As much as we sometimes wish our lives were 24x7 DIY (with the frequent vacation thrown in), this obviously isn't a reality. We split our time between the hobbies we love, the downtime we enjoy, taking care of ourselves and our four legged children, the work and chores we must do, and spending time with friends and loved ones as much as possible. It's a busy schedule, sure, but when I really look at it, this somewhat healthy breakdown of our lives is a good balance that helps to both keep us sane and stimulated. However, at times, we must skew more heavily in one direction of the split or another when the situation either allows or requires.

Lately, we've been putting quite a bit of time and energy into taking care of our wonderful little Ori-Pei, Lulu, in her quest to beat cancer.

A few weeks back we told you all about the identification of her second mast cell tumor and resulting surgery in early January. We also filled you in on the fact that she'd require continued treatment after the surgery because we weren't able to achieve good margins on the tumor's removal. Well, the last few weeks have been "Operation Warrior Princess" in our house, where we're all actively fighting off these a-hole cancer cells and working for Lulu to make a complete recovery.

We wanted to take this opportunity to give you all an update and a little insight into this whole process. Whether you've experienced something similar with your loved ones and can commiserate (Lulu's process is very similar to human radiation too), or are just interested to hear about how they tackle this sort of thing in dogs, we hope our experience not only cures Lulu, but that it also helps others learn about options and possibilities in cancer treatment.

Our latest journey towards beating cancer all started a little over two weeks ago when Lulu began going to the first of her 15 daily radiation treatments. The plan was straight forward, but very intimidating. We'd need to bring Lulu every morning, Monday through Friday, for three weeks, for a total of 15 sessions. During these sessions the oncology staff would need to lightly anesthetize and intubate her (radiation requires complete calm and stillness, not a strength of Lulu's), then perform the radiation treatment on Lulu's right arm. We were warned of the possibility of a localized burn on the area where the radiation was being given, missing fur, and the resulting scar tissue or white spot. Going into it without any prior experience on the subject was very intimidating, to say the least.

When you're going through something like this, it's the human response to draw comparisons from similar scenarios, and often expect the worst. We've known or seen the reaction people tend to have to radiation treatment, and we can clearly see worst case scenarios when we can no longer resist the urge to Google image search an ailment. But we have to keep reminding ourselves that this is our situation, our scenario, and our scenario cannot be compared to another's until our given scenario's treatment is complete, and it's all thanks to the billions of variables that go into the diagnosis and treatment of just about anything.

After Lulu's first radiation treatment I took a photo of her scar expecting to monitor the progression of her reaction to the radiation. As you can see from the photo, the first day was pretty basic, a fairly innocuous scar dotted by a purple line put in place to ensure radiation is administered in the correct location.

While we expected the scar to quickly progress into a gnarly burn mark, I snapped photo after photo, day by day, but after two weeks of treatment (10 sessions of radiation), Lulu's scar was largely unchanged, save for the fading of the purple line.

In speaking with the staff we learned several things. The first, and most important, every dog reacts differently, and everything from location on the body to depth of treatment has an impact too. Some dogs don't burn as obviously, while others develop what amounts to large open wounds. In Lulu's case, she wasn't burning, and that could be attributed to many different things, including the fact that she has dark skin, and sometimes burns don't show as quickly on darker colored dogs. Really, in a way it's fascinating to see how this all works.

We also told the staff all about Lulu, and about the fact that she has an amazing number of supportive people on the Internet that are wishing her well and pulling for her to beat this. Since they know we're writing about Lulu and filling you all in on her progress, they offered to take a few photos of Lulu while she was undergoing her treatments. As a pet parent, sometimes ignorance is bliss, but we're very happy they offered to share these photos, as it's quite interesting to see what our lovely little girl goes through on a daily basis.

As intimidated as we may have been when the whole process started, the entire experience has been eased by the amazing oncology and support staff at Lulu's oncologist. Additionally, the well wishes from everyone here on the blog, our friends, our family, and our neighbors has helped make this entire process one with a very hopeful and potentially positive outcome, no matter how unfortunate.

So what's a day like for Lulu these last few weeks? I'll tell you.

We wake up bright and early and spend a little quality time snuggled up in bed. I think the cold weather, her treatments, and general sleepiness she's always had has turned her into a bit of a burrower/body heat seeker.

Once we're out of bed we gather together a favorite toy of Lulu's, her gray blanket, and a few snacks for the day and either Wendy or I head out for the car with her. No food for Lulu in the mornings on account of the procedure.

When we arrive at the oncologist we check in and have a seat in the waiting room while Lulu alternately shakes nervously and acts interested in one of the other dogs in the waiting room.

When one of the staff, typically Lulu's now very good friend, Rebecca, comes out to get her, we head over to the scale to get her daily weight. Typically we're 29.5-30.0 pounds depending on how many treats we fed her the night before.

Wendy, each day as she prepares to head back for treatment, gives Lulu a kiss on the head and offers her encouraging words like telling her to be a "cancer fighting warrior princess." (She thinks it makes Lulu sound tough.) After that, Lulu begrudgingly heads back for her treatment, she's not one that likes to be away from Wendy or me.

On Mondays she has some blood work before radiation, but on the other days she heads right back to start the process. The oncologist's office has wifi, so we bring out laptop along and hang out in the waiting room while she does her session.

In the back, she's anesthetized and intubated so she can undergo treatment and placed on the radiation table for her session. She must stay completely still for the duration, hence the sedation. She's also allowed to rock her poncho during treatment. We wouldn't want her to be cold...or unfashionable...during treatment.

Once the treatment is over, which only takes 20 minutes I believe, she's moved to a comfortable area where she's allowed to rest until she's ready to wake up and go. Since we're usually in the waiting room, and she knows this, I think she sometimes forces herself to wake up a little quicker than she should. But when she tells Rebecca she's ready to leave, they bring her up front to use so we can head home (though she's still pretty loopy). On days when we can't wait for her, she hangs out with Rebecca, sometimes sharing her lunch with her or helping her to make phone calls.

Once home we make a little place for her on the couch where she can sleep off the effects of the drugs for the day. We also put out her food so she can eat whenever she gets hungry.

After she decides to go to town on her food we start our medicine/supplements for the day. Lulu gets 10mg of Pepcid and 3600mg of fish oil throughout the day, all with a little coating of peanut butter. I'll tell you one thing for sure, she LOVES medicine time.

By about 2:00-3:00 she's largely returned to her normal self and is back to chasing Mel around the house...

...running to the door when the mail person drops our letters, wanting to chase squirrels and climb trees, or generally being her goofy self.

She's also been overseeing the New Year organization efforts currently underway in our home.

After a late dinner that has to wrap before 10:00 (her food cutoff time), we all head up to bed to repeat the process.

Wendy and I are fortunate to be in flexible jobs that offer the time we need to address Lulu's treatments. If need be, we could drop her as early as 7:00am, and leave her at the vet's until 7:00pm. And while I'm certain she would make many new friends and fans among the staff if we had to do this, we're happy we don't have to.

So there you have it, that's a day in the life of our cancer fighting warrior princess canine. She's doing great, in good spirits, and loving all of the extra time she's getting with us. We've got until the end of the week on radiation treatments, then each day next week we'll need to take care of her burn treatment (even if one doesn't appear on the surface). If anything, she may be a little upset that life is "too" normal. Even cancer won't get her out of her dreaded bath time.

Please keep your good thoughts and well wishes coming as they seem to be doing quite a bit of good for our little girl. We honestly and truly, from the bottom of our hearts, appreciate each and every sentiment.

Comments 25


2/5/2014 at 11:22 AM

Poor Lulu. She certainly is lucky to have you two (and Mel, of course.)


Thanks, Margie. She and Mel make a pretty darn good team.

2/5/2014 at 11:50 AM

Sending well wishes to LuLu from NC!! Thinking of you all!

2/5/2014 at 1:25 PM

Thank you for sharing this insight. Generally, cancer scares people so much they don't ask questions for fear of waking up bad memories and trauma.
On another note, I am olive skinned as opposed to my very fair husband. He keeps telling me he burns worse/faster than me, which, uhhm, no! It doesn't show in the same way, he's lobster red and I look like a nicely baked chocolate muffin, but it hurts as much as it hurts him. Of course, it may very well be that Lulu simply has got lucky on this one, and she's simply not burned by the radiations, which I hope is the case. I know I phrased this very awkwardly, please excuse me...
It's only two days left from this part of the treatment!


I think you're right, Lulu's lack of burns is likely due to her lucky genetics. Fingers crossed, it stays that way.

2/5/2014 at 2:06 PM

Poor Lulu! She is indeed lucky to have you guys! The fact that she doesn't protest the trip to the vet every day must mean she's not too terribly miserable. I wonder if the intubation will make her throat sore? Well - that will be easy enough to figure out by a change in her eating habits.

On the subject of the infernal cancer - I commented on your previous "parental advisory" post that I would gladly serve on the board if you started an official "Eff Cancer" club.... Well, you can give me an official title now. Would you believe that as I typed that comment, my father-in-law was playing golf and realizing he was too tired to finish all 18 week and two days later he passed away - leukemia (AML) that none of us, including him, even knew he had. Unbelievable.

I'm thinking about Lulu! She is a warrior!


Karin, I'm so sorry for your loss. It's truly tragic how quickly it impacted him. I think the hardest part about dealing with it with anyone is the constant thoughts of "why?" Lulu, Wendy, Mel, and I all appreciate that you're thinking of us, and our thoughts are with you and your family.

2/5/2014 at 3:06 PM

Poor baby. She has an adorable face.

I can't believe how fast the fur is growing back.

Keeping positive thoughts coming Lulu's way.


I didn't really notice just how fast it's grown back until you said something. You're right, it's really coming in.

2/5/2014 at 3:39 PM

She's a trooper, I love the bath faceAlt smile "ugh, seriously?" Thank you for sharing her story. We recently signed up for pet insurance as a direct result of your blog. Our pup is family.


The face is totally classic. She's so legitimately annoyed. Good move on the insurance. Our policy has been absolutely great all along.

2/6/2014 at 9:06 AM

I signed up for it too, after the post about it. And now we have a cherry eye that won't be coaxed back into place as easily as Lulu's, so we will be giving it a shot when we schedule the surgery. Thanks for the advice, Alex and Wendy!

2/5/2014 at 3:47 PM

I love that the internet has allowed me to find a kindred animal loving spirit in yourselves. While this is a terrible predicament for Lulu - and you! - to have to endure, I am confident in her success since she has you two behind her. Like you, there is nothing I wouldn't do for my sweet fur baby.


If there's one thing the Internet is good for, it's finding those people you just happen to clique with that you likely would have never met otherwise. It seems our paths have crossed for years but it wasn't until the blog that we even knew the other existed. Cheers to that.

2/5/2014 at 4:57 PM

The bath face! The bath face! I'm thinking happy thoughts for Lulu!


The whole bath process is typically pretty amusing.

southern gal
2/5/2014 at 9:12 PM

wow, you are such great parents! she is lucky to have you

sending lots of prayers for a Speedy and COMPLETE recovery!

Love the knitted items btw


Hey, sometimes the outfits make the girl. We try to make sure she sports a nice array of sweaters.

2/5/2014 at 10:18 PM

You guys are such great fur-parents! Keep up the hard work. Lulu knows how much you care! You say it with peanut butter!!


Our love for her is like her peanut butter, natural, crunchy, and no added salt.

2/6/2014 at 10:58 AM

You all are kicking some butt! Lots of love for a speedy recovery.


Thanks, Carrie!

2/7/2014 at 1:16 PM

So glad that Lulu's tolerating radiation well! I think that people get scared of treating cancers in animals because of the horror stories they hear about people going through chemo and/or radiation. My experience with treating my cat's lymphoma has been wonderful, so I am so glad to see you sharing the story of how Miss Lulu is doing. Some of these things can be treatable, especially if we put our own fears and prejudices aside and simply try - animals don't know to be afraid of their cancer, and they often do so much better than humans, thanks to great veterinary oncologists. Thank you, thank you, thank you for giving her a great shot at recovery and for sharing this with the world!

By the way, my two and a half year old Lancelot is 15 months post-diagnosis with large cell lymphoma, finished chemo in November and is still in full remission. I hope that Lulu is a similar success story! Sending all our good thoughts her way!

2/7/2014 at 1:20 PM

I'm pulling for Lulu! What a sweetie! My doggy has taken Pepcid in the morning and evening for a few years now... If anyone says "pill", he MUST have a treat!

2/7/2014 at 8:17 PM

Sending lots of love to Lulu and your whole family. I appreciate your dedication to your four-legged children. I'm sure your positive attitudes are helping Lulu endure so many veterinary visits and the treatment protocol; glad to know that will be over soon.

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