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Griffin's Journey

Aug 23

Griffin received the first dose of the Yale canine cancer trial vaccine yesterday!  We were originally scheduled to travel to Connecticut tomorrow in order to avoid the $1,200 cost (tax deductible donation to Yale University) of having the vaccine sent to our local vet, but the vaccine was mistakenly sent to Griffin’s oncologist last week.  Dr. Mamula, the lead vet for the trial, very graciously allowed us to keep the vaccine, lowering the cost to $300.  So, instead of having to travel about an hour and turn over Griffin in the parking lot to staff of a clinic we don’t know and pay about $225 for that consultation, we were able to have our local vet administer the vaccine with me in the room for $65.  That was a total win for us!

Griffin started Palladia and Piroxicam last week.  He does not seem to be experiencing any side effects, but he has been a little picky with his food the last few days.  He is still eating, but whereas before he would literally lick the bowl clean for his afternoon homecooked meal, I am now having to coax him a bit to eat most of it.  Nothing has changed with his food, and he eagerly eats treats and human food (for example, cottage cheese and chicken), so I’m not sure what’s going on.  When Griffin is not feeling well, he will refuse all food/treats, so I don’t think he is nauseous.  He has gone from 60lbs on July 18th to 56.7lbs yesterday, losing one pound just from August 14th.  His local vet says he is in ideal body condition, and his oncology team doesn’t seem concerned, just cautioning me not to force him to eat.

Other than the recent food pickiness, Griffin continues to do well.  The weather in NYC was cool enough not to need the AC for most of last week, and the lower heat/humidity made our daily morning walks more enjoyable.  Griffin will return to his local vet for the second dose of the vaccine in 3 weeks and has an oncology appointment 2 weeks after that to repeat the chest x-rays and determine our next course of action.  Not including the trips to our local vet (walking distance from our house) for the vaccine injections, this will be the longest break from major medical appointments that we’ve had since Griffin was diagnosed in March – whoo hoo!

Griffin and I started our virtual hike across the Continental Divide with Team Tripawds yesterday.  My amazing family – Anita, Virginia, Mom, Dad & Donna, Kerri, and Marcie – were extremely generous in their donations, raising $1,000 for the Tripawds Foundation.  Griffin and I are so very lucky to have their support and can’t wait to cross the “finish line” after walking 26.2 miles!

xoxo Stacy

We used Griffin’s red wagon a ton while on vacation to haul things down to the pond and pavilion, and we accidentally broke the push handle bar.  His original wagon has been discontinued but I was lucky enough to find a replacement one which is almost identical.  Griffin was very color coordinated on this day, modeling his Ruff Wear Jet Stream cooling vest and enjoying the shade provided by his new chariot!

Griffin and I don’t share our apartment with anyone else, so I never close the bathroom door when showering, brushing my teeth, etc.  If Griffin decides that I’m in the bathroom too long, he comes to stalk me.

Even the rain doesn’t dim Griffin’s joy at romping in the grass.  The geese weren’t too sure what to make of the 3-legged orange animal rolling around in their field!

Aug 14

Griffin had an oncology appointment today, with follow up chest x-ray results that were a mixed bag.  I’m a bad news first type of gal, so…the latest x-rays show that Griffin has 3 nodules in his lungs, an increase from 1 on July 8th.  The good news is that while they thought there was only 1 nodule in those last x-rays, they have determined that there were actually 2 of the same size located close together (hence why they thought they saw only 1 from 2 different angles) and that those nodules have decreased in size by 30% and 50%.  The new nodule seen today is the smallest in size of the 3.  So the new chemo agent, doxorubicin, seems to have had some positive impact, but not as strong an impact as we would have liked.  Griffin’s oncology team at the Animal Medical Center is amazingly collaborative with me and together we agreed that we should suspend his doxorubicin chemotherapy to allow Griffin to receive the canine cancer trial vaccine from Yale.  I had prepared for this several weeks ago, proactively scheduling an appointment for Griffin to receive the first round of the vaccine on August 24th (he needs to be at least 3 weeks out from his last chemo treatment).  His team and I had previously discussed metronomic therapy and agreed that Griffin would begin taking palladia (oral chemotherapy drug, 70 mg every other day) and piroxicam (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory, 8 mg every day).  We were already in the process of switching Griffin to piroxicam, which required a washout period from his last NSAID (galliprant), so he was able to start both drugs today.

While I would have loved for Griffin’s x-rays to show that his lungs were completely clear, I am grateful that the lung tumors are responding somewhat positively to chemotherapy, and I am hopeful that the metronomic therapy will continue to have a positive impact and his immune system will kick into gear in this fight once he starts the vaccine.  I am further thankful to live close to Yale and will be able to easily travel there for the vaccine, avoiding a $1,200 cost to have it sent to my vet.  And finally, I am blessed that Griffin continues to do well overall, remaining active with a strong appetite and an energetic approach to life in general.

We talk a lot on the Tripawds site about “being more dog” after a cancer diagnosis – living in the moment and finding joy in the little things.  One way I do that is by taking photos and videos of Griffin almost every day, but I realized that that I am rarely in those photos.  So, I scheduled an outdoor photo shoot a few weeks ago and I am thrilled with the outcome!  If using a professional photographer is out of your budget, you could ask a friend to take photos that capture you interacting with your pet.  The love that Griffin and I share so clearly shines through in these images, and I will cherish them for the rest of my days.

xoxo Stacy

Aug 09

Griffin and I spent last week at Beaver Creek Farm Cabins in Lancaster County, PA where my family vacationed for years during the 1980s and where a group of us returned in 2018.  I love the tranquility and disconnected pace at Beaver Creek, but this year’s visit was particularly special due to the restrictions the pandemic has imposed on our ability to visit family, most of whom we haven’t seen in months.  So many of Griffin’s favorite people – nieces, godchildren, and chosen family – were with us last week, and coupled with the freedom to roam and swimming in the pond, it was definitely Griffin’s version of paradise!  Griffin did not let his tripawd status slow him down – he swam for an average of 5 hours each day we were there!

Griffin has always been protective of the kids, especially in the water.  When they yell coming off the diving board in a pool or the pond, Griffin feels the need to “rescue” them.  You can hear him whining in some of the videos as he tries to get close enough to save them while also holding onto his bumper float toy.  The kids became quite adept at throwing his toy far away from the diving board so that they could jump in peace for a few minutes!

I hope you can tell from the photos and videos below how much of a blast we had on our vacation! We hope that you are having good times and finding tranquility in this summer of covid.  Stay safe!  xoxo Stacy

Our cabin is at the end of the road going through the covered bridge.

My dear friend, Virginia, brought her pups, Dewie and Peanut, and Griffin was thrilled to share his vacation paradise with them!

Griffin never missed a chance to cuddle with his kids!

My oldest godchild, Joana, is one of Griffin’s absolute favorite humans because they have grown up together.  The first photo was taken in March 2020 when Joana was 7 and Griffin 8 weeks; the second photo was taken last week!

We are missing a few in this photo, but Griffin and I consider all of these kids “ours” – Valerie (10), Gabriel (9), Hailey (12), Makaylah (10), Phineas (9), Savannah (3), Madeleine (19), and Joana (17).

Griffin was an absolute fish, coming out of the water only when forced to rest or eat!

In the videos of Griffin’s swimming below, I hope you can appreciate the beauty of our vacation home!

Jul 29

Griffin modeling his Ruffwear Jet Stream cooling vest while taking in the view!

Griffin had his fifth round of chemo today (second round of doxorubicin), which was preceded by a rehab session.  The rehab therapist said that Griffin was an excellent patient during massage and stretches, and his oncologist, Dr. Camps, was happy with the results of his blood work prior to the chemo treatment.  The Animal Medical Center has loosened certain Covid restrictions, and I was able to accompany Griffin into the hospital and up to the rehab/oncology floor before turning him over.  And, I finally got to meet Dr. Camps in person – whoo hoo!  👏

Griffin is completely recovered from his wagon accident.  One outcome of the accident is that we have switched back to using the Animal Medical Center for his rehab.  For the last 2 months, we had gone to a rehab place in New Jersey that allowed me to remain with Griffin during his sessions, and it was nice to get out of NYC occasionally.  However, we had to cancel Griffin’s appointment scheduled for the day after his accident and it was difficult to reschedule it due to limited availability.  So, I was grateful that AMC was able to squeeze us in the weekend after his accident and we have set up a schedule for Griffin to have a 30-minute rehab session immediately prior chemo, both of which occur on the same floor of the hospital.  And, because the rehab sessions are conducted by a veterinarian, my insurance will cover the cost.

Griffin has the best smile!

While we had gone to AMC for two rehab sessions soon after Griffin’s surgery, it has been a while since the last one, so Dr. Cherno conducted a comprehensive re-examination of Griffin on June 18, 2020.  He said that Griffin looks great and is moving well.  Dr. Cherno gave me a bit of a scare when he said that Griffin was painful in his front outer toe knuckle and that he could feel a thickening of that joint.  He said that Griffin bared his teeth when that joint was manipulated, so he and Dr. Camps (who happened to be there that day) recommended taking an x-ray to rule out any significant issues.  Thankfully, the x-rays were clear and no matter how hard I pulled, bent, or squeezed that joint once we were home, I could not get any reaction from Griffin, so I’m not sure what was going on. 🤷‍♀️

Another silver lining of that incident is that I noticed Griffin seemed to have more energy and could move more easily once his activity restrictions were lifted, which I believe is a result of being on the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) Galliprant which Griffin  took before and after his surgery.  Griffin’s oncologist recommends the NSAID Piroxicam, which comes in standard doses of 10mg or 20mg, but the correct dosage for Griffin is 8mg.  So, I now know about veterinary compounding pharmacies which create custom dosage pills/capsules.  It was worth the time I took to comparison shop as I found a wide range of prices ($0.47 vs. $1.63 per capsule) for the same exact prescription, and chose Golden Gate Veterinary Compounding Pharmacy.

   

Griffin and I had another great visit last week to Long Island to spend time with Dad and Donna.  Griffin continues to swim with his right leg tucked high, using it only when turning.  Dr. Cherno says it is normal for dogs not to use their back legs at all (hence the name “doggie paddle”), although in videos taken years ago, I can see that Griffin used his back legs while swimming. And while we were on Long Island, Griffin got a much needed haircut, as can be seen in the before and after photos above!

Sunday will be Griffin’s 4 month ampuversary – hooray!  On Saturday, we are heading to Lancaster County, PA for a week-long vacation with family and friends, and Griffin will have a blast with some of his favorite people!  We hope that you are enjoying some summer fun and staying cool under this heat dome that has settled across the country.  Stay safe!  xoxo Stacy

Griffin enjoying life and the cool grass still covering in the morning dew.

Griffin swimming using his own special doggie paddle style.

Griffin checking out the dog trail while we were on Long Island.  He usually runs ahead but always waits for me to catch up.  What a good boy!

Jul 15

It’s been a rough week for us.  On July 8, 2020, Griffin was scheduled for his 4th round of chemo, preceded by chest x-rays.  Unfortunately, his x-rays revealed a growth in his right lung, indicating that the cancer has metastasized.  Griffin’s oncologist, Dr. Camps, suggested switching chemo agents – using doxorubicin now since 3 rounds of carboplatin did not prevent the growth of this lung met.  So instead of his 4th round of carboplatin, Griffin was administered his 1st round of doxorubicin, which will be administered every 3 weeks for 5 or 6 rounds.  We will repeat his x-rays in 6 weeks (prior to his 3rd round of doxorubicin) which will hopefully show, at the very least, that the doxorubicin stabilized the lung met, and at the very best, decreased it in size. I’ve also been researching clinical trials and found one that seemed like a great match for Griffin’s situation, but he is ineligible since he has already had a round of doxorubicin (the chemo drug they will be using).  Dr. Camps has reached out to the lead vet for that trial to see if we can get the information to replicate it on our own – fingers crossed that they are willing to help in that capacity! 🤞

Doped up Griffin after receiving pain meds at AMC.

Then on July 12, 2020, while Griffin and I were out for an evening stroll, Griffin was startled by a motorcycle and leaped out of his wagon, landing hard on his front leg and falling on his right side.  He seemed to shake it off, even walking for the last block home, but after resting on the couch for a few hours that evening, he was unable to get up when I called him to go out.  So, off we went for a midnight visit to the same hospital where he is being treated, the Animal Medical Center.  I was pretty sure that nothing was broken since he was able to walk and bear weight on the leg, but I wanted the assurance of a medical professional.  I also felt horribly because Griffin really didn’t want to go out that evening and I made him.  We’ve had issues with fireworks nightly since the start of June, but that had recently (mostly) stopped and I wanted Griffin to learn that evening walks were no longer scary.  Boy was I wrong!  The ER vet agreed with me that it was likely a soft tissue injury and did not push for x-rays since that would have required sedation.  She gave Griffin an injection of methadone and sent us home with codeine and directions for the anti-inflammatory and pain meds (gallaprant and gabapentin) that we had left over from his surgery.  Griffin’s surgeon, Dr. Spector, continues to be amazing and reached out the next morning to check on Griffin – we are so lucky to have him!  Griffin was clearly sore and seemed to have a dysphoric reaction to the codeine, laying for hours with his eyes open and panting, similar to his reaction to an opiate he was taking after surgery.  With Dr. Spector’s input, I stopped the codeine after only 2 doses, and he has been doing well since then, resting comfortably with just the other 2 meds.  He is on restricted activity for a week, and since the gabapentin makes him sleepy, that hasn’t been too much of a struggle.  I purchased a tether meant for use in cars that I attached to his wagon so that we avoid accidents like this in the future. 🤦‍♀️

Griffin modeling his new chariot tether. Safety first!

 

Despite how difficult things have been recently, there are so many things for which I am grateful.  Griffin continues to be his happy, loving self who, apart from his recent injury, doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.  I know doxorubicin is known for more severe side effects, but aside from a bit of diarrhea on Thursday evening, Griffin has not shown any negative reactions from the round of chemo he received on Wednesday, and we are now past the 3-5 day window when those effects would appear.  His appetite has remained strong and he is content to have me push him in his wagon to enjoy being outside while on restricted activity.  😊

The team at the Animal Medical Center is nothing short of phenomenal.  They are so compassionate and dedicated to Griffin’s care, going above and beyond what is required professionally.  Dr. Spector and Dr. Camps are incredibly quick to respond to my emails and encourage me to fully partner with them in determining Griffin’s course of treatment.  I cannot recommend AMC highly enough!  🙌

And finally, Tripawds Nation has been my rock throughout this entire process.  I know I can ask any question or share any situation and I will be met with nothing but encouragement, experienced advice, and grace.  There is no way I would be navigating this entire process nearly as well informed or as hopeful as I am without the help of my Tripawds family.  Thank you! 💕

The video below was taken this morning.  As you can see, Griffin is well on the road to recovery and sends everyone his love!  xoxo Stacy