she started chemotherapy

We went to see the vet oncologist yesterday—Ginger’s doctor is Amanda Elpiner. Ginger seems to like her, though not as much as she likes Dr. Re. Dr. Elpiner filled us in on what lymphoma is, treatment options, costs, things like that.

She said at this point, they stage the cancer, which is determining what organs are affected and whether or not she’s acting sick. Staging is taking bone marrow (while Ginger is under anesthesia), doing an ultrasound, and determining which type of lymphoma Ginger has: b-cell or t-cell. T-cell is the more virulent form. Complete staging costs $800, and other than determining which type of cancer cell Ginger has, does not determine treatment. The initial drug, Elspar, is what would be given for either b-cell or t-cell. We already knew we wanted to most aggressive treatment option.

While on one level I would like to know all of the staging details, thinking about Ginger, what I really want is for her not to be prodded and poked and stuck with needles and put under anesthesia any more than is necessary for treatment. Stanley and I decided to forgo the staging and spend the money on treatment.

Treatment is not cheap. It’s going to cost us at a minimum $6,000—could even be up to $10,000 depending on how long she needs treatment. It’s once a week for six treatments, every other week for six treatments, then every third week for the rest of the year. Or something like that. That’s for the treatment—food and supplements will add to the bill, though we’ve always opted for higher premium foods so the food bill won’t be that much higher. I guess we won’t be taking any luxury vacations or cruises any time soon. Treatment, if it’s b-cell and all goes well, can get her anywhere from one to three years of remission, 10% to 30% of her expected lifespan. We’ll know the cell type by Wednesday or Thursday.

So, Ginger has been on K-9 Immunity for three days, got her chemo drug yesterday, and was put on prednisone for a month (descending dosages, to taper her off), to get the swelling of the lymph nodes down. Her lymph nodes have already gone down quite a lot—I was shocked at how much and how fast. Pleased too.

Ginger, of course, turned into dead weight when she was supposed to go into the back room for her treatment. Stanley and I had to drag her back there while they did the cell test and gave her the first injection. She shied away from Dr. Elpiner when the doc tried to examine her—like she does with Dr. Re. But, after her treatment, the door opened and she came running over to us, in pretty good spirits. She then went into Dr. Post’s office to see who that guy was, and she liked him, wagging her tail like crazy. Then went back into Dr. Elpiner’s room to say goodbye to her, tail wagging. Trotting around the place like she’s an old pro already. I hope it’s not a battle to get her in next week—there will be times when I have to take her by myself and there’s no way I can lift her. So hopefully she’ll remember the nice people who petted her afterwards rather than the before stuff.

Today, she’s been sleeping a lot. She was really mean to Slink last night, so we’ll have to watch for prednisone-induced personality changes. She seems tired rather than sick, though her nose is warm and dry. And the prednisone makes her drink a lot, which makes her have to pee a lot and when she’s gotta go, she’s GOT TO go. Clients will, I hope, understand when I suddenly have to put them on hold to let her out.

Oh, and I discovered the best way to give her pills is to stick them in the middle of pieces of string cheese. I put the fish oil in a small can of wet dog food—those are too big for the cheese. And I have to keep remembering that she’s right under my chair—she’s taken to curling up as close to my ankles as she can get. (Here is a photo Stanley took of Ginger curled around my chair. Click to enlarge.)


Jeopardy is starting—I should go see if Stanley is awake—he had a new post installed for his new replacement crown and came home from the dentist with a bad headache, so I told him to just go lie down. Which he did—he rarely corks out during the day, only when he really doesn’t feel well.

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