Keeping a Cancer Journal

Georgia Penelope WigglebottomI will always remember that feeling of complete shock that I experienced when I first heard the word “cancer” applied to my little bulldog Georgia.  Even though we had suspected it for a few weeks and were waiting for test results to confirm it, the idea that, at only 4 years old, she had cancer was beyond comprehension.  Like most major illnesses in a family, it’s just not something that you can ever truly be prepared for, and I remember that odd mixture of fear, sadness, anger and numbness.  It was a lot to take in and deal with.

Of course, that was just the beginning.  Within days, Georgia started chemotherapy treatments, which would last, on and off, for the next year, and we changed her diet to one that was low carb and high in protein and Omega 3’s.  Then there were the pills.  She had Prednisone as part of her chemo protocol, and Metronidazole for times when the chemo drugs would give her diarrhea.  Then, her holistic vet added digestive enzymes and fish protein powder, vitamins, organ support supplements and Chinese herbs.  Of course, some of these were best given every day, and some could not be given for a day or two before or after a chemo treatment.  Then, we added some cancer-fighting mushroom powder to her diet, and Noni juice, and plenty of fresh organic veggies.  Sheesh!

Gone were the days of thoughtlessly sharing little treats with her throughout the day from our plates, or going to the store and buying some dog treats just because they looked interesting.  Now, every bite was analyzed for nutritional and carb content, and when to give what pills or supplements seemed like a never ending maze where the walls kept changing.  It was a lot to remember and to keep track of…especially on top of all of the stress we were feeling, both emotionally and financially. 

Even more important was trying to remember how SHE was feeling each day, and what questions I needed to ask the vet at our next appointment.  Oh, and keeping track of when her next appointment was, and which chemo drug that I had never heard of before was she going to get this time?  My head was spinning!

So how do you get through all of this mess?  A Cancer Journal.  Whether it is a bare bones list of essential information, or a detailed account of what happened each day, a Cancer Journal can be a critical tool during the fight against this disease.  Not only will it help keep you organized and help you to remember all of the important little details of what’s going on with your pup, it will also give you some valuable perspective on how good or bad things really are.  Sometimes, we humans tend to dwell on the negative and when things seem to be going badly, we start feeling like they’ve been bad forever.  Keeping track of the many ups and downs along the journey with cancer can help you be more objective when times are tough, and can help you anticipate what might happen next.  And, don’t underestimate how easy it is to forget information.  What you think you’ll remember when you get home from the vet’s office, or a few days from now can be completely lost within minutes when everything you’re dealing with is so new. 

So, what should be included in a Cancer Journal?  Here are some of the most important elements:

Diet – A complete list of everything you’re feeding your pup on a daily basis.

Supplements – What they are, what they’re for, and when you’re supposed to be giving them.

Drugs – Chemo drugs being administered and when, pills or injections to give at home, etc.  Include how they are supposed to be given and note any possible side effects to watch for.

Appointments – When and where (seems easy, but when juggling a full-time job and appointments to regular vets, oncologists and holistic vets, it can get a little confusing after a while!)

Contact Information – One easy place to find your vets’ information, hospital phone number, or even websites that you may need to refer to frequently to get new supplies or supplements.

Questions – A place to keep a running list of questions to ask the next time you talk to your vet.

Daily Notes – This is probably the most important part of a good Cancer Journal.  Include your dog’s daily energy level, appetite, urination/defecation changes, and any other observations you make about how they’re feeling or acting.

By keeping track, in writing, of all of the little details that come up along the way during your journey with cancer, you will not only feel more in control of things, but you will also be able to start anticipating problems and be more prepared to deal with any challenges that do come up.  You’ll also be more prepared and knowlegable when it comes to those frequent vet appointments, making you a more effective partner in your best friend’s treatment plan.  You already know your dog best, and are her most valuable ally during this fight.  A detailed Cancer Journal will help you even more.

Have you created a Cancer Journal?  Share a post about how it has helped you and your pup!


About Kerry Malak

I am a Bulldog mom, Reiki Master/Teacher, pet loss counselor and canine cancer advocate who loves working with people and animals to help them live longer, happier and healthier lives.
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1 Response to Keeping a Cancer Journal

  1. LIsa says:

    After reading Georgia’s Legacy, I started a journal for my little girl Jasmine. She is a 4 year old black lab mix, diagnosed September 24 with lymphoma. When I read the post about a Cancer Journal, something clicked and I knew I had to keep one. Right now, because it is early, I am using a file folder with pockets. There is an opening in the front for our vet’s business card with all numbers, and I use top-loading sheet protectors for the pages. The vet’s office is amazed with the book. They had never seen one. I live in the midwest where dogs are mostly for hunting or protection, aggressive cancer treatment isn’t all that common. The pockets I use to keep track of each weeks Buffy Coat Profile, payment receipts, and any new prescriptions. It has helped us alot. My husband and I usually take her together for her treatments, but if one can’t be there, the book goes along and we don’t have to try to remember everything. Cancer is time-consuming, heart-wrenching, yet we remain hopeful. Our little one is in remission for the first time, we hope it lasts a long, long time! Bless all you other moms and dads of furbabies, what would we do without them??

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