Survivor Story: Chuckie’s Struggle with Lymphoma

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With cancer being one of the leading causes of death in pets, Kate Gesilva shares the story of her dog Chuckie’s battle with lymphoma.

The idea of losing our beloved pets is a thought that every pet owner fears. The crippling reality is that according to the Australia Research Data Commons, 1 in 3 dogs will experience cancer in their lifetime.  Lymphoma, melanoma and osteosarcoma are just some of the many types of cancers that dogs can face. While there are many ways to treat cancer in pets, maintaining annual vet checkups, particularly for older pets, is critical for detecting signs of cancer early on. 

In light of pet cancer awareness month, we spoke to Kate Gesilva about her Maltese Shih-Tzu, Chuckie and his struggle with lymphoma. 

Chuckie throughout his battle with cancer

Q: Did you suspect that Chuckie was unwell before hearing the diagnosis? 

“I first suspected something was wrong when the groomer told me that she had found lumps along Chuckie’s jawline. I also noticed changes in Chuckie’s mood, as he had less energy and was constantly tired. After the groomers, I rushed to the vet and was told to monitor the lumps. One month later, I discovered an even larger lump on his right shoulder.” 

Q: What was Chuckie’s diagnosis?

I was told that Chuckie not only had lymphoma but was given a life expectancy of 4-6 weeks. I was devastated and just hoped and prayed that we’d be able to save him. Despite the diagnosis, I was determined to do everything to save Chuckie. My partner and I wanted to give him a fighting chance. Although, our vet advised that Chuckie had a better chance of surviving the lymphoma due to his age. 

Q: What did Chuckie’s treatment involve?

“Over five months, Chuckie underwent 5 cycles of chemotherapy which involved the treatment of both injections and oral tablets. Being Chuckie’s carer was a full-time job for my partner and me. Chuckie had to be constantly monitored and had to receive regular blood tests and chemotherapy every Saturday.”

Q: How did Chuckie’s diagnosis impact your emotional well-being?

“In March 2020, I was diagnosed with anxiety due to the constant stress and lack of control I had over Chuckie’s situation. Despite being diagnosed with anxiety, I know I made the right decision to give Chuckie chemotherapy. 

A relative once asked me if it was worth spending so much on chemotherapy treatments. It was not so bad because Chuckie had pet insurance, but I would have still made the same decision even if he didn’t have insurance. I consider Chuckie as my family, not just an animal.”

Q: How is Chuckie now?

“Despite months of treatments and veterinary and oncology appointments, Chuckie is now out of remission. He is no longer weak and lethargic. Chuckie must continue to take oral chemotherapy medication and other medications despite being out of remission to counteract the effects of chemotherapy on the liver.”

Chuckie during his chemotherapy treatment for cancer

Q: Do you feel that Chuckie’s cancer battle has strengthened your bond?

“My bond with Chuckie is stronger than ever after being through so much together. Seeing Chuckie happy, feeling better and enjoying a better quality of life makes it all worth it.” 

If you enjoyed this interview, check out our Q&A with Chris, a man who has been able to manage his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and autoimmune disease thanks to his assistance dog, Ori.