It's no wonder dogs are dubbed "man's best friend," (and we say 'man' as in all of humankind!) but for centuries these caring canines have been consistently recognized as pawed providers of loyalty, unconditional love, and companionship for so many people and for so many reasons.
And whether you're a dog-lover or not, we ALL know that with loyalty and companionship often comes a sense of comfort and ease.
It's these types of warm and fuzzy (or furry) feelings that can be most therapeutic in times of need, or more specifically, in times of diagnosis.
This is something our April survivor experienced firsthand.
As a mom of two young children, when Sara Snyder was diagnosed with breast cancer at 35 she wasn't just surprised but determined.
"I was in shock when I heard the news that I had cancer," she said. "I am young and had a healthy lifestyle and knew I had to do whatever it took to beat this for my family."
And while Sara credits her family for their support and inspiration, she found additional support from her favorite four-legged friends [check them out above] that really aided her along her journey.
"My family was by me every step of the way but my dogs were also there," she said. "They would both be right next to me if I was feeling sick or tired."
Sara's not the only human-in-need who has reaped some healing from a pup, or even other loving animals.
Animal therapy has been around for quite some time with organizations like Pet Partners whose mission is "to improve human health and well-being through the human-animal bond," with pet volunteers bringing comfort to a wide range of people including those living with Alzheimer’s disease, veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, patients in recovery for a number of different reasons, and even those who are not ill but aging and approaching the end of life.
And as in Sara's case, some extra love and support might be just what the doctor didn't order that could make all the difference.
"They were my comfort and made it easier for me each day knowing they were helping me get through this," she said.
Sara's treatment, like many of our Survivors, was no one-punch knockout by any means. Instead, it took five months of chemotherapy, a bilateral mastectomy, reconstruction surgery, and a preventive bilateral oophorectomy to get into the cancer-free zone.
Most of us are pretty familiar with some of these treatment measures, though for some the term oophorectomy might be a new one.
An oophorectomy is ovary removal surgery, and when it's bilateral, both ovaries are removed.
This type of procedure can be done for a number of reasons including endometriosis, ovarian cancer, or ovarian tumors, but it can also be done as a preventive measure when there is an increased risk of ovarian or breast cancer.
The operation can be performed either through an open abdominal surgery or a laparoscopic surgery and while either way should take no more than a few hours, the patient may be required to stay more than one night in the hospital.
Another thing to keep in mind if you or someone you know undergoes an oophorectomy, and specifically a bilateral oophorectomy, is that you will produce a lot less estrogen. So in addition to hormone changes (and especially in premenopausal women), a lack of estrogen can also lead to weaker bones and osteoporosis. While both can sound fairly discouraging or overwhelming, there are ways we can even up the estrogen score a bit by taking supplements or even hormone replacement therapy, all of which you would discuss in greater detail with your doctor based on your individual health history and personal prognosis.
One of the things we learn month after month here at The Eye of The Survivor is that no one journey or one diagnosis is identical. Just as we are all unique, our bouts with breast cancer come in all shapes and sizes.
Still, one thing that remains constant among all our amazing survivors is the sense of gratitude and appreciation that such a life-altering diagnosis can bring. And Sara is no exception.
"What I have learned from this journey is to enjoy every minute of your life and don't stress over the little things," she said. "Always make time for yourself and say I love you to your loved ones."
Of course before we take off we send our April birthdays an abundance of wishes for another year of health and happiness - and as always another year that breast cancer LOSES!
Happy birthday to Violet Marquez (our January Survivor) and Kimberleigh Dagro (our June Survivor)... make it count!