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.
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.
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.