Unearthing creative possibilities: Trish Roque's website, personal blog, & portfolio

Posts Tagged ‘Siwa’

Drawing everyday is cathartic: day 27

Drawing everyday has not only been good for me but has also been quite a transformative experience. The changes are subtle but I’ve noticed how I’m starting to “see” differently. I’m starting to perceive the world in the language of drawing, that is, seeing form, shape, line, and depth. The last time I experienced this was the last time I drew almost everyday, back in college, which seems like a very long time ago.

It feels good to draw. I’m also looking forward to expanding my vocabulary of drawing to include color and texture. This will require that I move beyond my trusty and comfortable ball point pen and start experimenting with other tools.

In the meantime, here are several drawings with my trusty ball point pen on day 27:

This is Siwa, my 14 year-old dog, who has been fighting cancer for the past 2 years. Shes one of the sweetest souls Ive ever known. Jon laughed when I showed him this drawing. His response was, oh, just like the other 47 drawings of her in this pose. Yeah, this is pretty much her only state of being right now. But I still love her!

This is Siwa, my 14 year-old dog, who has been fighting cancer for the past 2 years. She's one of the sweetest souls I've ever known. Jon laughed when I showed him this drawing. His response was, oh, just like the other 47 drawings of her in this pose. Yeah, this is pretty much her only state of being right now. But I still love her!

My walks with Siwa right now goes like this: get in car, drive to park, walk 20 very slow paces, sniff trees, bushes, grass, other dogs, then plop down somewhere nice & shady, nose up in the air to catch the passing scent. I sit next to her, pull out my sketch book and draw. Life cant get any better than this.

My walks with Siwa right now goes like this: get in car, drive to park, walk 20 very slow paces while sniffing trees, bushes, grass, other dogs, then plop down somewhere nice & shady, nose up in the air to catch the passing scent. I sit next to her, pull out my sketch book and draw. Life can't get any better than this.

Essence of tree trunk.

Essence of tree trunk.

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Another Siwa update on her fight against canine melanoma

Siwas face became asymmetrical from the tumor that grew very quickly within a matter of days.

Siwa's face became asymmetrical from the tumor that grew very quickly within a matter of days.

A couple of weeks after my June post on Siwa’s progress, I noticed a lump in her mouth that grew very quickly ~ within a week, the lump had grown from marble size to a lump so large that it gave her face an asymmetrical look.  I already had a pre-scheduled visit to the vet which I immediately re-scheduled to be sooner than later.

The news was not good.  She was no longer responding to the vaccine that she had been on since January 2008.  My choices were now radiation which would require a visit every 2-3 weeks at a cost that was prohibitive to me, or chemo and antibiotics, which seemed less invasive and less stressful to Siwa, not to mention kinder to my wallet.

I took into consideration Siwa’s age, which at 13 1/2 is not young for a dog her size.  She is a golden retriever/chow mix weighing about 65 lbs. I did not want to put her under any stress nor diminish the quality of the days she had left.

It’s now been 3 months of chemo, taken in pill form once a day.  The drug is Leukaren and although this will not make the tumor disappear, it will slow down the growth of the tumor. I was actually amazed as to how quickly the lump decreased after the first few days on chemo. Her asymmetrical face returned to normal within days of being on Leukaren.

Siwas tumor has grown to the point of bulging out of her mouth when shes breathing.

Siwa's tumor has grown to the point of bulging out of her mouth when she's breathing.

Jump to today.  Siwa and I take life day by day. I watch her closely monitoring her breathing to see if she is having difficulties. I make her homemade dog food consisting of boiled chicken, rice, peas & carrots, and cottage cheese. It’s a mixture that she can slurp and swallow without having to chew too much.  This keeps her from accidentally biting down on her tumor causing her to bleed and get infections.  She is also on antibiotics 2x/day to keep the infections down, and Rimadyl 2x/day for her arthritis.  And of course, chemo once a day.

I have to admit I’ve been lately concerned that her tumor has grown so large that she is no longer comfortable. She is such a happy go lucky dog that even her tail wags at the vet so sometimes this indicator is not the best gauge for quality of life. She did not want to go outside this morning but she happily ate her food.

I know I will have to face a very tough day at some point but it won’t be today. She and I will go for a nice walk, stopping many times to smell the roses (or the bush or the rock or the tree). Her eyes will brighten and her tail will wag and she will want to play with another hiking dog who will be way more active and playful than she.

She will remind me that all the stress, all the noise, all the little things in life that I tend to worry about are not worth the wasted energy. She will say to me with her big beautiful brown eyes that life is too short. Enjoy it. Every minute of it.

Siwa and I on a recent moon-filled walk in the Oakland hills.

Siwa and me on a recent moon-filled walk in the Oakland hills.

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An update on Siwa & her fight against canine melanoma

Siwa was first diagnosed with canine melanoma in early 2008.  I first wrote about her deteriorating health in this blog post, when we took her in to the vet to have her teeth cleaned.  A google search for canine melanoma takes one to several websites that do not leave one with much hope after reading the information. One site states:

Melanoma is the most malignant of all the skin cancers and therefore has the poorest prognosis. If found in the mouth, the prognosis is even more grim. Approximately 25% of dogs diagnosed with oral melanoma will survive for one year; 75% will not survive even this long.

Siwa at 13.5 YO, image taken June 2009

Siwa at 13.5 YO, image taken June 2009

Fortunately, my vet referred me to the Bay Area Veterinary Specialists, where they recommended an experimental (at the time) treatment.  The USDA has apparently given the Canine Melanoma Vaccine a conditional ok.

I’m here to state that for anyone considering this treatmet for their dog with canine melanoma, DO IT!  It is not the cheapest treatment in the world, but neither is radiation and chemo, and those treatments often leave the dog with a not so good quality of life. She was diagnosed in January of 2008. It’s been a year and 6  months and she shows no outward signs of illness from cancer.

Siwa continues to behave like a normal, arthritic, 13.5 year-old dog who continues to love her walks,  her treats,  her naps – life in general.  She continues to hike with me and Sam everyday (though we’ve had to slow down our hikes for her).

Her age is certainly showing – more white in her fur, and her muzzle is practically all silver now. But I would rather she pass away from old age than from cancer.

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Traditional Buddhist Blessing & Healing Chant

Young Siwa & Me Recent Siwa & Me

Siwa & Me, Then (1996) & Now (2008)

Just as the soft rains fill the streams,
pour into the rivers and join together in the oceans,
so may the power of every moment of your goodness
flow forth to awaken and heal all beings,
Those here now, those gone before, those yet to come.

By the power of every moment of your goodness
May your heart’s wishes be soon fulfilled
as completely shining as the bright full moon,
as magically as by a wish-fulfilling gem.

By the power of every moment of your goodness
May all dangers be averted and all disease be gone.
May no obstacle come across your way.
May you enjoy fulfillment and long life.

For all in whose heart dwells respect,
who follow the wisdom and compassion, of the Way,
May your life prosper in the four blessings
of old age, beauty, happiness and strength.

We began Siwa on the vaccine last Thursday, prior to our trip to Tahoe. It may just be wishful thinking on my part, but I swear she is responding positively! The bounce to her step is back, and she’s not lagging as far behind on our walks. Actually, she seems to keep up now! I am hopeful!

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Some facts on canine melanoma

Siwa sleeping again!Needless to say that I’ve been scouring the web for information on canine melanoma. Here’s the important stuff:

  • it is an aggressive form of cancer that typically appears in the mouth
  • dogs that are beyond the initial stages will not survive beyond five months with conventional therapies
  • treatment often includes radiation and surgery
  • the cancer spreads rapidly and is often unresponsive to chemotherapy
  • it can be incredibly painful
  • most common in dogs with dark pigmentation
  • there is a vaccine that has shown promise in clinical studies; published reports have included individuals whose cancer completely disappeared!!

Here are some facts about Siwa, based on the lab results from the vet:

  • though she is 12 and has cancer, her blood work apparently had a healthy dose of all the good things (sorry I’m a little fuzzy on the details)
  • she has a healthy appetite (loss of appetite is a bad sign)
  • she still has control of all her bodily functions (thank goodness!)
  • she can still see, hear, and smell
  • though she has slowed down on the trail, she still exhibits a playful enthusiasm when she hears the word W-A-L-K
  • in short, if it weren’t for the cancer, she would be perfectly healthy

Back to the vaccine. The vet said she is a good candidate for the vaccine, which is administered four times in two-week intervals.

It’s expensive (~$700/shot) but not as expensive as the less successful surgery and radiation (~$5K-$8K), nor is it as uncomfortable. If the tumors grow back after the first two shots, then we know the vaccine is not working and we discontinue with the treatment and just give her painkillers. My biggest concern has always been Siwa’s quality of life. This was the least intrusive, least painful, and least expensive option.

Siwa was with me at the beginning of my journey into adulthood – she put up with a lot from me, including every significant relationship I’ve ever had, five moves (one of which involved crossing several state lines), two cats, and Sammy. It’s the least I can do for her.

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