I had a rare disease called Cushing’s for many, many years and had not realized it. The disease has a number of very serious health effects and it was a daily struggle for me to deal with them. Due to the high levels of cortisol & testosterone pumping through my body, I was constantly anxious, irritable, and could rarely sleep through the night. I was unable to get fit, not matter how hard I tried and very often felt helpless. Something that always brightened my day was my dogs. Pan & Bilbo were there for me through everything. No matter how stressed or down I felt, they were right there to pick me back up. Despite my anxiety, my husband talked me into attending an agility class. It was there that I found my passion.
Dog agility gave me something to focus on instead of my disease. It gave me something to work towards; goals, dreams, aspirations. It gave me a way to make friends, have fun, and gain a sense of accomplishment. Most of all, it gave me a way to bond even more with my dogs that had already given me so much.
Pan & I were chosen to appear on the TODAY show for their Quest for the Best Trained Pet in America in September of 2013. I was still unaware that I had Cushing’s but was getting a CT scan the week before the show, to see if they could find what was wrong with me. The radiologist found a tumor the size of a softball in my left adrenal gland, which was the cause of my Cushing’s symptoms. All signs pointed to adrenal cancer, which has a very low survival rate. I clung to my dogs and my family as I tried to digest the information that I was now faced with. It’s scary to face your own mortality so young. There was so much I still wanted to do in life, and it all seemed so unfair. I cried for hours, my papillon, Bilbo, comforted me the whole time; licking away my tears. Pan never left my side, day or night, as if he knew I needed his comfort constantly. I was terrified and wanted to get the surgery to remove the tumor as quickly as possible, which meant not appearing on the TODAY show. My surgeon and husband convinced me that one day wouldn’t make a difference, so we scheduled the surgery for the day after our trip to NYC to go on the show. I decided to push out thoughts of my tumor and my surgery and have the time of my life while in NYC and on the TODAY show. We had the most amazing day and Pan won the Best Trained Pet in America by performing his tricks in front of millions of people.
The surgery & recovery were long and painful. It was a month before I could walk for more than a few minutes and a few more months till I could run. We got the wonderful news from the pathology report that despite several features worrisome for malignancy, my tumor lacked vascular invasion and necrosis. So, in layman’s terms, my tumor had not spread to anywhere else in my body and I was cancer free! As I lay in bed, recovering, I loved to watch agility videos for hours & plan all the things I wanted to do with my dogs when I recovered. I dreamed of attending my first AKC national championship (which I attended in 2014) and of one day making it to the Agility World Championship. I decided to not take a single day for granted and live my life to the very fullest.
I’m completely recovered and still cancer free, and am attending my second National Agility Championship in Reno next month. Agility with my dogs is more than a sport to me. It has helped get me through the scariest, hardest time in my life and continues to provide me with so much happiness.