some bad news about louie

11.17.2016

As I type this, I’m thinking about how unfair it is that we never know when our last great day will be with someone we love. Spouses, kids, friends, family, pets – how do you know when to really savor the shit out of a moment, embrace the memories and just take it all in?

I guess that’s what living life to it’s fullest is all about.

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When we started this journey of cancer treatments, horrible gelatin filled cans of “urgent care” dog food, bright orange pumpkin vomit stains and constant worry we always said “as long as Louie is Louie, we’ll keep fighting”.

Today is no different, even as I try to bang out my feelings about exercising what might be our last available option to keep our snuggle pig snuggling, we (mostly Louie) is fighting. The thing is, today was the first day I realized we might not win this.

To be clear, because Louie is fighting a chronic cancer, I realized very early on that this disease would take him from us much too early, but I always thought we’d win the battles to eventually lose the war, on our terms.

this is what not looking forward to the vet 💉 looks like 😕

A photo posted by Louie (@kinglouiedog) on

In October, during one of Louie’s regular bi-monthly checkups the vet noticed his lymphnodes were swollen during his physical exam. For any “Sex and the City” fans, you’ll remember that episode where Samantha goes to finally get an HIV test and the one thing she doesn’t want to happen is to be pulled into “the room”. Well, think of Louie’s vet the same way. Check ups are easy, breezy, unless they pull you into a room.

After a teary conversation with the vet, we were told that they were going to aspirate a node and see what was up.

Fast forward another couple of weeks and some more teary conversations another biopsy and I’m googling the words “canine lymphoma”.

I’ll spare you the technical terms, because the shitty thing here is that lymphoma was the cancer we were trying to AVOID the first time around.

And just because Louie is alarmingly stubborn in everything he does, one cancer wasn’t enough.

b%+ch please, #cancer can't be this cute 👻

A photo posted by Louie (@kinglouiedog) on

Louie started the “Madison Wisconsin” protocol, which is a combination chemotherapy treatment, combining three drugs plus a steroid in a cycle of 25 weeks.

It’s a very common treatment (so much so that there’s limited space for available sessions at MOVEH) Louie was set up to go once a week for 8 weeks, get a week off and then start the cycle again for another 8 sessions over 16 weeks.

Session one is all Louie made it through.

When we returned last week to hit up round two, Louie’s white blood cells and platelets were too low to undergo treatment and so he was sent home with some antibiotics (to make sure nothing else befell him) to rest up.

And after another week of rest the platelets are not regenerating – and so I found myself opting for plan d of our plan b plan, hoping for a miracle.

So we find ourselves as many lymphoma patients before us and unfortunately what I think will be many after us have done: waiting and hoping and snuggling. Taking each day as they come, never giving up hope that we have more great days with Louie in our future.

nine months after: louie’s leukemia prognosis

11.05.2015

It has been many Mondays since I posted last about Louie and his diagnosis and I realized that I promised I would share more about this adventure we’re now on, and then failed miserably. I am here to remedy that whole heartedly.

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We are now ten months out from when Louie was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia. I have stopped crying every time I look at him (I blame my current tears on a red-wine glass too many and daylight savings time) and Louie is feeling much better.

As I mentioned in my last post, CLL is a cancer that impairs the bone marrow, resulting in the under production of other blood cells needed to battle infections, allergies (this became VERY apparent) and infections.  Louie’s dog-tors – GOD, even that couldn’t pick up the mood in here – pieced together his increased lymphocytes, low number of white blood cells and the presence of cells called neutrophils in his blood work to come to his diagnosis.

Our vet referred us to Dr. Gauthier at Mississauga Oakville Emergency Vet Clinic who sat down with us to hash out Louie’s options and helped us decide to put the snuggle pig on a couple of medications to suppress the disease: chlorambucil & prednisone. Both of these drugs are taken by people who are diagnosed with various cancers and have “been around a long time” a term people now use to make me feel better about basically feeding my dog a carcinogenic.

#snugglepig be all like 😍 @ the ☀️#frenchbulldog #dogsofinstagram   A photo posted by Kate Morawetz (@katemorawetz) on

Two weeks after Louie started his very aggressive road to recovery he was back to his regular self – playing, eating & snoozin’ on the couch, but I remember those two weeks as being really difficult, Louie had lost a lot of weight (it was maybe 5 or 6 pounds, but for a 30 lb dog, it was at least a sixth of his total weight), so we focused on getting him to eat whenever and whatever he wanted.  Lots of chicken boiled in broth, lean hamburgers, rice, milked down yogurt, sweet potato, pumpkin, basically anything he wanted to eat, whenever he wanted it.  

When that didn’t really work as we planned, our vet suggested Hill’s Prescription Diet – n/d canine. Think Spam for dogs on chemo.  It smelled terrible, but apparently tasted like ice cream the way Louie lapped it up. Since the canned canine food is basically pork & glycerine, Louie rapidly replaced any weight he had lost – his sunken in head finally inflated back to it’s normal dome-like shape.

dis is bun bun 🐰 I love him #frenchbulldog #dogsofinstagram #shortsnouts #sleeppup #snugglepig A photo posted by Louie (@kinglouiedog) on

The vets monitor Louie’s blood work very closely, we go in every two months to have him tested and his medication dosages have gone down – the chemo from 1 pill a day to 1 every other and the prednisone quite significantly: 4 pills a day to 1/2 a pill a day.  I continually ask when Louie will get to come off of these medications all together and it wasn’t until this week that it really hit my why his vets continue to casually tell us that they will “see how his next round of blood work turns out”. It’s because even though the medication helps to keep Louie’s diagnosis at bay, there will come a time when it won’t. That’s the stick about chronic diseases.

For now, Louie is living a happy, healthy (all things considered)  life – we have fun every.single.day and that’s all we can hope for. We even got to raise money and walk in our annual OSPCA Friends For Life walk, an event that I became involved in because of Louie and something I can’t (but have to know) imagine doing without him.  He’s a very lucky pup to have so many friends and family rooting for him, we can’t thank you all enough for your support.

louie has leukemia

2.22.2015

This is not how I imagined I would get back into my own blog.  This is not something I ever imagined I would have to ever talk about.  This is not how I imagined I would potentially have to say goodbye to my lil’ monster and snuggle pig: Louie.

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I have always been quick to turn my feelings into words. Stemming from my childhood, I was always told “write what you’re feeling” and it will act as a catharsis to help you better understand whatever it is. So I started writing EVERYTHING. I got a bad mark in school, I would write how it made me feel. I fell in love for the first time, wrote it down. I acquired a 7 lb fur ball who wouldn’t let me out of his sight, I took to this blog to understand why I was feeling the way I was to help me get through it (and form one of the strongest bonds to any being I have ever met).

But this, even writing it all down, this feels like I was hit by a truck that’s still sitting on my chest. And I imagine that this is exactly how this ugly disease hit Louie.

French Bulldogs are known for their many issues, if you know Louie you’ll know that he can rock the house with his snoring (as a result of having a pushed in face), you’ve probably on more than one occasion talked – at length – with me about his pooping schedule, consistency or diet. And you may or may not have at one time helped me rid his ears, eye folds or tail from allergy induced byproduct.  What you might not know is that often Frenchie parents have to spend A LOT of money to fix elongated soft or cleft palates, or to fix a hereditary problems like VWD or Intervertebral Disc Disease. Going into this, I knew that my sweet puppy could have any number of those things, but upon his first visit to the vet, I found out that he was nearly perfect.

Louie’s health continued like that for the past four years, with little to no issue – minus a pesky anal gland issue and the aforementioned dietary restrictions.

So when my very energetic dog, suddenly decided he didn’t want to walk to High Park (one of his favourite places) and made sleeping his number one hobby, I knew something was wrong.  After a couple of days I took him in to see the vet, and after a pretty casual exam, brought him home with hopes that his blood work would reveal a small, TREATABLE infection and we would get back to business as usual.

Fast forward to 36 hours later, and I’m bawling in the stairwell at my office.  To be honest, I can’t even remember what the vet said to me. I can only remember the utter devastation and constant “this is wrong, this can’t be happening” going through my head.  My one and only thought after our conversation was “Louie has leukemia, what can I do to help him?”

Lymphoid leukemia is a result of an overabundance of neoplastic white blood cells (lymphocytes) in the peripheral blood. These lymphocytes generally develop from the bone marrow, but can sometimes develop in the spleen as well.  There are 2 main types of lymphoid leukemia – acute (the disease has developed suddenly) and chronic (the disease has been continuing over a protracted period of time).

Louie’s last round of blood work was in April of 2014, which came back totally normal. He had a small skin tag removed from his front paw at the end of the year, but because it was minor surgery, no blood work had been done.

As I mentioned there are two main types – acute and chronic. After chatting with Dad, I have since relabelled them as “REALLY shitty” and “the best case scenario”. Acute lymphoid lekemia originates in the bone marrow and metastasizes to the spleen, liver, bloodstream, nervous system, bone, lymph nodes and gastrointestinal tract. Chronic lymphoid leukemia impairs the bone marrow and results in under production of other blood cells that are required for combatting inflammations, allergies and infections. It is much less invasive compared to acute – with symptoms like mild anemia, enlarged spleen and swollen lymph nodes.

Louie has been lucky enough to have been treated by two sister vet clinics – Bucksburn Veterinary Hospital and Lennox Animal Hospital and, like with most people he meets, has made a lasting impact on the vets and technicians who work there.  I cannot express how much it means to me to have not one, but TWO clinics working around the clock talking to Oncologists, Pathologists, going over Louie’s medical records and checking in every couple of hours. It made my horrible day the tiniest bit better knowing that these people were doing everything they could to find out how this diagnosis came to be and to help our whole family prepare for the next steps.

Throughout family and friends finding out about Louie – your love and support has been overwhelming – I got a note from my Grandma telling me to “be brave”. This is something I think about hourly, as the absolute worst part of all this is not how sad or angry I am, it’s seeing Louie, try to figure out why it hurts him to pick up the ball to bring it back to me, or why he can only romp around my Dad’s backyard (another one of his favourite things to do) for so long before he gets very tired.

This is the part of this that breaks my heart into a thousand pieces. When those big brown eyes look up at me confused as to why he can do it or thinking he’s a bad dog for not being able to.  Through these mind numbing moments, I realize what she was talking about in being brave.  The courage comes from being able to pick him up, cuddle him and not let him see me having an epic meltdown in the process. Dogs are sensitive, they pick up on how you’re feeling and Louie is no exception. I have never doubted that Louie knows how much I love him, but I worry every minute about how rapidly this disease is attacking his spirit.

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The next step in this horrible realization is finding out why type of leukemia Louie has. Monday will bring more blood work, and as always, lots of snuggles.

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