4.16.2014

Weekly Read: April Audible Picks

April Audible Books

April Audible Books by kemorton1986 on Polyvore

It is no surprise that I happen to LOVE audiobooks-- from driving to work to working in the kitchen, you can always find me with a book playing in the background.  Here are the audiobooks I am currently listening to-- check them out at Audible!

The Body Book
Cameron Diaz wrote a relatively generic book that will make you question everything you put in your mouth.  However, it's an informative, yet entertaining, read!


Your Personal Paleo Code
This book is my new favorite Paleo diet book-- it's all about tweaking your diet to your own needs.


Amazon.com: Deep Thoughts From a Hollywood Blonde eBook: Jennie Garth,...
I never was a big fan of Beverly Hills 90210-- however, this is a fun, easy read about the life of one of Hollywood's infamous blondes.


Veronica Mars An Original Mystery by Rob Thomas
I recently watched Veronica Mars, the movie, and I loved it!  I'm also a big fan of the series, and this book is like reading (er, listening to) a new episode or three.  Love it!


Amazon.com: Mockingjay (The Final Book of The Hunger Games) eBook:...
I mean.... this is the next book in The Hunger Games trilogy.  Enough said.

Winning the Battle Wednesday: The Low-Down about Canine Indolent T-cell Lymphoma

In last week's Winning the Battle Wednesday post, I wrote about my dog Reese's journey regarding getting properly diagnosed with low-grade (or indolent) T-cell lymphoma.  This week, I would like to write a few quick facts about this rare form of canine cancer and how it differs from more common forms.

*Warning: I am not a vet, so please contact your medical professional with any questions or concerns about your own pups.*
(source)
Q: What is canine lymphoma?

A: Canine lymphoma refers to cancer of the lymphatic system-- simple, right?  Not quite.  Just like us humans, dogs' lymphatic system refers to a collection of lymph nodes that assist in a great deal of immunity functioning.  Lymph nodes can be external (like the ones under your neck) or internal (there are several in the stomach and chest).  Lymphoma can also originate, spread, or infect the spleen, thymus (an organ in the chest), or even the stomach lining.

Lymphoma typically occurs when lymphocyte cells-- a type of white blood cell-- spreads excessively and rapidly.  This mainly occurs in the lymph nodes but can also originate in the stomach, spleen, or anywhere else the lymphatic system travels.
(source)
Q: What are the types of canine lymphoma?

A: There are three parts to this-- the grade of lymphoma, the type of lymphoma, and the presentation of lymphoma.

The grade (or histologic grade) refers to whether a dog has high-, medium-, or low-grade lymphoma.  To put very simply, this just defines how fast the cancer is spreading.  High-grade and medium-grades often occur suddenly and spread rapidly and, without treatment, can end a dog's life in a matter of weeks.  Low-grade lymphomas spread very slowly and dogs can live longer without treatment.  However, high- and medium-grade lymphomas will respond much better to chemo and possibly enter into remission.  This is trickier to achieve with low-grade lymphoma.  The most common form of lymphoma, by far, is high- or medium-grade.  Low-grade tends to account for 10% of lymphoma cases in dogs, although that number may be an underestimate.

The type (or immunophenotype) of lymphoma refers to whether a lymphoma is B-cell or T-cell in nature.  Typically, B-cell is the better prognosis, as it responds more to chemotherapy (which is the treatment of choice).  However, in low-grade varieties T-cell lymphoma spreads much more slowly than B-cell.  Basically, if a dog has high- or medium-grade lymphoma, B-cell is the better prognosis; if your dog has low-grade lymphoma, however, T-cell will be the better prognosis.  Confusing, right?  However, B-cell is more common overall.

The presentation is where the lymphoma originates and is present.  For some dogs, their lymph nodes only seem to be affected, while others are affected in their stomachs, spleen, etc.  Also, dogs are classified by whether they have no other symptoms besides cancer (substage a) or if they show additional illness, such as lethargy, weight loss, or poor appetite (substage b).  Obviously, a dog has a better prognosis if they are treated in substage a.

(source)
Q: What is the prognosis of a dog with lymphoma?

A: It is hard to say-- lymphoma is one of the most common forms of cancer, but thankfully it is one that responds well to chemotherapy.  High- and medium-grade are most common and, without treatment, dogs can live for a few weeks on average (although some pups have lived longer).  With treatment, which is typically chemotherapy, dogs can be in remission (meaning that there is no sign of the cancer) for over a year.  Additional remissions can be achieved, but they are typically shorter.  With low-grade lymphoma, prognosis depends-- some dogs can live two or more years while others, especially those with indolent lymphoma, may not even die from the disease.
(source)
Q: How is indolent lymphoma different than low-grade lymphoma?

A: There is some debate about this, as the two terms are used interchangeably.  However, it is generally explained that low-grade lymphoma refers to cancer that, while still spreading, is at a very slow rate.  Indolent lymphoma, on the other hand, suggests a much slower, often stable journey.  There are three types of indolent lymphoma-- two of them are B-cell (follicular and marginal zone) and the other is T-cell (T-zone).  B-cell, indolent lymphomas had a median survival time of nearly 2 years without treatment; pups with T-zone lymphoma are reported to live anywhere from 3 years to 8 years without any treatment.  Indolent lymphoma is typically not treated with chemotherapy but some dogs reported benefits from this therapy.
(source)
Q: What form of lymphoma does Reese have?

A: As the title of this post suggests, I am very, very lucky that my pup has T-zone lymphoma, which is associated with the best prognosis.  She has had enlarged lymph nodes for over a year, has gained weight, and shows no other signs of illness.  I am hoping to keep her happy and healthy for many, many more years.
(source)
Q: How are you treating Reese?

A: Reese currently sees a wonderful veterinarian oncologist as well as her regular vet.  While we tried an oral, intense chemotherapy protocol (called CCNU), it didn't show to be that effective in reducing her lymph nodes.  For now, she is taking a low-dose of oral chemo (Cytoxan) and very low-dose of prednisone.  She will likely remain on this for the rest of her life, which is fine by me.  I also changed her diet and am giving her supplements, which I will explain in my next post.
(source)
Q: What should I do if I think my dog has lymphoma?

A: If you notice ANY swelling of ANY lymph node, get to your vet immediately and request a fine-needle aspiration, where the vet takes a needle and extracts some fluid from the lymph node.  Within a week, you should know whether your dog has lymphoma or not.  If it is inconclusive, opt for an incisional biopsy-- they more than likely just need to take a small sample of the lymph node and this is an outpatient procedure.  This should give you a definitive answer.  Also, I would recommend finding a veterinarian oncologist-- they may be more pricey initially, but they will save you a lot of money in the long run because there will likely be more trial and error with treatment otherwise.
(source)
Q: How about the cost?

A: Typically I don't go into this, but I know it's a very pressing concern.  Here is the breakdown of what things cost:
    *Aspirations (2)= $300
    *Incisional biopsy= $500 total
    *1 month supply of prednisone=$7 (cheap!)
    *1 month supply of oral chemo (Cytoxan)= $50 (go to Costco-- I saved $7 per pill! It would have been $150 otherwise-- you don't need a Costco membership to use their pharmacy)
    *Blood work (1 time per month)= $90 (for blood and liver checks)

Yes, treating Reese has been expensive-- however, in my opinion it is worth it.  She's happy, healthy, and is getting the best treatment possible.  Not gonna lie-- if your dog has the more common high- or medium-grade lymphomas, one protocol may cost up to $2000.  I recommend Care Credit for these costly procedures-- they have an interest-free payment plan, as well.  Just make sure that your vet accepts Care Credit.
(source)
Also, I would recommend buying pet insurance-- it is my biggest regret, as a lot of this would have been paid for.  I'm buying it for Paisley and will be getting it for my next pup.  Pet Plan has received great reviews, FYI.

Thank you for reading through my very, very novice explanation of canine lymphoma.  As I previously stated, I am not a vet-- I am simply a pet mom who did a lot of research on this.  Please see your vet if you think your pup has lymphoma-- the sooner you know, the sooner you can treat!

Stay tuned next week for an explanation of Reese's diet and supplements that I believe have helped her greatly.

4.14.2014

Steals & Deals: Audible's Daily Deal


I happen to be downright OBSESSED with audiobooks-- whether I'm cooking dinner, driving into work, or even running on the treadmill, I almost always am listening to a good, juicy read on my Audible app via my iPhone.  While I happen to prefer non-fiction, at Audible there are tons of books available to choose from. Best of all?  Every single day, Audible releases a new, actually decent audiobook on sale for $2.95.  I've found some great steals, folks....

P.S. What is your favorite audiobook? Any good recommendations?

P.S.S. Don't forget to sign up for the Daily Deal email for daily reminders.

Money Monday: Taking the Ebate....

Personally, I am a big, big fan of getting money back wherever (and whenever I can).  While a lot of people know about the website Ebates, which lets you earn a certain percentage back in cash by simply clicking through their website, they don't always utilize it.  To be frank, I happen to be lazy and tend to forget to actually go to the website!

Luckily, Ebates came out with a button that makes earning cash back super convenient.  Just download the Ebates Cash Back Button and get reminded each and every time you enter a website that is cash back eligible.  It's so simple-- I already have a few bucks saved up!

Anybody here ever use Ebates?  What are your thoughts?

P.S. Interested in a little Ebates action?  Sign up for a free account and start earning some cash back!

4.12.2014

Style Swap: I'm So Blue....

Lately, I have been absolutely lusting after these Ray-Ban "Original Aviator" 58mm Sunglasses in blue & gold.  They are stylish, sassy, and perfect for spring time!  However, I'm not about to pay $170 for a pair of glasses-- I've got rent, puppy chemo, and everything else, all on a student's budget! 
Ray-Ban "Original Aviator" 58mm Sunglasses; $170
However, check out these ultra cool shades from Steve Madden: they are perfect dupes for only $38!  Plus, Steve Madden is a good, sturdy brand of sunnies that should last for years despite their low price.
Steve Madden 60mm Aviator Sunglasses; $38
Which would you guys buy?  Tell me your thoughts, pretty please!


Stylish Saturday: My Style Wish in April 2014

3.29.2014

Winning the Battle Wednesday: A Brief History on My Reese's Journey with Cancer

As stated in previous posts, I found out on February 20, 2014 (yep-- that date is burned in my brain) that my fur baby, Reese, was diagnosed with lymphoma.  However, it's a rare form of lymphoma and this was not a straight forward diagnosis by any stretch of the imagination.  I want to take the time here to explain our journey and talk about this rare form of cancer.

Here's the timeline, folks:
The position that started it all.
January, 2013: I was completing my finals for winter quarter with Reese lounging by my side on my couch.  I reached over to pet her and my hand found a lump under her jaw-- it wasn't too big, but it was noticeable.  I assumed it was allergies and gave her a benadryl.  That was that.

May, 2013: I noticed that two more bumps were showing up.  Reese had a recent fatty tumor pop up and so I automatically assumed that was the culprit.  However, on a whim I looked up canine lymph nodes and noticed that all of these bumps were originating in the lymph nodes.  Uh-oh.

June, 2013: I took Reese to the vet.  He told me that, based on his experience, this could be either lymphoma or some other infection/reaction.  He took a blood sample and performed a fine needle aspirate-- basically, this is a way to determine if cancer cells are present.  One week later, I received the news that the biopsy revealed that she did not have cancer but instead was having a reaction to something else-- I was elated!  Reese was given antibiotics.
August, 2013: I took Reese back to the vet because her lymph nodes were not decreasing-- they were getting bigger.  The vet is somewhat disappointed and says that this could be a sign that she probably has lymphoma.  I am devastated, but we test her blood once again and take more aspirates of her nodes.  We also run a full tick-and-flea panel test to see if that is a cause of her lymph nodes.  Everything comes back clear, and the aspiration came back even more clear than before-- NO sign of lymphoma.  I felt relieved but still perplexed as to why Reese's lymph nodes were enlarged.  The vet told me that, if she started to feel sick, we would do a biopsy to get a more accurate result.

December, 2013: Reese is still feeling fine-- she has a huge appetite and is playing nonstop!  However, her lympg nodes in her neck are still large and it sometimes chokes her up.  The vet prescribes steroids to take the swelling down.  However, the steroids lower her immune system and, when we are visiting relatives in Kentucky, she develops a nasty urinary track infection.  We go to the local vet who scolds me for what he calls "neglecting" my dog, who he says obviously is dying.  He mentions low-grade lymphoma, which I had never heard of before.  Essentially, I am grateful to this vet for informing me about this condition but I am disgusted by his lack of professionalism and empathy (he tells me that I need to realize that "this is just a dog").  I start doing my research and realize that it is very likely Reese has low-grade lymphoma.  However, in January I start on a month-long interview process across the country-- I plan to have a biopsy done in early February when Reese returns to my care.
FYI-- she was wearing a shirt to protect her stitches.
February, 2014: I schedule a biopsy with my (trusted) regular vet.  He also does a full blood panel and even performs a culture on a lymph node that was excised yet found to be pus-filled (ew, I know).  One week later, I get the results back-- it is low-grade, small cell lymphoma. I cry forever, but immediately take her to see a highly-referred canine oncologist.  We also receive word that Reese has T-cell lymphoma, which is the best prognosis regarding low-grade lymphomas.  She could live many, many years without treatment-- there is a strong possibility that she won't even die from this, as it is THAT slow growing!
After chemo, Reese gets to go to her favorite store and pick out yummy treats!
Currently: We have Reese on a chemo regimen and she is responding well to it-- her blood work is still great, and her breathing has greatly improved.  She has gained 13 lbs. over the course of a year (oops...) and I have done a ton of research on her condition.  I am hopeful that she will live several more years as a happy, healthy dog.
My baby and I, matching!
For the next Winning the Battle Wednesday, I will go into detail about low-grade lymphoma and explain how it is so different from its more common (and more lethal) high- and medium-grade lymphomas.

P.S. I would just like to reiterate that I am no vet-- I am just a doctoral student who is highly neurotic and obsessive when it comes to my pup.