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Lilly’s Narrow Remission Ledge

Since Lilly’s ongoing weird / scary bladder infection was diagnosed a few weeks ago, we’ve added a number of experts to Team Lilly. While focusing on improving her quality of life, we’re still wrestling with medical decisions that will likely dictate the length of that life. Simply put, Lilly remains tenuously perched on a narrow ledge of “remission” from the deadly consequences of brain and spinal cord inflammation. She is NOWHERE near normal neurologically, but she is holding steady … for now.

In general, I’m the optimistic one in my marriage. Tom, for all his amazing qualities (that have made me love him more each day for nearly 26 years), can be SUCH a boy and SUCH a naysayer.

Oddly enough, in this current situation with Lilly, he is the believer — the one of faith and hope and optimism. And, I’m playing the doomsday roll.

Where he sees our “Miracle Girl,” who has (admittedly) defied the odds, I see every wobble, every hint of strain on her face, every everything. That’s the thing with working from home and with caring for Lilly 24/7 for more so many months now. I’m on constant watch.

Tom still believes Lilly will overcome the inflammation for real if we can simply get her farther from the administration of the rabies vaccine that began it all. Even without the cytarabine (“chemo” drug), he believes Lilly will live a long time.

I, however, have read the studies. I’ve met with our growing team of experts again and again. I’ve seen their faces when they talk about Lilly’s prognosis … if they will answer the question at all.

My sense right now is this:

  • Lilly’s brain and spinal cord inflammation will never fully go away.
  • To keep it at bay, we’ll need to use powerful immune-suppressing drugs for the rest of her life (however long that is).
  • Each time Lilly has fallen out of remission it has been worse than before and has taken more intervention to boost her back onto the ledge. Each recovery is less complete, less satisfying, more debilitating for her body.

After Lilly’s massive relapse in August 2012, Tom and I pretty much agreed that her next terrible bout would be her last. We simply cannot afford $8,000 ICU bills again and again. And, I personally cannot take the pain in my heart.

Plus, how much can our sweet girl take? Honestly.

So, now we wait and make each treatment decision as it comes — like riding a never-ending escalator. We face ONLY what’s directly ahead of us.

Right now, we’re focusing mostly on this really CRAZY infection Lilly’s bladder / bladder wall. Last week’s test results showed:

  • A small amount of blood in the urine
  • No bacteria (e coli) in the basic urinalysis
  • Air remaining in Lilly’s bladder and bladder wall

That seems great until one of our veterinary team members pointed out that the air indicates there is still an infection brewing. Potentially an anaerobic one that would not show up on culture.

We need to eradicate the infection before we can truly talk about Lilly’s future.

Trying to Think Positively

To turn my negative thinking around, I’ve been casting about for ideas like what our pal KB from Romping and Rolling in the Rockies used when her Lab K was battling bone cancer.

So far, my only simple idea is to put a penny in a vase every day Lilly remains at my side. I’m using a vase from the memorial service from after my friend Jody died. It’s oval glass, and it sits on the bookshelf in my office … in front of my favorite photo of Lilly (on the second shelf). The third shelf is where I keep photos of the dogs we’ve helped cross over:

  • Penelope Grace, our dalmatian who died of kidney failure at age 14 1/2 (in 2004)
  • Cody, our yellow lab mix who died of hemangiosarcoma at the age of 9 (in 1999)

best dog blog, champion of my heart, bookshelf

Since Lilly is my first “Heart Dog,” I figured I would start my tracking on Valentine’s Day. So, today, there are 5 pennies in the vase. I figure if we go a long time, I can either use the money to buy myself a small gift or donate the money to the humane society where we adopted Miss Lil. If we don’t go long, then I’ll keep the pennies as a memento.

best dog blog, champion of my heart, pennies in a vase

On the advice of our new veterinary acupuncturist, I’ve been poking around on Pinterest looking for ideas. I started finding lily glass beads. I’m not really a jewelry person, but maybe I’ll collect and or get myself one special bead as a remembrance. You can look at our Champion of My Heart Pinterest Board – Dog Memorial Ideas for the what I’ve found so far.

Likely Taking a Break

We may not be online here (or anywhere) much in the coming days / weeks as we wrestle with some potentially unthinkable decisions. OR, to frame that better, we’ll use the time to make Lilly’s daily life as amazing as possible.

I’ll try to post photos and little vignettes as I feel up to it.

And, we did promise to post a book review next week, so look for that.

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.

Sharon Rousseau - February 19, 2013

Saving pennies for you in Atlanta. Thinking of you all every day & in prayers at bedtime. Love, Sharon, Stan, Cookie & Old Bailey

Sharon Rousseau - February 19, 2013

Honey, just sitting here thinking about what you all have been going through; have tears in eyes. Wishing for a magic wand. You all have gone so much further with Lilly than I would have had courage to do. I think she’ll tell you what you need to know when she needs to, if that makes sense. We are thinking of you every day in Atlanta. I’m saving pennies for you too. Love, Sharon, Stan, Cookie & Old Bailey

Rachel Hopple - February 19, 2013

Hoping that vase is filled to overflowing with pennies someday. Hugs to you from Ohio. Rachel & the Hopple Zoo Crew

Sam - February 19, 2013

I like the pennies idea a lot, I hope you get a nice big donation saved up in Lily’s name.

Thinking of you and Lily

Hilary - February 19, 2013

Best of the best wishes and hopes for Lilly. I, for one, am taking the optimistic road–she’s a fighter. I’m glad you and Tom are looking at both sides of the issue so you can have a more realistic view overall. It may not look like a positive outcome, and in reality, she won’t have the perfect life, but she’s doing ok now and you’re right about the day-to-day things you can do for her. I love the penny idea–I may steal that from you re Luna!

Ingrid King - February 19, 2013

I’m picturing that vase filled to the brim. And you and Lilly are in my thoughts and prayers every day.

Eileen - February 19, 2013

Sending my best wishes.
Fill up that vase and yes, get yourself a bead.
After my Amber passed I asked for an amber pendant for my birthday. I said I’d like a heart or a teardrop shape… it is beautiful, just like my Amber!

Alexandra - February 18, 2013

Checking in to see how you and Lily are. So sorry that things are not looking better.

Jen - February 18, 2013

I think that the pennies are a great idea (and such a lovely vase!)

Somebody on a Doberman board that I belong to just posted a memorial that she had made for her dog. She found an artist who makes glass beads that incorporate some of the dog’s ashes, with a design that they worked together on.

It’s funny, isn’t it, how spouses can surprise us? I’m glad that Tom is there for you, and you can make decisions like that together.

Sheryl - February 18, 2013

I hope the pennies pile up!

Stella - February 18, 2013

Our hearts goes out to you; this is such a difficult time. We are sending best wishes, thoughts and prayers.

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