August 10, 2014

Narrated Audio Blog

Told in the collective first person, jointly from Stu and Janell Clarke's perspective.

In September 2013, back in Australia, we had noticed that Skyla's lymph nodes on her neck had significantly enlarged. It occurred at the same time a rash appeared on her belly. Skyla often gets a rash on her belly when she gets in to long grass so we treated the rash and thought the enlarged lymph nodes was due to her body fighting the rash. After a few days the rash went away and instead of the lumps decreasing they got bigger so we took her to the vet.

Skyla was quickly diagnosed as having Lymphoma, a cancer of the blood, and was referred to the Sydney's Animal Referral Hospital (A.R.H.). We were given the following heartbreaking options:

  • leave her untreated with a life expectancy of only 30 days;
  • put her on steroids to possibly get 90 days;
  • treat her with chemotherapy and get 12-14 months; or
  • try the new and very expensive bone marrow transplant treatment with a 30% chance of success but a potential cure.

We didn't need to discuss the options. We both agreed that we would throw everything we could at the cancer and try the bone marrow transplant. The cost would be upwards of $22,000 but we were in a fortunate position with having saved a vast amount for our travels and would be happy to dip into these funds to save our baby. Skyla had been there for us when we needed her, all the times Stu was away with the Navy, whenever either of us had been sick or upset, all of our big driving adventures around Australia and the list goes on. She is an incredible dog and a massive part of our lives so if there was something we could do for her then we were going to do it.

Skyla's treatment started immediately and we went about postponing our trip for 3 months (our original departure date was 14 December 2013), which it turns out was a positive as Dallas gets pretty cold in the winter months. The course of chemotherapy and the bone marrow transplant took 5 months and it was tough going for the little girl but being the little trooper she is she always bounced back. She went into remission within 2 weeks, a great initial sign, and from then on she continued to impress the vets with great results to all their tests and showed great resilience after every procedure.

The month prior to our departure was very busy for Skyla. She had the bone marrow transplant and was at the A.R.H. 2-3 times a week for check-ups. She also had to get her usual yearly vaccinations as well as rabies. Everything had been successful, the cancer had completely disappeared, and we were ready to travel with every hope in the world it would be the last we ever saw of cancer.

There are just some things in this world you can't control and no amount of money can buy. Signs of Skyla's cancer returned only days after entering Mexico. We contacted the vets at A.R.H. and they put together a treatment plan for us on the road. Skyla went back on a chemotherapy drug as well as a steroid to reduce the size of the lumps that returned. This worked well for about two months but unfortunately the cancer was too strong so she was taken off the chemotherapy drugs which weren't helping her any more. After that was just a waiting and hoping game. The lumps started growing slowly but then with short notice they enlarged dramatically. A local Brazilian vet gave her an injection to make her more comfortable and the vets at A.R.H. have advised us that so long as she is happy and comfortable she is okay but we need to be prepared and assess her wellness day by day.

Maybe its just that she's our dog but she had been a truly remarkable companion. Every day on our bikes she brought smiles to peoples faces as they pointed and giggled at a dog on a motorbike riding past them. We knew that she was living on borrowed time and were determined to make the most of what little time we had left with her.

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