When I was 11 years old my family had just moved to the Middle East. After living there for a few months I developed an ear perforation in my left ear. As it was not healing on its own, my doctor decided to patch it up using a skin graft. During the preoperative blood check they found something abnormal with my blood counts. After a few more tests I was diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia.
During the consultation the doctors said that although I could be treated in the Middle East I would have a greater chance of survival back in Canada. So while my father stayed behind to work out his contract, my mother, brother and I went back to Edmonton so that I could receive my treatment.
After a few months a friend of a friend who had heard about what I was going through and decided to help. Her dog just had a litter of puppies and asked our mutual friend if we would be interested in having one. This meant a great deal to my family as we had always been a “dog family” and there was never a point of time in which we didn’t have a dog. However, once we asked my doctors if we could keep a dog, they said no. Their concern was that as I had little to no immunity the dog could infect me with something.
A few days later one of my nurses named Judy came into my room and asked us about the dog situation. We told her about what the doctors had said to which she responded to forget the doctors and go for it (although she used a lot more colourful language). So after my family brought one of the puppies home, we all decided that the best name for her would be Judy.
During this I was still in hospital and treatment was not going well, I don’t know how many of you heard of a medication called cyclosporine but lets just say that I can’t say that name without gagging. Anyways, when my family would come into the hospital they would bring pictures and tell me stories about our new dog Judy. Wanting to see the dog more than anything I took a picture and put it on my bedside and whenever I needed to take that dreaded cyclosporine I would focus on the picture of the dog to help get through it. Shortly after my first transplant my family moved to Newmarket and I was transfered to Sick Kids Hospital.
Adding it all up I went through two bone marrow transplants and a then experimental treatment called a Donor Lymphoctye Infusion (I was either the fourth in the province or the country to receive it). Although experimental at the time a Donor Lymphoctye Infusion is now common practice. This type of treatment would not be possible without funding from organizations like the Canadian Cancer Society during the research phase.
I can honestly say that without Judy I don’t think I would be around today not only did the thought of seeing her motivate me to take my medications and keep fighting, but she also provided me and my family with the non-judgmental love and affection that only a pet could provide in a time of great stress and uncertainty.
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