Vaccine Update!

August 6, 2009

Lizzie from Dick White’s called yesterday afternoon around 4.30pm. She apologised for the delay but explained that Rob had been going ‘to and fro’ with the Americans over the vaccine for Barney. It turns out that there is so much red tape around the vaccine being administered here because it is not licensed in the UK, that he’s really had to fight Barney’s case and that’s why it has taken so long. It’s all to do with legislation and I already knew that the vaccine can actually only be given by a vet who is under the American Vets Association or the ACVS or something like that, it’s all a bit confusing to be honest. Fortunately the Professor falls into that category so it can be administered by him.

Anyway, she explained that Rob had been fighting. Lots of emails and phonecalls, putting forward Barney’s case and the good news is that that he WON! Barney can most certainly have the vaccine 😀

We’re so pleased. We’re looking at around another 2 weeks or so because the Americans want some more forms filling in by Rob. This is what we’ve been waiting for, another step in the right direction 😀

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Here are some pictures of Barney. Some are taken before his surgery, some are immediately after his surgery and some are from the weeks following his surgery. I have also included a couple of pictures before and after the re-suturing took place.

I hope that these pictures can manage to show you that this was a very serious surgery, however, that the effect on Barney was minimal and the cosmetics after the surgery were nowhere near as bad as we had imagined.

I hope that anyone out there reading this blog and trying to make a decision as to whether or not they should go for this surgery for their dog; if they are lucky enough to have that option; will see that it will all be worth it in the end.

This is Barney with our son at our local nature reserve, a few days before his biopsy.

Barney Before Diagnosis

As you can see, he was full of energy as always.

Barney Before Op

Barney Post Op Again

You can see that when he was panting that his tongue hung out rather long anyway.

Post Op Again

Full frontal of his mouth prior to the mandibulectomy.

preop

This picture shows the tumour. It is the black area between his teeth. Easily missed.

Tumour Visible

And another picture of the tumour. Hard to get a very clear snap of it. The majority is hidden underneath his tongue.

tumour2

A tired Barney after his biopsy on 14th May 2009.

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His mast cell tumour wound.

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The last picture of Barney taken before his mandibulectomy. This is the last picture ever taken with his “full” mouth in view. Taken 26th May 2009.

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First picture taken post-op. He’d been shaved so it kind of looked worse than it was. Taken 29th May 2009.

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On the way home in the car after surgery. Happy as can be!

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Barney, at home, 3 days after surgery. Looking fabulous! Taken 30th May 2009.

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Dinner time, post op. Quite messy, as you can see.

dinnertime

Front view of mouth post op. He’s wet because of needing to be washed down after eating. Hence the “trimmed” ears.

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**Slightly Graphic** Picture of burst sutures. Here, you can see the jawbone on display. This was re-sutured under a General Anaesthetic.

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Looking sorry for himself on the way back to Dick White’s to be re-sutured.

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Re-sutured. We think it looked better this time.

resuture

Back home and on very restricted walks with a special lead and a recovery collar.

postopwalk

Post op and healing well…

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How he looks when he is laying down. Pretty much always has his tongue in his mouth.

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Post op and after a bath, finally! I cut his ears short to stop them getting covered in food but can’t wait for them to grow long again!

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8 weeks post op. Looking so good. We don’t even notice the change anymore. It’s just the same old Barney when we look at him 🙂 Taken 29th July 2009.

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You can see just how nicely his mouth has healed, here. Taken 29th July 2009.

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It’s now 7 weeks since Barney’s mandibulectomy and 6 weeks since he was re-sutured. His mouth is looking entirely normal, well, as normal as it can with part of the jaw missing, but, to be honest, we barely even notice that anymore when we look at him.

There were a few red spots in there for a little while, but they’re now gone, healed and the surgical area is looking fantastic. You’d literally never know he’d had such an invasive surgery. If it wasn’t for his tongue hanging out all the time, you could easily forget what he’s been through.

We think it adds character though.

This week has seen the “old Barney” return. The cheekiness, naughtiness and all the barking when he wants to play. It’s been brilliant. He is such fun. You’d never guess he is going to be 11 years old in 3 months time.

This just all re-confirms that the decision we made to have this surgery done, was for sure, the right decision for Barney. It’d have been a real mistake for us to have ended his life (never an option for us anyway) because the surgery sounded horrific. The truth of the matter is that your mind builds things up to be much worse than they are and when you see the reality of the situation, after the initial shock, it’s really, really, not that bad at all.

I love my fun-loving boy to bits. I’m so glad he is here and so glad he is well. Go, Barney! You’re amazing! 🙂

Getting Anxious

July 14, 2009

It’s been 7 weeks since Barney’s surgery now and we’ve still not head anything more since the Open Day at Dick White’s about the vaccine.

Rob said he had a nag in the back of his mind about cells having broken off and travelling elsewhere, so wanted him on the vaccine as soon as possible, and that nag for me is just turning into something so big now that I can’t sleep at night. It’s stressing me out.

We’ve not heard from Rob. Not his fault, he is a very busy man, but I do wish we could just have a phone call to let us know what is happening and when he’s likely to start the vaccine program.

Will try and call him again tomorrow.

The specialist vets that Barney had his mandibulectomy done at, held an Open Day today. I wanted to go so that we could see where Barney had been during his stay there and just generally have a nose around.

We couldn’t all go because one of us had to stay with Barney, as he is only a week post-op since his second suturing. It’s a shame because I’d have loved for Matt to come along too but he offered to stay home whilst I went with Luke, my sister and my niece.

We arrived at midday and headed straight for the reception area. There were mps available, which were all numbered to show you what each area was and what they did there. All of the practice was set up with stuffed toy dogs to give an idea of what happens at each station. Some were having IV fluids, others were having scans etc. All good fun.

We went into the theatre (surgery) and they had a big screen set up with images of lots of different dogs before, during and after surgery. Some of the before and during pictures were quite shocking, but the aftermath of those was amazing. These people really are talented. I’m so impressed at the skills they hold.

Whilst we were standing watching the screen, pictures of a dog’s mouth came up on the screen and in the corner were the words “mandibulectomy” and I thought, ‘oh, that’s what Barney had done’. The next thing I know, there he is! Barney! Famous! There was a picture of him after his surgery, sitting there, in front of the camera, tongue hanging out, looking a little tired but otherwise fine, with a big plastic collar on. I was amazed. He must have been one of their more challenging or “different” cases. I’m not sure how many of these they actually get to perform because so many dogs have this type of cancer and it’s not found until it is too late. I was very proud to see our boy on the big screen. Even my sister was shocked. He looked gorgeous too 🙂

We continued through the practice, and bumped into Rob. He came over and said hello, said hello to Luke as he did on the previous occasions we’d met and then he told me that the vaccine had been approved and Barney could have it, however, there is a lot of ‘red tape’ surrounding the entire thing so it’d be a couple of weeks before he could tell us anymore, but he would contact us as soon as he had any further news. I was really pleased and called Matt straight away to tell him about Barney being on the ‘big screen’ and also about the vaccine 🙂

The rest of the practice was just amazing, they have their own laboratory, MRI scanning unit and so many different departments, the entire place is fresh and clean and has that “new” feel to it. It’s so, so, impressive.

As we headed outside, we bumped into Professor Dick White. He seemed to know who I was before I’d even spoken to thank him for all he did for Barney. He said it was no problem and asked how he was. He was very much ‘that’s what I do, no need to thank me” which in a way was nice because he didn’t make you feel like you owe him anything, which of course we feel we do. We really do. He and Rob did such a marvellous job with Barney, and so quickly too, that we feel we owe his life to them (and of course Martin Cossey at Broadway).

After a look around, I bought Luke a Moon Bear cuddly toy, which he lost within 5 minutes, so I went back and bought another. The Moon Bears are something that the Prof deals with. He is working endlessly to help end the suffering if these bears in Asia. The lives they lead are just plainly awful. See the link below for more details.

Anyway, all in all, we enjoyed the couple of hours we were there. We saw lots and got a good view of exactly where Barney was cared for, which was nice. Next time, all 4 of us will go. 🙂

http://www.animalsasia.org/

I’d noticed a small amount of something that looked like blood on some bedding and mentioned it to Matt. I was also a little concerned at a tiny white area in Barney’s mouth, but Matt told me it was fine and just part of his mouth, so I tried not to think about it. We decided the next morning (Thursday 4th June 2009) that we’d get an appointment with our local vet (Martin) anyway, just to get it checked out and make sure that everything was healing as it should be because I’d noticed a little more blood.

We got up, got ready, and as Matt was dressing Luke, a call came through from Rob at Dick White’s. With anticipation, I waited to hear what he had to say. I knew he was calling with the results from the jaw tissues that were removed, along with the lymph node.

At 9.40am, we were on top of the world. Things seriously couldn’t have been better. I was crying with joy and relief when Rob told me that the margin of jaw they had taken had been free both ends, which meant they got every last piece of the tumour in his mouth. He also told me that the lymph node was clear too. The cancer had NOT spread there which means that it was contained. We were so pleased; I just can’t describe the feeling.

We didn’t get long to talk about it as our appointment time was looming and we needed to get sorted. We took Luke’s pushchair out of the car, just leaving his little buggy in as we always do when we have Barney in the car, and since we’d be straight back, we left his bag of nappies etc behind too. We wouldn’t need anything…. or so we thought….

Just as we were about to walk out of the door, Matt put Barney’s harness on and straight away, he pulled at it with his mouth. Matt and I both told him “no” and he eventually dropped it, only to grab it again. When I looked at him, something just didn’t look right. I started panicking and noticed that his mouth now looked very white inside. I asked Matt over and over what it was and came to my own conclusion that it was his jaw. He’d popped all his stitches!! I think he knew it was his jaw that was visible, but didn’t quite want to believe it and was in a state of panic like me. Next problem was… how the hell do we get this crazy dog from the house and into the car without him doing himself any more damage. For the 20-second walk to the car, we had to be very harsh with him for his own sake. Once in the car he just sat there looking rather sorry for himself.

We drove, rather quickly, to our vet. We didn’t even get Barney out of the car. I ran in, said we had a 10am appointment and asked if Martin was free straight away. (We are very well known at our local vets surgery). The receptionist, Leanne, shouted for him and he came out and I asked him to come and see Barney in the car. I explained what had happened and why we were coming to see him originally. When he got to the car, I lifted the boot door and Martin just laughed. He looked at Barney and said “Oh Barnes, what have you done”. It was a typically funny moment, simply because Barney is such a character, it’s as if people expect this kind of thing to happen with him. He’s just so boisterous, so clumsy. He assured us it wasn’t quite as bad as it seemed, and confirmed that, yes; it IS his bone we were looking at. That made me feel ill, I couldn’t look at it. You never expect to see something so graphic on your own dog.

Matt had already called ahead to Dick White’s and they’d told us to drive down. They said it’s be a resuture but he’d have it done under sedation so we just expected to spend the day in Newmarket until we could collect him. We’d been given an appointment for Midday but we were there by 11.15am. I went in and told them we were there and they said they’d be as quick as possible. We decided Barney was better off in the back of the car, rather than sitting in reception getting all excited. No more than a few minutes later, one of the staff came out and called us in. He took one look at Barney and confirmed that his mouth would need resuturing and that it’d need to be done under General Anaesthetic. I knew this meant another overnight stay. I was gutted and worried. This would be his third General Anaesthetic in three weeks.

The vet this time was Lorenzo (Unfortunately, Rob was tied up and Barney was there as an emergency). Lorenzo didn’t really know Barney’s history but he knew what he’d had done. He took us into the same room as we’d been in last time we dropped off and picked him up.

He went through a few things with us, had us sign the consent form and explained that he would need to stay for 24 to 48 hours but it would more likely be 48 hours which meant we’d not see him for 2 nights. I was devastated but I knew this had to be done.

We had a cuddle and Barney trotted off without a care in the world. Staying over at the vets is a real adventure, right? Nothing fazes him, which is good I guess. I’d rather he was happy there than have him sitting whining the whole time and being entirely depressed.

As we watched him go through the door, we spotted Rob, who in turn, spotted us and came out to talk. He, like Martin, was half laughing at what had happened and said that perhaps they’d undermined just how boisterous Barney is and that this time they would reinforce the sutures (put more in). He assured us he would be fine and just said that the histology was brilliant and that he was really happy.

So again, we drove off, leaving Barney behind to face another general anaesthetic and another stay with the vets. Not fun and I wasn’t happy, but I did see the funny side to it and at least this time we knew it was minor surgery compared to a week ago.

We had to go home this time and await our updates.

By 3pm we had a call. It was Lorenzo confirming that the surgery was done; Barney was fine and was recovering (again). Phew. I cried with relief. I just hated the idea of that third general anaesthetic. We had regular updates from them and on Saturday 6th June 2009, 48 hours after we’d left him, we drove to Newmarket again and picked him up. He looked better this time. Different. A bit more “normal”. He’d had more sutures, but his jowls seemed to be pulled up more, making the surgery seem less apparent. It’s difficult to describe. I will add pictures as soon as possible to show what I mean.

It was great bringing him home again. We vowed this time that we really would treat him with kid gloves and went back to adding water to his food again as we’d only done it for 3 or 4 days last week as he seemed to be doing so well.

Once again, our family unit felt complete and our house felt like a home again 🙂

Back At Home

June 3, 2009

Our first week home was pretty un-eventful, which is good!

My sister and my Dad popped round to see Barney. Of course, people are going to be curious to see what he looks like now. I would be. They both agreed that he didn’t look half as bad as they’d expected, especially my sister. I think she had expected the same as Matt and I – something really horrific. She seemed pleasantly surprised. My Dad was pretty much the same. They both confirmed that it was definitely the right thing to have done which always makes you feel better. We know it was the right thing, but sometimes amongst the tears and worry, you do have your doubts, if only for a split second.

The weather was mostly nice this week, so we spent a lot of time in the garden to keep Luke amused. It also gave Barney a good opportunity to relax, but to also be outside in the fresh air. He’s not having walks at the moment as he has a tendency to put the lead and harness in his mouth when he goes out and we just can’t risk it. It doesn’t make him happy but at least he has the freedom of the garden.

With regard to everything else, it’s hard to not mollycoddle him and to want to wrap him in cotton wool, more so because Luke is way too young to understand what he has been through and still wants to share his toys with him and pat and play with him all the time. Barney also doesn’t understand and still tries to open doors with his nose and therefore uses his mouth without realising it. All things that make us flinch and go into crazy, over-protective “parent” mode. Yes, it even happens with a dog. His lack of pain (for which I am not complaining at all) makes it even harder because he still wants to chomp on things and we have removed every last trace of his toys from his reach, along with most of Luke’s harder, chewable toys.

Feeding has been fun. Well, okay, it hasn’t, simply because it is so messy. We have been lucky enough to be able to feed him his breakfast and dinner in the garden since the weather has been so good, which has been a bit of a blessing because the amount of food that gets slung out of the bowl is amazing. It ends up everywhere. Not only is the floor covered in it, so is Barney and anything within a 6 foot radius. It’s worse right now because his usual tinned food with mixer is just tinned food, which needs to be watered down so it’s real slop. We only have to do this for a few weeks though until he can go back to having mixer again. Right now it is too hard for his mouth to cope with, as all the tissue is very soft and only held together with sutures.

The feeding actually isn’t a problem. It was to be expected. Barney has very little control over his tongue at the moment and that’s something that may improve over time, but then again, it may not. Either way, it’s fine for us. If what we have to deal with is a dog that makes some mess when he eats, then so be it. It’s a very, very small price to pay for his life.

This week proved to be a rather emotional one. I felt like every time I looked at Barney, I burst into tears. Not because I don’t like the way he looks, not because I feel sorry for him, not because of anything other than the reality of the entire situation hitting me like a brick between the eyes. It all happened so fast, from diagnosis to removal, that I barely had a chance to sit and process my thoughts. Any thoughts I did have were purely worry about what the future held and what the end result of the operation would be. I’d not really thought about exactly what had happened, and not only what Barney had been through, but also what we’d all been through.

It finally hit home that my baby, my Barney, had CANCER. It’s one of the worst, most horrible things that anyone can have, and he had it. It’d always been something I’d feared for him because he’s always been quite a “lumpy” dog, but I guess I always thought we’d be lucky with him.

As it is though, and as far as we are aware, it’s now all gone and we can look to the future. 🙂

Today is the day Barney came home – the day we all came home from Newmarket!

We got up early, gave Luke his breakfast and then packed our belongings at the hotel and loaded the car up. With a baby in tow, there is always a LOT of stuff to take everywhere, but especially when you’ve been away from home for 3 nights.

We waited eagerly for the call from Rob to say Barney was definitely coming home today and that call came during breakfast. Elation!

Again, he went through the same things with us. Preparing us for the shock of seeing the “new” Barney, we think. He told us he was fine though and that he was doing really well considering what he’d been through.

We left the hotel early and decided to let Luke have a sleep in the car as we weren’t able to collect Barney until 12pm. Time seemed to really drag because we were counting down the minutes until we could see our boy.

I have to be honest and say that we were both full of anticipation and trepidation. It’s an odd feeling. One that is hard to describe. We wanted to see Barney, to hug him, to tell him we love him and just to see what exactly had been done to him and of course what he looked like now. It didn’t matter what he looked like, but it’s still one of those things that you’ve never been faced with before and fear sets in that you’ll give the wrong reaction. Like I said, it’s hard to explain and probably hard to understand unless you’re in that position.

We drove through Newmarket taking in the sights that we had now seen numerous times over the past few days. Never actually getting out of the car, just looking at the racecourse and surrounding areas. Pretty.

12 O’clock Midday arrived and we were already parked up, waiting. We went into the reception are of Dick White’s and told them we were there to collect Barney. I sat there remembering that just 3 days ago, we were all sitting there together, waiting to see what the future held for our beautiful boy, IF indeed there was a future for him. At that point, he looked and acted just like Barney. Full of life, tugging at the lead, scrambling across the floor to see what was going on around the corner, panting because he just couldn’t control his excitement. I wondered if it would all be a thing of the past and he would be a more subdued Barney. I hoped not, but if he was, then that would be okay too. We love him no matter what.

My moments of reminiscing were interrupted by a big, black, hairy dog who came tearing around the corner on a lead, with a nurse in tow, who seemed quite unaware of just how strong the dog she was handling was. Tongue hanging out, heavy, excited panting, a crazy twinkle in his eye and the familiar scrambling told me that yep! It was Barney. I knew it was him before I even saw him!

Reality hits. Or does it? I don’t know what I’d expected. A huge gaping hole? A really disfigured Barney? I don’t know. I guess I had a horrific picture in my head, but what I saw standing in front of me was just Barney. Yes, part of his jaw was gone, but it was Barney. Just Barney. Crazy, mad, uncontrollable. The same as always.

We were led into a room – the room we had our initial consultation in on Tuesday, where Rob came and joined us. No one sat down this time, we all stood up and Rob went through things with us again. It was difficult to hear because Barney was excited to see us all, Luke was excited to see Barney and the general tugging around and whacking of his tail on the tables and chairs meant that Barney was making a right old racket! Some things never change (thank goodness).

Rob explained again about the actual operation. We asked some questions (I’m going to Blog about all this kind of stuff in a separate post, with pictures too). He went through the medication Barney needed to take. Amazingly, he only had some antibiotics and anti-inflammatory tablets that he needed to take. I don’t know why, but I expected to be bringing home a bag full of pills, including painkillers, but Rob told us Barney had no pain whatsoever. Amazing. I could barely believe it but looking at him, Barney displayed no signs of discomfort. The dog we were collecting is far from the dog we expected to collect, much to our pleasure. In my mind, Barney would be tired, slow, unhappy, at least for a while. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

We were told that we just needed to make an appointment with our own vet (Martin) to have the stitches removed from the lymph node area in around a week to 10 days time. We’d hear from Rob again regarding the histology and vaccine, but for now, that was it.

We said our thank yous and goodbyes and took Barney to the car to swap their lead for his, ready to head home, but not before walking to the paddock at the vets to allow Barney to have a wee and a little stretch of his legs. He amazed us by running from one side of the field to the other, on the lead, with Matt following. In hindsight, we decided that probably wasn’t a very good idea since he’d just had major surgery and been hooked up to IV’s etc. Whoops.

The drive took less than an hour and Barney sat up for most of it. I just kept looking at him in the rear view mirror feeling so happy that he was coming home with us. We never knew on Tuesday if the drive home would be a happy occasion or not. I’m so glad it was.

We woke up early and took Luke for breakfast at the hotel. We were both eagerly awaiting a phone call so when Rob called to tell us Barney had had a good night and was doing well, we were both really relieved.
He went through everything with us again. How Barney looks, about his tongue hanging to one side, about why they needed to remove the left canine, even though he’d really hoped to have saved it. We told him that was all fine so long as Barney was okay and happy, which he confirmed he was. He’d eaten again and been for a walk so we were happy with that.

We were told that we might be able to see him today, but that didn’t happen in the end due to the vets being so busy, but they pretty much thought he would be home the next day anyway.

We woke up early, got Luke’s breakfast done and awaited Rob’s call to firstly, find out how Barney’s night had gone, and secondly, the plan of action for the day.

He called quite early and told us that Barney had been fine overnight and that they were going to get on with things as soon as possible.

We received a call around 2pm to let us know that Barney was under anaesthetic and that they’d be proceeding imminently with the chest X-Rays and checking to make sure that the tumour wasn’t too close to his tongue and that if there were any problems that they would let us know.

We just prayed that the X-Rays and location of the tumour would be fine and surgery could proceed.

We didn’t have to wait long at all for a follow up call. By around 3pm, the phone rang. As I looked at the screen and saw it was the vets, my stomach knotted. I honestly thought that there was something on the X-Ray and that was it, Surgery was off.

Much to our surprise, they were calling to tell us that Barney was now in recovery, his mandibulectomy done and everything had gone well. We just couldn’t believe it. I didn’t know whether to cry with shock, happiness or relief, so I think I cried with all three.

We walked around just grinning at one another and felt so happy. Anxious about what our boy was going to be like when we saw him again, how he would cope with part of his jaw missing and just generally after a big surgery like this.

We didn’t get to see him that day. He was left to rest for a while and again, to our surprise, we received a phone call around 7pm from Rob, telling us that he’d eaten for the first time (this was literally just a few hours since surgery) and that he was looking quite bright.

He explained that they’d had to remove the left canine (the big long tooth at the front of the mouth), which he’d really hoped to have saved, because they needed to ensure that the entire tumour was removed, with a good, clear margin either side so that the cancer was completely gone and none remained. In total, Barney had lost 9 teeth. His tongue would now permanently hang out of his mouth and because he has such a massive tongue (it’s abnormally long!) it’d be noticeable. We were shocked, but it was a case of doing what needed to be done to make sure our boy was okay.

He told us the Professor (Dick White) had done the surgery with him so we knew that Barney really had been in the best hands. They’d removed his lymph node and had noticed some “pin-pricks” of colour on it. This could mean that the cancer had spread, but it could also just be that, because Barney is a dark (black) dog, that it could just be pigmentation. We’d know in a week or so.

He also advised that they’d now send off the tissues that had been removed, for histology and they’d be checked to make sure that the margin they’d taken was ample enough to have removed all of the cancer.

We slept much better that night, knowing it was all done and he was okay.