An estimated six million dogs and nearly six million cats will be diagnosed with cancer this year alone. During November, amonth designated as Pet Cancer Awareness Month, I wanted to share a story of inspiration and survivorship.

When you hear stories of pets with cancer, you typically hear stories with sad endings. I wanted to share a story of inspiration, Jake’s story.

I adopted Jake from San Diego Animal Services ten-and-a-half years ago and named him after the San Diego Padres ace pitcher,Jake Peavy! He was one-and-a-half years old, and known at his daycare as Padre Jake!  He had been left in the shelter by two previous owners.  For the life of me, I can’t figure out why. Jake has been the best dog anyone could ask for. I have been known to call him my “little boy in a dog suit” because he is always at my side and up to some kind of mischief.  

Jake has had quite a life. He has been the face of DOGTV for six years, helping to launch the first television channel scientifically developed for dogs. Jake has been a model for Dog is Good, lifestyle brand for dog lover, been the best friend to three foster children and he’s help to launch four other pet-focused businesses.

Pet Cancer Awareness Month: Jake’s Story

Four years ago, during a routine exam, Jake’s veterinarian found a small pea-sized lump in his left anal gland; it turned out to be an anal gland/sac cancer (adenocarcinoma). While this type of cancer is not common, it is an invasive disease that does not generally have a positive outcome. In this type of cancer it is common to find the disease in the lymph nodes and it is typically malignant and can spread quickly into other areas of the animal’s body.

This was, to say the least, horrible news!  We had the surgery to remove the tumor and his left anal gland. The doctor told us it was very small, was caught early. The vet said he was able to get large margins around the tumor which meant it was less likely to spread. Jake was a trooper and recovered well. He was back to his old self within weeks and up to his old tricks.

While this is not a commercial, I am so thankful that with everything I had going on with Jake and his health and the decisions I needed to make, I didn’t have to worry about, “How will I pay for this?” As pet parents, we know we will do what we can for our fur babies, and because I had pet insurance through Petplan Pet Insurance

I didn’t have to worry about what the surgery and treatments would cost and how I would pay for it. Having pet insurance put my mind at ease and let me focus my attention on getting Jake healthy.

A year-and-a-half later, I looked at him and he looked sad. He wasn’t normally a sad dog, was always happy to be around kids, other dogs and put on a show for the humans in his life. But I could tell he was was sad. I took him into the vet only to discover the tumor had returned and was now in his lymph nodes.

My first reaction was, “Take the tumor out!” It had saved him before and it would save him again, only this time we would follow up with chemotherapy to make sure the cancer stayed at bay. This surgery took its toll on Jake. It was very invasive and I felt horrible because I hadn’t really taken his quality of life into consideration, just my need to keep him in my life. Add to that, his new oncologist estimated Jake would only have an additional six months with me.  He was nine-and-a-half years old and had been through a lot in his short life.

I wasn’t sure what to expect and couldn’t believe that I would only have him with me for that short amount of time — if I clung to the pronouncement from the oncologist.  But, here we are, and Jake has been living with cancer, successfully, for the past four years!  I say successfully because aside from his recovery period and a bout with arthritis (made infinitely better with acupuncture) he has had an incredible quality of life!

He’s better today than he was two-and-a-half years ago.  I wish I could tell you the secret to his success. I’ve done so many things to keep him healthy, I’ve lost track. But something seems to be working.

Jake no longer eats dog food, I cook for him every day. Jake takes CBD Oil twice daily and enjoys treats of carrots, cauliflower, squash and zucchini! He gets monthly cold laser treatments and acupuncture from his local veterinarian. He still takes a low-grade form of oral chemotherapy because I’m afraid to take him off of it, but I really don’t think it’s helping any more. Two months ago, Jake’s oncologist found another anal gland tumor, now in his right side. She didn’t hold out much hope for him, but don’t tell Jake that!  He hasn’t slowed down yet.

A fighting spirit and a will to live

I would tell you that everything I have done to keep Jake healthy – home cooked meals, chemotherapy, CBD Oil, cold laser therapy, acupuncture, and surgeries are what keep Jake going, but I’d be lying. I think the one thing Jake has going for him is his incredible will to live! He doesn’t know he’s sick. He doesn’t dwell on it like I do, he just goes about day, happily in retirement in Arizona.  

Jake takes daily golf cart rides with his “Uncle Dusty,” my parents ten-year-year old Shi Tzu, visits an elderly lady down the street every day to get his cookies and takes a ride in the car whenever I let him.

In honor of Jake and Pet Cancer Awareness Month, I encourage everyone to live life the way my beloved Jake does: Embrace every day with a smile and an incredible will to live.

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