Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, living with chronic illness, Living with Illness

When Lives Intersect on Parallel Paths

Human interest stories get my attention on the news.  Give me a story about a kid, a dog, or a person fighting the odds and winning makes me sing from the rafters.  When the story shows how the lives of people and animals are more similar than different my ears stand at attention and I pay close attention. 

The story revolved around a yellow lab named Jake.  Jake’s dad found a golf ball size bump on the dogs leg, and yes he was diagnosed with cancer.  Jake’s prognosis was bad, two to four months.  With that news Jake’s dad enrolled him in a clinical trial at the veterinary school.  While on treatment Jake and his dad began living each day tot he fullest.  There are pictures of Jake in locations all around Denver chronicling Jake’s life every single day.  Then one day Jake was enrolled in a program that will blow you away.  The program is called YAPS, Youth and Pet Survivors.

YAPS pairs animals with kids who themselves are battling cancer.  The child and the animal become pen pals and the animals story is used to inspire the child during this difficult time.  At first Anne Gillespie, the nurse who runs the YAPS program, didn’t know if Jake should be in the program since his prognosis was poor.  After careful consideration Jake was paired with a young man, Will Willer, who has been battling cancer for eight years.  The two began e-mailing (obviously Jake’s dad is writing the e-mails), but there are similarities between the two.  Both Jake and Will receive their chemo treatment on Monday mornings at 9am.  The two are taking this journey together.

A couple of months ago there was a story about a dog that was a double amputee.  The dog was brought to support group meetings for veterans who have suffered an amputation.  The hope is that when the veterans see how the dog has made the necessary accommodations to go on living a full life; they can take those lessons and apply them to their own lives.  Animals can be incredible teachers when we’re open to the lesson. 

As you go through live with your particular health challenge consider the lessons that you may learn from the animal kingdom.  Last year my then 6 year old dog had double ACL surgery and now she’s the bionic dog.  My older dog has been battling infections like MRSA for over a year.  She’s been on more medication than I wish on anyone but she’s a trooper and keeps on fighting the fight.  She doesn’t wine, cry, or defy the treatment.  She keeps on giving love even when I feel we humans are tormenting her, but she bounced back and is recovering. 

What are the lessons you need to learn?   Think about the therapy dogs they bring to hospitals or the dogs that are service animals for those who need extra help.  Humans and animals lives can be incredible parallel experiences offering hope, inspiration, and the opportunity for a brand new day!


I've lived my life in service to others. I'm focused on mental health and how it impacts our relationships, culture, and society. Through creative expression and narrative I believe we can impact change.

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