Recently, Doc and I made a trip to the Cancer Center for our monthly visit. We are one of many teams of therapy dogs that visit patient’s while they are receiving chemotherapy and other treatments. Although I have my daily job of working with Doc’s patient’s, Doc says it’s important that we volunteer our time and I agree. The cancer patient’s have a special place in Doc’s heart as both of her parents had cancer.
Doc has often told me that every person has a story to tell if you will only listen. Some of the patient’s we are meeting for the first time, so Doc relies on me to open the door and put them at ease. It makes me feel good when I see one of the patient’s eyes light up when they see me. They ask questions about me and how I became a therapy dog. This usually leads to a discussion about dogs they currently own or ones they have loved and lost. People love talking about their pets and it takes the focus off their cancer for just a little while.
One day a man showed us a picture of his cute dog and then became tearful as he was telling the story. He told us he had to have the dog put to sleep that week because the dog was very sick and no longer had any quality of life. I thought about how the man could probably relate to his dog’s suffering, so I went over and rested my head in his lap for a long time.
It has to be scary not knowing how the story is going to end and being faced with your own mortality. I have heard Doc tell her patient’s that it’s important not to let your disease define who you are. Whether it’s cancer, aids, heart disease, or addiction. You can easily lose yourself in the treatments, tests, medication and the changes in your health and life if you let it.
Lauren Hill, the 19-year-old college basket ball player that died recently after a 15 month battle with brain cancer was a shining example of how to continue living your life with cancer. In the time after her diagnosis, she co-founded The Cure Starts Now for cancer research and raised 1.5 million dollars. She also had a goal and achieved it by playing on the college basketball team for Mt. Saint Joseph. Her motto that was worn on the team jersey was “Never give up.” Her family and friends said she stayed positive and appreciated her life until the end.
Cancer is a terrible disease that affects many people and the families that love them. Some people end up in remission and go on to live a cancer-free life, while others succumb to the disease. So, until cancer is cured, you will find me on my rounds at the center. The patient’s are always thanking me for coming to visit, but I leave feeling like I am the one that got the biggest reward.