When my corgi Ty was first diagnosed with Lymphoma, I searched for stories of pets who had beaten the odds. Hope is a powerful force and something that pet parents desperately crave when their pets are sick. I wanted nothing more than to read that dogs could beat this terrible disease. Corgi Bella was one of the first success stories that I came across. As of this writing she has been remission for 50 months. Many oncologists will consider the disease cured when the dog reaches five years. I discovered Bella from her Facebook page, Bella, Warrior Princess, and gained a wealth of knowledge from her posts there, especially in regard to holistic care and immune support. We also have a lot in common. Bella, like Ty and Eve enjoys agility and canine noseworks. Like myself, her mom is an attorney. Then, of course, there is the corgi connection!. So, when I decided to do a series of posts about individual success stories, I reached out. I am excited to feature Bella as the first of what I hope will be many lymphoma success stories.
Bella’s mom sent me such a well written summary of Bella’s story, that I am publishing it in full as she wrote it. And with that, I present the success story of Bella:
Back in 2012, I was blissfully oblivious to the specter of canine cancer. My dogs had all lived to their mid to late teens and I assumed that they would continue to do so. I had two dogs in 2012, a 9 year old collie and a 5 year old corgi, Bella. And she was the light of my life. She was energetic, fun, opinionated, stubborn, argumentative, funny – she held my heart with her big brown eyes. And more than that, she was my agility partner – challenging and athletic, she jumped high and ran like the wind. It was two weeks after a competition that I first noticed that her lymph nodes were swollen. It is amazing to me now that this wasn’t a big concern to me at the time – I just assumed she had a cold and I scheduled a vet appointment for the following week.
It was of course the vet who first mentioned cancer to me, although maybe it could be this or that, or something else. I remember saying, joking, just tell me she isn’t going to die. I will never forget the look my vet gave me. Bella’s blood was drawn and the next day the results were in. “Immature lymphocytes” it said, and I thought great, it’s not so bad, it’s not so advanced, it’s just baby cancer cells. Until the vet told me, she could get me in to see the oncologist tomorrow. Tomorrow? So soon?
The oncologist checked her out and pronounced that Bella’s spleen was enlarged and so she would stage her at Stage IV. How many stages are there, I asked. Five. There are five stages to cancer. And then she said, let me take her out back and start her chemo. Now? I don’t get to think about it? I don’t get to research this? I don’t get a second opinion? This, finally, made me realize how really, really serious this diagnosis was. This ended my oblivion, and opened up my world to canine cancer.
On the advice of a friend, I contacted Smith Ridge Veterinary Hospital and this was my first exposure to holistic, non-traditional veterinary practices. With their input and support, I developed my dual treatment for Bella. I would run the full course of chemo for Bella, and kill as many cancer cells as possible. But I would also care for her holistically and I became the guardian of Bella’s immune system. With the guidance of the holistic veterinarian, I strengthened her system against the cancer as well as the chemo. During her breaks from chemo, she underwent liver cleansing and detoxing, to rid her body of dead cancer cells and chemo by-products, so that her little body could handle the next onslaught of chemo.
We learned about diet, and Bella went from a kibble eater to a raw food diet. I made her additional food supplements, feeding her whole sardines to up her omega 3s, feeding her coconut oil to increase ketogenic reactions in her cells, adding fresh ginger to aid in digestion, organic blueberries for more anti-oxidants. Whatever I could think of, I fed to her to feed her immune system.
I changed how a kept house. I made my own floor and counter cleaners of water, white vinegar and peppermint oil, getting rid of boxes of cleaning chemicals. I threw out my scented candles. I switched to scent-free detergents. I stopped fertilizing my beautiful lawn and let it slowly shift to a more natural but less groomed look. I stopped walking her around town during the winter, to protect her from de-icing chemicals.
I changed Bella’s veterinary care. She no longer receives any vaccinations but instead her blood is tittered, showing that her immunity to distemper and rabies is strong. She never receives any topical flea and tick treatments but instead is brushed and flea combed to remove any lingering pests. She receives no heartworm preventative but rather, is kept inside at dawn and dusk to minimize exposure to mosquitoes.
When we finished chemo in May, 2013 we had a final visit with Bella’s oncologist. Now don’t worry when she comes out of remission in the fall, she said, we have other drugs we can use to put her back into remission. That moment was my low point. All that we had been through, all the time and the money and the tears – and the oncologist said we’d just have the summer?
But Bella has not come out of remission. She was young and strong when cancer hit, and she remains incredibly strong now at over 9 years of age. She continues to train and compete in agility and canine scent work. She is 21 pounds of fighting spirit. Her eyes are bright, her coat is like silk, her teeth are a beautiful untarnished white and fifty months after first being declared to be in remission, she remains cancer-free.
Bella still sees her original vet every 6-8 weeks for a cancer check and chiropractic adjustment. We talk about why Bella is different, why she has succeeded where so many have not. I think it’s more than just luck, although luck has its role. What I have learned over the past four years is that we cannot underestimate the impact upon our dogs of commercially prepared foods, house and lawn chemicals that soak into pads, vaccines that inflict live viruses into their muscles, topical pest controls that are meant to kill other living beings, heartworm preventatives that fill their bodies with arsenic. Our dogs’ immune systems are under constant assault.
I said earlier, that I am the guardian of Bella’s immune system. I believe that. I am vigilant as to what goes into her body, and what her body is exposed to. Bella is here for a purpose. She is like a beacon to other cancer fighters, of what can happen with good food, a clean environment and a reduction of insults to the immune system.