Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Odetta's Story of Hope

My name is Kathy Allbright and I have lived with Type 1 Diabetes for 30 years. I have a condition called Hypoglycemic Unawareness, which means I cannot detect when my blood sugars rapidly drop to dangerous lows. In 2009, I discovered a non-profit organization called Dogs4Diabetics that trains service dogs to detect and alert their diabetic handlers to the onset of hypoglycemic episodes.  After applying to the program and successfully completing the training, I was paired with a small, black labrador retriever named Odetta. Since our partnership, I have not experienced any dangerous episodes, as Odetta has kept me safe in countless situations, allowing me to enjoy the activities I felt I could no longer do. She has been my guardian angel, my closest companion and brings smiles to people everywhere we go. 

In May, I found a lump on Odetta's check and a biopsy revealed a fibrosarcoma tumor. I was completely devastated by her diagnosis, as Odetta is just four years old. After an aggressive surgery, which removed her entire cheek bone, dirty margins remained. The oncologist told me that our only hope for removing the microscopic cells that remained was radiation therapy at UC Davis, though she said it could take time to get an appointment. Since Odetta's cancer was very aggressive, waiting wasn't an option. She has saved my life so many times and now it was my turn to fight for hers. I frantically emailed and called everyone I knew, hoping for a connection to UC Davis, and a few days later my hard work paid off. I received a call from Gordon Theilen, the 83 year old founder of the UC Davis veterinary oncology department, who said he had heard about Odetta's cancer through a prayer chain started by a work colleague of mine. He was amazed by her service and scheduled a meeting with the UC oncologist immediately. I soon after moved to Davis where Odetta successfully completed 17 rounds of radiation.  Three months later Odetta’s energy and fur, which has turned white, returned. We have follow up appointments every three months for the first year, though she will be monitored closely for the rest of her life.

           Cancer is agonizing for everyone. There have been many times when fighting Odetta's cancer has felt completely overwhelming both emotionally and physically. In the beginning, I felt consumed by feelings of loss, guilt, and anger. Without the endless support of my community of friends, family and veterinarians this journey would be impossible for me to make.  It is now my turn to share the support that so many people have given to me. Odetta and I are volunteering each month at Family House, visiting children afflicted with cancer and their families. My wish is to bring smiles, inspiration and empathy to them on their journey with cancer, and most importantly to help share what so many people have shared with me: hope.

1 comment:

  1. What a nice story. I'm glad you have Odetta. I just signed up with Dogs4Diabetics and found this link on their website.

    Thanks for sharing your story and I hope Odetta is doing well. Merry Christmas to you too!


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