Pet Cancer Awareness Month: Because Our Pets Deserve a Cure
Cancer. It’s a word I’ve heard every day in my house for the last 3 ½ years. You see, my husband is an (human) oncologist and you would think we would be used to that word by now, but we are not. It never gets any easier to hear, and he is the doctor no one ever wants to meet. Every day he comes home, he talks on the phone to his patients about what they are facing, what research shows, what he will do to stand beside them, what are their options and who will be there to support them. He spends most of his free time studying, researching, calling other physicians and getting trials approved. Research and treatments have evolved for us humans since those first few cancer cells were discovered in 1951, but that doesn’t make each personal journey any easier once that word is spoken.
Fortunately, human patients can somewhat understand what the word means. I don’t think anyone can ever fully understand what that one word means. I think it is understood in its present tense. We don’t always know what the outcome will be, but we can at least understand the scope of what is right now, what the facts and options are and that we can fight. We humans understand the language; we understand the words.
Canine cancer: The simple act of adding that word changes everything. It changes who it affects, changes the realm of understanding, and changes the range of treatment options and research.
A couple of months ago, our Hollywood Feed family was rocked by the lymphoma diagnosis, and eventually the loss, of our beloved Helo. Hours and hours were spent by Helo’s dog mom Samantha, his best buddy Shawn, and his doctors trying to find something, anything, that could work. After several rounds of chemo and a new immune therapy drug trial, there was nothing more that could be done but to give love and support. Throughout the treatments, Helo came to work with his mom and dad, spent time with Shawn, and we would all stop to love on him in the office hallways. I remember one day, Helo was laying in the hall on a cooling pad, burning up. I felt the heat rising from his skin and his sudden onset of sweat. He had quickly turned the cooling pad hot. I gently pulled the pad out from underneath him so I could return it to the freezer. I had one of those moments that I’ll never forget where I was, what it looked like, the sounds around me. In that moment, I realized that we humans are not that different than dogs. Helo was a cancer patient, like the patients that my husband spends so much time with, talking to, caring for, thinking about.
Helo: This boy was special. This boy was everybody’s friend. This was the pit bull that changed the misconception of so many visitors to Hollywood Feed about who and what are “pit bulls”. This guy would come waddling along in his own, slow, Helo way, into every office, begging for treats and talking to you until you opened the door. He didn’t waddle because he was overweight, no, this guy was a broad-chested, round-ribbed pit bull who wouldn’t hurt a fly. Nope, this guy had his own cat. I could go on about Helo, and I think every person who had the pleasure of meeting him could also go on about Helo. He was that special.
The reason I tell you about Helo is because those who are reading this most likely have their own “Helo”. Your best friend. Your confidant. Your running buddy. Your child’s partner-in-crime. Your cat’s dog. We have been referring to dogs as Man’s Best Friend since the Stone Age. We have developed special foods for them and special contraptions to keep them safe and at our side while we venture out. We even buy them their own beds. We invest our time and love into these beasts because we want them to share our lives with us to the fullest. So, when we find out that they are suffering and we can’t explain it to them or fix them, our hearts hurt- an awful sort of pain that cannot be explained, but can only be felt as if an elephant were sitting on our chest. It is a crushing, helpless pain.
Cancer Symposiums and Big Words: A few years ago, I went to the American Society of Hematology/Lymphoma symposium with my husband, who was presenting some research. Quite unsure of what I was looking at (lots of graphs, lots of pictures, and many big words that far surpassed my five-syllable limit), I meandered around the conference, nodding my head at all the doctors and scientists. They were unleashing their medical jargon onto me, unknowing that I was, in fact, not a doctor or scientist. I nodded along silently and listened, trying to understand.
Finally, I came across the last poster at the conference: Abstract 154. Quickly scanning all the big words, as to avoid any lengthy conversation in which I would have to respond, “I give up! I’m not a doctor!”, I saw the word “canine” over and over. This was a poster about canine cancer! I ran to get my husband to make sense of what I was seeing. I made him ask the presenting veterinarian a series of questions, then translate the information back to me in Layman terms. What we learned was that using human medicine models to base their research on helped to formulate further studies in treating canine cancer. The research found that there was enough comparable information to help refine and develop treatments for B-cell malignancies in canines!
The Puppy Up Foundation: Their mission is to to better develop cancer treatments that benefit both pets and people. They do this by raising awareness about the disease, educating about canine cancer, and raising funds through annual Puppy Up Walks in different states.
This November, Hollywood Feed is teaming up with the Puppy Up Foundation to help spread awareness and to raise research funding. The weekend of November 12 & 13th, Hollywood Feed will donate all the proceeds from our Self Dog Washes in multiple locations to the Puppy Up Foundation. The Self Dog Wash is $9.99 and includes shampoo, conditioner, brushes, towels and blow dryers. If you are not in an area near one of our Self Dog Wash locations, you can go to Puppy Up Foundation’s website (www.puppyup.org) to donate and learn more.
All proceeds from Puppy Up Gear go directly to The Puppy Up Organization.
- Laurel Wiedower