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Ch-ch-changes in Lilly Town


Oh, boy. We have news to share — some good, some (potentially) not so good. DIY chemo, 3 weeks off the immune mediator, this week’s blood and urine tests, and more!

best dog blog, champion of my heart, photo of a syringeDIY Chemo

For a variety of reasons, including the accidental chemo overdose in June 2013, I now have permission to give Lilly’s cytarabine (chemo) injections myself at home. We’re still working out the logistics and legalities, but I next week I will learn how to administer sub-Q injections and to pick up supplies. We will practice with saline.

  • This will NOT save me money. It’ll still cost about $226 every 3 weeks.
  • However, it will save me the logistical finagling, gas, and time of driving Lilly to 4 appointments in 2 days every three weeks. That’s a MAJOR bonus — especially during winter when the canyon / mountain roads are icy.

3 Weeks Off Cyclosporine

While there may be other changes now that Lilly has been off the immune-mediator drug called cyclosporine for nearly 3 weeks:

  • Neurologically speaking she remains stable.

Monday’s Diagnostic Tests

After a month on daily benazepril and a lower-protein diet, time came to recheck Lilly’s protein loss (through urine tests) and kidney function (through blood tests). We also ran a full blood chemistry panel and CBC (complete blood count).

Lilly enjoyed a complete physical exam and lots of smooching before her tests.

Protein Loss Lower / Kidney Values Normal

  • Lilly’s protein loss, which has seen a high of 4, has dropped to a 2. ZERO is normal, but 2 is better than 4.
  • Lilly’s BUN and creatinine levels remain normal (indicators of kidney function).

Another Bladder Infection

Alas, they found white blood cells and bacteria in Lilly’s urine, so we started 2 weeks of antibiotics today. We will likely begin something called Pulse Therapy, where Lilly takes antibiotics regularly in a certain pattern.

  • Recurring bladder infections are likely a side-effect of long-term steroid use. Lilly continues to take 1 mg of dexamethasone daily.

Liver Values Rising

I didn’t ask for the raw numbers, but Lilly’s liver values have increased, despite the addition of denamarin (a liver supporting supplement with both milk thistle and sam-E).

  • Rising liver values likely mean all the treatment meds are taking a toll.

Strange Red Blood Cells

Lilly’s CBC also shows both nucleated red blood cells (essentially immature red cells) and band neutrophils (a change in nuclei shape).

  • Nucleated red blood cells may indicate bone marrow issues as a side-effect of the cytarabine / chemo.
  • Band neutrophils may indicate systemic inflammation and, in some cases, a kind of toxicity.


I talked to our main veterinarian about all this today. I’ve not yet talked to our veterinary neurologist. Essentially, this is part of accepting that it will ALWAYS be something. Always.

We’ll simply keep swatting at what comes, as long as we can.

This week, other than some super-soaker nights and diapers, Lilly seems to feel pretty good. She even seems a tad bit steadier / less droopy in the rear now that her cytarabine injections from last week have hit their peak.

Don’t assume there wasn’t boo-hooing about some of this news. There was — nearly leading to some barfing too. So, I went for a long walk (alone) to shake off the dread.

I take solo walks or hikes nearly every day, as part of reclaiming the time I used to give to my mom.  It’s sad to go without Lilly — who isn’t strong enough to walk any distance — but it helps me to get outside in the expanse of the mountains.

test photo 4

Our border collie novelist friends Leland and Angelo Dirks shared an inspirational story recently that explains why getting outside may help. (We’ve reviewed some of their books in the past — Angelo’s Journey and Jimmy Mender and His Miracle Dog.)

Anyway …

It’s a Hindu proverb that tells us to be a lake — not a cup — when feeling life’s pain. 

It’s a similar idea to the Buddhist meditation practice that I’ve mentioned before called tong-len — where you raise your suffering to the universal.

Less lonely that way, even when I’m alone.



Roxanne Hawn

Trained as a traditional journalist and based in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, USA, I'm a full-time freelance writer for magazines, websites, and private clients. My areas of specialty include everything in the lifestyles arena, including health and home, personal finance and other consumer interests, relationships and trends, people and business profiles ... and, of course, all things pet related. I don't just love dogs. I need them in my life. Seriously.

Jennifer Margulis - August 20, 2013

This sounds so hard, Rox. I am sorry you and Lilly are going through so much right now.
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Sheryl - August 20, 2013

You are in my thoughts…along with lovely Lilly.

KB - August 14, 2013

It sounds like there is some good news in all that news. I know that lonely feeling all too well (after a year without K, it’s only gradually fading now)… but I am glad that you are getting out and walking in the mountains. It’s good for the soul. Thinking of you.

Sam - August 8, 2013

I would go crazy if I couldn’t take a break and just walk, or better yet, saddle up and ride. We are thinking of you.

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Pup Fan - August 6, 2013

I can totally relate to that time outdoors alone being a good time to recharge and gather your thoughts. It’s always important to just take a few minutes to breathe.

Jackie Bouchard - August 2, 2013

So sorry to hear about the passing of your mom. I am glad to see Lilly is hanging in there. She’s a strong girl! I find there’s nothing like getting out in nature when I’m down. Hang in there!

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.” – John Muir
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Hilary - August 2, 2013

Thanks, as always, for sharing the news. I think there is much good in this particular report–especially the BUN and creatinine ratios and the fact that her protein loss went down. And giving the sub-Q fluids at home is a benefit–once I learned how to do it, it became easy! (I am petsitting a dog that needs it every day, and Luna has had her share.)

In any case, I agree that taking walks alone in your beautiful area are so helpful. I loved the Hindu proverb–I’m going to use it in my mind, too.


Vicki Cook - August 2, 2013

Rox – sometimes you need to be alone to get back in touch with yourself, or at least I do. But you know that whenever you need someone to talk to you can always reach out and people will be there to support you. xo
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Donna - August 2, 2013

There was a lot of good news in with the bad in those results, and I love the thought that you will just swat at the bad as it comes.

Nothing like a long walk alone to clear your head….sometimes the simplest things are best.
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merr - August 1, 2013

Thank you for this update about Lilly – and you. I like following along, knowing what is happening. You are not alone.

Maggie - August 1, 2013

I totally get feeling lonely, but you’re definitely not alone. It sounds quite positive that she’s a tad bit steadier. It’s a silver lining, anyway. Thinking of you.
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Rachel Hopple - August 1, 2013

You are not alone….we feel your frustration, your happiness, your pain, your success. Please know this!

I sent my friend the Hindu proverb about being a lake; her husband is fighting a malignant brain tumor. She has had to take on so much…and just after she retired from teaching.

Thank you for all that you do.

Jana Rade - August 1, 2013

Well, I think that improvement with the proteinouremia and steady kidney values are certainly good news.

The liver, well, the liver is bound to be unhappy with all the meds, steroids and even the UTI that came back. The upside is that the liver can take a lot of beating. I guess you need to work out supporting it a bit more.

I take it she’s already on limited protein for the kidneys? How much fats is she getting?

Is there some good fiber in that? Perhaps ask about/look into B vitamins, particularly B1, B2, B12/Cobalamin, choline and inositol (HA!)

Might want to look into vitamins K, E (I’d ask about wheat germ oil supplementation), perhaps some good vitamin C.

Zinc should be helpful.

Dandelion root, beet root might be something to throw into discussion.
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Living Large - August 1, 2013

You’re never alone, you have a whole community here of support. Hugs to you, Lilly and Ginko
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