How my dog’s cancer inspired me after my breast cancer diagnosis

This is a guest blog post by Petrina DiOrio, owner of Brewscuits, a natural dog biscuit company. Brewscuits will be donating $1 per bag purchased online from now to the end of the year to MyLifeLine.

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When I heard the words, “Your dog has cancer,” I was devastated. It’s Osteosarcoma, one of the worst kinds. When the same words came later to reference me, “You have breast cancer,” somehow I felt okay and prepared to face my journey because of the courage and strength that I learned from my dog, Chessie, when she went through her journey with cancer.

Chessie was a Chesapeake Bay Retriever that I rescued from a family who had four children and could no longer afford to properly take care of her. I adopted Chessie when she was four years old and had many wonderful years with her. Her cancer started when she was 10 and the vet told us to amputate her front right leg, but at that point but the sarcoma was actually way up in her shoulder. We didn’t think amputating the leg would do much to solve the problem. Treating her with chemotherapy and radiation seemed unfair to her at her age. We wanted her to continue to live and hike and play as long as she possibly could and not be in and out of the hospital for treatments all the time. So live and hike and play we did and boy did we have fun. Annual trips to Maine hiking in the dense woods. A trip to Cape Cod to play on the beach and in the ocean. Camping, swimming, running, playing ball. You name it; we did it.

Chessie lived an abundant, fun-filled, loving life her last year. And finally, at the age of 11, she let us know it was time. As the vet administered that last lethal dose of love to help Chessie finally be out of pain and cross the rainbow bridge to be with all of her other playmates and family, I let her go of her physical body but her spirit is always with me. Somehow Chessie’s courage and determination and trust in me that I would do what was best for her helped me with my own diagnosis.

When the doctor told me I had cancer I looked at him and said, “OK then, what’s next? What do we do from here?” His response was to schedule surgery and go from there. Within two weeks surgery was scheduled and I underwent a radical double mastectomy. My sentinel nodes came back clean, so there were no lymph node issues, which was great news. I opted for the double mastectomy since breast cancer runs in my family. My grandmother and both of her sisters on my mom’s side all had breast cancer. Rather than a lumpectomy followed by chemotherapy and radiation, I opted for the double mastectomy. Now five years and seven months later I am cancer free and I am in perfect health and living an awesome life. I married the love of my life and we have been together for almost 17 years now. We foster, rescue and take care of military family dogs when soldiers are deployed. We have an awesome all natural dog biscuit company called “Brewscuits.” Life really could not be much better.

Since Chessie passed away in 2004, we have had many more fosters and rescues come into our home. One of our current rescues, Tiki, helped inspire Brewscuits. Brewscuits are a hand-made, all-natural dog biscuit using the grain from the beer brewing process. We are homebrewers making our own beer in the comfort of our home and put our grain on our picnic table after brewing our latest and greatest brew. We let the dogs out and Tiki climbed on the table, stole the grain and shared it with his brothers and sisters. After some research we found that the grains were good for our dogs and we started making beer grain dog biscuits.

We upcycle a product that would normally be waste and create a treat for our dogs that is actually nutritious. Our biscuits contain barley, oats and rye which are grains our dogs should have in their diet to aid in their digestion. We use no corn or soy which our dogs cannot digest. We also use no salt, sugar, chemicals or preservatives. Our biscuits contain only a few simple ingredients – the spent grain (barley, oats, rye), flour, egg, and either peanut butter, pumpkin or sweet potato. For more information, go to www.brewscuit.com.

I’ve been given this wonderful opportunity to partner with MyLifeLine.org and share my story during breast cancer awareness month. We would love to give back to this wonderful organization. Brewscuits will be donating $1 per bag purchased online from now through the end of the year. Just use code “boobies” at checkout at www.brewscuit.com.

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