Today marks seven weeks since Molly's lymphoma diagnosis. Back in January, we had no idea she'd make it this far, and we actually had a little bit of a medical scare with her earlier this week. Monday morning, she was walking around just fine and able to stand at her food dish to eat her breakfast. Things seemed to be going well so I left her and Gia to their piggy business while I sat down and got to work. I went in to check on them during my lunch break, like I usually do, and Molly rushed out of her igloo to greet me. However, I noticed she stumbled on her way out and seemed to be having trouble walking. She came over to say hello then quickly turned to go back inside, limping and holding up her front left paw. I tried to coax her out to see what was wrong but she wouldn't move, so I just stayed by their caged and observed her for a bit. After a few minutes, she came out to get some water but she would not put any weight on that paw. She wouldn't even stand on it, instead opting to lay down the front of her body and drag her self around with just her back legs and right front paw. Needless to say, I freaked out. She was fine just four hours before!
I called the vet to explain what happened and they said that because the change was so sudden, she needed to come in first thing in the morning to be checked out. They also told me to be prepared for whatever the doctor may find - it could be anything from a pinched nerve due to the enlarged lymph node to a dislocated joint or fractured bone. Knowing that her lymph nodes were quite large, I started to worry that this may be the beginning of the end. My worst fear was that the vet would say there was nothing she could do, the tumors would only get worse, and we needed to start thinking about when it would be appropriate to euthanize. Molly had already made it a week longer than her initial prognosis, with no medical intervention whatsoever, so it felt like we were on borrowed time with her. I'm not ashamed to admit, I got pretty emotional. I picked her up, held her in my arms, and told her how much I loved her. I told her I never want her to be in pain or to suffer but if she had any fight left in her I'd do whatever necessary to make her happy and give her good quality of life for as long as she wanted to stay with us. I started crying, and almost instantly, she began licking my arm as if she were comforting me.
After a little while, I put her back in her cage and noticed she still seemed to want food, she just couldn't support herself to stand at her food dish and eat. So I put her food and some hay at the entrance to her igloo and let her lay down while she ate. She didn't seem to be in pain, just not able to move. Gia, not one to be separated from her piggy sister for long, came over and laid near the entrance to the igloo, too, and helped herself to some of Molly's food. Needless to say, Monday was an emotional day and The Husband and I both were pretty depressed Monday night. We were prepared for whatever the vet may say the next morning but we were trying our best to remain optimistic.
Tuesday morning, Molly was still in good spirits, eating breakfast while laying in her igloo, but still unable to move. The vet gave her a full exam, checking for fractures, dislocations, sores on her feet - anything that would tell us why she couldn't put any weight on that paw. She found nothing. She said she suspected the enlarged lymph node was compressing on the nerves in her leg and that was why Molly couldn't walk. We had two options. We could give her a standard pain medication that would ease her discomfort, the benefit being that Molly has taken that pain med before, after both of her previous surgeries, and we knew she could tolerate it well, but it wouldn't really do anything about the actual problem of nerve compression. Our other option was to start her on prednisone. In addition to relieving the pain, prednisone is also an anti-inflammatory. If it worked, it would actually reduce the size of her lymph nodes and slow the growth of the cancerous cells. The risk, however, was pretty high. Lots of guinea pigs can't tolerate prednisone very well because it effects their digestive system and causes it to shutdown. If that were to happen, we could take her off the medicine but there's no guarantee that would reverse the negative effects. But if it worked, we could potentially give her another few months of improved quality of life!
The Husband and I were really conflicted. Do we give her the safe medicine even though it means she'd only have a few weeks, at most, or do we give her the risky medicine hoping it'll give her a few months of a happier, more comfortable life? I asked the vet what her recommendation would be knowing Molly's medical history. She said that because the lymphoma was at a very aggressive stage and was incurable, she thought we basically had nothing to lose. She recommended the prednisone.
"Honestly, I didn't think she'd make it six weeks," she added. Molly has defied the odds with respect to her past medical issues and there's no reason to think she couldn't do the same this time. So we went ahead and said yes to the prednisone. I gave her the first dose when we got home from the vet and she spent the remainder of the day resting in her igloo. She was eating, which was a good sign, but she still wasn't moving around much. The next day, things changed. She came out the following morning for breakfast, still limping but able to use her leg and stand at her food dish to eat. By that evening, after just two doses of prednisone, she was moving around the cage munching on hay and playing with Gia, and by yesterday, after three days of meds, her energy level was back to normal! Last night she came out for play time, chased her balls around the living room, played with Gia, and munched on lots of red peppers and leafy greens. She's perkier than before, moving around with ease, and squeaking and purring at the tiniest bit of attention. Plus, her lymph nodes are noticeably smaller! At first I thought it was just my hopeful imagination but when The Husband came home from work, one of the first things he said when he saw her was how much "less puffy" she looked. The tumors are still there, but they're not nearly the size they were earlier this week. She has to continue taking it everyday for the rest of her life but so far, the prednisone seems to be working! Our new goal is to get a family photo with all five of us when Baby T finally arrives. A week ago, the notion was just wishful thinking but now, after seeing how well she's doing with the medicine, another three months with her seems like a real possibility. We know her health is at a precarious stage and could change at any time, but we're remaining hopeful. She's a tough little cookie with a strong will to live, so as long as she's happy, comfortable, and relatively healthy, I'm keeping my promise to her to do whatever necessary to give her a good life for as long as she wants to be with us.