Is there something wrong with your life?

“If you don’t own a dog, at least one, there is not necessarily anything
wrong with you, but there may be something wrong with your life.”

Roger Caras

Well, there’s been things wrong with my life from time to time, but when I think of the right things in my life, it always includes a dog.  Bandi is our only dog since August of this year, and now we face not knowing how long we might have her with us.

We’re on day 11 since we were told there was not much we can do to cure the cancer that has most likely invaded her leg.  And it has been close to 3 months since Bandi started limping on her leg.  It would seem to me that if the cancer was as bad as the veterinarians say, that after two months Bandi should be very sick.  However, she does not act sick.

Bandi is surely in pain, and she gets pain meds every 8 hours.  She’s also on steroids for inflammation, and a dietary supplement to combat the decrease in her immune system caused by the steriods.  But all in all, Bandi doesn’t ACT like she has cancer.  I really hope she doesn’t.

I think we will get another set of x-rays in a couple of weeks to see if there have been any changes in her leg, abdomen or chest.  Until then, we continue the routine of medication.

Bandi is still one of the most RIGHT things in my life!

Day 8 for Bandicoot

Having been on the same drugs now for about a week with no stomach or bowel upset, it was a little worrisome this morning when Bandi had a bout of Diarrhea.  With no change in her diet or meds in the last several days, this is probably not a good sign.

After washing her off in the tub, and giving her a sanitary trim, Bandi didn’t have another episode (thank goodness).  But she has taken to panting quite a bit.  It’s the middle of winter, so I know she’s not hot.  She has plenty of water, so I know she’s not thirsty.  I can only imagine that she must be stressed.

The best part of the day was when she laid next to me on the couch for the good part of an hour, sleeping fitfully. I worked on my laptop and would occasionally pet her.  It was the only time today she seemed content.  I will admit that I was content as well.

“Happiness is a warm puppy.”

Charles M. Schulz

Day 7: No Wags from Bandi

Dogs show their emotions through their eyes, ears and tails.  Being an Australian Shepherd, Bandi has no tail–she has what we call a stub or a nub.  Aussies don’t wag their tails, they wag their entire backsides.

I noticed yesterday that Bandi is not wagging her tail at all.  It used to be that all you had to say was her name, “Bandi”, and her little nub would vibrate so fast you could feel a breeze.  That’s not the case in the last few days.  There actually seems to be no reaction emotionally from her. 

Bandi is also a great kisser.  You can say to her, “give me a kiss”, and she’ll put just the tip of her tongue out to give you the sweetest little kiss ever!  She doesn’t do that now, either.  She has stopped “talking” except for a few minutes in the morning.  Otherwise, she’s been pretty quiet.  That’s very un-Bandi-like.

Perhaps the medication she’s taking is a nub-supressant.  I have decreased the frequency that she’s getting the Tramadol and Gabapentin. She seems to be walking mostly without a limp, but perhaps she’s still in more pain than she’s letting on.  It could be that she’s simply not feeling good.

This is Bandi’s cute little Aussie butt.  You can see how she stands will all her weight on her back right leg.  The rear left leg is the one with the possible cancer, and the ACL tear.  Poor baby.  It must hurt so bad.

“A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.”

Josh Billings

Is Bandi Waiting for Santa? Day 5

Merry Christmas Eve!  I have a short update on Bandi, my Aussie girl who supposedly has cancer in her leg.

Bandi continues to act a little strange.  This picture shows her staring at the heater register.  Her ears are up as though she’s hearing something, but I don’t know what it would be.  Yes, it makes clicking noises when the heat comes on, but that’s nothing new.  This is very concerning to her.

About 18 months ago Bandi did something similar.  She started staring obsessively at a spot on the carpet in the living room.  Her staring episodes lasted about a week.  Then we began to smell it.  Something had died under the floor, a mouse, a rat, or some other mammal, and it was filling our home with the smell of decomposition.  Eventually the carpet had to be pulled back, and the floor re-sealed.  It was a stinking mess, and Bandi had warned us!

Perhaps she’s waiting for Santa Claus to come through the heater register?  I just don’t know.  It is certain, though, that her senses are on overdrive.

I decreased the pain meds today because she is doing well — not limping hardly at all.  She has increased urine frequency, and yet she doesn’t seem to be pooping very much.  I think I may have to actually walk out into the yard with her and tell her to poop.  I expect the steroids may also make her VERY hungry, but so far I haven’t seen clear evidence of that.

Tomorrow we will have family here, and Bandi will be very excited to see Sam.  So, Merry Christmas from Bandi, and from me!

Day Four of Bandicoot Watch

Two simple words describe Bandi’s condition today:  Confused and…..well, stinky.

This picture of Bandi shows the expression that I’ve seen consistently today.  She walks down the hall and just stands there.  Or she stares at the floor and/or bathtub.  Weird.

She also has some pretty stinking gas.  Maybe that’s why she looks confused.  She is taking so many “new” meds and supplements in her diet that it would be impossible to identify the one thing responsible for the gas.  I can only hope that her digestive system will catch up to the changes.

The good news is that she seems to feel less pain!  She still favors her left rear leg, but it’s no longer a definite limp.  It also appears that the swelling in her ankle has decreased slightly!  I’m very happy with this progress because I hate to think that her last weeks or months will be filled with pain.

Less sleepiness today; and more activity.  Good day for my baby girl….

“If you live with dogs, you’ll never run out of things to write about.”

Sharon Delarose

Bandi Watch, Day 3

Bandi has seemed to be fairly comfortable today.  I gave her the first dose of Gabapentin last night, and I think it’s helping her to be able to relax without causing her to be drowsy.  She didn’t appear to limp as much today as in days past.

I also saw my friend Kim today, who suggested that we try an immune system building supplement called IMMUNOCAL. Kim gave me some packets from her own supply to try, and Bandi had a packet with dinner tonight.

Bandi also started the Prednisone this morning.  She now has a pretty extensive list of drugs, medications and supplements to take at various times of the day.

Breakfast: (between 6-7am)
Proin (for incontinence that she’s had since she was 6 months old)
Gabapentin (anti seizure drug)
Tramadol (Pain)
Prednisone (Steriod for inflammation)
Famotidine (antacid)

Afternoon: (between 2-3pm)

Dinner: (between 5-6pm)

Late night: (between 10-11pm)

I also ordered two essential oils (lavender and geranium) to help with inflammation and stress, among other things.  Anything is worth trying!

“Petting, scratching, and cuddling a dog could be as soothing to the
mind and heart as deep meditation and almost as good for the soul as

Dean Koontz,

False Memory

Bandi Watch, Day 2

Arny and I did some Christmas shopping today, which gave Bandi several hours to rest.  Not that she can’t rest when I’m home, but she just doesn’t.  Bandi has always felt the need to follow me.  When I move, she moves.  Her devotion has always been rather endearing, but now I just wish she’d stay put.  I know it hurts her to move.

This chair is one of Bandi’s favorite places to sleep.  It’s getting harder each day for her to jump up on it.  For the last several weeks she hangs her bad leg off of the chair as you see in this picture.  I guess it must give her some relief.  Poor little leg.

She likes to cuddle with me for a little while when I first go to bed, and even though she’d still try to jump up on the bed with me, I don’t want her to even try for fear that she’ll hurt herself more in the attempt.  For that reason, I’ve been sleeping on the couch.  It hasn’t helped my love life any, but it sure makes it easier to hear her at night in case she is restless or needs anything.  She seems to sleep pretty well at night.

I talked with Dr. Jones today about Bandi’s swollen leg/ankle.  She seems to think that the supposed cancer in Bandi’s knee is getting big enough that it may be blocking her lymphatic system from draining properly, and the fluid is backing up into her ankle.  We discussed starting steroids to hopefully decrease the swelling. It may even help with the pain a little bit.

Another way to possibly decrease the pain is to give her Gabapentin.  This is an anti-seizure drug, but it’s great for chronic pain as it causes the brain to interpret pain differently.  I have taken Gabapentin myself to help my fibromyalgia pain, so I suggested it to Dr. Jones, and she agreed it would be a nice addition to what Bandi is already taking.  I will start giving it to her tomorrow.

My sister called me tonight and suggested that some essential oils may help Bandi to get some relief from stress, if not from pain.  She mentioned Lavender and a few other oils.  I stopped by GOOD HEALTH store in Issaquah tonight, but unfortunately Wendy, the owner was not there, and the clerk was not all that helpful.  He did suggest something called Rescue Remedy (which my sister had also mentioned), and I purchased a bottle.  At this point, I’m ready to try anything no matter how ridiculous it may seem.

My son-in-law lost his boyhood dog today.  She was a yellow lab named Bailey. (Yes, we know how ironic that it).  Evidently, she was having trouble breathing and would not respond to Ben, my son-in-laws dad.  She died in the car before he could even get out of the driveway while trying to get her to the vet.  Very, very sad day for the in-laws.  Bailey was 11 years old.

“If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.”

Will Rogers

Bandicoot Watch, Day 1

It was four months ago today, December 20, 2012 that I said goodbye to Boomerang.

If you look closely at this picture, you can see a dog behind Boomer.  That’s Bandicoot, our other Australian Shepherd.  I would never have thought that Bandi might closely follow behind Boomer in death, but that’s what I’m faced with today.  Bandi has gotten a bad diagnosis, and an even worse prognosis.

It all started (or so I thought) in October, about 2 months after Boomer’s death.  It was after one of the morning walks I had taken with Bandi, and she started limping.  I kept an eye on her for several days before taking her to the veterinarian.

An x-ray showed that Bandi had a cruciate injury in her left hind leg–basically the equivalent of an ACL tear in the human knee.  It would require surgery to repair.  Bandi is 10 1/2 years old.  The recovery of such a surgery would be about 4 months in length and there would be very little activity on her part during that time.  Assuming Bandi, who was extremely healthy, had at least a few more years of life, it seemed that surgery was in order.

However, the veterinarian noticed something unexpected on the x-ray.  It appeared that there was a tumor or an enlarged lymph node in her back lumbar region.  The vet suggested that before we talked surgery to repair the knee, that we should take Bandi for an ultrasound to determine what it was we were seeing on the x-ray.

So, about a week later Bandi was at Seattle Veterinary Specialists having an ultrasound.  Word came back very quickly that the mystery on the x-ray was indeed an extremely enlarged sub lumbar lymph node (henceforth referred to as SL LN).  Normally the size of a kidney bean, Bandi’s SL LN was now about 2 inches in diameter.

It was suggested that this was a strong indicator of cancer.  In order to determine what kind of cancer, I gave permission for them to do an aspiration biopsy of the LN.  They put a needle into the LN and sucked out some of the fluid and/or cells from inside.

Lymphoma seemed like a possibility at this point.  The next day, Dr. Jones from Sammamish Highlands Veterinary Hospital (our long-time regular vet) called us in to give us the results.  The biopsy showed no cancer cells –only an inflammatory response.  GOOD NEWS, we thought.  

Dr. Jones seemed convinced that there WAS cancer, but without knowing what kind, there was no clear plan for proper treatment.  The other possibility was an infection coming from the injured cruciate and draining into the LN.  She suggested an x-ray  to see if there was a tumor or mass anywhere else in the chest or abdomen.  However, we were short on money, and therefore decided that we’d take a more conservative approach.

With the knowledge that there was inflammatory response going on in the LN indicating possible infection, we decided to try a round of antibiotics for two weeks, then do an x-ray to see if the LN had decreased in size, and to check for other tumors or masses.

That x-ray was done a little more than a month ago from today’s date.  It showed NO tumors or masses in the chest or abdomen.  YEAH!  However, the LN had not decreased in size at all.  Another x-ray of the leg showed that the injury in the cruciate was unchanged, but there was increased swelling in the knee joint.

Dr. Jones is still convinced that there is cancer.  Doing an exam of Bandi’s anal sac, and colon as much as possible, did not indicate any cancer there.  Dr. Jones suggested taking Bandi to an Oncologist to determine where and what type of cancer we’re dealing with. 

We’re feeling very frustrated at getting no answers, and therefore no possible treatment for something that can’t be seen or detected, yet a doctor is convinced exists.  UGH!  Meanwhile, poor Bandi is still in pain from her leg, and it seems to be getting worse.  No surgery on the knee will be done until we take care of the LN situation first.

I went back to Seattle Veterinary Specialists with Bandi to see Dr. Brooks.  She is not an Oncologist (the Oncologist there comes from Wisconsin only a few days a month), but she is an Internist.  I have a very long conversation with her on December 13th, a week ago today.  Dr. Brooks echos Dr Jones when she says, “I know there is cancer, but I can’t tell you where or what kind it is.  Therefore I can’t offer you any treatments”.  But Dr. Brooks suggests more diagnostic tests in the following order based on priority:

  1. Biopsy the SL LN.  This would mean surgery on Bandi to take part of the LN to determine what type of cells are inside. 
  2. Redo the aspiration biopsy as before with the hope that we get different results since the cancer has had more time to grow
  3. Try a round of steroids, because it may be an auto-immune disease affecting the LN.

With the cost of between $400-$900 for the first or second choice, Dr. Brooks still could not guarantee that the results of either biopsy could give us real clear answers.  We may be back to square one after spending a lot of money we didn’t have to begin with.  I left her office with Bandi, and still didn’t know what to do.

By Monday, Dr. Brooks was convinced, after talking with Dr Jones, that the cancer was likely coming from Bandi’s injured knee.  It is very rare, but cancer can start in the soft tissue of joints.  What if the injury to the knee was the result of cancer?  This seemed to make sense to me, and I had mentioned this to Dr Jones early on as a possibility, but the idea had been shot down.

Great. So now, I’m ready to amputate the leg to get rid of the cancer altogether.  I also know that the LN should probably go to.  With the leg and the LN to biopsy, we should have a very clear diagnosis as to the type of cancer we’re dealing with.  THEN we could start chemo and Bandi would be happy, out of pain and since no cancer has been found anywhere else, the prognosis would be good.

Not so much, I guess.  Yesterday Dr, Brooks tells me that, “Even if we acted as aggressively as you’re suggesting by taking the leg, the LN AND doing the appropriate chemo after the surgery, Bandi would very likely have less than 4 months to live.” 

“Why?” I questioned.

Dr. Brooks answered that even though she can’t tell us what type of cancer is in Bandi’s leg, that it is ONLY the bad cancers that go into the LN.  Since the LN is SOOOO enlarged, it has likely spread into other areas or organs that we just can’t yet see.  Merely taking the leg and the LN would not buy Bandi any more time.

I’m devastated.  You can see in the picture above, taken this very day, that Bandi still looks healthy.  She doesn’t act sick.  She is, however in extreme pain.  Today I noticed that her entire left leg now appears swollen.  The inflammation around the knee has slowly increased over the last couple weeks—but now the whole leg seems affected.  Bandi never puts any weight on that leg, and her limping has definitely worsened in the last day or two.

I left a message early this morning for Dr. Brooks to find out if there is something we can do for this additional edema in the leg.  She did not get back to me today. 

Our decision will be tough.  Bandi really hurts, but she’s still eating.  I can’t stand the thought of doing nothing to ease her pain, but I’m not ready yet to let her go.

More updates on Bandi as we move forward.  Your prayers are greatly appreciated.

3 Decades of Growth, Gratification and Gloom

December 10th, 1982

Yes, thirty years is a long time ago.  I have a hard time believing that it’s been that long myself.  But nevertheless, it has been 30 years since the day I married Arny Bailey.  It was a raining, cold day in Mesa, AZ when we said our “I do’s”.  And we have withstood many rainy, cold days since then.

I had just turned 19 a few weeks before, and Arny was 21 that previous August.  We were young by today’s standards, but we had grown-up long before–both having challenges in our youth that forced maturity beyond our physical age.  I think we both hoped for relief from the challenges we faced up until then, but after 30 years together,  it’s safe to say that we’ve only matured in our ability to handle challenge.

If I were to title each decade of our marriage in one word, those words would be GROWTH, GRATIFICATION AND GLOOM.  Let me tell you what I mean…..

1982-1992 – GROWTH
We saw many changes in our family during this decade:
1. Holly born in 1983
2. 1st home purchased in 1986
3. Cory born in 1986
4. Moved from Mesa, AZ to Kirkland, WA in 1990

We had growth in the size of our family and much growth in our experiences as pioneers moving to a new land and a new home.

We finally saw the outcome of many of our choices, and were blessed to see our children coming of age.
1. Career changes for Arny and Jackie
2. Purchased our 2nd home in 1997
3. Both kids developed talents in music and athletics
4. Took our first cruise in 2001
4. Holly graduates high school in 2002

We had survived most of the teenage years, added two dogs to the family, and life was mostly good!

2002-2012 – GLOOM
It seemed the good times were short-lived, and although there were many moments of real joy, the last decade has been one of loss.
1. Cory graduates high school in 2004
2. Holly marries Matt in 2006
3. Sammy is born in 2009
4. A series of events leads to loss of business, home, and cars leading to bankruptcy in 2010

It’s safe to say that the last 10 years have been a slow down hill ride that has led to much gloom and hopelessness.  Even with the celebrations that have happened here and there, this has been the most challenging decade by far.

Tomorrow will be the first step that Arny and I take into our fourth decade.  With so much possibility, and so much we can’t predict, it’s with a little trepidation that those steps are taken.  We own very little in the definition of wealth; are uneducated by traditional standards; and claim no notoriety outside of our circle of friends and acquaintances. 

However, Arny and I are rich in the understanding of marriage and stick-togetherness; we hold the highest degrees possible from the school of hard knocks; and we are leaders in the areas where we’ve developed our talents, and where we’ve chosen to serve. 

If we are destined to experience the same challenges and blessings in the next thirty years that we’ve experienced in the last 30 years, at least we’ve learned HOW to survive it.  And hopefully we’ll still be experiencing it together.

I love you, Arny.  Here we go……..

I Got YOU, Babe