Thursday, October 6, 2011

First Post

Hello All,
I'm writing this blog in hopes that it may help someone else who is going through what we're going through with our Max! Max is an 18 year old sheltie/lab mix was has been incredibly healthy his entire life and full of energy! In fact if you looked at him, you'd never know how old he really is!

He's one incredible dog!

(I hope you don't mind but I'm going to paste a posting I left in another group about canine cancer just to get this blog started! - What I hope to do is add video to the blog so you can see how Max is doing. One thing I learned from my last dog and her battle with cancer is that sometimes you don't realize what you are really going to see when someone says lethargic or dizy, or unable to balance..) Hopefully this helps someone else.

We are almost 1 week out after Max’s cyber knife treatment. Get this! Max is an 18 year old sheltie/lab mix! He has been healthy his entire life, and in fact bouncing off the walls up until April of this year 2011. We noticed something was off with him being a little more lethargic, and then his eyes started to droop. He didn’t want to play with the other dogs as much and he’d start to turn around on walks and want to go back. Most of the vets where we live (in southern VA) couldn’t figure out what was going on and one called it “old dog disease”. One night I caught Max staring at his reflection in the window and then his head started to tilt, and he started to circle. I called our neurologist up in DC and we saw Dr. Jarboe at Bush Veterinary Neurology Center They did an MRI and we found that he had 2 brain tumors. I opted not to do a spinal tap at that time, so we took the info, opted for prednisone & chinese herbs / alternative meds and headed 3 hours back home. Within 1 week, Max was back to running and playing and jumping, and bossing around the other dogs like normal. 2 weeks later we went up for another apt and decided to do another MRI to see how much had changed.. and we were really surprised nothing had changed at all. Dr. Bush went over all of the options, including Cyber Knife and for some reason I kept thinking that that was an invasive surgery so in my mind had ruled it all out. We kept him on prednisone from April on and the last week of Sept Max chased a squirrel up a tree and then froze like something was wrong. He took a few more steps and had to gather himself and then decided it was time to go home. Over the next few days his eyes started to droop and then he started to circle again. We upped his prednisone dose and by chance I met someone who worked in a human hospital as a radiology tech and told me cyberknife was 100% non-invasive! It’s more or less a laser beam if anyone is curious. I called Dr. Bush and he thought it was a good idea to call Dr. Charney & Joseph ASAP. Dr. Joseph told us we needed to get Max back to being neurologically stable first so on 40mg of prednisone a day we finally got him back to where he was walking and occasionally barking at people in front of the house.
Last Sunday we drove up to the Animal Specialty Center (ASC) in Yonkers NY (8 hours) and stayed at the hotel 2 blocks away (Hampton Inn & Suites) They were Fantastic by the way with Max – he made friends with everyone in the bar! Last Monday Max went in for his consult and Planning session. They inserted 3 gold seeds into his soft tissue to be used as transents for the cyberknife to be able to triangulate and pin point the exact location of the tumor (Max had a Meningioma on top of his head and another mass in the Pons area of his brain stem). He did great except one of the gold seeds migrated up into his sinus! He had a little infection the next day but it was cleared up quickly with antibiotics. Tuesday we had off and Max and I did a little sight seeing, Wed he went back in for the first of his CK treatments. Dr. Joseph called and said he did great. I was originally planning on taking him home each night. The anesthesiologist said if it was her dog she’d leave him there over night so that was what I opted to do, and I’m kind of glad I did. We put a note on his cage that said “if he howls to please call me” and I’d come down and hang out with him in the hospital – he has severe separation anxiety but he did amazingly well the whole week. The 3 CK treatments went off without a hitch. Max is normally slow in recovering when he’s put under so I spent Fri night at the hotel with him. He was lethargic which I totally expected but when he was awake he was great and was walking around (of course this was at 2AM!). The next day we drove home and he didn’t really want to leave! I did notice an increase in his breath rate, but Dr. Joseph checked him out and he was ok. (I had to remember he had been knocked out for 4 days in a 5 day period, was on high doses of steroids, antibiotics, and probably up all night in ICU watching all the cases that came in and on top of that, one of the side effects of radiation is lethargy at least in humans.
When we got home he was happy to see his brothers and sisters, walked around the house, made sure everything was where it was. He was still a little drugged, but barked at any one coming to the door. He could hear perfectly, and he was pretty happy! I can see the anesthesia and high doses of steroids start to wear off him as the week went on. He’s still on prednisone 10mg 2x day (45 lb dog). 2 nights ago he had a seizure. I had opted NOT to put him on anti-seizure meds and since he had never had one before figured we should wait and see before we add another drug into his system. It lasted a little over 1 minute and then he was super dog after that and ran the house and the yard for about an hour and a half before deciding it was time to lie down and go to sleep. The neurologist called in a script for anti-seizure meds and we were told to give him 4 that night and then 2 twice a day there after… BOY DID THOSE MAKE HIM WEAZY and FOGGY and not a happy boy. They made him puke too. Today I played around with his meds a bit. I’m giving the anti-seizure ever 18 hours vs. 12… and so far he seems to be MUCH better – his wits are about him – still foggy but not so drunk. He can’t seem to hear me but he can hear the other dogs bark, and other really loud noises. His nose is a little off, and he’s not enjoying the foods he normally did – right now all he seems to be eating is pumpkin pie (not pumpkin – doesn’t want that), Before Grain chicken Kibble, and peanut butter molasses dog cookies – we’ll have to watch the blood sugar from what previous posts say. The day he had the seizure he had gone for a short walk, and maybe we over did it. He also had fallen down some stairs, and we live across from a government facility that has been testing some strange sounding weapons all week while they play war games over there – one sounded like some kind of death ray from star trek and made the house rattle – since he only had one seizure I’m hoping that that is what caused it. I don’t really like t he anti-seizure meds he’s taking but we’ll see how this change goes…
My understanding is that when tumors die they do grow as the swell and then the fluid gets reabsorbed into the body eventually – ideally, this is why they are kept on the steroids for at least a month after. From what I read tumors can start being affected within 2 weeks to 2 years after treatment – each situation is different but it is absolutely NOT an instant cure and you won’t see instant results if anyone is looking for that. The radiation affects the DNA of tumor cells during the mitosis process (remember biology 101?) When the cells split. During the normal mitosis (cell splitting) session the DNA will be copied exactly into both new cells, however the radiation messes with the DNA and the cell that splits off will have a different DNA coding that will make it do something else – hopefully die and not replicate.. at least that’s the plan. There’s always the possibility that the DNA can fix itself and the tumor may grow – or the tumor gets completely fried and completely dies, or the tumor just stays the same size and never grows or shrinks., Anyway – that’s what we signed up for.

Today is 8 days after his first CK treatment and he’s doing fairly well, still a little drunk but I think it’s the antiseizure meds. He was very clear on the pred. He’s still being a very picky eater – where he was eating styrofoam if he could at the hospital. I see him having a little more rapid heart rate, but that’s specific to the antiseizure meds. He gets up and goes potty when he needs to. He’ll ask to go, shows up at meal time to see what’s good , and if he can’t find me he’ll search the house for me. He’s taken to sleeping o the cold tile floor – but that’s definitely the antiseizure meds – side effect is being hot.
Also – I don’t know if anyone else noticed this in their dog when they had a seizure – but I noticed the tip of his tongue was bright red and the rest of his tongue was pink.. It was all moist – not like he had the tip hanging out and it was dry and red… Our holistic vet said that made sense – in Chinese medicine the tip of the tongue has something to do with the head and heart and the red is obviously heat
For anyone else considering this with a sr. dog – Dr. Joseph had another senior patient Max’s age who did CK early on and was still doing well a few years later. FEW YEARS!!! not just 1!
(Max has always been on one of those anti-cancer diets by the way – grain free, low carb, high protein, with plenty of exercise, we don’t typically do conventional medicine (including vaccinations – we titer) and he receives acupuncture fairly regularly – no real arthritis – although he has spondylosis according to the x-rays but you’d never know. All vitals,organs and bloodwork were good before this procedure… we just need to check his blood. I have him on milkthistle as well to help his liver/ kidneys with the prednisone as well.
Please keep your fingers crossed that Max does just as well. We really appreciate everything that everyone has posted previously , it has been encouraging, and has also helped us know what to expect. We’ll keep you posted with our progress.


  1. Hi, thanks for keeping up this blog. I wanted to also suggest LifeVax since Max has brain tumors. The equivalent procedure in humans is in clinical trials by a venture company called Northwest Biotherapeutics, and it was being investigated in brain cancer. So far, the trial has doubled survival, and tripled time to recurrence of tumor. Since LifeVax was a veterinary application of the human procedure, it should be encouraging for brain cancer. I think they offer it at Mount Carmel Animal Hospital in Monkton, MD. Check it out on Hope Max does well, regardless.

  2. Thanks Jyoon.
    That may be an option for others, but we have been involved in clinical trials with other pets and I swore we'd never do it again. We don't want the risk of all the side effects that come from something that is not time tested. We don't vaccinate as it is because of side effects. I think we have a very good track record with Max being 18, and we have another 18 year old dog, as well as a 15 year old, a 12 year old and an 11 year old dog, and an 18 year old and 13 year old cat. All in good health, especially for their age.

    We have always cooked our own food for them - mostly organic, whole foods, biologically appropriate for their breeds, we don't use any chemicals in the house or on our property, we don't vaccinate - asside from puppy /kitten vaccinations, rather we titer to make sure there are enough anti-bodies in their system. They also get plenty of excercise!

    Max has never been ill until earlier this spring in his entire 18 years! So I think that's a pretty good track record.

    As an aside, we live near a number of research scientists who work for the National Institute of Health and Cancer Institute and they all research on ways to take tried and true natural remedies from Chinese Medicine, Indian Medicine, Andian Medicine and Mayan Medicine and even Egyptian Medicine / folk medicine and try to modify the ingredients so that they can be patented. Every single one of these scientists say that they have NEVER been able to create a remedy as strong and effective without any side effects like the original formula that they are working on! To me that says we're doing the right thing (at least for us).

    Not sure if you are familiar with Dr. Burzynski but this is a clinical trial we WOULD consider because what he has been doing has been proven for over 30 years to be effective. There is a documentary about what he's been doing if anyone is interested. It's very powerful!

    In any event - we were very reluctant to do Cyberknife - it is radiation, but so far so good.

    Once this vaccination is time tested without any side effects, we may consider it.

    I'm not sure if you know, but the HPV vaccine that is supposed to help prevent cervical cancer that everyone ran out to get has been causing side effects... It all sounds good at first but stuff like this really needs to be time tested to know if it is going to really work, or make something else worse.. The last thing I would want to do is make my sick pet even sicker. We will certainly keep an eye on LifeVax and watch to see results over the next number of years