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Baxter Update

I took Baxter in for a recheck last week, and his x-rays look good. The radiologist’s assessment was, “Similar, if not better than August. Certainly no evidence of deterioration.” Yea!!!! The radiologist recommended getting x-rays again in 1-2 months.

Baxter does have some other medical issues, but hopefully they’re nothing serious. He’s been having runny eyes, and several times a day he’ll have some huge mushy poops that look and smell like dog poop. (He still has plenty of normal poops.) The first time I saw the mushy poop, I thought Lucy had had an accident! My vet flushed his eyes and prescribed eye drops and antibiotics, but so far I’m not seeing much improvement. I’m going to try to find a kind of probiotic that he won’t reject. (I try to sneak it into his food, but he sniffs it out and won’t eat it. Picky guy!)

He also has a small patch of flaky skin on his back that we confirmed is not mites. I’m concerned that it might be sebaceous adenitis (http://www.medirabbit.com/EN/Cancer/Thym/Thymoma_rab.htm), but based on the article, the flakes I saw don’t really fit the description. We’ll be looking into that more if it gets any worse. For now I’m just keeping an eye on it and keeping it clean.

The other thing I asked my vet about is his strange sitting posture. He often sits with his hind leg thrust way forward. (See below photos.) He doesn’t always sit this way, and I first noticed this several years ago, so I don’t believe it’s related to his thymoma or radiation. My vet did observe that his hind end is kind of weak. I’m not surprised by this as he is an extremely inactive bunny and probably seldom exercises those muscles. He has free run of our family room and kitchen, but he won’t step off the rugs. I have lots of rugs around for him so that he can go exploring, but he seldom does. Now that Scootie and Lucy are both gone, I don’t even have a baby gate in the doorway anymore since he won’t venture into the rest of the house.

The x-rays showed that he has a little bit of arthritis, which may at least partially explain his strange posture.

My vet says (and I don’t doubt him) that his immune system is probably weakened by the radiation. But despite having a few issues, he’s doing well overall, and I’m SO happy the tumor isn’t coming back so far.

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Baxter’s “Before & After” X-Rays

Last week Baxter got follow-up x-rays, one month after his last radiation treatment. Dr. Loudis was very pleased with the decrease in the size of the tumor, and the radiologist who reviewed the x-rays said that he was so impressed that he plans to use Baxter’s before-and-after x-rays as a teaching tool!

I was hoping more for “gone” rather than “smaller,” but I am still very happy with the results. Dr. Loudis also sent the x-rays to Baxter’s oncologist, but he hasn’t responded yet. I’ll be curious to hear what he thinks.

I created combined files of the x-rays so that you can compare how the tumor looked in May (when it was found) to how it looks now. In the x-ray showing the view from above, I also included an x-ray of a normal rabbit (that I found on the web) to compare to. You can see that he looks much more like the normal rabbit now than how he looked in May. (The view from above shows the difference in size more dramatically.)

You may also notice that his abdomen looks more narrow now than in May. He has lost weight since this all began, so I am working on putting some weight back on him, much to his delight! :-)

(Click on these thumbnails to see the full-size images.)

Hug Me! I’m a Cancer Survivor!

I took this picture of Baxter in his “Hug Me! I am a Cancer Survivor!” scarf that the vet put on him after his sixth and final radiation treatment on July 2. Baxter handled the radiation well and his oncologist, Dr. Proulx, was very pleased with how everything went. We won’t have an idea of how successful the treatments were until we do follow-up x-rays about a month after his last treatment. But as far as what I can observe, he’s doing great. His appetite and behavior are normal, and I’m not seeing any bulging eyes. The only thing I do still notice is occasional mushy poops.

The staff at the vet where he received his cancer treatments all fell in love with him. He got many nice compliments about his sweet disposition from the techs, and even Dr. Proulx commented that he was exceptionally gentle and easy to work with. (It’s true, Baxter has always been an easy-going guy.)

Since I never saw the area where Baxter got his treatments, I asked one of the techs if she could take a picture of Baxter in the radiation room. Below are a couple photos she took. The picture of him strapped in for his therapy is a little disturbing, I know, but don’t worry… he’s not distressed… he was sedated and unaware of what was going on at the time. And he’s only like that for less than a minute. I’m sure he was more stressed when I was taking the photo of him in his scarf! (Which I took off of him as soon as I finished taking the picture, of course. It now hangs proudly on his Cottontail Cottage.)

I’ll post an update again after we do the x-rays. Paws crossed that the tumor will be gone, or at least greatly reduced. Hopefully we have bought Baxter some more time by doing these treatments.

Overall I’m very pleased with how Baxter is doing, both physically and emotionally. He seems to be doing OK without Scootie, but I don’t want him to be lonely, especially since he’s used to having a companion. So he has been on dates with three of my single bunnies. So far we don’t have a clear love connection, as Baxter seems to be afraid of everyone he meets. But hopefully he’ll warm up to the idea and have a new buddy soon!

 

The Scooter Memorial Garden

Scooter's Memorial Garden

I recently received a beautiful surprise from a few of my friends: A garden in honor of my little Scootie’s memory.

The day after Scooter passed, my friend Debra (who was also Scooter’s foster mom before I adopted him), sent an email to my husband that said, “I’ve been sitting here thinking about Scooter and his life; his impact on people and how one small bunny could touch so many hearts; wondering what might be a suitable tribute. I thought it would be nice to do up a little memorial garden in tribute to Scooter. I’d like it to be a surprise for Alison.”

So began the secret planning of the Scooter Memorial Garden. Debra contacted some friends, asking for assistance and contributions towards the project.

Before I go any further with the story, I’d like to thank these friends who participated in the project:

First and foremost, a huge thanks to the “planting crew,” who spent an entire afternoon planting the garden: Debra, Larry D, Gerry S, and my hubby, George. (You will see what a big job this was when you view the “before and after” photos below!)

And a heartfelt thank you to everyone else who contributed to the project, either with a monetary donation, item for the garden, labor, and/or supplies: Cindy B, Diane C, Cathy C, Debbie D & John P, Larry D & Michelle W, April K, Leslie L, John & Kristi K, Phyllis M, Patricia M, Judith P, Mary S, Gerry S, Tamara & Scott S, Shelley T, Sylvia W, George, and of course the mastermind of the project, Debra.

George and Debra discussed where the garden would be planted, and ultimately decided the big planter along the patio outside my office would be the perfect spot for it. Debra came over when I wasn’t home to measure the area, and then drew up plans and made all the necessary arrangements for the big “planting day.” Debra chose the Peruvian Lily as the primary plant of the garden as I’d seen them in her yard awhile back and had commented on how beautiful I thought they were.

My Mom was in town from Florida visiting while all this was going on, so my family co-conspired to keep me away from home the day of the planting, which was no easy feat… several times I managed to unknowingly interfere with plans when I stayed home longer than I intended, usually to care for my sick bunny, Oliver. On the day of the planting, I left over an hour later than I was supposed to, but after I finally departed, the “planting crew” got the signal from George that the coast was clear for them to come over.

As I lounged around and played games with my family at my brother’s house in Poway that day, I had no idea my husband and friends were slaving away on my patio!

I got home after dark that night, so I didn’t learn about the garden until the next morning. As soon as I woke up, George said he had something to show me and led me outside to my patio. I couldn’t believe my eyes! He told me the whole story and I was just blown away and moved beyond words. What a beautiful, generous thing for my friends to do. I had NO idea anything was going on, and I am still amazed that they got that entire garden planted in one day.

So every day now, I enjoy the beauty of the garden. It serves as not only a tribute to Scooter, but to all of our special bunnies who have gone to the Rainbow Bridge and are frolicking there… now with Scootie.

Sadly, a few very special bunnies have already recently joined Scooter, and are the newest honorees of the Memorial Garden: Phyllis’s Leo, Judith’s Rugby, and my little Oliver. We will love and remember them always.

Here are photos from this project. Click on the first picture to start the slideshow:

The “World’s Cutest Bunny” is now “Heaven’s Cutest Bunny”

It is with the heaviest of hearts that I tell you that my precious Scooter has passed away. I knew he was fading, but I really thought and hoped I had more time with him. He was doing OK the night before he passed, eating his favorite treat (shredded carrots), and enjoying our nightly snuggle time. I did notice he was dozing off a little more than usual while I fed him the carrot, but it never occurred to me it was his last night on earth. But things were very different when I got up the next morning. He was very weak, he hadn’t pooped overnight, I wasn’t able to express his bladder, and he had no interest in food.

I took him to the vet, but I knew chances were slim he’d come home alive. It was a hard choice, knowing he would likely die at the vet rather than at home, but I don’t regret my decision. I don’t think he really cared about (or even knew) where he was at that point, and I would have regretted it if I hadn’t at least tried to give him that chance, knowing how he has rallied so many times in the past. I told him I loved him and gave him many kisses before I said goodbye. I hope he knew I was there and felt my love for him in those last moments we had together.

My heart hurts beyond words. I wish I could say I feel some relief, but I feel none at all. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye, and caring for him was an honor. I didn’t think it was possible to love him any more than I did before he became disabled, but I did. I grew even closer to him those last months.

I was supposed to be on vacation in Cabo this week, but canceled my trip a few months ago when he became disabled. No way could I leave him when he required such special care, and I certainly did not want to lose a week of precious time with him. I’m so glad I canceled that trip. I’d never have forgiven myself if I had been away when he passed.

His last hours seemed to be peaceful, at least. He didn’t appear to be in pain, and I don’t think he suffered long. It comforts me that he was still enjoying food the night before. And I’m so grateful that he held on through the night so that I could say goodbye to him.

Now my focus is on Baxter, who so far seems to be doing OK. I’m worried about him going through the rest of his radiation treatments without his little buddy to come home to. But I think in this regard, Scootie’s disability was actually a blessing. I think Scootie’s inability to dote on Baxter the past few months helped Baxter to gradually get used to the idea that he was losing his buddy and helped him become more emotionally independent. It would have been more stressful for Baxter if Scootie had died suddenly.

And I think life without Scootie will be harder for me than it will be for Baxter. Just as Scootie adjusted to his disability better than I did, I think Baxter will adjust to the loss better than I will. We humans are not as resilient as these bunnies, who take what life hands them with dignity and grace.

I miss Scootie so much. I’m very fortunate to be surrounded by so many friends who care and share my grief. And I’m also surrounded by bunnies who give me comfort during such a sad time.

Scootie is a very special bunny who will never be forgotten, and will be cherished for as long as I live. I feel like I’m the luckiest person on earth for having been his mom.

My Little Fighter

Sadly, Scootie’s little body continues to fail him. He’s been having a lot of mucus in his poop again, and doesn’t urinate on his own, so I am now expressing his bladder for him. This has been making me revisit the “quality of life” question, but he’s still eating enthusiastically and I believe he enjoys our snuggle time, so I don’t think he’s ready to say goodbye yet. And I know I’M not ready!

I probably don’t have much longer with him, so I continue to make my quality time with him a priority. No matter how busy I am, I make sure I set aside several hours every day to cuddle with him. In the evenings he’s up on the sofa with me on my lap in his little bed, and I feed him his favorite treat, shredded carrots, throughout the evening. He snatches them out of my hand, eating them as fast as he can, until he eventually falls asleep while I’m petting him. Then a few minutes later, he’ll suddenly wake up and start begging for more. Of course, he can’t beg by standing up and climbing all over me like he used to, so instead he stretches up his head as high as he can, and quickly looks from side to side. “Where are they? Where are my carrots?”

As for big, sweet Baxter, he is halfway through his radiation treatments and seems to be doing well. He’s not thrilled with the weekly trips to the animal hospital, but he’s being a good sport about it. He’s a little off and not eating as much as normal, but he’s always willing to take a treat. I’ve not noticed any eye-bulging lately, so I’m optimistic that the tumor is shrinking. I’m keeping my paws crossed and repeating my mantra: “Cancer be gone, Baxter be strong!”

Here are some video clips of Scootie eating, drinking, and grooming himself recently. You can see he still has a zest for life (and love for carrots!):

“Cancer be gone, Baxter be strong”

Baxter & Scootie sharing a salad

That’s my new mantra as Baxter goes through his radiation treatments, one per week for the next six weeks. He got his first one yesterday.

It went fine. They actually had to sedate him twice because, since it was his first treatment, it took them a little longer to get everything lined up based on the CT scan, and when they were ready to do the radiation, he started moving around. So, they had to give him another dose. The doc said future treatments will be quicker and easier.

After we got home, I gave him some salad, and he enthusiastically ate some, but then I checked on him a minute later and he was just sitting there zoned out. So I reminded him of the salad in front of him and he enthusiastically gobbled some more until he zoned out again.

Today he’s OK, although his appetite isn’t what it normally is. It actually has been waning for the past few weeks, so I don’t necessarily think this is a result of the radiation as much as it is of the tumor itself.

As for Scootie, he had a bad day yesterday. It started off fine, but by evening, he was clearly not feeling well. He was rejecting food (NOT normal), and a lot of mucus was coming out of his bottom (which I haven’t seen in a long time… his poops have actually been quite great lately). He was eating a little, though, so I gave him some Sucralfate to soothe his belly and hand fed him as much as I could for several hours last night. He’s much better today.

I suspect the reason for his decline was due to dehydration, so I’ve put him back on sub-q fluids, which he’s been getting 3x/week. I took him off them earlier this week because I was hoping he was getting enough fluids from the water he’s drinking and the wet veggies, but apparently not. I won’t try that again!