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Adventures in Dog Radiation Therapy

My dog got cancer. Here is how radiation went.

Adventures in Dog Radiation Therapy

Cardiology + Session #5

July 9th, 2018 · 1 Comment · Uncategorized

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This morning Buster had his cardiology appointment to figure out why he had a heart rate drop and some arrhythmia last week during anesthesia.  So we went down the street from the oncology office to the cardiologist office, and they did an echocardiogram.  This didn’t require anesthesia, just a vet tech holding Buster lying down.  Buster was displeased, but resigned to this latest indignity.

It was weird to see Buster’s heart bouncing around up on the screen.  He had some normal age-related deterioration, and a mild heart murmur, but this appointment was good news — no serious abnormalities or issues.  A minor tweak to his anesthesia regimen to prevent a recurrence.

Then we went straight to the oncology center for his fifth radiation session.  It went fine, they employed the new medication protocol, and this time he had no heart issues.

We are back at the farm and Buster is taking his midday nap to recovery from the morning’s unpleasantness.

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Week One is Done

July 7th, 2018 · 3 Comments · Uncategorized

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Home sweet home!  I’m sitting with Buster on my sofa at home in Washington DC after finishing Week One of Buster’s radiation treatment.  I really lucked out finding a great Airbnb with super-nice hosts (on a farm!) near Leesburg VA, where Buster is being treated.  As great as it is there, I’m very happy to be back in my own house.  Nowhere in DC has the necessary veterinary radiation equipment, so the far, far exurbs have been the best option.  We’ll go back out on Sunday night for Week Two.  Spending the weeks in the country and the weekends in the city is the exact opposite of what many DC’ers do, but so it goes in this unique situation.

Buster did pretty well during his first week, although we’ll have a cardiology appointment on Monday morning before radiation to do some diagnostics on the arrhythmia and low heart rate he experienced this week.  Veterinary medicine is like people medicine in that once you’re in the system, the system has you, and there is no end to the appointments and precautions and additional findings to be probed.  My poor buddy is in the system, but we will follow the doctor’s orders to get the cardio workup done.

After 4 sessions there have been no obvious side effects, including at the radiation site.  Mild wooziness for about an hour after each session due to the anesthesia, but Buster has been his wonderful goofy, lively, loving, and occasionally obnoxious terrier self in the afternoons and evenings.

More next week, if not before.



Buster’s second session

July 4th, 2018 · 3 Comments · Uncategorized

Buster had his second session of radiation today. A little bumpier than the first. He’s fine, but apparently heart rate and BP dipped in a way not to the radiation tech’s liking. We will need a cardio session soon to do an ekg and ultra sound to make sure all is ok. I think the concern stems from a prior finding that he had a minor (previously believed to be not of clinical significance) tear in his heart lining. I’m going to pretend for now like it’s nothing but have scheduled a cardio appointment as directed for next week and hope this won’t delay more radiation.

other than that, Buster did great today and had a few short walks this afternoon around the Airbnb farm where we are staying. He is woozy for about the first 1-1.5 hours after anesthesia, but otherwise fine. He may have been slightly more heat sensitive today than usual.

no treatment tomorrow, we get a break for the 4th of July!


Starting radiation treatment

July 3rd, 2018 · No Comments · Uncategorized

Buster’s first radiation session was yesterday. It went fine. This dog has been under anesthesia enough times at this point that seeing him slightly woozy after he wakes up makes me sad but doesn’t ruin my day or seemingly his either. The whole appointment ended up taking only an hour and a half. Some days it will take longer if another dog goes before him. They book two for the same two hour window so they can pick who goes first based on how the dogs are doing from the prior day.

I could tell when he was awake in the recovery room because that dog howls like crazy in any type of cage situation. Then I could tell when they fed him because it stopped. Then it started again when he finished his meal.

anyway, no bad effects on day one; it doesn’t even look like they did anything, and I’d say Buster overall probably had a good day because we’re staying on an Airbnb farm near the treatment place. It was godawful hot yesterday but I took him out a few times and he seemed to love it.

1 down, 17 to go!


Buster starts radiation tomorrow

July 1st, 2018 · 2 Comments · Uncategorized

This morning I took Buster for a short (sweltering) walk at the National Arboretum — a beautiful spot in DC and one of his favorite places to go for walks. Tomorrow we “move out” to Virginia from DC for the week, to be near the veterinary center that will do Buster’s radiation. While I feel uncertainty about how this is going to go, nervous about all the anesthesia and potential side effects that could start emerging in the next week or so, and I feel stressed out about juggling work while doing this, I feel pretty at peace with the decision. I hope that lasts.

One of the best pieces of advice I read in one of the tripawds fora, when someone was having a hard time deciding what to do for their pet, was to write down the decision making process so you’d always be able to remember how you made the decision of what to do so you don’t end up beating yourself up or second-guessing down the road if things don’t go as planned. My prior post was part of my way of writing it down, so if I end up putting Buster through a long and uncomfortable course of treatment but his cancer comes back, I’d remember why I thought I was at least making the best decision I could at the time. That’s really all I can do.

0 radiation sessions down, 18 to go.