Saturday, May 28, 2011

Six month checkup - Monday

I apologize for leaving everyone hanging after our post last Sunday.  However, the tornadoes seemed to have knocked out some Internet connectivity in Minneapolis.  We were able to check email, but a lot of web access was rendered inaccessible and when it was, speeds were severely reduced.  Then we hit the ground running when we returned home with life not slowing down one bit.

Over the next few posts we will update everyone on what transpired during our final two days in Minneapolis.
Clearing skies were a welcome sight after Sunday's weather!
On Monday we took Rilley over to the Veterinary Medical Center for his six month physical checkup and blood work.  It was really nice to see Dr. Pluhar again and the girls were finally able to meet the person with the steady hands that took the nasty tumour out of their beloved beagle's brain.  Rilley even seemed very happy to see her.  We brought her up to speed on Rilley's progress over the last three and a half months and Dr. Pluhar even remarked on his amazing weight loss progress.  Since he was there back in February, Rilley has managed to shed seven pounds and is currently tipping the scales at 43 pounds!  Not bad, considering he will eat anything he can get is jaws on.
The girls first visit to the VMC!
We had made arrangements with Dr. Pluhar to leave Rilley with her.  That would give us some time to go out without having to have someone stay behind at the hotel to watch Rilley.  It also gave Dr. Pluhar the ability to do his physical check up and blood work at her leisure over the course of the day.

One important stop for us this day was a lunch date with Dr. John Ohlfest himself.  However, we still had a couple of hours to kill before meeting up.  For those of you who know us, number one on Sara and my list on ANY given day is to locate some good coffee!  So once we had a fresh cup of Caribou Coffee we thought it would be nice to show the kids around town and some of the places we had been on our previous trips.

Once we had given the kids a bit of a tour of Minneapolis, including the still roofless Metrodome (collapsed due to snow load).  We were on our way to the East Bank Campus of the University when we passed by a giant cherry on a spoon.  I kid you not!  Actually, Katherine and I had spotted a picture of it back at the hotel and I had jokingly suggested that we try to find it.  Now that I had laid eyes on it, I just had to take a moment to stop and get a picture.
"Spoonbridge and Cherry"
Minneapolis Sculpture Garden
Ok, with that little distraction behind us, we headed off to meet Dr. Ohlfest for lunch.  Right at the appointed time, there he was standing outside of the restaurant.  As he had said to me, despite not having met in person before, at least by being in the Discovery Channel story together we knew what the other looked like.  It makes these kinds of meetings easier!
Dr. John Ohlfest, Elizabeth and Katherine.
We all had a great discussion over lunch.  Dr, Ohlfest spoke about the Brain Tumor Program and other dogs that have benefited who are now well over a year (and sometimes a year and a half) out and are doing extremely well!  Dr. Ohlfest also told us about how the program is facing a tight financial situation.  In recent months he's been forced to lay off three staff members, including Rilley's friend Jessica Bedi who was responsible for navigating the gauntlet that is cross border shipping.  He is spending a lot of his time trying to secure more grants.  Additionally, the fiscal restraint gripping the country of late has seen a dramatic decline in philanthropic donations as well.  This news did not sit well with Sara and I as we can see the successes of the program, not to mention the sheer importance of cancer research.  Ever since we became involved with the clinical trial we've heard from countless people how their lives have been touched by brain tumours, either directly or through someone they know.

A while back I had put together a press release of sorts and had sent it out to as many Canadian and American media outlets as I could think of.  However, I did not get one single enquiry.  Did I make the fact sheet too slick?  Did I not emphasize that this research may be helping dogs at the moment but is for the greater good of mankind?  Something must be done to help Dr. Ohlfest continue his groundbreaking work.

We wrapped up our visit with a tour of the Ohlfest Brain Tumour lab.  Even to someone like myself, who is definitely not an Einstein when it comes to science, I found the tour very interesting.
The Ohlfest Brain Tumor Lab.
We even got to meet Brian Andersen.  He is the one who actually created Rilley's vaccines from his tumour cells.  Brian is not a lab technician, but rather a Neuroscience MD and Ph.D. Graduate student.  From what I understand that means he will be a Neurologist (Medical Doctor) and have a Ph.D. in neuroscience.  Yup, definitely waaaay above me on the intelligence scale.  Sara and I can honestly say that we could not ask for a better person to have Rilley's back in the fight against brain tumours!  Thank you Brian.
Brian Andersen, the man who was responsible
for making Rilley's lifesaving vaccine.


  1. Just read your blog....thank you for remembering my brother (John). He was a really amazing scientist and I enjoyed reading your view on meeting with him.

    1. John was a truly amazing person all around. He really had a knack for explaining the most complex parts of his work in a way anyone could understand. John did it with such enthusiasm that it made you feel excited as well. But above all his pride in his family really showed. When he toured us through the lab he stopped at his office just to show us pictures and he was just beaming. It was great to see that side of him. We, too, often think of him fondly and despite only having crossed paths a few times miss him as well.