The last six weeks in my earthly body were tough. Hopefully this blog post will give others some insight into my experience – how mets showed up in me, and what worked and what didn’t work. This blog is a bit long (sorry, it’s even longer than my usual ramblings) so I’ve tried to break it up into logical sections to help you read or skim through it.
Our oncologist told mum that while the cancer typically shows up in the lungs it can turn up anywhere and she should be ready for anything. That certainly narrowed it down!
Hip/Leg starts to hurt…
At 6 months post amputation and 6 weeks after I had finished chemo, I began showing signs of bone mets although we didn’t know it was bone mets at the time. Mum noticed that my gait changed and I was putting my remaining back leg directly underneath me instead of into the middle. I also started to slow down and our walks became shorter and shorter.
It was also around this time that I became ravenous. I lost a little bit of weight (about 500g) but mum and dad increased my food and managed to stop any further loss. Our oncologist didn’t seem to be concerned but mum was. It could have been due to the increased fun (lots of river and beach visits) but there is no doubt in mum’s mind that the change in appetite was a sign that the cancer was on the move. I also developed a small sore (pea sized) on my foot around this time that would prove difficult to heal over the remaining two months.
Lung mets show up…
At 6.5 months I went for standard xrays where 3 mets were found in my lungs (2x2cm and 1x3cm). Mum was shattered. I was still very happy BUT I must admit I was feeling a little bit weary and I know that mum saw it in my eyes. The oncologist gave us a 6 month prognosis as he started me on metronomic Palladia. But mum mentally prepared herself for 3 months at best. She knew in her heart that time was fast running out. Little did we know that it would end up being only 6 weeks!
The mets in my lungs mustn’t have grown too much. I only had the occasional cough (mum even remembered seeing me cough at the 3 month mark when my lungs were still technically clear) and there was one occasion where I had three little coughs in a row.
Palladia – would we do it again? Maybe
I had some diarrhoea with Palladia and I tended to pant and whine a lot more at night and there were some episodes of bad breath as well. Mum put some of it down to pain in my back leg but in hindsight it was probably the Palladia. After 4 weeks on Palladia the mets hadn’t grown very much BUT I had a terrible tummy upset – diarrhoea, bloody stools, refusal to eat for a couple of days. I was in terrible pain for several days. I spent one night in hospital because the vets were worried about me not eating but scans gave my tummy the all clear on the cancer front.
A few days later I was back at the vets because I wouldn’t put weight on my back leg. I was shaking with fear when I went back to the vet. Mum and dad were so upset to see me scared like that.
It was horrible and I know that it still upsets mum too much to even write about it still. She feels that she let me down terribly. Mum forgets that the Palladia was meant to give me more time and that she put me on it in good faith. Unfortunately it ended up making my last month pretty uncomfortable and my last two weeks quite miserable. It still breaks mum’s heart. We were given meds to protect my tummy but it was too late. Because I handled chemo so well mum feels she was too complacent about the Palladia.
If anyone else considers Palladia please make sure you take something to protect the tummy and be vigilant about signs like whining , panting and bad breath.
Bone mets were unmerciful…
Mum had requested xrays of my back leg when I had the lung xrays but they weren’t done. I didn’t need any sedation when they did my lungs so they didn’t want to subject me to it to get the leg done. Mum wasn’t very happy about it. She suspected that there was cancer in either my back leg or the hip and she wanted to know for sure what was going on. The oncologist told her that even if there were bone mets it wouldn’t change the treatment protocol so she accepted it.
I progressively put less and less weight on my back leg and our walks became shorter and shorter. Getting in and out of the car via the ramp was also a chore as it became increasingly difficult for me to get up without my hip hurting. Mum would often bring my food and water bowls to me so that I didn’t have to get up. I spent many glorious hours sitting at the loungeroom window watching the road.
During the last three weeks mum and dad changed their shared custody arrangement to every few days instead of every 2 weeks as they did their best to minimise the time I was left alone and so that neither of them would be away from me for too long. And during my last two weeks the pain in my hip meant I no longer wanted to use the ramp to the bed so mum and I slept on a mattress in the loungeroom.
I had a strange lump develop on my upper back but it didn’t cause me any obvious discomfort. It was a bit bigger than a marble and very hard. We don’t know what it was but it is very likely that it was some sort of cancer.
My standard pain meds were piroxicam, amantadine and paracetamol/codeine (and I was also taking glucosamine/chondroiton and MSM). In the last five days I was taken off piroxicam because of the tummy upsets. I wasn’t with mum from the Tuesday to Friday and I know it tears her apart when she realises that I wasn’t getting enough pain meds during that time.
It has been hard for mum to help me write this part of my journey. Consulting her diary has been particularly difficult as we try to distil the critical information and not dwell on the despair and pain that covers the pages of my last six weeks. We fought so hard to hold off the cancer. Mum knows that I still wanted to live and that despite the pain I endured we still had some good quality time together as we sat in the park each day and cuddled up in bed at night. We spent countless hours together, making the most of what time we had left.
Very soon I will write about the last day. It’s best to get it over and done with because I know it is going to be very traumatic for mum.