Fern's Cancer Blog

 

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Our girl Fern (Fern California Maidenhair of Sipawaban) was diagnosed with stage III malginant nodal Lymphoma at 4 years of age. We made the decision to follow a chemotherapy protocol along with herbal supplements to help protect her immune system and her liver. We have also decided to start this blog about her cancer so that you can follow her treatment and also to help those that are in a similar situation.

 

07/10/2014: 24 hours after her booster vaccine. We notice a large, swollen lymph node under her jaw and take her immediately to see our veterinarian. It seems to be a vaccine reaction, we were sent home with a classic cortisone treatment.

22/10/2014: Return visit to the veterinarian as her lymph node is not reacting, even after having increased the cortisone dosage. Blood work is done, everything is normal. We stop the cortisone for a few weeks in order to do a fine needle biopsy.

05/11/2014: Return visit to the veterinarian in order to do the fine needle biopsy. The cytology comes back normal. We therefore continue with the cortisone.

04/01/2015: The lymph node finally recedes, we stop the cortisone treatment.

28/02/2015: Lymph nodes return, but this time there are 3: two under her jaw and one behind her right rear leg. All of them larger than the first time. We decide to go the holistic route and search for a holistic vet, which we find about an hour away from our kennel.

06/03/2015: Appointment with the holistic veterinarian. After the work up, she gives us a liquid herbal remedy in order to drain the liver and the kidneys of the toxines accumulated from the cortisone and the vaccination. She is concerned it might be cancer and suggests we do an ultrasound, another fine needle biopsy and another blood workup. We agree and schedule the appointment.

12/03/2015: Appointment for the ultrasound, fine needle biopsy and blood work. During the ultrasound we discover that all her internal lymph nodes are swollen, more on the right side than on the left. Her liver and spleen are normal. An ultrasound guided fine needle biopsy is performed as well as her blood draw. The blood workup comes back normal.

13/03/2015: Result of the cytology: compatible with a high-grade malignant lymphoma associated with a context of granulomatous lymphadenitis, moderate to fairly strong. The suggestion is made to do quickly do a more invasive biopsy in order to confirm the diagnosis.

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Fern resting before her biopsy

17/03/2015: Appointment for the biopsy. At the same time we are given her herbal remedies to protect her immune system and her liver. We leave with Vitamarine 35 (multi vitamin which includes spirulina, selenium and vitamin E) as well as a bottle of fluid extract of standardised fresh plants which includes curcuma, desmodium, passiflora and black radish. An appointment is made with a chemotherapy clinic. We head home with a Fern doped up on morphine.

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Fern immediately after her biopsy

18/03/2015: We drop off Fern for her first chemotherapy session. After discussing options with the veterinary oncologist, we will start her on the COPLA Madison Wisconsin protocol. This entails one chemotherapy session per week for the first month and then one session every three weeks for a year. This particular protocol works very well on the type of cancer that Fern has and since she is young and in good physical condition, the chance of remission is 80% and the chance of a cure is 30%. We leave optimistic.

19/03/2015: Back to the veterinarian to pick up Fern after her chemotherapy treatment. French law requires that animals receiving chemotherapy stay at the veterinarians office for 24 hours following treatment for environmental protection reasons. She will still be in isolation when she gets home for an additional 24 hours while we wait for all the toxins to be voided from her system. This requires us to keep her away from the other dogs in an isolated room, to wear gloves when petting or treating her, to pick up her stool with gloves and place it in two plastic garbage bags, to rinse off her urine with bleach water. We are surprised by her physical and mental state after chemo: tons of energy, smiling (yes, Fern smiles), a big appetite, just in really good shape. And one more surprise: her external lymph nodes have almost completely disappeared!

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Fern happy to be back home

20/03/2015: The isolation day has passed, she finally is allowed a bit of freedom. She rejoins her children for a moment of fun in the garden. We're so happy to see her in such good spirits.

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Fern enjoying life

20/03/2015: Biopsy result: Histological analysis is in favor of a high-grade malignant nodal lymphoma. This confirms the cytology. Our fight has officially begun.

25/03/2015: Off Fern goes for another chemo treatment. This will be her first IV treatment. She's in good spirits.

26/03/2015: Fern's picked up from her latest chemo. Super happy, spunky, and so happy to be going back home! Of course, no freedom just yet, there's still 24 hours of isolation before "normal life" can resume.

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Fern taking a break on our way home

28/03/2015: A little picture to illustrate what simply two chemotherapy sessions can do in regards to reducing lymph gland size. We are blown away.

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01/04/2015: Fern should have been dropped off for chemotherapy this morning, however her white blood cell count came back too low (1,56m/mm3) so her immune system is too weak. She was therefore sent home with antibiotics for 5 days in order to stimulate her immune system. We're waiting to hear from our holistic vet to see if we can add any natural supplements to help boost her immune system. Keeping a close eye on her. This is a common occurence during chemotherapy as the drugs used to kill the cancer cells attack all rapidly dividing cells, not only the bad ones. And unfortunately, the white blood cells are rapidly dividing cells.

02/04/2015: After a lengthy discussion with Fern's holistic veterinarian, we have added several supplements to her natural "arsenal". She will now be getting, in addition to what she already takes, Milk Thistle and Dandelion, for their anti-cancer properties. In addition, once she's off of the antibiotics, we will be adding grapefruit seed extract and copper/gold/silver, which she will take alternately for 10 days at a time, once per month, for three months to boost her immune system and ward off infection.

04/04/2015: We were told to keep an eye on Fern's temperature while her white blood cell count was low as fever would be indicative of an infection, an emergency in her situation. However, no one told us that the opposite could also occur due to the low blood cell count and slight anemia, making it difficult to regulate body temperature correctly. So Fern went into very mild hypothermia, which we noticed as she was curled in a ball and trembling. Luckily we spotted it before it got bad and were able to warm her by the fire. Another thing to keep an eye on!

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Fern getting warm by the fire

08/04/2015: We once again attempt to take Fern in for chemotherapy and this time...it worked! White blood cell count is back to normal, we can therefore leave her for her chemo session.

09/04/2015: Fern is back home, all went well. She has 24 hours of isolation in front of her, but she's in good spirits, happy to be back home. We've decided, in order to give her courage during her battle, to offer her a beautiful cancer/courage collar, which she will wear during the course of her treatment.

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Fern's new collar

13/04/2015: And yet again we get hit with an odd side effect, another one that we hadn't read about: Fern is producing milk. After a few telephone calls to our different vets who explained this was a side effect of her daily cortisone, we were able to find a natural way to get her milk to dry up. We will be giving her parsley three times daily as well as a homeopathic combination. Hopefully this will help resolve this issue without incident.

15/04/2015: We're off to chemo once more, this time Fern's blood work was normal so she was able to stay at the clinic.

16/04/2015: Picked up Fern, all is well, she's still as spunky as ever. You would never know she has cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy by looking at her. Smiles.

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Fern at the foot of a castle

06/05/2015: Fern goes back to the vet for her latest chemo treatment. This is a new drug, Doxorubicin, and the most powerful and toxic one she will get. We are quite nervous and just hope everything goes well.

08/05/2015: Unfortunately, our fears came true: Fern has had a severe reaction to the drug and has started vomiting repeatedly, about every 10-15 minutes, including vomiting foul smelling blood. She is now in the hands of our local vet office, on IV fluids and anti-vomiting medication to stop the vomiting and allow the staff to give her something to coat and heal her stomach lining. She won't come home until the vomiting has stopped for at least 24 hours. After speaking with one of her oncologists, she is having a severe, adverse reaction (this is not a normal side effect), so her protocol will be adjusted and she will no longer receive this particular drug in the future.

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Fern immediately after her chemo treatment (photo: Audrey Chagné) and 48 hours later

11/05/2015: After three days in the hospital, Fern is finally back home. We're not out of the woods yet, but we're on the right path. Now we have to get her stomach and digestive system back on track and calm her explosive diarrhea and gastric reflux.

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Fern back home

21/05/2015: After almost two weeks of struggling, Fern is finally on the mend. She feels much better, is playing with the other dogs, and eating well. She lost almost 2 kilos and still is having some problems digesting her food, but we're pretty much out of the woods.

24/05/2015: Fern was due a "day out", so we went to a local festival and were greeted with a wonderful surprise visit from her son, Hemet! She was quite pleased by all the attention and she had a great day.

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Fern and her son Hemet

27/05/2015: Back to the vets for Fern's first chemo treatment since her terrible drug reaction. Lots of stress!

28/05/2015: Everything went well, Fern tolerated the chemo without issue (it was a product that she had previously had). So we're back on track and moving in the right direction.

18/06/2015: Fern had yet another round of chemotherapy. All seems fine, however she didn't eat her breakfast this morning. Hoping it's nothing and that she doesn't have a reaction to the treatment.

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Fern at the river

09/07/2015: Once again, it's time for another round of chemotherapy. And as usual, Fern is a trooper and does marvelously. Still going strong, lots of energy and no issues whatsoever. We count our lucky stars. And a wonderful surprise came in our email: we have been invited to talk with Dr. Sue Ettinger on her radio podcast "The Pet Cancer Vet", which airs on the The Radio Pet Lady Network, about Fern, her cancer and her treatment protocol! We will announce the air date here once we know when it will air. Stay tuned!

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Fern and a new friend

28/07/2015: Our radio interview with Dr. Sue Ettinger has aired, you can listen to it here: Radio Pet Lady Podcast

29/07/2015: It's time once again for chemotherapy and this time with a bit of stress. Following our interview with Dr. Ettinger and discussions with our veterinary oncologist, we are going to attempt, once more, to give Fern Doxorubicin, the drug that left her so sick and hospitalized. This time it will be at half dose and with accompanying anti-nausea medication, so we're hoping for the best. The next few days will be quite stressful. We are attempting this drug once more because Dr. Ettinger emphasized the great benefit of this drug and it's power in fighting Lymphoma. There really is no better drug out there so it would be a shame, after all our effort to help Fern, not to give it one more chance.

30/07/2015: Fern is home and so far so good. She has really bad smelling burps, but aside from that, no other side effects at the moment. We will keep you posted as the days go on and we hope that this time, the Doxorubicin doesn't affect her.

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Fern, happy to see us!

31/07/2015: Just a quick message to say that Fern seems to be supporting the Doxorubicin just fine this time! We are just thrilled.

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Fern, feeling great and smiling !

01/08/2015: Happy Birthday Fern! Fern turns 5 years old today and since every day with her is precious, we celebrated in style!

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Fern celebrates her birthday with her son, Davis, and a smile !

26/08/2015: Bad news: Fern has a swollen lymph node. This is a really bad sign. She had a biopsy today to confirm our suspicions, verdict in 24 to 48 hours, but the oncologist is not optimistic. In the meantime, Fern is undergoing another session of chemotherapy, we go pick her up tomorrow.

27/08/2015: Fern is back home, she's doing great and we're still awaiting her test results.

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Fern says she doesn't care one bit about her cancer, she just wants to play at the playground !

28/08/2015: The biopsy result came back and unfortunately, it confirmed our worst fears: lymphoma cancer cells. So what next? We continue to fight! Fern will go back for chemo next Tuesday to receive a dose of L-asparaginase (Kidrolase), which specifically targets and rapidly kills lymphomatous cancerous cells. Then we will continue her regular treatments and, if necessary, add in a new molecule. The good news: her lymph node has already shrunk back to normal size, sign that the chemo is still effective. The bad news: since the cancer came out of remission, there is no chance of Fern ever being able to stop treatments. She will unfortunately have to receive chemo for the rest of her time on this planet.

19/09/2015: After four back to back chemo treatments to attack the cancer on all fronts, we are pleased to announce that there are no longer any signs of her lymph nodes. It's very good news and proof that we are winning our fight, even with occasional steps backward. Fern remains herself and is in great shape. We now go back to treatments once every three weeks. We hope that we can remain on this positive path.

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Fern thanks you for all your positive thoughts!

30/10/2015: Fern went to see her homeopath this morning before chemo. A homeopath who was blown away by her health status: no signs of disease, her meridians and acupuncture points show nothing abnormal, she appears to be a dog in perfect health, not a dog living with lymphoma. She said it was most certainly due to her raw diet, her supplements, and her phytotherapy that she is in such good health. She said that she's beating all the records and especially all the documentation which states where she should be and how she should be in regards to her disease. It's now been one year since we discovered her first swollen lymph node and she is still going strong. We're going to continue, we are thrilled, we're positive!!!

01/01/2016: We wanted to start the year with a hopeful message: Fern is doing wonderfully, still beating the odds and in great health. We hope that this year continues to bring good news in her regards, that she continues to fight the good fight, and the hope that perhaps, just perhaps, she will get to stop her chemo treatments! Only time will tell, but we are already so thankful for all the extra time we've had with our girl.

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01/02/2016: Well, bad news...Fern's cancer is back. We discovered two enlarged inguinal lymph nodes. Since this is the second time her cancer has come back, there is not much hope that she will beat the cancer this time. We are crushed, but are trying to stay positive for her. At the moment she is doing great, in great spirits, so we will try to take advantage of every day we have left with her.

24/02/2016: Just a little note to let you know that Fern is doing very well at the moment. We were able to get control of her lymph nodes, there's only one that is still swollen, but it's small and isn't moving. She's got tons of energy, we are very aware of how lucky we are, so we are enjoying every moment with her.

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26/03/2016: Some lymph node news. Fern's lymph inguinal lymph node has once again started growing and doesn't seem to react to increased meds, whether traditional or homeopathic. She is still in great spirits, is still full of piss and vinegar, but we are well aware that this could change in an instant. We continue to fight, but with a visible reminder that we're probably not going to end up the winners of this long battle.

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07/04/2016: Fern had surgery to remove the tumor as it ended up not being a lymph node, but instead metastatic breast cancer. We are currently 6 days post surgery. She had a large amount of edema which we treated with diuretics, and today was a vet visit as she has been quite lethargic. We removed the bandage as it was irritating her skin (you can see it in the attached photo) and they put some cream on it to calm the irritation. Blood work is normal except for elevated urea, her kidneys are tired, therefore we're stopping the diuretics and lowering the cortisone, she has minimal swelling at this point. She received an injection of morphine for pain, as that is most likely the cause of her lethargic state.

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11/04/2016: This will be the last post in Fern's blog. So hard to put into words, so wrenching, I'm so empty. My Fern, my warrior, my sparkle, had no strength left after fighting that horrible cancer during 18 long months. She decided that she no longer wanted to fight, couldn't continue fighting. She decided that today was the day she wanted to fly away. I hope that wherever you are now my lovely, that you aren't suffering any longer, that you have found your little granddaughter Olive and your boyfriend Seal. I hope that one day we'll meet again and you'll be healthy, with your great smile and your love of life. I miss you so much, I miss you so so much.

Fern California Maidenhair of Sipawaban 01/08/2010 - 11/04/2016