alt=a man sits with his dog facing a sunset

What I Learned From My Dog About My Skin Cancer Journey

Tuesday was the worst day of my life and it had nothing to do with skin cancer, or did it?

At my side, through it all

I lost one of my best friends a few days ago. We had to put our family dog down. She was suffering from what we believe to be a ruptured tumor on her spleen. She was a rescue black lab and we had her for twelve years. Those twelve years had been filled with crises, joy, heartache, accomplishment, and change for our family. Through it all, our pooch was there, always there.

She was there and willing to do whatever we wanted to do. Whether it was to go for a walk, take a nap, play ball, or just watch television, she was there. She was the glue that pulled our family together during tough times.

What she meant to me

We all miss her tremendously and are grieving her loss. It is only now that I can see clearly what she meant to me and how she helped me.

I learned a lot from my furry friend that has helped me deal with many areas of my life. As someone with a traumatic childhood, I can carry emotional baggage at times. I could live in the past, worry about the future, and miss the present. Dogs don’t seem to do this; ours didn’t. She was all about the present.

She calmed me and kelp me in the present

My skin cancer journey has been full of anxiety, worry, and nerves. I get overly concerned about what might happen or could happen or will happen. My dog calmed me and lived in the present. It seems she thought about a few things, mostly about being with her family. Oh sure she was concerned about food and strangers. Thunder and fireworks scared her. But for the most past she was content with just “being”.

And this is what I learned from her. I learned to find contentment in each day. I learned to find peace in spite of uncertainty. I learned to overcome my fears and rest with my friends and family. I do believe this has helped me in my skin cancer journey. Each day is a gift and my dog taught me to appreciate it because that is how she lived.

Taught me to plan, but not ruminate

Does this mean that I shouldn’t plan or think ahead? No. I need to have goals and think about ways to mitigate my skin cancer risk. What it means for me is that I cannot ruin today by ruminating over things out of my control. Skin cancer is unpredictable and can take me on an emotional roller coaster, which then affects everyone around me. I would rather be more stable and centered. I saw this every day for the past twelve years.

I will probably get another dog. Nothing can replace the past twelve years and to be honest I was not in favor of getting a pet in the first place. But I am glad that we did. I see the value for my family and me and I am sure that some doggie would love to have a home.

So, here is my question. How has your pet helped you in your skin cancer journey?

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