even the slightest laceration.

To make matters worse I had compromised my boy’s immune system at a time when he could ill afford it. The ulcer in his mouth deepened and darkened ominously foreboding a serious infection. Murphy’s body was being thrashed about in a perfect storm, a collision between the maximum effects of both chemotherapy and radiation and we had no way of knowing if the eye was ahead or behind us.

I had convinced myself my aggressiveness, my absolute unwillingness to compromise in saving his life would be his undoing. Try as you may to remove your own ego from making decisions, it’s inextricable.

I picked Murphy up last Wednesday afternoon, late, and drove all night to Memphis not knowing whether he would even survive the drive. He received two days of IV antibiotics and fluids. We brought his WBC and platelets back up to within normal ranges and he’s shown signs of significant improvement.

And while we’re still weathering the storm…. yesterday, when I inspected Murphy’s mouth, the ulcer had almost completely healed. It didn’t perforate nor penetrate and it definitely isn’t tumor.


Carol Giambri said...

You are an amazing pet owner. I commend you for going with your heart. A hard story for sure, but then you are giving it all. Can't get much better than that. New to you, are you into alternative treatments like Acupuncture, and give you other info. It worked miracles in helping heal my dog's Lupus. I'm here if you wish to email me. I know and respect whatever decision you make. I am anxious to hear when you say the dog is healed! Yeah. Miracles still happen. I'm living proof so I can easily say that. Both boys are gorgeous.

Crystal Davis said...

Keep fighting, both of you. Don't give up! So many of us are thinking and praying for Murphy!


Dot said...

God is watching over you and the fuzzy butts! This is such a miracle, you are such a wonderful dad I, along with so many others commend you. You and Murphy and Hudson, you are in my prayers. Each day special prayers to all of you. Keep fighting! And know miracles do happen. Our prayers, love and faith are with you all!

Sarah Smile said...

praying for you guys. Your story is so inspirational. Sending love and positive prayers!

ursala wieman said...

Your story is so amazing. Your love for your companions so true... I think of the heartbreak that comes from the hard decisions we have to make for our furry friends and wish I had half of your strength to endure. Keep up the fight and remember that your not alone.. we are all fighting with you! I hope Murphy continues to improve.. thanks for the inspiration to be a better me!