For those of you who have a dog that has been diagnosed with cancer, and who cannot afford or have chosen not to pursue traditional cancer treatments, I wanted to share this inspirational story with you about a little dog named Simba. His story just goes to show that there is more than one right way to fight cancer, and you can never, ever give up hope.
Simba is a 6 ½ year old half Yorkie/half Maltese who was diagnosed with advanced lymphoma in early July 2008 (Stage III, Sub-stage B) through a needle biopsy. The light of his family’s life, it was a huge shock when he was diagnosed with this form of cancer, as it is a pretty rare condition in toy breeds. Plus, prior to this, Simba was a very active dog who enjoyed a very healthy and natural diet, making the diagnosis an even bigger shock. While there is no way to confirm any direct linkage, I think it is worth noting that Simba had recently received a Rabies vaccination prior to his diagnosis, and had a history of reactions to this vaccine.
For a variety of reasons, his family decided that they did not want to pursue chemotherapy for Simba. Aside from financial considerations, they were really concerned about wasting precious time traveling to and from vet appointments and putting Simba through aggressive treatment. The cancer seemed to be progressing very rapidly, and their main focus was on helping Simba maintain the highest possible quality of life, for as long as humanly possible.
To help them design a non-traditional plan of action, Simba’s family visited a holistic vet in the Madison, WI, area. The appointment seems to have happened just in the nick of time. The lymph nodes in Simba’s neck were now very large and he appeared very bloated and uncomfortable. He would frequently nibble on grass, and was failing rapidly.
Simba’s holistic vet examined him and first recommended a revised natural, home cooked diet for Simba to help him meet those special nutritional needs of cancer. She also recommended two herbs specifically for him, using Traditional Chinese Medicine to address some of the underlying causes of the cancer. The third component of Simba’s treatment plan included acupuncture.
During the first visit, Simba had 6 needles placed in him, and didn’t even wince. In fact, he actually got very relaxed and even performed some tricks for her during his appointment…maybe in appreciation of her efforts and kindness toward him.
The effects of the acupuncture and herbs weren’t immediate, but pretty close to it. A few days after the treatment, Simba was still fairly lethargic and not eating as well as everyone would have liked. But, by the beginning of August, Simba was back to his energetic self, going on long walks and chasing squirrels. Now, the end of September, and three acupuncture treatments later, Simba is exhibiting NO outward signs of lymphoma other than one node in his neck that is still slightly enlarged. All of the lymph nodes that were once swollen are now down to normal size, and he has a great appetite, and lots of energy. His brother Ptah, who was very worried about Simba and who watches intently from the sidelines during his acupuncture treatments, is especially happy to have his best friend and playmate back to his normal self. Together they can run around and try to climb trees again to get the squirrels that taunt them out in the back yard.
According to Simba’s mom, they could not be happier about their decision to get a second opinion and not to pursue chemo. Aside from the obvious positive results they’ve seen in Simba, they have found that the cost of pursuing this alternative treatment plan is far less than going the traditional chemo route, and they have so far spent less than they would have just for the initial “staging” of the disease that their original vet had recommended. For Simba, this was absolutely the right approach. His cancer program is non-invasive, and he just loves his holistic vet, who dotes on him and Ptah during each of his visits. Their hope is that Simba continues in his good health and that he can be an inspiration to others who have been given a dismal prognosis by their veterinarian.
Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine may not be the answer to every cancer diagnosis, and certainly there is no way to know the future for Simba or any other pup who is battling this disease. But, Simba’s story of courage and survival is a good reminder that there is more than one way to treat cancer, and that quality of life is always the most important thing we all need to be fighting for. Most importantly, Simba reminds us that we can never give up, never lose hope. Each and every day is a gift that we must appreciate and savor.
**Unfortunately, Simba lost his battle with cancer on November 19. But, during his 5 month fight, he was active and enjoyed each day due to the love of his family and the alternative therapies he received. Godspeed Simba – you will be deeply missed! **