Why did I pick NOW to become a blogger?

A few days ago I was given a diagnosis that rocked my world. I'm a 10-year old Corgi living in Portland, Oregon. I am reasonably healthy, except for that abdominal surgery I had last summer. Ok - I don't know WHY I ate that piece of wire but it seemed like a good idea at the time.

In the middle of March, I was told by the folks at the Veterinary Cancer Referral Service that I have K9 lymphoma. I was gobsmacked! My mom immediately tried to find out everything she could and, while there were many sad stories, there really wasn't much else to go on. There are "support groups" but my mom's not much of a joiner when it comes to those things.

What we decided to do was chronicle this journey so that others can follow along. Those who have their own dogs fighting cancer - lymphoma and other forms. Those lucky enough to have a Corgi. Those just SO abysmally bored they have no better way to waste their time.

So we'll see how this works. Be well - The Barney Dog

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

And so it starts

So, there I am doing what Corgi's do best here in Portland, Oregon. Hanging out with my siblings (Tomodachi, me & Fred pictured here). Doing laps along the back fence line. Having fun. Watching American Idol and Survivor in the evenings after a long, hard day of play. One day my parents notice a golf ball-sized lump on my throat and WHAM! Before ya know it, they tell me I have the Big C. Cancer. K9 lymphoma. I just had a full exam a few weeks ago. It can develop THAT quickly. Who knew?

One would think that I would feel bad if I was really that sick. Cancer? Really? Moi? I mean - I'm eating, I'm sleeping, I'm pooping. The three things I love to do next to going for a walk or a ride in the car. I FEEL fine. SO? Maybe they're wrong. After all, they are only human. And I am the Queen Mum's favorite kinda mutt? Really?

My parents are vaguely catatonic that first day. The emergency doctor at Dove Lewis says that if my parents decide to do nothing, I might have a few months left. Eeeek! Woof! Hello! I look at them anxiously thinking, "Did you hear that? Did she really just SAY that? Weeks?" They discover that there is such a thing as a veterinary oncologist and, emerging from their catatonic fog, they start stalking her, Dr. Kimberly Freeman with the Veterinary Cancer Referral Center. Calling. Emailing. Faxing. Calling again and that was all just on Sunday. The doc doesn't immediately respond so my mom emails her a picture of me. NOT my best shot but it makes her feel better. Like at least she's DONE something. She's got the patience of a 2-year old. Definitely type A.

Two days after the initial diagnosis on Sunday, 3/13/11, we go in for my first appointment. (As you can see by the picture, I wasn't too thrilled.) My dad insisted that the samples taken on Sunday be "expedited" (I think that's the word they used) so that they can see what we're really talking abut sooner rather than later. At the Tuesday appointment, Dr. Freeman says, "Yup. Stage 3." Yikes! That sounds bad. How can it be that advanced when there wasn't even a bump there a few days ago?

Dr. Freeman explains that lymphoma can go from stage 1 to stage 3 almost overnight. That seems to make my mom feel better. She was worried that she had done something wrong to let it get that bad. The doctor says that it's stage 3 because the lymph nodes behind my back knees are also "involved." (They use such funny words sometimes.) She explained that she could do x-rays, blood tests, and some kind of stain test (not the kind some dogs leave on carpets) to see if it's T cell or B cell lymphoma. Still not sure what that means but I'm sure they'll talk about it more when the stains come back from wherever they went. My mom tells her in no uncertain terms that she should do any test possible to make sure she has all the information needed to make the right diagnosis and determine the best, most aggressive course of treatment. My mom says, "Money is no object," which isn't really true because if it WERE true, we'd have a house in Aspen and I'd have cows or horses to herd around. Yesterday, I heard my mom on the phone telling someone that she will sell everything she owns before she lets this go untreated. I hope that doesn't mean my bed. I really like my bed.

Dr. Freeman says they follow a protocol from something called Wisconsin. It's 6 months instead of 12 months. She said it doesn't make much sense to make me miserable for a year if I'm not going to live much longer than that. (There they go again with this death knell stuff!) She also explains that lymphoma is an auto-immune disease and it's systemic. Meaning that, unlike cancer of the spleen or a tumor somewhere that they can just operate on and remove it, the lymph nodes are everywhere and they can develop from head to toe. The other tests they do will determine if that's the case. I hope not.

My mom and Dr. Freeman decide to start me on a chemo session of Vincristine and Prednisone. I get the Vincristine in a needle in my leg (ouch!) and the other stuff, I get as a pill when I'm home. My mom leaves me with Dr. Freeman's staff at Dove Lewis as she trots off to Kornblatts Deli. They seem concerned about my losing my appetite and not eating and losing weight. Well, let me tell ya - if my mom heads over to Kornblatts during every treatment and gets the cheesecake, she'll be the one with the weight problem and it wont be LOSING weight.

We got home after the session and Fred and Tomo are SO jealous. I got to go somewhere they didn't. If they only knew! My mom takes some pictures because she wants to document this journey so that other people and dogs going through the same thing don't feel alone. The green cuffs are covering the needle punctures and they'll come off after the portrait. I really don't feel much different but I'm waiting for the chemo to start working.

I know in people it can be really tough and some people lose their hair. This doesn't happen to dogs but just in case, I try on a wig. I always wanted to be a brunette like Fred but I'm thinking this look is not working for me.

For dinner, I get STEAK! OK. My mom is probably overcompensating and this is probably not going to be the case every night but it's GREAT tonight. In the papers they sent home with us there is a lot of information about diet. I should eat a higher protein and fat diet so the Nutra stuff I've always had might not be the best. There's that prescription stuff but - ugh - it tastes like...well, it tastes like dog food. I think we'll be working on it over the next few days to see what works. So far, so good. Steak works anytime!

There's also information about something called Onco Support and Chinese herbs and Japanese mushrooms. Does "learning curve" means anything here? It's all new and scary but we'll be fine. Oh - and there's a whole sheet on "Safe Handling of Chemotherapy Waste." Poop, pee, and throw-up. All to be handled with rubber or latex gloves. Any towels or rags need to be washed separately. Sounds complicated but to keep Tomo and Fred safe, I know my parents will handle it.

When I woke up this morning, the lump on my throat is about 1/3 the size it was yesterday. Boy, does THAT feel good and it took less than 24 hours. It probably makes my mom feel even better. It's going away almost as fast as it came. And I do have an elevated white call count but that's to be expected. There is no indication that any other organs or my bones are "involved" (there's that word again). I don't think I have a temperature but I could be wrong. My mom is going to go get a thermometer today so she can keep an eye on it. Won't THAT be fun. NOT!

I'll keep ya posted. I have to sneak in to work on the computer when my mom's not looking or when she's working out so it might not be everyday. But remember that I'm thinking about you and that if you're going through this, too, you're not alone. You got me. It might not be much but it might help. We'll get through it together. Thanks - The Barney Dog


  1. Je pense bien a toi !!! Minette, la petite chatte Francaise!

  2. While it is definitely important to make necessary changes to your lifestyle, don't forget to live your life. Play with your brothers, take mom and dad for a walk once in awhile, and enjoy those treats when they come. Cancer is not who you are. You are Barney, who happens to have cancer.

  3. Oh, my dear Barney Dog! I remember the first time I met you at Starbucks in Scottsdale. You were just a pup. Lots of things happen, don't they?, to wig us out (btw, loved your brown hair!) but as you do, remember you are dearly loved. Mom and Dad, too. Would you please lick their faces for me, as I am too far away to do it myself.

  4. Barney, I did not know you could write so well! Amazing! Is it a trait of your breed?

    Hang tough and refuse to let this evil disease win. You can do it!

    Your friend,
    Tiger Kowalski

  5. Hi Barney, although we have not met, I feel like I already know you. I lost my mentor and best friend in the whole wide world to cancer just last year, and I hate the thought of loosing you too, so take good care of yourself, and follow doctors orders ok? Especially if they are serving steak at your house....got any left-overs?


  6. hey there Barney,
    Have your Mom cook some ground Lamb for you...My boy Barron went thru this and he had 18 months of ground lamb everyday.....he loved it..I look forward to reading your adventures...

  7. Dearest Barney,

    Thank you for sharing your journey with us. We are rooting for you. Tell your sibs you need a little extra space on the leather couch, and maybe just a tad more steak and is it possible to get just a little meat flavoring in your water? i'm glad you are well loved and cared for.

  8. Pebbles? I think my brother Fred had a daughter named Pebbles. Not sure but I think so.

    And Merryjaz - I REMEMBER that Starbucks! We would drive there with the top down. You guys would talk politics, textiles, and presidential kids and I kept a vigilant eye on the perimeter. We don't have many top down days here. :-(