Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Back in April, Tiffany Peacock, 32, of Summerville, noticed her dog Onyx was limping. The six-year-old black Lab also had a small lump on his right front leg. A few days later, the lump was larger.
Peacock took Onyx to the vet.
The news was shattering. Her best friend had cancer.
Osteosarcoma, cancer of the bone, often will affect larger breeds, said Peacock who now knows more about canine cancer than she ever thought possible.
She and Onyx bonded when he was eight weeks old. He was always there waiting when she got home and he made friends wherever they went.
The Lab is taller than average and beyond friendly.
Peacock, a Parole Agent for the state, is one of those people who make you glad you have met her.
For the past few months she has been dealing with a whirlwind of speedy decisions. Expensive decisions. Decisions that are staying ahead of Onyx' cancer.
Peacock is no stranger to making serious choices and shouldering heavy burdens although she would most likely disagree with the term burden.
When she was nine her mother died. She became a surrogate mother to her sister and brother.
When Onyx was diagnosed, Peacock was working three jobs – her state job, part-time at Lowe's and teaching sociology as adjunct faculty at Miller-Motte Technical College in No. Charleston.
She had to – she is putting her sister through college.
Since Onyx became sick, she has had to drop her faculty position.
The type of cancer Onyx has is fast-spreading. In order to slow its progress, Onyx' leg had to be amputated.
“On April 15, I took him to the vet – Dr. Suze Shannon at Sweetgrass Animal Hospital,” said Peacock. “She took X-rays and sent him for a biopsy. She told me she was pretty sure it was cancer…she had seen it before.
“On April 29 he had a biopsy and on May 10 it was confirmed, he had cancer. On May 29 his leg was amputated.”
According to the vets, this had to be done to try to get rid of the cancer at the source.
Onyx now sees Dr. Taylor, an oncologist at Veterinary Special Care in Mt. Pleasant.
Osteosarcoma is treatable although only 10 percent of those diagnosed live more than 18 months after the diagnosis. “It begins with some sort of nodule,” she explained, “that attaches itself to the bone and begins eating away at it.”
“That's why it is important to catch it early and treat aggressively,” she said. “That's why he needed to have his leg amputated.”
“I couldn't stay at the hospital the day it was done,” she said “I could not get out of work as we were short-handed and it was motorcycle weekend and all state law enforcement agencies are required to be at Myrtle Beach for that.”
“They told me when I got there, they couldn't get him to stand up. I walked in and he saw me and immediately struggle to his feet and tried to run to me…they had to hold him back so he wouldn't hurt himself. I sat with him all night.”
When he was ready to come home she had a real dilemma. She lived in an apartment and Onyx couldn't handle the stairs. A good friend stepped up and opened her home in North Charleston to Onyx and Peacock so he could have a one-level place to stay.
“I am so grateful, it has made me realize things could always be worse,” she said.
Now Onyx' course of treatment is chemotherapy, to keep the cancer at bay.
How to pay
Peacock never thought twice about trying to save her dog. She did, however, worry about how she would pay for it. The night Onyx was diagnosed she began researching both the disease and if there was any financial help out there.
She discovered that there are 65 million dogs in the United States and half of them will have some form of cancer.
“I never heard of animals having cancer when I was growing up,” she said. “But in the past 10 to 15 years there has been a lot of research into animal cancer and what could cause it. Small dogs are prone to lymph node cancer.”
The amputation cost $3,400. Peacock raised a good portion of that through Lab Life Line and the Dog & Cat Cancer Fund. She has personally spent, to date, about $2,300 for doctor's visits and medications.
Onyx will need between six and eight chemo treatments, she said. “The way it works is he gets a treatment that costs $574. Then the following week he has to go in and have a blood test – $112 and then the week after that another blood test – $112, then another chemo treatment and so on. This, of course, does not include the cost of office visits and miscellaneous things like special prescription food and vitamins and so forth.
Peacock knew she needed help. “I tried www.gofundme.com and my family and friends donated about $400 but that site takes a huge percentage so I began looking for other sources.”
And she discovered The Magic Bullet Fund.
“I have not found any organization as wonderful as Magic Bullet.”
The Magic Bullet Fund provides financial assistance for people who want to help their best friends fight cancer.
Founded by Laurie Kaplan, MSC, (who helped her best friend, Bullet, beat cancer), to help people who simply couldn't afford to get treatment for their pet. Kaplan has called her, Peacock said, multiple times, checking in to see how Onyx is doing.
The way it works is the Fund reviews an applicant's financials, determines what the applicant can afford to contribute, sets up a web page for 30 days and helps the applicant publicize the page so anyone wanting to help can make a donation through the page. It is up to the applicant to solicit donations to the page. The Fund puts up an initial donation of $500. The Fund gets money annually from PetCo as well as private donors.
In Peacock's case, the Fund expects her to contribute $75 a week. To date, Onyx' page has raised $295, plus the initial $500. Peacock and Onyx still have to raise $580 to cover the cost of the treatment.
Somehow, while paying two rents, two utilities, groceries, college tuition, dog food and dog meds, Peacock is managing to scrape together her $75 a week.
“Onyx always wakes up smiling and wagging his tail…he has really changed my spirit as a whole…I can't think of being in frumpy mode. He has planted the seeds of positivity in my soul…he's my guy.”
Peacock's Magic Bullet page ends July 21. Anyone wanting to help Onyx and Peacock can go to www.themagicbulletfund.org and contribute or mail a check with Onyx' name in the memo line to The Magic Bullet Fund, P.O. Box 2574, Briarcliff Mano, NY 10510. All donations are tax deductible.