It’s better to hear the truth straight from me rather than hear different versions coming from others. I don’t see what other reason or reasons or made-up stories as to why I haven’t been around. If you really wanted to know, simply contact me through e-mail. I won’t hesitate to tell you what’s been going on with me. I have nothing to hide nor have I have not wronged anyone. My Facebook information clearly shows my website link. Just send me a quick "Hi" or "How are you doing?" by filling up the Contact Me form That is where you can reach me =) If you are an existing Facebook friend, you may already have my e-mail or simply send me an FB message.
Just so you know, my website is best viewed using a desktop or laptop. My sincerest apologies., my website is NOT mobile-friendly. So, viewing it on your cellphone would not be a good idea. Though I rarely check my e-mails lately, but it doesn’t mean I never ever do. You will get a response, depending on my availability.
Now, a few of you know that I am not into over-sharing on social media. Nor am I so trusting and open enough to do that through e-mails and phone conversations with people I hardly communicate with. But that's not the case. I usually know when to draw the line. Like most of you, I take my privacy seriously. I am very overprotective of my family and friends, as well as myself. I am willing to share my experiences if I feel like it, but there are some personal matters that are best kept within my family. But this time, I chose to sit down and write this to clear the air, and tell you what truly happened the past months, and why I wasn’t active in the Doll World. Doing this feels right. No awkwardness. No adding of flowers to what really happened to me since late July of this year. So, here goes.....
Photo above was taken weeks before her surgery.
My beloved little dog Matisse has been exhibiting coughing and gagging fits for sometime. I thought it was kennel cough. She also had horrible diarrhea bouts, and even with the most effective remedies like rice & broth or pumpkin, nothing worked. I had to temporarily stop taking her for walks because it was so bad.
So, I decided to take an indefinite break from sculpting and social media altogether since August of 2016 to take special care of my precious little dog, Matisse, 24/7. Though in exaggeration, some of those hours consists of daily routine, work etc., but I am always around for her 24/7. My art can wait.
It was the night of August 12th, before her vet appointment, when I noticed her neck was somewhat 'off'. It looked crooked, so I thought. I knelt down, and touched the left side of her neck, and I felt this huge bulge. When I touch it, she starts to cough. I was STUNNED. My heart sank. So many bad thoughts kept creeping in. That was the start of my many countless of restless nights.
Poodles usually have slouchy skins on their necks, that was why this growth hid really well. This was a heartbreaking find! I can’t believe I didn't see it sooner. I mean, I bathe and groom her, yet I don't have this habit of touching her neck unless I clip the hairs there (neck). But still, I overlooked. So, it was a last-minute find, which I was about to bring up during her vet appointment.
Her first vet appointment was August 13th of 2016. The vet examined her neck area. He knew right away that it was a thyroid growth, and that it was the reason for her coughing and gagging. I was STUNNED. As if a lightning bolt hit me. I felt my chest tightened. I gasped, broke into tears, and scurried out of the examination room to get some fresh air. I had to compose myself first before going back inside. He advised us to take her to a veterinarian oncologist to conduct more testing. Since primary vets are mostly practitioners in their field, they are NOT specialists.
They performed an X-ray on our little girl’s neck and chest as well as a blood test. The results were ready almost immediately on the same day. It usually is, for urgent reasons. The X-ray shows that none of her vital organs---heart, lungs, kidneys--- showed metastasis, and are in good shape. However, her liver is quite large. Happens to aging dogs.
Blood test showed that our little one has hypothyroidism. No wonder she gained weight. No matter how much activity she was engaged in, and cutting back on her food, I still couldn’t help her shed those extra pounds.
As we entered the car, I burst into a well of tears as I clutched my chest. I couldn’t breathe. It was as if the world had come to a complete halt. I felt my heart breaking. I wanted to wake up from this nightmare.
After being referred to a reputable Specialists Hospital by a family member, where her little Yorkshire terrier (dog) had her hip & leg surgery, I called to make an appointment, and in between tears (I couldn't finish a sentence without sobbing), I got an earlier consultation with the veterinarian oncologist that week.
During the consultation, the vet oncologist explained what tests they would run that day. With our approval, our sweet girl went through a battery of tests--- Fine needle aspirate to check if the growth in her neck is cancerous. They did an ultra-sound urinalysis and blood panel. After knowing the results, it was confirmed that the moveable and operable growth is thyroid carcinoma. The good news was, it hasn’t metastasized. Metastasized, meaning, it hasn't spread to her major organs.
We were sent an estimate of the surgery. The decision was to do it. To extend our precious girl's life.
The surgeon specialist removed a 3 & ¼-inch growth from her neck. The vet oncologist, who closely monitored Matisse that day, told us that she definitely benefited from the surgery. Our girl had to stay overnight for observation. She was cared for by a designated night nurse. I had a difficult time sleeping that night. I miss my sweet little girl.
On pick-up day, the vet who assisted the surgeon specialist told us that we should keep the area as clean as possible. Instead of putting an Elizabethan collar over her head, I cut out the neck part of her old sweater, and used it to cover the stitches. It prevents her from trying to reach the lower part of the stitches. We don’t want her licking or chewing to aggravate the wound.
Photo was taken the day after her surgery. Poor girl was just not herself. She was miserable. We were miserable. Her breathing labored, and her snoring is so loud. She gags each time she bends or tilt her head. She was a sad sight, but we are so happy to have her back home.
The neck warmer truly helped. This beats wearing the Elizabethan collar.
2 weeks after the healing process, her sutures were removed. That was also the day when we decided to let Matisse go through chemotherapy, in the hopes, with the success rates from other dogs with cancer, that we can beat this. We are aware that there are people out there who think that this are poor choices. We all make choices in life, no matter how painful or extremely difficult or outrageous. What we did? This is about hope and true love. Unless she was given weeks or a few months to live, then, as heart wrenching it may be, then ‘yes’. That would be a different story. But, if you ask me, if there is this smidgen of hope, I wouldn’t hesitate to buy my dog a few more years. I admit, I’m not ready to let her go. Why would we allow the mass growth to keep growing, and thus pressing against her windpipe, eventually choking her? Why give up on her and put her to sleep, then and there? Because an animal is not worth a single dollar? It is a personal choice. She is family. Our family. Not some accessory. So, the decision was made.
I started my fur girl on a cancer diet right away. I stopped giving her dry food and wet dog food altogether even though they are claimed to be the best ones in the market. I am after her health more than anything. She's been eating home-cooked meals. No processed foods. I would whip up a mixture of steamed brown rice, sautéed lean (95%) ground or choice cuts of meats (she needs a high protein diet), and steamed or boiled cut up vegetables like broccoli, string beans, brussel sprouts. No corn, no carrots, no peas, no potatoes, no fats, no commercial dog snacks. No table scraps whatsoever. Our goal is to starve the cancer cells. I've been giving her the recommended servings of fresh fruits high in vitamin c and antioxidants, as well as a few pieces of Japanese yams, whenever I am having it for lunch or a snack.
NOTE: I am fully aware that some of you are cringing when you read about the meats that I've been preparing for my dog. I would never argue with anyone who are, or who decides to be a vegan, for philosophical, spiritual or ethical reasons. You have my respect.
Let's go back to the original topic/story.
During Matisse's first recheck, the oncologist found out that Matisse has protein in her urine (darn), so she was prescribed Enalapril tablets. Poor girl was practically a walking pharmacy. So life went on, and it got better. I started to gain that confidence that we will somehow beat this thing. This dreaded cancer.
We were still recovering from that ordeal, when in late October; she started vomiting, and had the shivers. And shivers in pets would mean they are in pain. I remember when her back arched and she was looking at me, with sad, pleading eyes, as if saying, “Mommy? I don’t fee
l good. Please help me.” A pet being in that position would mean that their stomach hurts. If any of you see this happening to your pet, PLEASE do not assume it is nothing. DO NOT put off taking your beloved pet to the emergency vet hospital. Just do it!
Matisse couldn't keep her food down, and would vomit. After a battery of tests--- Abdominal ultrasound, blood test---X-ray and fine needle aspiration, because the vet oncologist felt a lymph node on her neck--- 4 hours of waiting (we had lunch within the complex), the ultrasound and x-ray showed a very angry pancreas, as described by the surgeon specialist. She was diagnosed with acute pancreatitis. A very painful kind.
The needle aspirate test ruled out cancer. It wasn’t cancer. No metastasis (cancer hasn’t spread). What squeezed the life out of our hearts was when her blood test revealed a high reading of glucose level. She has diabetes. OMG, I just couldn’t help but sob my eyes out. I was out of control. They had to leave me to let it off my chest. It was one health issue after the other. My heart couldn’t bear the pain I was feeling that day. My whole body just went numb. The cancer killed off that joy inside of me. Now, this? Our poor, sweet baby.
Pancreatitis requires hospitalization. Intensive care, to be exact. After given the option between hospitalization OR doing the I.V. in-skin fluid therapy at home, we chose home care. But what we didn’t know is that we are talking about 5 to 6 days of hospitalization. And I mean, intensive care and all-day observation. That one time, in-skin fluid therapy? It shouldn’t stop there!
So, we were taught by the nurse how to perform an in-skin fluid therapy, where to insert the needle, how to work the I.V. bag etc. etc. It was so nerve-wrecking. To insert a huge needle through our baby’s skin was a bit too much to bear. But we do, what we had to do, to help her get/feel better. Nothing is impossible, and you will do the impossible all for name of love. We did the in-skin fluid therapy twice a day, for 5 straight days. After each session, Matisse would have this bulging sac full of fluid either on her chest area or the side of her torso. This is normal. The body will absorb that in hours. You have no idea how stressful it’s been, starting on the day I discovered the growth in her neck. It’s like being denied of air.
This electric elevator grooming table came in handy. So did the piddle pad which I buy in 200's or 300's per box, at a time. Without this table, it would've been difficult to perform the in-skin fluid therapy. The S-hook was a bonus! It helped keep the I.V. bag hanging safely in place. The S-hook that helped prop up the I.V. bag, was actually for my adorable purple bead fishy decor. Oh and we didn't made use of the restraints that you see on the photo. I actually removed it from the handle bar. We knew how to safely, calmly and effectively hold Matisse during the therapy.
Oh and didn’t I just mentioned that THAT first in-skin fluid therapy wasn’t enough? Of course it wasn't. She was still losing weight and continued to refuse food. She was peeing and drinking water excessively. I had to order doggy diapers because she would wet herself, without her knowing, while she’s sleeping. All this was all because of the diabetes. Worried sick, and without wasting any more time, I took immediate action and called her primary vet to see Matisse right away. I also called the Specialist Hospital to have them fax all of her records. That would mean all of it, starting from her surgery down to all the tests and rechecks done on her, dating from the month of August through late October of 2016. No more long drives to the Specialists Hospital. Matisse's primary vet can take it from there.
At the primary vet's, they did a series of blood and urinalysis tests. To add salt to the wound, the vet told us that she has diabetes ketoacidosis. She needs to be on intensive fluid therapy, ASAP! To better understand what DKA means. Diabetic ketoacidosis, or DKA, is one of the most serious metabolic disorders seen in both human and veterinary medicine. It is a severe complication of diabetes mellitus, DKA is characterized by an elevated concentration of blood sugar, the presence of substances called ketones in the urine. The intensive fluid therapy will help flush the ketones out of her system, so this needs to be done right away. If untreated or if you prolong treatment, it can be fatal for your pet.
Matisse went through 4 separate intensive fluid therapy sessions that required her to be admitted in the vet hospital for a whole day, and then, come home for the night. Luckily, this vet hospital is just 12 minutes away. The Specialists hospital is a drive away. There are pluses as well as minuses between the two locations, but I wouldn’t say treatment at Matisse’s primary vet’s was cost effective. It wasn’t. The bill was anywhere from $680 up to $800+ per session. Imagine if it were at the Specialists hospital. Trust me, it could've been more. Please excuse my language, but money don’t come out of our a$$es. Even if we chose taking Matisse to her primary veterinarian, it would still be financially draining. Within 5 months, we shelled out thousands upon thousands of dollars, and though we are picturing ourselves living in the streets, our great love for Matisse encompasses everything. And everything that we've done was because of pure love for an innocent, loving creature of God. It is without a doubt in this world that it is Matisse's devotion and loyalty that completed our lives. We dubbed her as a fighter, a brave and sweet soul.
During 3 of her 4 hospitalization days, she received 3 types of injections namely Covenia, Famotidine, Cerenia during those two sessions. A lab-thyroid profile, Lab CBC/Chem/T4, urine collection, and urinalysis were also performed. Now, I.V. (intravenous) catheters are used extensively in pets that are sick. These catheters allow vets or their assistants to administer medication directly into the venous system for rapid distribution to the whole body. Medication given this way acts faster and is more controllable, a significant advantage for an ill pet or in an emergency, which was Matisse's case. So, there is a difference between the in-skin fluid therapy that we did at home, than the intensive fluid therapy performed during Matisse's hospitalization at the vet's.
I did mention earlier that Matisse's blood test revealed a blood glucose level reading of 500. So, during the second intensive fluid therapy procedure, the vet started her on 2 units of insulin. A glucose spot test was also done to check her blood glucose (I will shorten this to B.G., okay?) level.
HUMULIN N insulin has been working out so far in decreasing some of Matisse's symptoms like excessive urination and thirst. Insulin (E.g. Humulin N, Novolin-N) may act differently in the individual dog. She's still not regulated, and often have high readings, based on her last all-day BG curve testing, and home BG curve testing, which I did just recently. We are constantly praying and hoping that we will finally find the correct dosage and regulate her BG curves.
Everything went well, but her gagging bouts are still a concern to us. The gagging started right after the surgery. The oncologist told us that it was probably inflamed by the gas anesthesia, and that it would eventually go away, in time. Well, it’s been 5 months. She was prescribed a cough expectorant and inflammation medication, but it did so little to help. Each time she fetches a ball or run towards the front door to warn me of the incoming mail, she would gag. It’s been close to 5 months. The gagging comes and goes. I think this is here to stay. It’s not killing her, so I think it’s something I won’t have to worry about, well, for now since there are bigger issues we are currently facing concerning her health.
So, the past 2 weeks, her primary vet's been doing test after test, doing blood glucose curve readings in the hopes that they are able to stabilize the BG (Blood glucose) level. Ketones are still found in her urine. They started her on 2 ml insulin shots. When she went in again on November 21st for her all-day BG reading at the vet’s, her BG levels were quite high. It is due to the stress. Like cats and some dogs, our girl doesn’t do well being caged all day long, not to mention, being subjected to needles. How can we blame her? Right? Since then, the vet had to raise her dosage from 2 units to 3 units. I do the insulin shots at home, twice a day, and 30 minutes after she eats food. Because that unsuccessful and very stressful time at the vet’s, I was encouraged by the vet to do Matisse’ BG curve tests at home. So, I ordered a glucometer kit (Alphatrak 2), 26 gauge lancets, extra test strips, urine test strips and a urine scooper that has this handle that extends. Very helpful tool. Trust me, I wasn’t excited to do the blood glucose curve test myself. I am talking about drawing blood from my beloved pet! Not an incredible amount of blood, but enough pooling of blood for an accurate reading. I am not in the medical field. I am not a fan of it at all. But I had to keep reminding myself that I am helping her.
So, after being explained by Matisse's vet how this is done. I still wanted to brush up with the procedure, so I watched You Tube video tutorials of vets demonstrating the how-tis and I also visited Pet diabetic forums, just to come prepared for the big day. I did my very first BG curve test at home, on Matisse, on December 1st, 2016. My poor nerves, I tell you! I started doing the test at 4:30 a.m., then 8:30 a.m., then 12:30 p.m. then the last one, at 4:30 p.m. then I fed her, and 15 minutes after, I gave her a shot of 4 units of insulin. Why 4 units? Her readings that day were sky high, her vet had to raise her insulin dosage. Her next B.G. test is scheduled on the 15th of December. I will have to keep doing these tests till we are able to find the correct dosage to help and FINALLY regulate her BG curves. The ideal results are 250--- 120----250. Very challenging. Diabetes is a life-long disease. Our precious girl will be on insulin for life.
When she got sick with acute pancreatitis, we stopped her chemotherapy, as well as the other medications prescribed to her. We actually decided not to continue the chemo. We will just let her live comfortably with what few years she has left. Lots and lots of love. No creature is replaceable, much less an animal who has become a part of our family. However long we get to enjoy our pets, they are a blessing, and knowing something that good won’t last forever can never fully prepare us for the absence of a wonderful presence in our life. That’s why I am savoring each waking day that I still have Matisse. Life won’t be the same without her. Ever. One of the most wonderful things about animals is how they embrace the present. When our pets are suffering, they don’t reflect on all the great days they have had before, or ponder what the future will bring. All they know is how they feel today. By considering this perspective, we can see the world more clearly through their eyes. And their eyes are what matters.
In all honesty, it wasn’t easy. In fact, it’s never easy caring for the sick, especially with pets. The unfairness of it all is that they can't speak when they are unwell. It is emotionally draining, and honestly, it is financially draining. The sadness, the worries, the tension, the fears, the endless crying, the sleep deprivation, that comes along with it is what we’ve been experiencing. However, even though caring for her may have been a lot of work, and the sacrifices that we've made, it is a labor of love. Every single day with her is a blessing. A gift. There are no regrets, ever.
It's been a challenging, stressful and exhausting 5 months for us, and now you know what truly happened, and why I had to put off my presence in social media, and most of all, temporarily stopped sculpting. We are keeping our home as happy as possible, inspite of the worries, and God knows, we triumphed. In life, we taste the bitter, as well as the sweet. The bitter part is what makes us all stronger and wiser. I am proud to say that I’ve become that person now, based on this harrowing experience. And believe me, this is far from over.
I won’t say when, but my absence is just temporary. I miss my crazy, fun Face booking days! I really do. If I don’t see you during the holidays, I wish you and your family a HAPPY CHRISTMAS and JOYOUS NEW YEAR (2017).