Cancer in Dogs – A Retrospective of our Beloved Samoyed Ramius’s Battle with Cancer
In This Entry – 20 Radiation Treatments
Thank you for reading our continuing series about cancer in dogs, and our beloved Samoyed Ramius’s long journey with the disease, which started in the summer of 2014 and lasted until he passed away in January, 2016.
When we last left you in Part IV, my wife and I made the final decision to do a full 20 radiation treatments for Ramius. Now it was time to begin the process.
It was on a Monday in the middle of July when we brought Ramius to MedVet Chicago for his first treatment. This was to be the first of 20 daily treatments and visits we knew we had to make. We understood this would an ordeal for all of us, most of all Ramius of course. But making 20 trips in a row (except weekends) to the vet is obviously a hardship in many ways. Fortunately, our jobs had enough flexibility to allow us to do this, and those who wrote our checks were very supportive. Without that, none of this would be possible. And fortunately, we were financially protected due to the fact we had excellent pet health insurance.
Ramius would undergo quite the transformation over these 20 days of treatment and course none of yet knew to what extent that transformation would be. But on that first day, he was happy as a clam! Full of energy and excited to be going to the vet. By that last day, he was very sore, much weaker, and had difficulty walking. More on that in a bit.
On that first day it was all good, we arrived and were greeted and welcomed with open arms by Dr. Looper and her entire staff. Kelsie, one of Dr. Looper’s assistants, would be the person primarily working with Ramius throughout this process. She would be a tremendous source of support throughout this ordeal and she took wonderful care of our boy.
They work very efficiently at our vet’s office and they said that typically Ramius would only need to be there for about an 1.5 – 2 hours each day. So for us, we decided to wait in the vet’s office while they treated him. We had the option of course of dropping him off and picking him up later, but that just wouldn’t be efficient. If his appointments were to last like 3 or 4 hours, then yeah we’d do the drop off pick-up thing. But for an hour and a half, it was just easier to stay there.
The Waiting is the Hardest Part
As soon as we arrived that first day, Kelsie took Ramius’s leash and lead him down to the hall to a room in the back where Ramius would undergo his radiation therapy. As pet parents, once you see your dog go behind that closed door, there’s not much you can do. You just wait.
Before beginning radiation of course you wonder how your Samoyed will react to it. Especially the anesthesia. Ramius would have to be knocked out in order to get his treatments. So how would he react to that? I hoped he’d react better than I do! Anesthesia makes me very nauseous and miserable. We kept our fingers crossed that Ramius would do well. Complicating things of course was the fact that Ramius had diabetes. Typically, they’d want a dog like Ramius to fast prior to having anesthesia. but since Ramius got insulin shots twice/day, and you don’t want to give them on an empty stomach, that wasn’t an option. After this first visit, we’d have a better idea how he’d do with it.
Like a lot of things in life, the waiting really is the hardest part. As the days went on these visits would become routine and we’d know what to expect. But that first time, it’s all so new, you have idea what’s going on, and it’s very stressful. You need to take care of yourself in these situations too and actively manage your stress levels.
For me, I found the most effective thing was to be distracted. And there’s no better way to distract me than watching a good TV series. Luckily, the newest season of ‘House of Cards’ had just been released on Netlix. So I got out my tablet and every day, I’d watch a new episode. I can’t tell you how much this worked for me and it helped the time fly by.
So if you’re in this situation, I highly recommend you find whatever it is that will distract you and keep your mind off of your fur baby. Maybe it’s work, maybe it’s a good book, maybe it’s playing a game, or maybe you’re like me and it’s a good television show. The key is, find something. Don’t let your stress get the best of you!
Ramius Right After Radiation
I’ll never quite forget that first time we saw Ramius exit the radiation treatment room and walk out to the lobby. He was quite wobbly and woozy, but he was feeling no pain. It was like he had a few too many drinks at the bar one evening, something his daddy can definitely related too. :-). But he handled the anesthesia just great and never once became nauseous during his treatments!
As Ramius wobbled out, Kelsie used a towel underneath his abdomen to steady him as he came towards us. He was definitely a little bit unsteady. But he laid down next to us and was all smiles as we paid his invoice. Speaking of which this seems like a good time to remind you that if you’re reading this, I urge you to consider getting Healthy Paws Pet Insurance. After our deductible was met, they took care of 90% of Ramius’s medical expenses. Without that insurance, I don’t know if we could’ve provided sweet baby Ramius with the care he needed.
Anyway, we loaded him up into the car and drove him home. Ramius was still a biz woozy so we used that same towel to ease him inside. Once inside, Ramius saw the excited face of little brother Sacha welcoming him back home. Poor Sacha. For 20 days in a row we’d take Ramius away for several hours, which would make him crazy! And of course, there was no way to tell him what was going on.
But, he was sure always glad to see big brother Ramius return home each and every day! Once inside, we’d get Ramius comfortable and settled in. As the anesthesia wore off, he was going to be in some pain. After all, he just had a hole blown in his butt. And this was only day one, so there were lots more days to come, and lots more pain and soreness for poor Ramius. Fortunately, the vet prescribed some good painkillers to make him feel better. Again, I really can’t emphasize this enough, please get good pet health insurance for your fur baby!
The Days Ahead
We basically repeated this same process every day for the next 20 days. Things went generally the same but with a few important differences as time wore on. First, as Ramius had more and more treatments, it became much more difficult for him to poop solidly. And when he tried, he’d be increasingly in more pain which was heartbreaking. Again, remember this cancer was in his anus.
But he was a good sport about it and in fact, Kelsie lovingly nicknamed him ‘Juicy Booty.’ They gave us these great diapers for him to use and these became staples in our house, in our car, basically anywhere Ramius went.
Also, as he underwent more and more treatments, Ramius not surprisingly became much more sore. Radiation is strong and serious stuff, and I’m not kidding. It’s essentially burning out the cancer in his butt. And these daily treatments have a cumulative effect, in fact that’s the whole idea. Which is good in terms of fighting the cancer, but bad in terms of managing your Samoyed’s pain.
And lastly, by the end of the 20 treatments, Ramius had significant difficulty walking. I mentioned earlier how we used the towel to stabilize him after each treatment. Well towards the end of his 20th treatments, we used the towel much more frequently. He definitely needed help walking, and getting up and down the stairs was nearly impossible for him without our help. Eventually, Ramius would need some pretty heavy duty physical therapy, but that’s a discussion for another post later in this series.
For now, we wondered why this was happening and why walking became so difficult for him. Quite frankly, this seemed like a bit of a mystery to his medical team. This isn’t really supposed to be a lasting side effect or radiation treatments, at least that’s how it was explained to us. Maybe it was Ramius’s advanced age, maybe it was his diabetes, or maybe it was some combination? I don’t think we ever actually figured it out. But it was definitely an issue.
Of course, the goal of any journey like this is to successfully complete it. You live for that light at the end of the tunnel right? And even though this wasn’t the final end to his journey, his battle with cancer; in many ways that was still just beginning. But it was at least the end of the first leg of this trip. And that’s important, and it’s important to celebrate.
This is a photo of us with Kelsie on Ramius’s graduation day. Certainly one of the more joyous days we had during this ordeal. You can see how happy Ramius looks. It almost like he somehow knew he just completed something very difficult and did so with great courage. I’m so proud of our sweet Ramius.
Now with radiation therapy finished, the next step with chemotherapy. That will be the subject of Part VI in our continuing series which is now online. If you’ve been enjoying our series, please share it with any pet owners you know. Especially any pet parents that are dealing with fur baby battling cancer.
And if you have or have had a dog with cancer and you’d like to share your experiences, please leave us a comment. You’re not alone. We’ll be sure to get back to you.