“YOU HAVE BREAST CANCER”...the last four words this healthy woman in her 30’s ever thought she would hear. However, that is exactly what happened on that cold dark day back on July 29, 2008. Actually, the day was neither cold nor dark, but that is what it felt like when I got the news. Talk about four spoken words that make you feel like you were just sucker punched in the gut, let me tell you, these are the words that will do it. Once hearing something like this you have two choices you can either have cancer and fight it or let it have you. I obviously choice to fight, as most people do and the way my life has transformed over these past four years is quite remarkable.
How cancer transformed my life will be left for another time though because I want to talk about who knew I had cancer, but couldn’t convey it in words. It was my beautiful soul mate of a dog Daisy, a Shepherd mix that captured my heart deeper then any other canine when we adopted her back in 2002 from a rescue. See, when I would go to hug Daisy on the side I had the tumor she would frantically pull away. This was a big message that I confused with her discomfort from a condition she has called Discoid Lupus (a chronic inflammatory condition effecting the skin). Many times this condition would make her pretty uncomfortable and she wouldn’t like to be touched at all. It wasn’t until I actually received the confirming diagnosis of cancer from my doctor that I would realize it wasn’t her condition, it was mine, that was making her so uncomfortable. Luckily, her odd behavior happened around the time I was due for my yearly mammogram, because I don’t know if I would have ever correlated her actions with something going on with me. It was from this mammogram they found a suspicious spot that would turn out to be cancer.
After receiving the confirming diagnosis of breast cancer I had a bit of time before my surgery. The surgeon and oncologist wanted to do some extensive test to know exactly what they were dealing with (ie., checking for BRACA1 & BRACA2, more ultrasounds, MRI of the breasts, needle guided biopsy, check if I was HER2 positive, blah, blah, blah) so they could plan their best course of attack of this cancer beast. Talk about feeling like a pincushion and being bombarded with words and information that you can’t even pronounce let alone comprehend, yikes! I do feel fortunate for this time I was given though, because it gave me the opportunity to witness the power of a canines nose first hand.
It was probably a few days after my diagnosis when I realized that Daisy knew something was going on inside me. I was feeling a bit blue that day so I got down on my knees to give Daisy a big hug. Her head was nuzzled in on the breast that had the tumor when all of a sudden she whipped her head back and started pulling away. It was at that instance when this notion popped into my head “does she know that I have cancer on this side?” so I thought I would test this notion. I went in to hug her again only this time I purposely nuzzled her head in close over the opposite breast and sure enough no resistance what so ever! This revelation went off like fireworks in my brain and all I could think was “Holy cow, you knew I have cancer all along!”. Now, some would say “oh, maybe that was just a coincident and you just think that is what she was trying to tell you” and I probably wouldn’t have argued their point if she didn’t do this continuously until the day I went in for surgery.
A few days after my surgery, which consisted of a partial mastectomy with reconstruction, it was time for me to go home. I couldn’t wait to get home to the comfort of my family, both two and four legged. On the day that I came home full of residual anesthesia and all kinds of other drugs swimming around in my body, I went to give my precious Daisy a hug and guess what.....she didn’t pull away. It was at that time I told my husband “I know they got all the cancer, because Daisy didn’t pull away”. To both of our astonishment (well, more my husband then me) was at my follow-up oncology appointment where the first words out of the oncologists mouth was “the good news is we removed all the cancer and since you choose to have a partial mastectomy you will not have to do chemo therapy”. Wow, if I wasn’t so sore from my surgery I would have been jumping for joy all around the examining room after hearing that. When my husband and I returned to the car to go home after my appointment, I turned to him and said “See...I told you Daisy knew it was gone!”.
Not that I every want to endure breast cancer….I mean really, who would! However, I am truly grateful for what I learned from this experience and appreciate that because of it I get to spend all my work and play days with Daisy and the rest of our pack. While I continue to be monitored (yes, by Daisy too) and have had to do various treatments over these past four years, I am cancer free. This whole ordeal has given me a second chance to really live my life to the fullest and am happily doing just that…with Daisy...on this other side of breast cancer!
Picture taken in Grand Tetons National Park October 2012:
Wendy England, 4+ year breast cancer thriver and founder of Daisy Paw.
Daisy, Soul mate, Savior, and Top Dog at Daisy Paw.
Some great Breast Cancer Awareness Reminders from Daisy:
- Early detection of breast cancer is key to the best chance for survival.
- Check your breast monthly, get a yearly breast exam from your health care professional, and have recommended mammograms, as needed.
- Pay attention to what your dog is trying to tell you. Notice any odd behaviors like obsessive sniffing or avoidance of a particular area.
- Make an appointment with your healthcare professional right away if you find something suspicious in your breast(s).
- If you would like to help in the fight against breast cancer the best thing to do is donate directly to organizations that are doing the research. While there is nothing wrong with purchasing products you wanted to buy anyway that provide a portion of the funds to cancer research, your donations dollars can go a lot further donating directly to breast cancer research.
Well, you would think running Daisy Paw was enough on our plate, but apparently mom didn’t think so. Now she added making homemade healthy snacks...just for us though, not to sell.
See mom loves giving us treats, but thinks biscuits are boring and wanted to jazz up our snacks. Wow, once she got this idea in her head the next thing I knew she sat me down and said “Daisy, I’m going to start making fun, healthy, and yummy treats for you guys and you will be the CTO.” The CTO? What the heck is that? I’ve heard her mention that word when she worked in corporate america, but I didn’t think it sounded like anything good. I was a little concerned about what she was getting me into, but then she explained “you will be my official Chief Tasting Officer!” Oh, I see what she was doing here, she was trying to interject some corporate humor into this new venture. Hahaha, I don’t know half the stuff she talks about most of the time, but if it’s related to food, being with her, and having fun then I will be the CTO or whatever she wants to call me.
I am really glad she started this gig, being the CTO if super easy and fun! This is what my job entails; mom does all the work, I sit and watch her put my favorite stuff together, and when it’s done she has me taste it to see if I approve. She even lets me lick the spoon. Pretty cool job, huh?
Oh, and I’m a nice CTO too.....I let my siblings share in my job. Mom calls them my apprentices, oh boy, here she goes again with that corporate humor thing. Like I said, she can call us whatever she wants as long as we get to be a part of this fun time with her.
Now, please don’t think I would tell you about my new job and not share a recipe too. Who knows maybe I will have quite a few to share if I can keep mom on a roll.
Here is the COOL recipe.....literally!
DAISY’S BANANA BERRY BRRR BLISS
What you need: Banana, Blueberries, Cherries (pits removed), Organic Plain Yogurt, Organic Peanut Butter....yep, that’s it!
Place 1 banana, 2 handfuls of blueberries, 1 handful cherries (pits removed), 1 cup organic plain yogurt, 1 tablespoon organic peanut butter in a blender. Blend until smooth, about one minute.
Pour into ice trays or small individual cups (3oz.). This recipe makes 2 ice trays or 12 small individual cups filled half full. Place the cups in a muffin pan to keep them from spilling. Wrap with plastic wrap and place in the freezer for at least 2 hours. Your done!
A fun variation is to crumble dog cookies on-top after they have set-up in the freezer for a bit. If you do this make sure you use human edible dog treats if you want to share with your human friends.
This is an awesome cool treat...great for hot days like we have been experiencing lately.
Oh, and Mom wanted me to tell you these are good for us too. She used big words like probiotics, antioxidants, and said they were stuffed inside. I can’t see them though, but I’m sure they are there.
So there you have it the first recipe from me, the CTO....I love when mom comes up with these crazy ideas.
Now if you will excuse me I have a cool treat to eat!