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2 months without you, nothing is the same.

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

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I can’t believe it’s been 2 months today since I said goodbye to my best friend, my protector, my baby boy, my hero. You were the most brave, amazing, courageous fighter I’ve ever know. You stared cancer in the face and declared it’d never win. You were right..we lived every day to the fullest, never wasted a moment, and learned to appreciate the small things. I will never again have the bond with anyone (human or otherwise) that I had with you – when I moved, you moved. I know you are now running pain free with all of your friends in a beautiful world, waiting for me. Not a single hour goes by that I don’t think of you – sometimes with laughter and smiles, sometimes with tears and anger..every day is different without you. Your sisters both miss you too..I think they think that I’m sleeping, but every night I see them. KaiKai gets down off mommy’s bed and curls up in your bed, and not 30 seconds later Meeky comes out from under the bed and sleeps on the floor next to her touching your bed. Like me, I think they feel close to you there. There’s a part of me that will never EVER be the same – a large part of me left with you, just like a large part of you stayed with me. But I have to believe that our journey was not one of sadness and agony, yet one of love and light…you taught me so much about life, love, and true friendship. Those lessons I will carry with me forever. Every sunset has more meaning, every flower more vibrant, every cool breeze full of life..in all of these things I feel you here with me still. I long for the day that we will be reunited again. As I come to the bridge – arms outstretched and home free, I know that I will see you running to meet me..that big goofy grin, eyes wide and laughing, tongue hanging out the side, and your ears flapping in the wind. And until that day my bear, watch over me my guardian angel. Mommy loves you today, tomorrow, always.
xo


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My sweet Angel Bentley. <3

Sunday, July 27th, 2014

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After sitting for two hours staring at a blank page, I finally wiped away enough tears and forced my fingers to type. Writing is therapeutic to me, but for some reason I have struggled to even think about putting this in print. Print is so final, so absolute. It’s real. If only I could edit the last few days from my memory, or better yet the last 8 months. 8 months tomorrow in fact, I still remember that day like it was yesterday. The second worst day of my life (the first now being Thursday July 24th). We decided after a couple days of a limp (doing rest and anti-inflammatories) that we’d better get Bentley in to see the vet. I went alone, assuming that this was going to be some type of minor injury (assuming he must have just sprained or pulled something). When I close my eyes I still remember the look on the doctor’s face when he pulled me into the room and said, “I want to show you something”. As if he needed to actually say any more. I knew right then and there was not just a simple injury. I recall sitting, staring at the screen for what felt like eternity – as if maybe I could erase it, if I stood still and stared long enough maybe I could will the cancer out of him? And then he said it – Bone Cancer. Cancer. Cancer. No matter how many times I say it, the word never loses its heaviness. That’s the only way I can think to describe it..as if there was all of a sudden this massive tank that fell from the sky and landed on you, suffocating the very breath right out of you and saying a big FUCK YOU to your happiness. Two words, that’s it..that’s all it took to destroy my world, knock the wind out of my sails, and forever change who I used to be. The 8 months that followed that day have been a whirlwind. I immediately went home and joined every online support group, research group, and sat up researching myself until my fingers were bleeding. We did diet change, boiled his drinking water, and had him on every possible immune bossting and cancer killing therapy known to man. There was no amount of time, money, or energy I would not spend to save my handsome man, my baby boy. On top of all of that (which I became to refer to as my second job); let’s not forget the X-rays, blood tests, oncology visits (who the fuck ever thought I’d need to be looking up and researching Oncologists!?!), surgery, vaccine therapy in Pennsylvania, and the waiting game – the good ole waiting game. Waiting for test results, waiting for the call that he was out of surgery, waiting to see if this supplement or that therapy worked. I have never been blessed with patience, that’s for damn sure. And I sure as shit don’t have patience when we’re talking about the life of the one sole thing that means more to me than anything else in this world. And all throughout this crazy whirlwind, never once was I discouraged, not once did I hang my head. In fact most people were amazed by my can do attitude. Not once did I let statistics dictate my life or our Cancer Journey. So what Bone Cancer is 95% fatal in the first 9 months? Fuck you cancer – you will not win, we will be one of the lucky ones. And I truly, whole heartedly believed it up until June 1st 2014 (if you’re keeping track, this we will mark as #3 on the ‘days I wish I could erase from history’ list). June 1st was the fourth visit to UPenn Vet School where Bentley was taking part in Dr. Mason’s Bone Cancer Vaccine Study. We were accepted into the study back in March, after Bentley finished his 4 rounds of Carboplatin Chemotherapy and showed clear chest films. However, unfortunately, on our first trip up to UPenn for his first vaccine – pre-vaccine testing showed visible signs of lung metastatic disease. Fuck you cancer, again (please excuse my vulgar language, you should probably stop reading now if you’re offended. Even after that damaging blow, positive patty crazy mother of Bentley I never stopped fighting. So what he had Bone Cancer, so what amputation and 4 rounds of Chemotherapy didn’t TOUCH his cancer and it had already spread to his lungs. Fuck you cancer – you will not win. So we continued on. We continued to drive to UPenn overnight every third Friday for 3 months, my husband and I would leave work early Thursdays and come up to load up the car, and Bentley – and drive through the night 10 hours to UPenn. Drop Bentley off for vaccine and then (attempt) to sleep in the parking lot for a few hours before picking Bentley back up and making the 10 hour drive home. Every trip to UPenn brought bad news, but we never stopped, we never threw in the towel, and we never cried. Fuck you cancer, you will not win. Now don’t get me wrong, there were definitely wins in there too. Every small victory I took as a huge win. The 4th day after amputation when Bentley started walking on his own, 1 point for us. The first real walk we did with his husky sisters after surgery, 1 point for us. Our (my husband & I) wedding day, Bentley made it to our wedding day and walked me down the aisle, which he promised me he’d do even after he got sick, 50 points (I think this deserves 1,000 – but I’m bias). Every day that we had that was a good, healthy day – you guessed it, 1 point for us. I think that must be what kept me going. All of those little small wins, kept me fighting for more good days. Something change on June 1st. After Bentley’s fourth vaccine, while he recovered and went through post-vaccine testing – my husband and I were at Allegro’s pizza having our usual vaccine day dinner before heading home. That’s when I got the call from Dr. Mason that Bentley was not doing well (for those of you who skipped over some of this atrociously long email, this is the day I said marked #3 on my ‘worst days ever’ list). She explained that Bentley’s system had some huge immune reaction to the vaccine and was causing some abnormal rhythm in his heart. Not only was his heart rhythm not normal, it was being initiated by the wrong chamber in the heart AND was beating at about 220 bpm, whereas a dog his size should be at about 50-70 bpm. It is ok for a dog to have small runs of abnormality or elevated heart rates, but when we’re talking about a heart functioning at supersonic speeds for any length of time…the worry is that it’ll quit. The heart is just not made to withstand that type of abuse. As I’m hearing all of this on the phone, that little voice creeps back in my head – fuck you cancer, you will not win. This is NOT the way our story ends. The next three days were all a blur. I spent 7 hours a day on the floor of a kennel in the ICU room at UPenn Vet hospital. But seriously, those people were amazing. With everything they had going on and all of the animals they were caring for, they let my husband and I hang out there with him all day. Ok, so back to what I started saying before – ‘something changed June 1st’, you with me? So, it was at this time that we knew the vaccine was no more. We were absolutely not willing to continue to vaccinate him in hopes of destroying cancer cells at the expense of his heart. Kind of pointless right? Can’t beat cancer if you’re ticker ain’t working. So that was it, after 4 vaccines we were done. I truly believed in this vaccine. I’d seen the proof, I absolutely believed that this could cure him. Granted, I knew that all of the other dogs ‘in remission’ from this vaccine were free of lung mets. But Bentley was strong, he was a machine, he was full of heart and fight, and he had a mother that would chew metal for breakfast and demolish buildings with a single blow. To be fair, maybe I exaggerated a bit there, but that’s how determined and badass I felt in fighting for him. So back to the drawing board we went. Our options at this point were to: try more chemotherapy (although at this point he had already had carboplatin, and we weren’t willing to give him anything that could have cardio-toxic effects because of his heart – so our options were few), try Palladia (could have significant positive effects, but only usually for a short period of time, and there are a lot of negative side effects), or try to load him up on supplements and love and hope for the best. Clearly, given my descriptions (for the 2 of you that are still reading this) we chose option 3. We were still holding out hope that maybe this crazy huge immune response that sent his heart all in a tizzy meant that it was going crazy destroying cancer cells…Fuck you cancer, be gone – all of you! Pow Pow Bang Bang! Ok, so clearly that was NOT what was going on in there, but that’s what I like to think was happening. We now know that it wasn’t, but I could not see continuing to put my precious boy through more after all he had endured over the past 7 months. Bentley has never liked going to the vets, in fact – I dare say he loathed it. He would (literally) JUMP in my lap when the vet tech would come out to bring us back into room (don’t forget my ‘baby boy’ I speak of is a 95 lb. Rotty). I could stand the thought of continuing to take him back in every week for blood work and needles and chemotherapy. Especially not after our last trip to UPenn and spending 4 days in the ICU, I think that was plenty of ‘vet time’ for both of us. I was at that crossroads where I started to ask myself, “Who are you doing this for – you or him?” It was at this time that I started to accept where our journey was heading. I had to start accepting the fact that maybe we weren’t going to win this fight, maybe the hand we were dealt was just bullshit and we were going to lose. So instead of moping around, we made a pact that we would treat every day as if it were our last. Not think about the future, but concentrate on today and the gift that it was. I have to fair, I cannot take credit for this completely – it was right around this time when I ordered the book “The Legacy of Beezer and Boomer”. Doug spoke to me, it really hit home. As I’m sure it does for a lot of us at this point in our journey – it’s hard to enjoy life when it seems as though everything is ending. But I tried, I tried REALLY hard. We spent every evening in the backyard playing in the pool and the sprinkler. We had a ‘no phone’ rule out back so that all of the time spent there would be focused on Bentley. It’s crazy when you stop and slow down, how amazing life really can be. I really started to appreciate the small things. I didn’t need any lavish vacations (although right about now I need one), spending time in the backyard with my husband and my dog doing nothing was absolute heaven. We did take one trip to the beach July 4th weekend (used to be Bentley’s favorite place to go), but unfortunately that’s when we noticed he was starting to slow down. He used to LIVE for the water. All of my fondest memories with him ALWAYS included water. Whether it was a lake, pond, ocean, pool, baby pool, hose, sprinkler, or shower – that boy LOVED water. I swear he thought he was a lab! But the ocean was tough for him now, I guess that’s what having only three legs will do to ya. The waves were more scary than enjoyable, and he started to seem more ‘I just wanna rest Ma’ than running around with his football like he used to. The car ride home from the beach was probably the worst 5 hours I had had in a long time. I’ll admit it, I’m not proud..but I did sit there in silence the entire 5 hours home and cried. Anticipatory grief at its finest. All I could think about was the fact that my son was dying in front of me and there was not a god damn thing on this planet I could do. All the money and energy in the world, and I was helpless. Fuck you cancer, I cannot let you win. He did perk up a bit when we got home (he has never been a huge van of new places and a lot of people so he definitely felt better when home), but as the days went by he seemed a little more tired and a little less playful. Every night we’d still go outside and enjoy our time together, but he’d start to take rest periods that were longer and longer in between playing and I knew that time was not on our side. I had a trip planned for this past weekend (July 19th) for a friends shower. I went back and forth about going vs. backing out and staying home – but I really had a hard time doing that for her. And I really thought Bentley was doing well. Yes he was slowing down – but he had never been very energetic anyway, and other than being a little more lazy – he was still himself. Man do I regret that. They say that fear and guilt are your two worst enemies. Let me just say that guilt has been a thorn in my fucking heart this past 7 days. My husband called me on Sunday (I was set to come home Monday) and told me that he thought that Bentley was not feeling well. Keep in mind, Bentley is an absolute Mama’s Boy through and through – if I go to the store for 5 minutes he will act like his world is ending. He hung on every word I said, every time I moved he’d move, and he absolutely LIVED for me. So I was not really that shocked that he seemed ‘down’. That all changed Monday night when my husband picked me up from the airport (with Bentley in tow of course). Usually when they’d pick me up from the airport, as soon as Bentley saw me he’d be all but JUMPING out the car window to land some kisses on me (‘the paintbrush’ we called it). However, this time I got an over the shoulder look of sadness. It nearly killed me. I knew right then and there my little boy was fading. It was almost as if me leaving did it, maybe he thought I was gone for good so he thought – ok, I can go now too. I know some believe that dogs will run away to die so that they’re human doesn’t see them like that. A large part of me believes that he didn’t want me to be a part of this. Tuesday morning when I woke up, my husband had gone to work – and I was off for the week because Bentley and I had already planned to complete our ‘bucket list’ this week. It was 11am before I could get him to get up out of bed (again, not completely abnormal for him because that boy LOVED his sleep) and as soon as I got him downstairs, out to pee, and fed breakfast – he was laying back down asleep. There was something about it though, it wasn’t as though he was just being lazy. There were a lot of times he’d just lay around, he was never very active – but I’ll be damned if he wasn’t laying down with his eyes GLUED to my every move. And you bet your ass if I went upstairs, he was at my heels. Not this time, not today. Today he was tired. I saw it in his face. I called my husband and told him that I was taking him in to get another round of x-rays. I just needed to know. I think I already in my heart knew, but I could never live with myself if it was something else going on that we could have fixed. As I lay there on the cold floor with him fast asleep, I noticed how much quicker his breathing seemed to be just in the last 12 hours since I’d been home. Like I said before, I had steadily noticed over the past several weeks that his breathing seemed to be slowing getting faster and shallower, but now I could really see it. The vet didn’t need to say anything when she came in and sat on the floor with us, I already knew. His lungs were REALLY bad. She said he had several more tumors and most of the existing ones had doubled in size. I didn’t ask her how long she thought he had, but when she asked me ‘What do you want to do?’ (implying that maybe I should say good-bye today?), I guess that was my answer. I elected to do a liter of Sub-Q fluids, she said he was a touch dehydrated and it may help to liven him up a bit. After getting his camel hump injected, we loaded up in the car, and I seriously contemplated just driving and never stopping. I asked Bentley if he thought that maybe we could out-drive cancer. Like, maybe if we just run away it won’t know where we live and then it’ll disappear? Man o man, the irrational thoughts of mama bear backed into a corner wanting nothing more than to protect her cub. Instead, we went home and laid on the floor – face to face, looking into each other’s souls. It was that moment that I saw it. He was ready to go. As much as I tried to ignore it and thought maybe it was just the fluids making his eyes look different, or maybe he really was just tired today – deep down I knew. He held my gaze and looked at me in a way that I have NEVER seen before. And god how I wish I could ‘unsee’ that look. When my husband came home and sat down with us, I told him what I thought we should do. I told him that I thought that we should plan to have this week together as we had planned, and let him go this weekend. As hard as it was for me to say that, I also knew that next week meant back to work for Mommy and a lot of alone time for Bentley. I could not imagine seeing him continue to decline, and then have him spending 9 hours a day at home ‘dying’. I would much rather spend every second with him and love and spoil him and let him go on a high note. As we were talking about this, I think I was absent for a part of it. All of a sudden it was like an out of body experience. This is NOT happening right now, this must be a bad movie. I am not seriously sitting here talking about when I’m going to kill my son, right? Fuck you cancer, I cannot believe you won. The next two and a half days were like a god damn nightmare. One minute I’m up, we’re laughing and having fun and playing in the pool, the next minute I’m down – Bentley is too tired and needs to rest and I run out to sit in my car and scream and cry. It was the worst. I actually found myself saying, I wish he would just die. Fucked up, I know. Please don’t judge me. But sitting there knowing that we were going to make the decision to KILL OUR SON, is quite possibly the worst feeling in the world. I thought that maybe if he made the decision to do it, then I would feel better about myself. Then Doug came back into my mind. BE IN THE PRESENT. So we tried REALLY hard to make the best of Tuesday, laughing and having fun, and taking a lot of naps. But I did the best to keep my positive patty pants on. Tuesday night was rough. I think I slept for all of 3 hours, in about 20 minute increments. Bentley wanted to sleep in the bed with us, but was hot and panted pretty much all night. I turned the AC down to 65 and blasted the fan. He had completely taken over my side of the bed, so I sat on the floor and nuzzled my head into his neck and rubbed his belly (we took our bedframe out weeks ago so that he could sleep in bed with us so although the floor was about as comfortable as a rock, the mattress was at perfect height for me to lay my head down with him). The only time that he would settle down was when I rubbed his belly. His panting would subside, and his breathing would slow. Granted, I was now dressed in ski socks, sweatpants, and a sweatshirt, feeling like a zombie – but I would do anything for him, and although it killed me to think he was uncomfortable…I would sit there and rub his belly watching him sleep forever if I could. I called a family meeting Wednesday morning with my husband and Bentley, Brandon now admitted that he too could see it in his eyes that he was tired (for the two days prior he insisted that he didn’t think he was ready). We made the decision that we could not let this go on any further. He was so tired, he had fought so long and so hard – but his body just couldn’t do it anymore. We decided that Wednesday night we would have a party, not a goodbye party – there were to be no tears (that was the rule on the invitation). We invited over all of our family and friends, he received more presents that he even knew what to do with, and ate enough chicken nuggets and pizza to feed a small army (they were his favs). It was a really nice change of pace and distraction for my husband and I, and it was so amazing to see how many people loved him. He got belly rubs and loving all night. He was in his glory, and for a few short hours – I almost forgot that he was sick. He played in the pool, chased his Wubbas (his favorite toy), and growled at his sisters if they even cast a sideways glance at his mountain of toys in the yard. At one point he actually just went and laid on his toy mountain. He didn’t want to play with them, just wanted to claim them. Wednesday night we made an appoint to have someone come to the house Thursday afternoon to help our sweet boy say goodbye. We’ll start a new list now and put this at the top spot for worst phone call to have to make. I think I dialed 5 times and hung up before actually letting it answer. I couldn’t make it three words without breaking down. “What time would you like me to come?” Umm, how about fucking never?! How the hell do you ‘pick a time’ to kill your dog?! How is this seriously fair? I don’t fucking get it. I am a huge believer in Karma, where the fuck is my Karma now? I ALWAYS do the right thing, pay it forward all the time, volunteer, donate to charity, feed the homeless, and always take care of others. When the fuck do I get to cash that in for my turn for good fortune? Can I do it now, because if I could that would be fucking great. So that was it, 3 o’clock tomorrow – death certificate stamped. Wednesday night seemed to be no better, I admit a small part of me thought maybe he’d have a miraculous turn around and we could call this whole thing off. Like when Ashton Kutcher jumps out and says ‘you’ve been Punked’, it was all just a bad joke that was being played on me right? Nope, sorry kid – better luck next time. We elected to sleep downstairs on the living room floor, because the trip upstairs last night seemed tiring and tough for Bentley. The panting and restlessness continued again, and again I slept on the floor next to the bed, rubbing his belly, in a parka. Thursday morning when we woke, it was immediately just a heavy feeling. The feeling I imagine an inmate on death row must have when they wake up on execution day. Although this wasn’t my execution, it was the loss of my whole heart. In hindsight, it was really stupid to do it for the afternoon. That day seriously dragged by. Hour by hour, counting down the time. We had some good moments of course. Daddy made Bentley Liver and Eggs for breakfast and he scarfed those down, we had cake and burgers for lunch, and even made it out for a couple sessions in the pool and sprinkler with our toys. But every time, Bentley would tire and lay down to sleep – and my husband and I would sit in silence staring at the clock. At 2:00 I set up our ‘spot’ up on Bentley’s hill in the backyard where he loved to sit. He’d sit out there surveying his land, watching his sisters play. He was the king of his castle, the ruler of this land, he was so proud. I decided that’s where we would spend our last hour together. I got out one of his favorite blankets, his favorite toys, and of course – chicken nuggets and liver bites. We laid up there and played with our toys, and snacked to our hearts content. My husband and I each spent some time alone with him, and continue to watch the clock tick by. Even just in that day, more and more we began to see a decline in his breathing – more panting, more labored breathing, and even coughing (which before Thursday happened maybe twice). It became painstakingly real that my son was dying. I was beginning to see his decline and it was KILLING me. I think I’d rather be stoned I decided. I actually think that would be less painful than those 8 hours of my life on Thursday July 24th. Then it came, the knock on the gate, she was here. She was here to take my little boy away forever. It nearly killed my husband, because when the vet walked through the gate Bentley immediately jumped up and attempted to run at her, barking his usual ‘this is my house’ warning. I have to admit, it was hard for me to see too – but at the same time a comfort. Again, one of Cancer’s fucked up mind games. It made me happy because I saw my boy was still there full of gusto and life so I was happy that he would go out as the big man protecting his house and his family. But, at the same time, sad because then I thought ‘well shit, maybe that’s a sign that he’s not ready to go yet?’ But really what I think it was, was him doing what he ALWAYS did, what he lived to do…take care of his mommy. But now it was my turn to take care of him for once. It was my turn to step up and make a decision that would nearly cripple my life, but would free him of pain and suffering forever. As hard as that 30 minutes was, for an instant a heaviness lifted off of my heart. I knew that he was free, I knew that he had 4 legs again and was running freely in all the oceans and pools and sprinklers he could imagine. With endless buffets of chicken nuggets and pizza. And I’m pretty sure that Wubbas also fall from the sky at the Rainbow Bridge, I’m sure he’s loving that. I have to say that although it was the worst decision to have to make, and the hardest thing to do – I could not have imagined it being any more peaceful for him. The first shot she gave him just made him very sleepy. He immediately stopped panting and his breathing became slow, which was oddly very comforting to me because he had been having a harder time catching his breath. I laid face to face with him, staring in his eyes talking to him the entire time. I watched as his eyes became more droopy, being sure to keep my face in his eyesight the entire time, smiling through my tears and fighting them back as much as I could – I gave it everything I had to make sure that he didn’t see me cry, and would just remember my smile. After 5 minutes of sleepiness, she administered the 2nd shot which she said wouldn’t take long. I placed my hand on his heart and clenched my necklace (a silver necklace with his picture on it I was given after his diagnosis, and have never taken off) as he took his last breaths. I needed to take those last heartbeats and be sure that I locked them away forever with my, in my necklace so he would be with me always. As soon as I felt him take his last breath and his heart stop, I lost it. I put my head down into the blanket and cried and screamed for 5 minutes. Like those cries you have that consume your whole body – shake every inch of your core and you feel as though you’d rather die than continue on in life. And just like that, it started to rain. I don’t know how quickly their trip to Rainbow Bridge is, but I took that as my first penny. I mean instantly, he was gone and the rain comes. They let us have a few minutes with him, and I just laid with him in the rain. Those few moments when we laid there, I actually felt peace. I knew we did the right thing and that he was safe now. I didn’t cry during those moments, the vet and funeral home director came back in with his ‘box’ and I stepped away while they placed him in it, when I stepped away – I stepped right into a pile of Bentleys dog shit. Another penny?! I’ll take it. After he was in there, they stepped away again so we could say our goodbyes. I packed him up with all of his necessities for his trip to Rainbow Bridge: his wubba, a few rawhides, treats and snacks, one of his two teddys that he slept with every night, and of course – his ‘cancer warrior’ cape. And that was it, just like that he was gone. I didn’t say a word, didn’t talk, I just went inside and started cleaning my house. Odd, right? It’s a funny thing that your mind sometimes does to protect your heart. I guess for me I just needed to keep moving, keep going, pretend that today was just a regular day. My house was also in complete chaos from the last three days because we had not spent two seconds of our time un-devoted to Bentley. I hadn’t showered, hadn’t put a single dirty dish away, and our bed was still set up in the living room. It had become clear to me that I couldn’t control everything, but there was something I could control and I needed to control it. So I cleaned, and I cleaned, for hours. I’d see something that reminded me of Bentley and I’d cry, break down for two minutes. And then I’d clean some more. My husband didn’t understand and had a very hard time watching me as I tore through the house and put away all of Bentley’s medicine, immediately demanded that we put our bed back on the frame and put our room back together. He didn’t get it, ‘we just lost our son two minutes ago, and it’s like you’re trying to erase him’ he said. But come yesterday morning, he understood. I was getting rid of cancer. Anything that reminded me of cancer, and Bentley being sick – it needed to go. I couldn’t look at it anymore, it repulsed me. Fuck you cancer, you took my son – my world, my everything…but I am still determined you will not win. It turns out that my whole ‘let’s just clean the house and it will fix everything’ only lasted a few hours. That night I did sleep though, probably partly because I hadn’t slept in three days and partly because I drank enough wine to kill a small horse and was probably almost comatose. None the less, sleep I finally did. Friday morning, brought a new day and a new feeling: unbridled, heart wrenching, uncontrollable loss and devastation. I woke up at 5am wide away staring at the ceiling. I don’t even think I was thinking about anything, just nothingness. I felt like I was the character on a walt Disney animation page – where I was in a scene of a movie, and then all of a sudden the illustrator erased everything except me, I was standing there in the middle of nothingness, blank, empty, nothingness. Now what? What do I do? Well it’s almost 6am, so Bentley needs medication soon – oh wait, no he doesn’t, I was fired from my cancer job. Fuck you cancer, I needed that job just like I need my son back. I don’t know that life is possible without him. He has been through the worst and best times of my life with me. The ONLY constant thing in my life over the past 7.5 years was him. It was just me and him, mommy and me, we were best friends. Granted, when he was 1.5 his Daddy and I got together – but at that point it was too late. He was a mama’s boy no doubt, no matter what he did he would never be as good as mama. I was his world, and he was mine (it’s ok, my husband knows that he was #2). So what now? I must have laid there and asked myself that same question 4958 times before I decided that the answer was to ‘get into his bed and cry for 4 hours’. And so I did. That was when it hit me that he was really gone. My husband also must have been having that same thought, because as he got ready to go to work (part of his morning routine being to lay with Bentley and have some snuggles before heading out) – he stopped to lay in Bentleys bed on the floor and cry. I don’t know what’s harder, feeling my pain – or seeing my husband’s pain. My rock, my protector, my provider, crippled by the loss of our son…I’m really not sure which is worse. After hours of laying in his bed and crying I decided to pull out the computer and take a trip down memory lane. I went back to 7.5 years ago when that little shit was biting me through the fence of our neighbor’s house. Bentley was the puppy of our neighbor’s dog, so they had him at the house and were trying to find a home for him. I was in no way looking for a dog, but I fell madly in love with the little bastard biting me across the fence and from that day we were inseparable. I spent the rest of the day looking at old videos and pictures: trips to the lake, trips to the beach, endless summer days in the pool, and spending rainy Saturdays lounging (literally) on the couch with Daddy. It was amazingly therapeutic for me, I didn’t cry at all for 5 hours, I laughed and smiled A LOT. I decided to focus on the first 6.5 years of his life and stay in those moments, looking at pictures of the last 8 months is too hard for me now. I know they are part of our journey and our story, but for now I find myself needing to remember only the best of times – before he was sick, those were the best days of our lives. God he was so amazing, so full of life, so full of love. One look at his face and all was right with the world. Friday afternoon Bentley came back to us, and since then I have taken him with me wherever I go. Don’t judge me. I also have his other teddy that he slept with every night and I put his collar and bandana on it and that goes with me too. Being in the house is hard for me, and I know I will cry every day, several times a day for quite a while I’m sure. There will be moments that I lose it, those moments where he was ALWAYS present (waking up, coming home from work, going to bed, etc.) that are going to be REALLY hard for me for a while. But I know better days will come. I know that eventually the pain will subside, and we will have good times and laughs again. Today my husband and I actually forced ourselves to go out to the movies (still not feeling social, but it’s hard to sit home and cry all day too) and enjoyed a few laughs and a walk downtown. It was nice, it showed hope. It showed me that with great love, will always come great loss. But what is better – to live a life with no great love? I don’t think that’s really living at all. So I’ve decided that Cancer didn’t win. You may have taken Bentley’s physical body, but you can never take his soul, his love, or his spark of life. He will live on in me, and in our cherished memories of all the amazing times we had with him. As I sit up on our hill now putting in writing the very raw emotions and feelings of my soul, I find peace. This is our spot, this was his favorite spot, and I know that he is still here watching over me. Every time the cool breeze blows, I feel him here with me. Run free & play Baby Boy, wait for me at the Rainbow Bridge where we will meet again. I love you, my sweet Angel Bentley.

And today the sun is shining again..

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014
I have to tell you, when I sat down the other day to write/vent/cry/scream..I did not at all expect the responses that I got. Not that I didn’t know that I was part of an AMAZING, beyond amazing, no words to describe you amazing people group..but damn. I am sorry it has taken me so long to respond. It took me awhile to get through all of the messages. I want you to know that I cried with every one of you, hugged each and every one of you through the computer with every single message.

I really truly wanted to respond to every single message, because they were AMAZING. Seriously AMAZING. I was SO touched and honored, and TRULY felt like I had every single one of you cheering me on from the finish line. I hope you know that I am saving all of these, and I cherish every single one of you. I just know that if I sit to respond to every one – that is alot of time away from my sweet boy. So…

To those of you who have angels up there watching over us, whether you write often or just read posts and pray for all of us: thank you so much for reliving some of your pain and heartbreak to give me the advice and strength I need to finish my battle. I know that it must have been hard to go back to these moments that I’m living now in your battle with your babies, but from the bottom of my heart thank you. Thank you for the advice on how to ‘stay in the moment’ and ‘how to cope’ when it’s time to grieve. THANK YOU, and know that I know – that your sweet babies are up there still looking over my boy and when his day comes he will have a huge family of friends up there waiting for him.

To those who are currently fighting their battle, and going through what I’m going through right now: Thank you for taking time out of your struggle, out of your fight – to listen and lend a shoulder when I need it most. You should be focusing on just your baby and your battle because as we all know..they require every ounce of love and courage we can muster. But THANK YOU for sharing some of your courage with me, to pick me up and say, ‘let’s go, we can do this..together’. THANK YOU, and please give your babies a kiss for me and know that I will continue to think of you and send you strength in this difficult time.

So tonight after I got home I was still feeling pretty down – so I got a bottle of wine, and came out back with the dogs to get some fresh air. As I’m sitting here reading through messages of strength and courage and messages of hope and ‘living in the moment’. Bentley starts acting more like himself, he’s playing with toys, scarfed down his dinner, and relaxing in the yard with his sisters. All of a sudden, just as he did a couple weeks ago – he sits out on his hill and barks at me very loudly and just stares at me. I was still reading emails, so I set down the ipad, grabbed my wine – and went out and sat down next to him. Sure enough, he laid right now next to me leaning on me and just relaxed. His sisters then came and laid down with him too – they NEVER lay down next to each other and especially not for more than 2 seconds. That was my moment of awakening. Bentley is still here, he is still alive. And although my days with him are numbered – I have plenty of time to be sad and grieve without him here. Now is time to enjoy him. You are all SO right, I could not thank you enough for letting me vent, scream, and cry..but most importantly for helping me to see what a truly wonderful gift I have sitting in front of me that I need to enjoy!!! I will continue to try to write as much as I can, but will probably write less as I enjoy more time with Bentley. Please know that I will continue to think of every one of you always, and send lots of love to you always! Here are a couple pictures from my husband took (please disregard my disarray as I had cried the entire day before). 🙂

Kate and Bentley
xo

The healing of the Island and the hard trip home.

Monday, July 7th, 2014

So as I posted earlier, we decided to take Bentley out to the island for the holiday weekend to get away and enjoy the beach. We definitely did just that! Bentley was very slow getting around, and definitely had little energy. Although we very much enjoyed our time there, when we got ready to leave – I lost my shit. As irrational as this thought it, I somehow felt that staying out on the island meant I was keeping him alive – and if we came home he was just going to die. I guess maybe because the island is my peace, my outlet, my happy place..so when we’re there ‘reality’ doesn’t seem real. I also know, that coming home meant going back to work – and having to leave Bentley’s side. Especially now that he’s sick, all he wants is Mommy (he has always been a HUGE mama’s boy anyway). He literally lives for me.  No one else (even my husband, poor guy) matters when Mommy is around and visible. I literally cried the entire way home from the island. I have NO idea how I am going to live without him. And I know that he is here with me still, but I cannot stop thinking about what my life will be like when he’s gone. So many things will be different. I try to find the good in things, like “well, if he is no longer here then I’ll have more time to go out with friends and not feel guilty going for a run right?”. Is that fucked up or is it just me? That I’m trying to convince myself there is good in letting him go. Of course I know it will be the right decision to make when he is suffering. But seriously why? I guess I’m at that “Why us?” stage right now because I am NOT dealing very well with the fact that my dog is dying and there is not a god damn thing I can do about it. We drove up to Pennsylvania every three weeks and deprived ourselves of sleep for an entire weekend to do so. We spent $500+ a month on food and supplements, don’t even get me started on vet visits, chemotherapy, and amputation surgery. All the money that we have, and all the money we’ve spent..no matter what I cannot BUY his health. And it KILLS me. Isn’t that what you see in the movies and on TV, people with money always get things that they want and all their problems are solved. So why can’t I take every penny we have and make it go away? Because I can’t. It’s a fucking monster, attacking my son. And there’s not a damn thing I can do to stop it. And people probably think I’m crazy right? My boss doesn’t understand why I’m sad everyday. Because people that are not crazy dog people like us – think that we’re looney for feeling this way about a dog. He’s just a dog. No, he is my world. My best friend. The ONE and ONLY thing that has been through all of the worst and best times of my life. He never left my side, he has been my comfort, my happiness, my BEST FRIEND. He never ever judges, never ask questions, and never complains..he is just there, exactly what I need from him. I know that no matter how much time he has on this earth, even if it was 20 years – it’d NEVER be enough. Every second I spend away from him, literally feels like my heart is being ripped out of my chest. I know that our days together are numbered, I literally had to convince myself that it was NOT a good decision to pack a bag and take him and just drive away with him. As if running away from things is going to stop his cancer. If there was just something I could do!!!!!! But I can’t, and for a serious control freak like myself – something I cannot control, destroys me. Cripples me. Every inch of me. I know that I need to snap out of it so that I can enjoy the time I have with him, but it is killing me. I know that I need to wait to grieve until it’s time, but that is a whole lot easier said than done. On a positive note, when we got home last night Bentley scarfed down dinner (he wasn’t eating much while we were away), and he seemed to pep up when he got outback in the yard (seemed so lethargic all weekend at the beach). I’m trying to stay positive that we have alot more time together, which is usually so easy for me because I’m such a positive person..but I am really struggling right now to find my positive pants. We are starting him on Ip6 and Essiac Tea this week, so maybe we’ll have some help there? Then I also struggle with the fact that I have a bachelorette party I’m supposed to go to in MD in two weeks, and then three weddings in September (all in New England). I literally don’t want to do anything except be with him, it kills me to go to work for a few hours, how will I make it a weekend away from him if he’s still here when I have to go?

Here are a few pictures from this weekend, until next time..

Kate and Bentley

xo

Not ready to say good-bye!

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

 

So we rescanned Bentleys lungs on Tuesday, and finally heard back from Dr. Mason with the results last night, and they were less than favorable. The 5cm mysterious mass has grown slightly (meaning that it is probably not a lymph node swollen because it’s killing cancer – if it were she would expect to see it shrink by now). The other nodules that we’re already in his chest – most have grown slightly, a couple have stayed the same. And then there are additional nodules that have now popped up too. All signs point to, his cancer is very aggressive, and although the vaccine absolutely slowed it down – it wasn’t enough to stop it. Last night and today I have been a mess, although I usually don’t let him see me cry – last night I laid with him for hours and just cried. I think I honestly convinced myself that the vaccine was working, and he was really tired lately and had less energy because his immune system was working so hard to kill cancer..NOT because he is dying. Although I know that is inevitable now, and I have been preparing myself for that for 6 months..I still cannot grasp that. Will I ever? Now I torture myself because we had decided after our stint in the ICU that we were done with treatment options, and that we were going to just enjoy our time together..but now that very hard for me to agree to when I know there are other treatments out there. And what if Bentley is still one of the lucky few that could find the right treatment that just all of a sudden obliterates the tumors in his lungs?!? But we’re not living in a fantasy world right..that is highly unlikely to happen at this point. But how do I sit here and just let him die? But by doing Palladia, with this type of cancer and how aggressive it is – it would probably only give him a couple extra months. So then I’m just prolonging the inevitable..when is the right time for him to die, now or in 3 months? Please tell me that I’m not the only one w ho tortures themselves like this?!? What about the metronomic protocol, could they buy us more time while not having to poke and prod and torture him at vets every week?

We left today for the island, and we were going to leave Bentley home (because there are 2 other dogs there, one that doesn’t like other dogs). But now I’ve decided that the other dogs have to go home and we’re on our way to the beach now. We were supposed to go to the island the week of July 20th for a week there with just us and Bentley – on his bucket list. But now my fear is that he’s going to continue to get worse, and won’t be able to enjoy the beach in a couple weeks. So we need to take him now, this may be our last trip together. Can’t believe those words are coming out of my mouth..

Sorry for the ranting, and as always thank you for letting me vent. I don’t know what is do without this family. Handsome boy is sound asleep in the back seat right now, and although we’re driving straight to the center of hurricane Arthur, I know this weekend is going to be filled with amazing memories for my sweet boy. Were thinking that we’re going to up his Tramadol and Gabapentin, and add in Prednisone to help keep him happy. We’re also adding on Ip6 and Essiac Tea and will hope for the best!

Hugs and Sloppy Rotty kisses for all

xo

 

 

 

These are the moments..

Friday, June 27th, 2014

As crazy as this journey has been, and trying to myself and my husband – physically, mentally, emotionally..I don’t know if I would trade a minute of it for anything. As crazy as that sounds, there are moments like the one I am going to share from this morning that almost makes me wonder if we’re here on this journey together for a reason. I sometimes think that maybe he’s here to teach me to slow down, to enjoy life, to love a little harder and breathe a little more. You can’t tell me these amazing creatures were put here just because..I know he has a deep calling with that look in his eyes. So anyway, here we go. In the morning Bentley usually makes me drag him out of bed to go eat and potty. He’s pretty much always been like this, except for the couple weeks he was on steroids and then he’d run me over to get to food haha. But this am he came down and went right outside, and usually he’ll just pee and then want back in. Today, he went out and wandered around with his sisters a minute so I went back in to fix their breakfast.  All of a sudden I hear barking (thought he was telling me to let him in), so I go look – and he’s sitting up on the hill in the trees just sniffing and frolicking. So I said, “you’re a silly boy, are you having fun out there?” Turned back around and went back inside to finish breakfast and clean up. 3 seconds later barks again, same routine, 3 times we do this and I’m sure at this point my neighbors are annoyed. So finally I go outside and see if there’s something up there he’s seeing or something bothering him..I sit down next to him, he looks at me, licks me from chin to forehead with a big goofy grin..and then continues to look around and watch the birds. We sat like this for 15 minutes, side by side, my arm around him.  This was him, and the world, telling me that dishes weren’t important – but this moment here with him – will never get back. God he is so right!! From a control freak, OCD, Anal, schedule and routine obsessed woman..it is so often impossible for me to ‘live in the moment’. But boy is this cancer monster ever a reason to do so..and he is showing me everyday what truly matters in life. It’s moment’s like these that make me wonder if we’re on this crazy caner ride for a greater purpose, and if in fact he was sent to me for something more than belly rubs and a shoulder to cry on. <3

 

Love and kisses to all!

Kate and Bentley

xo

Handsome boy enjoy his backyard on this beautiful Friday morning!

Handsome boy enjoy his backyard on this beautiful Friday morning!

And the Battle continues..

Friday, June 27th, 2014
Seriously, when can we catch a F****** break??!? WTF?!

Sorry it has taken me so long to update, we’ve been super busy! But we did actually rescan Bentley’s heart and lungs since returning from PA and now we’re even more in the dark and confused than before. Good news is that his heart seems to be 100% normal again which is fantastic!!! But, Xrays show a 5cm mass in his lungs. A mass, that was not AT ALL visible when we did chest scans last month when we were in PA. :/

The radiologist down here that read them, of course called me and gave me condolences assuming that my dog was dying. After talking with Dr. Mason however, she feels like it may be more likely something else. So yet again we come to a horrific crossroads. There are basically two possibilities:

1. The mass is in fact a tumor, and if that’s the case – it is unlikely that anything we do at this point is going to slow it down or stop it (considering it just appeared and grew to 5cm in just two weeks). If it is a tumor, we could go super aggressive and try another round of chemo or palladia and try to stabilize it or we could just go home and enjoy the time we have with him.

2. The ‘mass’ that is being seen, is located RIGHT where the lymph nodes in the chest are located. Dr. Mason is leaning more towards this, as her team has analyzed and re-analyzed everything..and they just don’t think it makes sense that it’s a tumor for several reasons. First off, she says that the other nodules that were in his chest (that we’ve been monitoring the last 3 months) HAVE NOT GROWN since the last xrays – woohoo! So, it really makes no sense that his lung mets that are visible have seemingly become stable and have not grown in the past two weeks – yes there’s this huge 5cm tumor that has all of a sudden popped up?! Secondly, Bentley is more hyper and playful and full of life than he’s EVER been..which also seems odd for a dog that is apparently quickly progressing in late stages of cancer in his lungs? Also, doesn’t make sense. And we do know that the vaccine had a HUGE immune response this last time, because of what happened to his heart. So, following this theory, it makes sense that his immune system is in overdrive attacking cancer in his lungs – which would then cause huge inflammatory response in his lymph nodes which would then be visible on xray! If this is what is happening, ANY supplements or chemotherapy agent that we add to his system – could actually suppress his immune system and stop it from attacking cancer cells. We assume that maybe this is what’s happening, especially since his other nodules have not grown at all.

So now – we either sit back and wait, hope and pray that it is an immune response and when we re-radiograph chest next week..cross our fingers the the ‘mass’ has not grown and that his nodules have stabilized or even shrunk.

OR

We assume that it’s a tumor and go ahead and up the supplements and add in everything we can and then re-radiograph again next week.

So for now we’re sitting tight and repeating chest films next week. I truly, in my gut, feel as though if this is a tumor and it is growing that rapidly – I just don’t believe there’s any miracle cure that will stop this and I want to just enjoy time with him. And secondly, I truly believe in the vaccine we did with him (otherwise i would not have driven overnight 10 hours every 3 weeks for it!), so taking into account the reaction that his immune system had this last round of the vaccine..something must be working right?!!?

Ughh. Roller Coaster ride is right..I’m so over it though. Thank you for letting me vent, I’d really love any opinions out there. Unfortunately, Bentley is the ONLY DOG in the world that has gone through this vaccine with lung mets and is still alive so we really have NOTHING to base this on..that’s why it’s all just a flip of a coin really.

Love and hugs to all!!

His favorite thing to do when we can't be on the island for real is to pretend he is! :)

His favorite thing to do when we can’t be on the island for real is to pretend he is! 🙂

This boy has my heart!

This boy has my heart!

Sibling love. <3

Sibling love. <3

Silly boy helping Mommy in the garden!

Silly boy helping Mommy in the garden!

kate and bentley
xo

 

Nobody said it was going to be easy..

Sunday, June 8th, 2014

As I sit here to write this long overdue entry, I don’t even know where to begin. So much has happened over the past month!! I guess I will start where we left off – Bentley did go receive his third vaccine on 5.8.2014 and everything went well. Chest scans did show some more growth in the initial lung tumor and two more additional lung mets popped – but she said that it was NOTHING compared to what you normally see once there are mets in the lungs. So, we are hopeful that maybe that means that the vaccine is working?!?

After we got home from Bentleys third vaccine, we packed up the car and headed to the beach! Brandon and I were getting married on May 17, and we were having a destination wedding. So our wedding party and most of our family – went down the week before for vacation and to celebrate. Bentley LOVES the beach so he was very excited! The week down on the island was not nearly as relaxing as I had hoped it would be – I spent a good part of each day doing errands for the wedding and getting last minute stuff taken care of.

The wedding was beautiful, we had perfect weather – and although we ended up being over an hour behind schedule, everyone had a great time and our ceremony could not have been more perfect! And of course, Bentley was the ring bearer so it was amazing to be able to have him be a part of our special day! After the wedding week, Brandon and I went to Jamaica for a MUCH NEEDED week of down time. After planning a destination wedding for a year, everything going on with Bentley and trips back and forth to PA every three weeks, and then the week of the wedding which was just chaos..Jamaica was a god send! We did a whole lot of nothing, laid on the beach all day and stuffed ourselves with delicious food and drinks at night. While we were gone the kids got to have a week full of Auntie Vera who stayed at our house with them. It was an odd feeling once it was all over..I spent a year and a half pouring myself into this event and then in a blink of an eye it was all over. And sadly, I couldn’t even tell you what the ballroom looked like, whether or not the cigar bar on the veranda was any good, or how the centerpieces looked. It was definitely much different than I imagined our wedding day being, but I guess it makes sense – I was being pulled in 5908308 different directions all at the same time, felt like I didn’t seen any one person for more than 30 seconds, and honestly only saw my husband for our first and last dance. I have to tell ya, if we had to do it all over again – I think we’d elope and save the $30,000!!!!! I guess at the end of the day, everything is paid for we don’t owe anyone a dime and we are married. Our ceremony was absolutely perfect, and that’s what really matters. 🙂

So after reality sets back in and we’re back home, we have to turn around and go up to Pa on that Thursday (got home Monday the 26th)! Still not unpacked from vacation before the wedding, the wedding, or Jamaica, we get back in the car and head up to UPenn just like every other time. Assuming everything would go as it has every other time, we head back to pick Bentley up after vaccination to get on the road back home..and I receive a phone call from Dr. Mason. During Bentleys routine discharge testing that they do – they found that his EKG was showing abnormality. Not just a little abnormality..his heart rate was 220 (a dog his size should be between 50-90), and his heart was in complete VPC rhythm (which means that his sinus node was not working at all and his heart was firing from all other places in the heart and not where it was supposed to be). This is/was a side effect of the vaccine and we knew that going into it. However, the ‘side effect’ that they typically see is that during vaccination – the heart rate will increase a little and they will have an occassional VPC rhythm and then it’ll just go right back to normal. NEVER have then seen this reaction, in any scenerio at that hospital. Dr. Mason was very concerned, as anytime the heart is not in sinus rhythm – especially when it is that abnormal and with a heart rate off the charts..there is a great risk for heart failure. The heart was just not meant to function like that, especially for any period of time. They immediately moved him into the ICU where he remained for 4 days..the scariest and most emotional 4 days of my life. I actually think it was about 1000 times worse than the cancer diagnosis..which we all know is a death sentence. But this? no way, not now and not like this..we just go married, we have so much more to do together, and did I do this to him? If he dies right now I will NEVER forgive myself for putting him through this. It’s crazy what our mind goes through when we are suddenly stabbed in the chest (what it felt like). I think the worst was when she called us later Friday night – they had him hooked up to an IV and they had him on a CRI of beta blockers and membrane stabilizers to try to calm down his heart. They used lidocaine first, which caused him to have seizures. After doping him up to stop the seizures, they tried a different drug..which had no effect. The phone call we received after that when she had to ask me “How far we wanted them to go to bring him back if he did go into cardiac arrest?” – that was the turning moment for me. The moment that stopped me in my tracks and had me doubled over on the floor..shit just got real. She insisted that we come in to see him for a visit before bed ‘in case anything happened’. It was hands down the worst 24 hours of my life. Sunday morning however, brought good news..it seemed as though they had found the right combination of drugs to start to calm everything down..his heart rate was moving in the right direction. By Monday afternoon, they had increased some of his meds, and his heart rate was down to 80-110!!! He was starting to have some sinus rhythms coming through, which told her that his sinus node did still function properly and that there had hopefully not been any permanent damage (she was afraid after such a long period of time of abnormal function that his heart may not ever recover). I just have to add in here, that Dr. Mason, Dr. Hezzell (cardiologist there), and the ICU team are AMAZING. I have literally NEVER had so many people that GENUINELY cared so much about Bentley. I’m pretty certain that after an 80 hour work week, Dr Mason and Dr Hezzell didn’t leave Bentleys side the entire time..unbelievable. They were all so amazing, I could not ever imagine a better group of people to take care of my boy. I am seriously going to miss all of them!

We ended up coming home on Tuesday, still on a ridiculous drug regimen that has me up 24/7..but I’ll take that any day over the alternative. We did see a cardiologist on Friday to have an EKG done and it seems as though he is almost in complete sinus rhythm! We’re hopeful that we can start to decrease his meds, and that in a couple weeks he will be off of everything and have a completely normal functioning heart again!

So, what went wrong? And did anything in fact go wrong? Bentley had previously received this same vaccine, at the same dosage, three times. There are other dogs in this study who have received 5-7 vaccines and shown no side effects from more than 3 vaccines. Here’s the difference – Bentley has metastatic disease, the other dogs did not. There have only been 3 other dogs in this study, and unfortunately 2 of them passed away before receiving the 3rd vaccine (because the disease progressed so fast). And the third, just actually had a single nodule removed from their lung surgically because their cancer was seemingly “stable” after receiving the vaccine (meaning the disease wasn’t progressing any and the tumor wasn’t growing). So here’s the catch 22: the vaccine was created and designed to mount an immune response so that Bentley’s immune system will be ‘trained’ to attack and kill cancerous cells in his body. If Bentley has a GOOD immune response (meaning the vaccine is working really well and his immune system is on overdrive seeking out cancer), it will cause alot of inflammation (he usually gets a fever during vaccine, nausea, and kind of poopy feeling – much like you or I would if we have a virus). This is GREAT, and exactly what we hope will happen so that his body can hopefully fight this cancer. However, when the immune system gets all jacked up and inflamed and ready to kick ass..it releases something called cytokines, which can cause heart issues. We’re hopeful that this heart issue is going to settle down and that he is not going to have any long term effects, first and foremost. But, we’re also hoping that maybe the vaccine did have some effect on his lung tumors – and who knows, maybe a miracle?

We have obviously chosen not to re-vaccinate him, and Dr. Mason agrees. This is the response that we wanted, but not at the expense of his heart or his life. So, now we start over again. We are taking the next week or so to see how things settle down with his heart, and then we will re-evaluate and decide where to go from here. We still have options for chemotherapy, palladia, etc. but we’re not sure what we want to do if anything. There is some research to suggest that the vaccine and chemotherapy could have a synergistic effect, but everything of course is a gamble. If his heart is in any way compromised from this, we will not move forward with any other type of treatment – and will just take the time we have left with him and enjoy him. We do not want to put him through anything like what we went through last week, it’s just not worth it. If his heart goes back to completely normal with no effects, then we may consider chemotherapy or palladia but need to speak with oncologist first and weigh the options. We have to face reality..he’s probably not going to live alot longer, and I definitely want to enjoy whatever time we have! Not that I would not do anything, and spend all of our savings for him – but I want to make sure that it’s worth it for him!

So, that’s where we are currently! Whew, just typing all of this makes me tired. But my Bentley bear? He’s fast asleep on my feet dreaming peacefully right now..and I couldn’t ask for more. <3

Silly boy enjoying his week on the beach with his football!

Silly boy enjoying his week on the beach with his football!

My handsome ring bearer waiting for me at the alter. <3

My handsome ring bearer waiting for me at the alter. <3

Family photo from the wedding. :)

Family photo from the wedding. 🙂

Family fun.

Family fun.

 

Bentley's last day in UPenn ICU..happy boy because we told him we were going home!

Bentley’s last day in UPenn ICU..happy boy because we told him we were going home!

2/3 at UPenn and still holding steady!

Friday, April 18th, 2014

So here we sit in the waiting area at UPenn Hospital..waiting for the call that vaccine was administered without complication and he’s doing well. I haven’t slept in 30 hours, probably smell, and feel like crap because I just ate a huge piece of pizza and French fries out of pure boredom yuck! BUT, I am so happy to report that this weeks news, although not perfect – is a much needed relief. Lung scans show no addition metastatic disease, and only about 4mm in growth of the nodule that was there.  Well take it!!!! Although there was still growth, studies have indicated that it takes 2-3 vaccines before showing any signs of progress. Previous dogs in this study with metastatic disease did not make it because their lung disease progression was too rapid for them to survive trough the third vaccine. We’re staying hopeful that the tumor will continue to progress very slowly (or in better scenario, start to go the other way) so that he will be able to successfully receive all 3 vaccines in order to give it a chance to work! All in all he is still his silly self, and until that changes – we keep pushing forward and fighting one day at a time! The next time we come up to PA for his third and final vaccine, we will be heading on vacation right afterwards to Bentleys favorite place on the island! He LOVES the beach, and I cannot wait to spend the week with him there, and honestly I wouldn’t be surprised if he comes home cured! 🙂

My two boys napping on our way to PA. <3

My two boys napping on our way to PA. <3

First trip to PA, was not what we had hoped for.

Monday, March 31st, 2014
Just picked up handsome man, heading home!!!

Just picked up handsome man, heading home!!!

Snuggled up with Teddy, sleeping in the drive home.

Snuggled up with Teddy, sleeping in the drive home.

That face, seriously...

That face, seriously…

As I posted last time, we headed up to PA this past Thursday night for Bentley’s first vaccine with Dr. Mason’s study at UPenn. It was a LONG journey, as Brandon and I had both worked all day and then packed the car and drove 9 hours through the night. We arrived at 8am for pre-vaccine testing, and then they would administer the vaccine and do all of his follow up work. Unfortunately, during pre-vaccine testing – they found what ever parent dreads going through this..a nodule in his lung. My heart broke, again. Just when we thought we were going to beat this and everything would be fine.. we sat out in the car and cried for an hour (much better than the week I cried after Dx), and then I went back into bad ass fighting mama mode. After driving overnight 10 hours, having gone  36 hours with no sleep – we then had to decide if we wanted to take Bentley home and do something else (Palladia), or give the vaccine a try. After speaking with our Onc and Dr. Mason (head of the study), we decided to go ahead and give the vaccine a try. Since this is still in trial phase, there is not really any concrete evidence as to whether this vaccine can help get rid of lung met or not. There have only been 2 other dogs in the study with lung mets, but they were vaccinated at 1/3 the dose that Bentley will receive – and they had MUCH more metastatic growth in lungs. Bentley has only one nodule, about 2mm in size so we’ve caught it extremely early! We know that Palladia is an option, and has shown some promise – but we also know that it only gives an average of about 6 months – where as the vaccine is showing 1.5-2 years so far. We have decided to go ahead and give the vaccine a chance to work, and are going to keep Palladia as our back burner option if it seems as though the vaccine isn’t touching lung met. Dr Mason, and a friend of mine who is a research pharmacist who I trust very much – feel as though we should take Bentley off of all of the supplements he’s on right now to allow maximum efficacy of the vaccine. This is very scary for me, as I feel like I’m not doing all that I can if I take away supplements – but this vaccine has so much promise and potential to do amazing things for him, and since none of the other dogs that have had amazing results were on anything…I feel as though we’ve gotta give it a shot. Well be monitoring his met very carefully, doing chest rads every couple weeks – and will head back up to PA on April 18the for his second vaccine. As far as the actual vaccine, Bentley did well! He did have a fever, which is normal, but did not experience any severe side effects, nausea, or anything! He did end up staying overnight, but that’s because we ended up starting vaccine so late after lung met incident. He was very tired when we picked him up Saturday so he slept the whole 9 hours on the way home..but yesterday he was back to his silly self! It ended up working out great, I have a good friend that lives in Philly that I hadn’t seen in years so we went out for dinner and drinks with them and I had my first REAL Philly cheesesteak! 🙂 All in all mostly good news – camcer sucks and lung mets suck..but Dr Mason is absolutely amazing and was so good with Bentley and very helpful and caring with us – we are in great hands. And we’re staying hopeful that maybe Bentley will be the trailblazer and be the first dog to go into remission with lung mets in this study! Maybe he’ll go down in history and save lots of other babies! Still taking it one day at a time and enjoy every minute with my handsome man! Here are some pics from our trip.