By Sarah Garcia - August 23, 2021
Dogs live side by side with us and are known for providing unconditional love – one that does not falter in even the most trying of times. We talked to some of our patients to hear firsthand how the bond between them and their dogs has helped them through the many hurdles of cancer.
Here’s what they had to say.
Who Rescued Whom?
DeeDee was rescued from a local pound five years ago and she’s been my best friend since. Since my stage 4 melanoma diagnosis last year, I’ve been fortunate to stay home with my family and DeeDee. Days with DeeDee consist of snuggles, her following me around the house, car rides, naps, and lots of laughs. DeeDee comforts me in times of fear and worry, and when I’m not feeling well from all things cancer related. DeeDee has certainly rescued me in this last year, and I thank God for her every day.
— Amanda Hunt + DeeDee
Always Brings a Smile
I have been blessed to have many caregivers and a great support system on this journey. However, my most loyal, loving and supportive is my labradoodle Bonnie Sue. Daily she quietly lays next to me, snuggles in just when I need her the most, or checks on me when I am feeling down. When I have returned from a long day of chemo, she is always the first to greet me. A reminder of pure joy. Happy to see me, she always brings a smile to my face.
— Aaron LeFrancois + Bonnie Sue
We All Scream for Ice Cream
My little boy, a 7-year-old mini Schnauzer named Coal, has been the most wonderful furry companion throughout my battle with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. He knows when momma isn't well and is extra sensitive to my needs. He's just the sweetest and most affectionate pup. Between discomfort, pain, treatment, exhausting appointments and recovery, there were plenty of days where getting out of bed was a real struggle. Taking him for walks, keeping up with his routine and needs was, and is, extremely helpful physically and mentally. He makes me laugh at his antics and always surprises me with how smart he is. We play hide and seek. He keeps me company when I paint. And we take car rides to get ice cream (which is his all-time favorite along with blueberries and bananas). He loves people and everyone is his friend (except for squirrels).
— Adriane Caproni + Coal
10,000 Steps (Paw Prints)
In January I lost one of my best friends after a short and aggressive fight with cancer, it all happened so quickly that it prompted me to do a health check of my own after finding a lump. Very soon, the biopsies confirmed breast cancer. I was tired and emotional and along with my husband, my dogs also provided great support, hugs and licks (the latter not too wise I'm sure!).
I am a very active person and soon after starting chemo I was limited in my activities as I struggled with the sun and the heat. The one thing that I made sure I did each day was my morning and evening dog walk. I endeavored to make 10,000 steps each single day. Our routine altered slightly, walking before and after sunrise, but we still walked.
My dogs love to be comforted but for the last few months, it was their turn to comfort me. In the early days I tried to keep my diagnosis as quiet as possible in an effort to keep things as "normal" as possible. Just over halfway through chemo, I was running out of excuses for not attending events or wearing my cap 24/7. As a result, I decided to make a post on social media and explain that I was over the halfway mark on my chemo journey (and of course Flash and Dash featured). I am so very lucky to have the most amazing support network. The day that I finally needed to shave my head, my husband did the deed. Then my husband, myself and the dogs headed to our favorite beach for some reflection time. The day that I completed chemo, in celebration, we all headed out for an extra-long walk and a sit to take in the view and the fresh sea air. The dogs have kept me active for sure.
— Gill Gordon + Flash and Dash
Paw on My Shoulder
I have always heard dogs are “God’s Iodine,” and that is so true! I was so fortunate and very blessed to have my dog, George, visit me in the hospital and later at home, as I recovered from a total gastrectomy. My cancer diagnosis resulted in the surgical removal of three organs, and the hospital stays and recovery were lengthy and sometimes very discouraging. George, my dear rescue dog, brought immeasurable joy and encouragement. He served in so many ways to brighten the day and take my mind off a lot of the pain I was experiencing. I looked forward to his visits, and having his paw on my shoulder or across my arm was better than any pharmaceutical.
George’s sweet face and cuddles calmed me and gave me a great deal of security. Knowing he was there when I returned home and would stick with me no matter how I felt was so comforting. He gave me something to look forward to; knowing he needed me back home and being able to care for him gave me motivation. The nurses noticed during his visits that I was more comfortable. Being able to hold him gently and stroke his fur, I am convinced, really did boost my emotional well-being during such a stressful experience.
— Diane McCain + George
Paging Nurse Bugsy
We adopted Bugsy shortly after my husband got sick in 2009. He has been with Brian daily through all the ups and downs of his bone marrow failure (pure red cell Aplasia), and in 2018 was by Brian's side constantly as he recovered from a successful bone marrow transplant at Moffitt.
The best advice our team at Moffitt gave us was to keep walking — Bugsy became a great nurse and kept us walking every day!
— Renee and Brian Miller + Bugsy
Fur Baby Security Blanket
I have four fur babies that love to snuggle when I am feeling down. My one cat would lay on my tummy after chemo treatments when I felt nauseous. It actually helped me sleep. I was just diagnosed metastatic in September 2020 and they are such a big help to me mentally.
— Stacie Mullen