I wrote on the blog a couple of weeks ago about how the people who inspire me are those that take on causes and campaigns to help make the world a better place.
In terms of who inspires me through my treatment, it’s a far more unlikely inspiration than you might think.
If you know me, you know I love dogs. I love my dogs. I have been lucky to have a lot of beautiful dogs in my life, most of whom have lived long and happy lives with me. That doesn’t mean losing each one hasn’t broken my heart every time.
My beautiful boy Nelson’s life was cut far shorter than it should have been. By cancer. He has inspired me so much over the past two years because of the way he lived while also suffering from cancer.
Nelson was just four-years-old when he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma (bone cancer) in his front right leg. He developed a limp and within a few short days, and a biopsy confirmed it was cancer. The news was not good. His chances of survival were slim.
The vet said the best thing to do was amputate his leg to give him the greatest chance of survival and also to take away the pain the cancer was causing in his leg. It was difficult news to get my head around. My beautiful, healthy 55kg bullmastiff/boxer cross boy would have to lose his leg. How would he get around? What kind of life would that be for him?
The vet said osteosarcoma was an incredibly aggressive cancer, particularly in dogs of Nelson’s age. By the time they showed signs of it, such as a limp, the cancer cells had usually already spread to other parts of the body to metastasise.
So my gorgeous boy went through major surgery and they took his right leg off and he became a 45kg boy on three legs – a tripawd. I went to see him after his surgery and they brought him out and he hopped towards me on those three legs as if he’d been doing it all his life. He looked happy, he had that look of unconditional love in his eyes. He was just happy to see me, even though I was the one who had made the decision to take his leg away. No doubt he was also off his brain on pain medication.
I brought him home a couple of days later and he just adapted so quickly that it was amazing. He was able to get downstairs into the garden by himself on his three legs, he curled up in the sun and recovered from his surgery, and he got on with life, just happy to be home with me.
He lost a leg. I just lost a breast.
I was determined to give him the best chance at survival. We followed conventional medicine and he started on a chemotherapy regime. We saw a naturopathic vet where he had regular intravenous Vitamin C injections and followed an anti-cancer diet inspired by Dr Ian Gawler, who beat osteosarcoma. I spent hundreds of dollars buying him organic vegetables and cooking them up with high-protein kangaroo mince, as well as giving him a plethora of vitamins and supplements.
I wanted so badly for him to beat this evil disease because it was so unfair that an innocent, young animal should have to have cancer. During this whole ordeal, he was amazing. He put up with all of the treatments I made him have. He made every vet and vet nurse fall in love with him.
He had complete love, trust and faith in me and what I was trying to do for him. He remained my gorgeous, happy, loving boy despite all of these horrible things happening around him.
Whenever I have felt a bit down about things, I think of him and his positivity. I think that if he could get through all those treatments, then I can just suck it up too. It wasn’t his decision to do all of those things. It was mine. It was me being selfish trying to get as much more time with him as I possibly could.
Despite all of our efforts, we could not hold back that aggressive cancer. He went from diagnosis in May 2011 to having his lungs completely riddled with tumours by December 2011. There was nothing more that could be done than to spend as much time with him as possible and try to work out when it was time to let him go.
When I found out last year that my cancer had metastasised to my lungs, of course, I could not help but think of how his cancer also went to his lungs. His tumours grew a lot more quickly than mine have.
A few days before Christmas 2011, he let me know it was time to let him go. His breathing was becoming more difficult, he was having trouble getting downstairs and he did not want to eat anymore. It was one of the hardest decisions of my life, but also the kindest thing to do for him. It broke my heart and my heart still breaks for him every time I think of him.
But he is my little hero. He is my inspiration when I think that everything is just getting too hard. He never gave up on me trying to do the best for him. I won’t give up on me.