Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Chester's Journey - Round 2

I figure, it's bad enough having to go through all of this. Not exactly everyone's Christmas wish. But when you have people making it more difficult, people who are supposed to be the ones who are professional and care, that just makes it seem like you're being a bit picked on.
Chester's second chemo was yesterday. He was finally starting to be himself. He'd gained back his weight and was pretty normal, if tiring quickly. I'd been back and forth emailing his doctor trying to get to the bottom of what the hell happened when he was so sick after the last treatment. I basically got a lot of bullshite and excuses and 'I dunnos'. What else? I was told that the clinic is world class and they love all the animals as though they were their own and it boiled down to trying to make me feel like I was mistaken and maybe over reacting just a little. It finally came down to me just having enough and saying "you know, I didn't expect anyone to apologize or say that this should never have happened but it won't happen again. I'm not a naive idiot. However, Chester's Journey in this is being documented publicly step by step for his many friends around the world and I'd really like to say that the people caring for him showed absolute compassion and made this experience as kind, loving and gentle as possible." Then the reply was suddenly a little nicer and I was assured that Chester would be lovingly carried out if it ever came to that again rather than being dragged across the floor at the end of a rope tied around his neck.
I just thought, 'yeah, right'.
Anyway, he had originally been booked to go ion on the 21st. It was pretty much universally decided that he was too weak and needed extra time to recover and gain his weight back. So the doc suggested the 27th or 28th. I decided on the 28th. I'd already called to book that day but they suggested I talk to Dr. Stelfox, which I did with all the emails. Then I called the clinic to book the 28th again. They said, oh, it's already been changed to the 28th. Come in a half hour early.
So, the 28th being yesterday, with a fair amount of dread, we packed up Chester in his blankie since he is becoming quite bald on his chest, legs and underside. We got there almost exactly at 1:30, walked in and said to one of the frowning receptionists "Chester is here for his appointment". She glanced at her book and looked up going " He's not booked for today." I. Was. Immediately. Unhappy. I said "Uh...yes. He is." She made a huge show of flipping pages back and forth looking at the other receptionists in a perplexed manner. "No, he's not booked."
I explained, "I called twice. The appointment was booked. I talked to Dr. Stelfox. She knew the appointment was booked." At this point, she goes "You talked to Dr. Stelfox?" I said yeah, I have the emails. I can bring them in if proof needs to be provided (because I am lying, of course)." At this point they started muttering about how she didn't write it down again and it just turned into a ridiculous fluster. Then someone went to the back to ask what to do. They said that Dr. Stelfox's husband would be able to do Chester's chemo. I said, well I want to talk to Dr. Stelfox. I had the feeling that something strange was going on here. So it was decided that we would come back at 3:00. We went away after they did bloodwork on Chester and then came back at 3. They took us into the room where we were told that Dr. Stelfox would only be able to see us on the fly for a few minutes. I thought, you know I'm getting a little tired of this. So she comes in, says they decided to give him 30% less of the treatment in the hopes that he would have a much better reaction. It was all very nervous-friendly. She told us that they were on call until 3pm on the 31st and to call before then if he had any GI problems. So I attempted to ask her, well, what about after hours (meaning after 3 on the 31st) to which she snarled "I just explained that." I think my mouth dropped open. She then recovered and seemed to understand what I wanted to know and said "well, just tell the vets in Stony Plain (who are the ones on call after 3pm on the 31st) to track one of us down because of the situation".
I'm starting to be just a little weirded out by this time. Then she completely acted as though she had no knowledge of this appointment yesterday and she didn't know why I'd made this mistake. I clarified that I did not make the mistake. She ignored that and left quickly. So the tech (who was very nice) gives him his pre meds while I held him. They gave the sedation a few minutes to work and this Dr. Reid (sp) comes in and takes him.
We waited about 40 minutes and Reid comes back out carrying Chester, hands him over, says "I have to do paperwork" in a very quiet voice and walks away. So there I stood holding my out-of-it guy, waiting. Reid comes out again after a bit of time and puts the paperwork and prescriptions on the counter and starts to walk away, barely glancing up at me. I go "well, how did it go? How was he?" You know...the doctor is generally supposed to say something to you. Isn't he? I mean, it is a cancer treatment that didn't go very well last time. He looks back and quickly says "Good. He almost went to sleep". He then scurried away and that was that.
Then we were ignored for ten minutes as we stood there at the desk waiting. That has happened almost every time. Finally we took the stuff to one of the receptionists who has always been a sweetheart. She did all the paperwork, explained the meds and off we went. Honestly, it is becoming a little surreal. Especially since, as she was booking the next appointments, she goes, "well, I don't know what happened or how you mistook today as being his appointment. I clarified that it was, as a matter of fact, not me who made the mistake. This is starting to just infuriate me.
Chester was pretty dopey all evening. He didn't seem as wasted as he was last time since they said they gave him only a single dose of sedative. He slept a little last night but I've been up with him since about 4am. I wasn't really sleeping before that. We have to be pretty vigilant because of the extreme toxicity of his waste and he'd already wet his bed once. Now he's just sort of sitting here beside me acting like he's tripping in a terrible way. Which of course, is very distressing. I carry him out to go potty every half hour or so but he gets so cold that all he does is shiver.
I'm just tired, you know. I am having to make some really rough and crappy decisions here for a lot of reasons, this just being one (though granted a pretty big one). Now to have this whatever it is going on with this clinic is just not okay. No one likes a mistake pointed out but this is supposed to be a group of medical veterinary professionals, for godsakes! And now its like they are either playing some creepy game or they are so concerned with looking out for their own asses that at some point here a mistake is really going to be made and it will cost lives. They are so incredibly busy that they don't recognize you from one minute to the next. One of them will look you in the eye, give your dog three needles as you hold him. She will engage you in conversation and not an hour later will look you in the eye while you hold the same dog while standing beside your same daughter and blankly ask if I've been helped. Then walk away in a seeming daze when I go, in a perplexed voice "Yes, I've been helped". Bizarre.
So I've got the alarm set continually to go off for medicine time and potty time. This means the alarm goes off roughly every 15 minutes to half hour. I'm actually thinking Chester is still pretty stoned, the way he's sitting here with glazed eyes and his tongue sticking out. Shouldn't the stuff have worn off by now? Did they give him too much again? It's been sixteen hours now.

Anyway, a couple more updates. Bugsy and Henry have found a great new home, for which I am very happy. It was a gift that they got to go together with someone I trust who is very experienced with birds. We had a pretty quiet Christmas. Went to see Tron and Little Fockers, but I was pretty unwell with a miserable cold. It's better now, though I'm still coughing a bit. Poor Twyla got through that horrible stomach flu and now she's got my cold. My poor Chickie.
Christmas at my brother's house on Monday was even more loud and chaotic than usual. I dunno. Everything actually seems a little surreal and I'm sure it's not just the lack of sleep.
On Sunday it will be exactly five years that we have been here. I can't say that there has been a whole lot of enjoyment...that certainly hasn't been the overwhelming feeling of life here. Don't get me wrong. It is beautiful out here (or was until the great day of demolition) and we have met some dear people that will be friends forever. There is just something missing. Actually a lot of somethings and the odd someone that I miss desperately, almost to the point of feeling sick with it sometimes. Maybe it is how much of myself and my life I seem to have misplaced. (This was demonstrated by the woman who adopted the cockatoos. She goes "maybe you could sell some of your art on the Internet. You probably could not get more than a hundred dollars for those ones one the wall" she said, pointing to the originals. I thought to myself it just figures. There was not really any point to saying anything to that. And the fact is that they are on my wall, rather than someone else's. So...
Maybe it is all of the horror and misery and sorrow we've had to deal with. Maybe it is the fact that the damn house is slowly crumbling, bit by bit. I think the guy we bought it from was pretty unscrupulous and did a whole bunch of home-handyman cosmetic renovation stuff just to sell it that we just didn't notice or know enough to notice. In all fairness, the house inspector didn't notice either. Listen to me grumbling here. Call it no sleep.
Time to get to work I guess. Would you light a little candle for Chester if you have a minute? Maybe if enough little lights burn out there he will see his way past all this and come out of it with a bit more life and energy. Hmmm. Maybe I need a few candles too;-)
Hope you all had a great Christmas, Yule and may your New Year be full of wondrous things and magickal miracles.
Thanks for following along with us on this journey. I hope that 2011 has more happy stories than not. For all of us. Joy to you!
Auntie Autumn

Monday, December 13, 2010

Chester's Journey...An Update

It's been a week since we went to the vet to bring Chester home. He crashed in a most terrifying manner two days after the chemo. He was such a sick baby. We'd had to rush him to the vet on the Thursday night after he began vomiting and diarrhea continuously. The vets in Gunn were wonderful. However, the vet in Spruce Grove where he gets his chemo wanted him there so we transferred him, sick all the way, and he was put on iv for the entire weekend. I can't go into a lot of detail right now because it may turn into a legal matter, but the Chester we picked up last Monday was a shell of himself. They brought him out soaked in feces and urine, dragged across the icy floor with a yellow rope tied around his neck. He still was not eating or drinking and he was so utterly terrified that it was indescribable. Ive only seen such behavior in the worst abuse cases. I've been in contact with his doctor who was away at the time to express my outrage and disgust. That's all I can say about it right now. It was a long week of force feeding a pureed mixture of water, rice and boiled hamburger and forcing water mixed with Gatorade down Chester's throat with a syringe along with a multitude of medications. He was unable to maintain body temperature so needed a heater on him at all times. He was completely incontinent so lots and lots of bedding changes and towelling dry. He weighed next to nothing like a little trembling bag of feathers and sticks. He couldn't walk or even get up. I was up literally for days with him, catching a little sleep when I could. I am happy to report that on Thursday he started to make a turn around. He finally tottered out of the kennel, insisting on sleeping in the bedroom again. He began taking a little food...actually he stole some of Rosie's special food. He had a drink on his own and wanted to have the puck tossed onto his bed so he could pretend to chase it. Saturday he ate more and was tottering around. Yesterday he was putting on weight, eating everything in sight (including the cat food) guzzling water and blaming Kippy for everything. He was trying to break out of the kitchen (he actually succeeded several times) and was strong enough to be carryied outside to pee. He's still having a hard time holding it long enough to get to the paper. But we're getting there. His next chemo is scheduled for the 20th but I am going to delay that until at least the 28th. I want him to regain his weight and his strength. We will also be talking about the adjustments to the dose. I will not put him through this again. He goes for a blood test today to check his cbc. He ended up anaemic after being at the vet for those three horrific days. He still sleeps a lot but he's a lot better. More than I can say for people for whom hell will be raised very shortly. I'm a little vexed. A lot tired. And I'm in no mood for the crap I saw last week when Chester was brought out to me by people who were supposed to care.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Chester's Journey - Suffering

When I was twenty I worked as an in-home nursing aid. I mostly worked with geriatrics but I saw a lot of suffering in younger people and children as well. I saw enough suffering (and suffered enough insufferable ingratitude) that I didn't persue that line as a career. I now see suffering on a daily scale that might stagger you. I gloss over it here and a lot of times try to avoid it. Who wants to here on a daily basis "people are idiots"? Talk about stating the obvious.
Chester is suffering right now. On Wednesday, he had to be taken in to get his white cell count done. He was lethargic and had no appetite. He was sent home and we were told to come back if it got worse. Well, it got worse. We came home from the city last night to find that the boy had diarrhea and was feeling weak. The chemo is making him feel wretched and very sick. We were warned that this might happen. I am now getting the usual contingent of advice from I don't know how many people saying "well, maybe you should let him go, maybe you should put him down, maybe you should kill him off because he's suffering." I watched Twyla nearly go through the roof after about the tenth one. Let me explain something to those who think I may not be thinking things through or doing this "for myself". Most people know I suffer from migraines. Those of you who have never experienced this condition will think "awe...poor baby gets headaches". Those people can take an immediate trip to the hot place. When I say I suffer from migraine, I'm not talking about a few headaches. I am talking about agonizing pain Half the time. It is not something that just happens because I am stressed or hung over. And it doesn't just effect the head. It causes vomiting and relentless nausea. It causes my face to go numb and my motor functions to basically disassemble. It causes my eyesight to go (one of the reasons I don't drive, kids...I would be a danger on the road. These things can hit very fast). It causes my thinking to become blurred and it feels like the pressure inside my head will cause it to burst. It causes sinus suffocation and shaking and extreme sensitivity to certain sounds (dog barking and bird screeching especially can be like a loud drill shrieking next to your ears) and light. Fifteen days a month this happens if not more. If I don't take the medication immediately, it doesn't work. If I don't have medication, I will endure three days of this to a week. If a dog suffered from this relentless pain, he would be put down. He's suffering. Trust me. I suffer. And some may be going "well, it's not killing you" but as a matter of fact it can have some very dire effects like the higher potential of stroke if left to go on as well as brain and nerve damage.
If someone were to ask me if I want to be put down, I'd look at them like they were a loonie. You see, life is still sweet. Even when I am so sick I am weeping in agony, life is still sweet. Why should Chester be any different? I can't explain to him saying, " Sweetpea, this medicine is going to make you feel wretched for a while, but then it will pass and you will feel better" and then let him decide. I have to be the thinker for him and put myself into his position. If there was no chance of a parcel of time for Chester to be happy and well and if I thought this would be it, what do you think I would decide? People, when they are told that they have cancer and are offered chemo, choose to go through the suffering it causes because life is sweet and dead is for a really long time, however you look at it. They decide, well, this is going to make me feel like I want to die during moments of intense illness. But I am going to dive in because the alternative is a long time. If it were a human family member going through this I would sit and suffer at watching them suffer as well. I would weep at the pain they are experiencing and hold their hand and see them through to the other side of the treatment.
On Wednesday night when we came home from the vet, we had one of the birds cross over. I let him go. DNR, you know. He had suffered enough and it was his time. Before that, he still had fun and functioned. And it was with a sense of relief that I watched his spirit leave his poor little shell and go free. Chester's spirit is still strong. And let me tell you something. I don't just let my kids go without a fight. It would be easier in some ways. I wouldn't have to clean up hazardous diarrhea at eleven at night or drive through the night to get him to a vet or suffer myself at seeing his illness. God knows it would be cheaper than spending hundreds of dollars for said overnight stay. I would do the same for anyone I cared about. I would not just take the easy path. It's funny. I am left with people's messes to make life and death choices. I get little help and less participation without an exhausting amount of bullying and begging (with some very golden and shining exceptions). If it is Chester's time, and he will tell me it is, then I will help him to cross over in whatever way he needs to. Perhaps he crossed over last night on his own, though I still feel his presence strongly. It is with a sense of dread and worry that I wait to see how he is. Cruelly, unlike with a human child, we are not permitted to stay at their side. But I will be damned if I will let him go down without a fight because he would choose to keep fighting. That's who Chester is. His condition is terminal. We, each and every one of us is suffering from that condition. Life is terminal. Should we not fight to enjoy it for as long as we can, even if there is some suffering to have to do so? Dozens of lives have crossed over in my arms. The Gods willing, that is how Chester will cross over. When he is ready and not a milisecond before. If I am entrusted with these lives, then stop second guessing me. Please. And I promise you, if I am ever put in charge of your life, I will fight just as hard for you and you can cross over when you are damn good and ready and not because somebody decided for you that you've had enough life now. You will go when you tell me it is time. Chemo is a shite thing to have to endure. Ask people who have gone through it and gone into remission if it was worth it to spend a little more time under the sky, seeing the leaves turn and the sun setting and laughing with loved ones. Or chasing a puck. Chester has too much fun to give up, so I won't just give up for him. That is up to him.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Chester's Journey - Chemo 1

Well, here's the before and after. On the way to the vet Chester was pretty bouncy and excited to go bye-bye. A very drugged out and sick puppy came home with us. It was certainly an educational and scary process. When we set out for the vet on Monday afternoon we didn't really know what to expect. We got there and were taken to the exam room. Chester was very friendly and comfortable. He was actually the best-behaved boy there. Surprisingly. The doc came in and gave him the once-over. Then they handed him off to a tech for his blood work to be done. Then we were given the rundown of what was going on. We were warned that the chemo drug was a very dangerous and volatile thing. We were told that they had to be very careful to make sure that the iv needle would go only into his vein since, if even a drop were to get onto or under his skin if the needle slipped then he would basically have his leg amputated immediately at a cost of $500.00 to us. We were told that there was a slight chance of his having anaphalactic shock which would result in his immediate death. We were given a rundown on safety precautions (such as bringing home a hazmat suit in case he vomited or had diarrhea). The drug really is dangerous and the extreme precautions sort of drove that home. Were were told that he was basically going to be a living bio-hazard for the next few days. We were given a group of prescriptions to give him to keep his stomach coated. We were told that the drug being used does damage the heart. It sort of went on and on. Eventually Chester came back with green bandages around each hind leg where they had drawn blood. We were told that someone would be holding him the entire time that he was receiving the chemo to keep him from moving. I thought to myself that they might need more than one. Finally they took our boy and everybody gave him kisses and off to the waiting room we went. A few minutes later, the doc came back to tell us that they had decided to sedate him for the procedure as he was being far too bouncy. She used the analogy of 'like a rabbit'. We all looked at each other with absolutely no surprise at all.
It was about an hour before we saw Chester again. They carried him out and we wrapped him in a blanket. He was barely able to keep his head up. They told us that they had ended up giving him two doses of anesthetic so he would be out of it for four or five hours. So we bundled the little boy up and back home we went. It turned out that he was 'out of it' for about twelve hours. Some dogs scream when they are coming out of sedation. There is a quite humorous episode of 'All Creatures Great and Small' in which a poor dog yowls constantly as it is coming out of sedation, causing Mrs. Hall to wonder what the vets have done to torture the poor animal and Tristan to go to great measures with ale and earstops to deal with the noise. There was no humour in the screams Chester would let out as he would drift into consciousness every hour or so. He would stagger to a sitting position and just wobble there. I'd have to drag him out into the cold to let him pee about every hour or so to make sure that he didn't have any hazardous accidents. We built him a crib beside the bed and at about 1:30am we tucked him in. There he lay crying for most of the night, so I would climb in with him and let him put his head on my lap until he went to sleep. I'd lie down for a few minutes and he would start to cry again. By the next morning he was eating a little and his eyes were clear and not drug-fuddled. They told us that over the next four or five day we would start to notice the huge swellings in his neck going down. Truth told they were pretty much gone by lunch the next day (yesterday). Chester is a little tired and not quite himself, but he is breathing better and playing a little with his puck. It is hard knowing that we have four more bouts of this to go, but then he should be in remission for a while. Hopefully a long time. I would urge you to go to the ACTSS site at and purchase their calendar, which depicts some very cute critters helped by ACTSS. They have helped us to keep our little man for a while longer when, without their help we would have been burying our boy for Christmas. Tell them Chester sent you.
PS: We are still looking for blankets! Please remember us if you are getting rid of any.