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Agility is the best medicine

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.

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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.

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Me with my surgeon (he’s wearing the hat I made while recovering)

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.

4 Responses so far.

  1. Julie Yelton says:

    I wish you had told us what was going on. I feel so blessed to have you as Bilbo’s Mom. And all of your babies are blessed to have you as their Mom. We will keep you and David in our prayers and know that if you ever need us we are here.

    • Happy Thoughts Agility says:

      We didn’t tell many people. If it was adrenal cancer, we wanted to discuss the options and have all the info before we told other people. It was such an intensely scary time that I just didn’t know how to handle it or how to tell other people. I’ve had a while to really work through my feelings & recover emotionally & physically. I thought it was a story worth telling, though. Thank you so much for your support & for my wonderful lil Bilbo. I couldn’t imagine going through that without him! We are so fortunate to have friends like you guys! We think of you often & hope with all our hearts that Doug is feeling well.

  2. Frank Buckley says:

    Hi,

    I am thinking of getting a Brit pup and stumbled onto your YouTube channel. First let me say that you have done an amazing job with Pan! He is a great dog and you’ve done an excellent job training him. I was so impressed that I googled Happy Thoughts Agility to see if you had any info, pointers, suggested reading or training methods to share.

    As I read through the blog the word Cushing’s popped out and I had to read it. You see I used to have a Brit back in the ‘90s. His name was Rudolph and he was a great dog. He was like an only child to us for 5 years until our daughter was born. He was friendly, mischievous, bird-dog crazy, great with kids and would love you to death. Anyhow he came down with some serious issues, including going blind and Cushing’s disease. So when I saw the word Cushing’s I expected to read that Pan had it not you. My only regret with Rudolph was not training him to his full potential.

    I don’t mean to offend you. I am in no way comparing your health to my dog’s. It just brought up memories when I read it and had to share. I am happy to hear that you are doing well. Your love for Pan shows. I wish you and Pan the best of health and luck in your competitions.

    Again I hope I did not offend. As I said I am looking to get a Brit pup. Actually going to a breeder here in southern NJ this Saturday to look at them. I want to do right this time by training a Brit to it’s fullest potential.

    Thanks,

    Frank B.

    • bimhof says:

      Hi! Sorry, just logged in and found your post! I’m not offended at all. Cushings is a very hard disease and I’ve known lots of friends whose dogs have had it. It’s more rare in humans (lucky me). Thank you so much for your kind words… Pan is my heart dog and I’m so lucky to have him in my life. Good luck with your pup! I live in MD and often show in NJ. You should check out some of the agility trials they have there! Let me know if you need any help with your new fur baby!

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