Day 4: Vincristine


The initial treatment made Roo feel better, apparently by reducing some swelling of lymph glands. But, whatever relief it brought her was, hopefully only for the moment, as far as it went. She was no less sick or tired than yesterday.

She didn’t sleep well last night. She became more uncomfortable as the night wore on. I spent as much of it on the floor with her as I could and then heard her rough breathing and troubled dreams. Around 5 AM she urgently needed to go outside, but that’s not surprising because the prednisone makes her more thirsty than usual.

Roo was tired during the day. We went for a small walk. Again she wanted to move towards the park. Again she thought about it for a while when I told her we weren’t going there. Just walking those few hundred feet, at the slow pace she set, was enough to tire her. I get the feeling that she’s trying to live up to a sense of obligation. She doesn’t want to let me down. I have to tell her I’m too tired. That we’re sick now. That we’ll be better soon, but not ready for the park now. As soon as we turn back she asks to carry the leash, a sure sign that she wants to go back and lie down.

When it was time to go to the vet, Roo didn’t mind getting in the car for the 45 minute drive. She was lying on the floor of the back seat but decided to come up front to ride shotgun, the way she has for years now. It was hard for her to keep her balance as she made her way to the front. I pulled off and stopped to make it easier for her.

She got a little nervous when we pulled into the hospital parking lot but she didn’t argue at all about getting out of the car. And after wandering around for a few minutes outside so she could shed some water, she stopped in her tracks when we were on the way inside.

I got down beside her and put my arms around her and said, “Little Bear, you’re not going to stay here tonight. The doctor just has to check you. You got very sick. The doctor is making you better. We have to go in and see the doctor.” And she went right through the door.

Inside, Laura, Dr. Gill’s assistant, came to take Roo in back for her bloodwork and chemo. Roo went without any complaint at all. What a good and understanding girl she is. Her bloodwork, which will be repeated at every weekly visit, was described to me by the vet’s assistant as showing a slight improvement, but when we got back to the camper and I compared the lab report to the one from Monday, when she was checked in, it looked worse, at least insofar as more of the indicators were out of range and several more of the items were printed in the red ink signifying an out-of-range result. Dr. Gill, the oncologist, had told me that there were issues with the bloodwork, but that they were attributable to the lymphoma we’re trying to head off. And she’s lost six pounds in six days.

They gave her her chemo. Vincristine. To me it sounds more like the name of a 1920s fountain drink than a cancer cell-killing poison. She was glad to see me when she came back out, but not surprised.

“There’s Chigi Bear Beker,” I said. “Where did you go all by yourself?”

She smiled at the stupid joke, the same one she’s heard a million times when she’s been off digging a hole or hounding a mouse in the mountains or deserts or forests we’ve been to. When we got outside, she immediately asked to carry the Flexi lead.

Until today she wouldn’t eat anything but the rotisserie chicken and a cookie or two, but when we got back I switched her to cooked ground meat with white rice. She snarfed it down, but I’m worried that I gave her too much. It wasn’t much at all, but still, it might have been too much. Her breathing began to get a little shorter again. Not panting, but the short breaths that show she’s uncomfortable. Afterwards I took her outside for a minute and then back in, and she was insistent about my sitting on the floor with her. She looked worried and a little sad.

“I know you’re not feeling good, Monkey Bear,” I said. “You’re sick now, but you’re going to get better.”

She’s on the camper floor now, trying to sleep. Maybe she’ll be a little better tomorrow.