As she sat in the waiting room, Monica was instantly draw to Finn. “I had a beagle named Heidi—he reminds me of her. He brings up great memories.” Visiting with Finn brought up positive memories for Monica. Her mood improved. Reminiscing about her own dog helped her cope with the stress she was currently facing.
Monica is the primary caregiver to Ron, who is currently undergoing chemotherapy and radiation. They have known each other for many years, but only six years ago started a romantic relationship. They didn’t expect to go through cancer.
Ron’s diagnosis and subsequent treatment has been tough on Monica. Finn has been a welcome source of support during this time. Finn, “makes me feel less anxious and more calm. I know when he is around, it will be a good day. He brings a ray of sunshine to an otherwise gloomy day and helps me forget everything we are going through.”
Monica gets down on the floor and holds Finn closely as tears well up in her eyes. “All of this is just so hard. He makes me feel so much better.” You can see relief in Ron’s eyes, too. He knows the stress his diagnosis and treatment has brought about, and he seems relieved that Monica is getting support and love from such an unexpected source. “I love his puppy kisses.” Monica smiles through her tears.
Finn helps to achieve two very important goals in healthcare delivery: reducing stress and promoting healing. Animals can improve our coping abilities and our comfort levels in difficult situations. By thinking outside of the traditional “healing toolbox” and incorporating animals into medical care, we encourage patients and their caregivers to seek comfort, support and symptom management from something other than a pill or a procedure.
For more information or questions about animal assisted therapy and cancer patients, contact Christina Bach, [email protected]
Healing Paws is a joint project between OncoLink and the Department of Radiation Oncology, Penn Medicine. Finn, the therapy dog, is a registered therapy dog through Therapy Dogs International (TDI®).
Photos by William Levin, MD, Department of Radiation Oncology, Penn Medicine
Consents for disclosure of personal information/photography on file.