Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Harvey & Luna: Keep Casper in your prayers
Girl and pet dog share same cancer ordeal
Daily Mail July 10,2006
When little Emily Kearney was diagnosed with cancer, her parents decided to get her the dog she had always wanted to help her through.
They heard about Casper, an adorable Yorkshire terrier who needed rehoming, and immediately fell in love with him.
When six-year-old Emily came home after five months of intensive chemotherapy for Burkitt's lymphoma, the two became inseparable and Casper gave her the strength to beat the disease.
Now six years on, in an extraordinarily cruel coincidence, Casper has been diagnosed with the same cancer that Emily had.
Just as he did for her when she was ill, Emily, now 12, is making sure the dog she calls her 'brother' has all the love in the world to help him get better.
Me and Emily just broke down when we heard," her mother Jackie, 42, said.
"When I was told about Emily's lymphoma it was like having your insides ripped out and when I was told about Casper, briefly I got that same feeling.
"Emily was heartbroken, we have to reassure her that he's going to get better. I said: "You've done it, you've survived."
I think it reassures her, the fact that she can compare his with hers and she knows she survived."
Emily was diagnosed with lymphoma in February 2000 after her mum took her to the dentist because one of her adult teeth was loose.
Tests discovered a tumour on her jaw then more in her stomach and kidney and she was sent straight to Newcastle's Royal Victoria Infirmary to start her treatment.
But after nearly five months of chemotherapy, Emily returned to the family home in Sunderland and her mother and father Mark, 44, decided to get a dog to help her recover.
"Emily has always loved dogs and always dreamed of having one but we couldn't really get one because we both worked," said Mrs Kearney.
"My mum has always had dogs so she's been around them since she was a baby. When she was in hospital, obviously no dogs could visit so we put up a picture of her nana's dog and our neighbour's dog to make her feel better.
"We decided to get her a dog when she came out, even if it meant I had to cut down on my hours, to help her recover."
Mrs Kearney, a classroom support assistant, and her husband, a painter and decorator, both work for the Tyne and Wear Autistic Society.
They heard about Casper through a kennel in Hartlepool. His owner's personal circumstances had changed and he needed a new home.
He arrived two weeks after Emily came home and the pair hit it off from the start.
Casper, now ten, was diagnosed with lymphoma two weeks ago after Mrs Kearney noticed a lump on his neck.
They have been told his prognosis is good.
He goes to Roker Park Veterinary Practice once a week, where a drip is put in his paw and he is given intravenous chemotherapy treatment and has tablets every other day.
Casper is treated with cyclophosphamide to try to reduce the tumour on his neck - the same drug that Emily was given.
"I'm an only child so he's my brother and I'm his sister," Emily said. "He's been heaven sent. It was great when we got him. He made me so happy. He helped me to recover.
"I was heartbroken when he got ill. I make sure I give him lots of attention and cuddles. I feel like it's going to be all right."
Mrs Kearney added: "I always say he found us. He would snuggle up to Emily in front of the fire. Even for myself and my husband he was a focus. He's an absolute sweetheart. We love him to bits."
Burkitt's lymphoma is a type of Non-Hodgkins lymphoma which affects lymphocytes - a type of white blood cell - which are found in the blood and in lymph glands.
There are about 32 cases of Burkitt's lymphoma in children a year in the UK.
There is not any connection between Emily and Casper's illnesses.
The Kearneys scoured rescue homes for a suitable pet for their daughter.
"We wanted a mature dog who was good with children, happy to be left at home and who was small enough for Emily to carry. We couldn't find anything right and then out of the blue a kennel called us about Casper.
"Emily had not met him until he came to visit us one Sunday and he never left. He ran up the stairs as soon as he came in and his owner said, 'He's happy here. This is the right place for him.'
"He's such a lovely dog and we spoil him rotten. He's hand-fed and likes sausages and bacon."
Casper's treatment, which is due to last two months, is expected to cost £1,000. The family do not have pet insurance.
"I couldn't care less if it was £1,000 a week, I would still pay it," said Mrs Kearney.
Posted by SUSAN RUSSELL at 6:54 PM