I am an animal lover. I always have been. When I was a little girl, my mother would let us have cats but not dogs. I remember frequently hugging a stuffed poodle and praying that God would turn it into a real dog.

As soon as I was on my own, I got a dog or two or three! I’ve had at least one my entire adult life. Usually, I have had two or more. They complete me. I suspect many of you know exactly what I mean.

I currently have two dogs: Cotton, an American Eskimo dog (Eskie), and Barney, a Shetland Sheepdog (Sheltie). They are as different as night and day, in appearance as well as attitude!

Cotton Cotton

Cotton (the white one) turned 7 at the end of November 2015. Barney turned 6 in early February 2016. I worry about the fact that they are so close in age. They will grow old at the same time. I’m not quite ready for that!

These two dogs bring me such joy. We play together, eat together and sleep together. I hate it when I have to go somewhere that they are not welcome and I have to leave them behind.

Barney Barney

Cancer Diagnosis and Agility

I was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer at the end of November 2012. During my first visit with the oncologist, he gave us the dire news that I was not expected to live but another four months. He told us that I was not a candidate for radiation or surgery. Chemotherapy was my only hope. Then, he asked me if I had any questions. I suppose he thought I hadn’t comprehended what he was telling me when I asked him, “Yes, can I keep running agility with my dogs?”

pathI think he thought I was crazy. How could I be worried about spending time running agility with my dogs when my life was nearly over? Nevertheless, he agreed that I could continue to play if I wished. Maybe he didn’t think I would be able to do so physically. If that’s what he thought, he didn’t understand exactly how hard-headed his new patient was (and is).

My two dogs and I went a couple of years where we were unable to go to class on a regular basis. But, we would go to trials as I was able. Sometimes, I could only go for a few runs. Usually, I only signed up for one day of a two-day trial.

dogs-treeIt felt so good to be there, to be having fun and thinking about things besides fighting cancer, go be with my friends and with our dogs, to be normal!

Not everyone knows what dog agility is. Below is a link to a video of my Barney and me running several courses. These runs took place in February 2016. Notice his exuberance!! How can you not smile and be happy when you’re out playing with such a happy dog?

Barney Does Agility

Exercise

From the beginning, I have attempted to maintain as normal a semblance to my life prior to cancer as possible. My dogs have helped me achieve a lot of that. I felt compelled to walk them, whether I felt horrible or not. I still do. It is important that they get their exercise. What a great side benefit that I get my own exercise at the same time!! I assure you that I would NOT walk if I didn’t have my dogs depending on me.

dogs-shoreSometimes, we walk with a friend and her dog. Other times, we walk on the nature trail near our home. It fills me with peace. And the dogs are full of joy—which is absolutely contagious! How can I be sad when I am outside with my dogs who are having the time of their lives?

Exercise is so beneficial for all of us. The American Cancer Society lists some of the benefits of exercise for cancer patients. They include improving balance, maintaining muscle tone, lowering the risk of heart disease and improving blood flow to your legs. There are mental benefits as well. Regular exercise improves your self-esteem, lowers the risk of depression and improves the quality of your life.

dogs-waterCotton and Barney have ensured that I have stayed very active since they came to live with me as pups, including the time since I was diagnosed with cancer. Without them, I feel sure I would be much, much more sedentary.

How do animals impact your life? Have they helped ease your burdens like mine have? I can’t imagine living without my two dogs. In so many ways, they complete me. They give me purpose. And hope. And more joy than I can even express!

Hating cancer, loving life,

Donna Fernandez

Owner of blogspot, MyBattleWithLungCancer

Do you have a story about your Powerful Pet that you would like to share? Comment below or contact Sheryl at sheryl@patientpower.info with a photo of your Powerful Pet, and we will post your pet’s name and photo in our Powerful Pet album on Facebook!