|Georgia on her last birthday with us, 09/12/2005.
Our Journey Together Begins
Georgia Penelope Wigglebottom officially came into our
lives in October 2000, a 4-week old furry bundle of energy and love. We had planned for her for months,
as excited as any new parents could be, and when we met her, we instantly fell in love and knew that she was meant to be our
we brought Georgia home at 8 weeks old, she immediately became the center of our universe and the light of our lives.
Very affectionate and playful, she was equally independent and could be very single-minded, especially when it came
to food. We learned early on that she had a great love of soccer and the outdoors and spent many hours
playing at the park and going for long walks. Intelligent and sensitive, Georgia taught us the depths of
the human-animal bond, as she demonstrated an uncanny ability to know exactly how we were feeling at any given moment and
to respond in just the right way. She was able to use this gift as a Canine Good Citizen, and for a short
time was able to visit area nursing homes to share her special ability to comfort and bring smiles to people of all ages.
Before meeting Georgia, I had no idea how unique each dog, or animal, really is, and didn't realize how fully you
could communicate with another soul without even speaking the same language. Her ability to make new friends
and enjoy life knew no bounds, and she had an enormous amount of patience, especially when it came to children, whom she especially
her life, Georgia was athletic and healthy. With the exception of having demodectic mange during her first
year of life, she rarely had a need to see the vet other than for annual checkups. So, it was a devastating
shock when, on March 22, 2005, we were told that she had multicentric lymphoma at only 4 years old. We
had suspected since Christmastime, when we first noticed swollen lymphnodes in her neck, but our concerns had been brushed
aside as just an infection of some sort. To add insult to injury, Georgia received a Rabies vaccination
that January, during our vet visit. (If only I had known then what I know now about the dangers of vaccines!)
I am certain that that only helped the cancer along. We were told that without treatment, she would
live another few weeks. With chemotherapy, months or years. We didn't know
where to turn to help our baby and were amazed at the lack of information and support available to us.
Since she was so young and otherwise healthy, we chose to pursue chemotherapy.
Georgia started the WI-Madison chemotherapy protocol on March 23, 2005, and not a day too soon. The
cancer had spread significantly within the week since the fine needle aspirates had been done, and nodes could now be felt
throughout her body. The chemotherapy protocol was administered at the Wisconsin Veterinary Referral Center in Waukesha, by their two Internal
Medicine specialists. We had been shocked to realize that in a metropolitan area of more than a million
people, there was not a single veterinary oncologist nearby. The closest was in Madison, at the University,
which was nearly an hour and a half away. Georgia was also placed on a new "cancer diet", consisting
of low carbs, high omega-3 fats, and moderate protein. In addition to Hill's n/d canned food, she got
plenty of cancer-fighting organic vegetables and other high quality proteins.
Georgia responded to treatment pretty quickly, and was in complete
remission within a couple of weeks of starting chemotherapy. The first month of treatment was very hard
on Georgia. In some ways she had more energy than she had for a while, making us realize how sick she really
had been at diagnosis, but in other ways she was losing ground. Specifically, she was continuing to lose
weight and looked very tired and worn out. We sought the help of Dr. Ann Margret-Morgan, a holistic vet in the area, and quickly
saw improvement in Georgia's energy and spirit as we supplemented her diet with digestive enzymes, Seacure, liver and
kidney support supplements, multi-vitamins, and Chinese herbs to help boost her immune system.
Georgia completed the first round of chemo in September
2005. She had been a brave girl through it all and her prognosis was excellent. She
now wore a battle scar from her treatments, on her right front leg. A grey, hairless patch where some Vincristine
had leaked out of the vein during one of her treatments. And, her whiskers were gone, her fur a little
thinner, but she was as beautiful and loving as ever. We came out of treatment with great hope, amazed
at how much we had learned over the past 6 months and at how "normal" this new life with cancer had become.
Our team of vets had saved her life, and despite looking into addition treatments, including radiation therapy or maintenance
chemo, we decided that we would move forward as if the cancer would never return. For two beautiful months,
we lived completely cancer free.
At the end of November 2005, Georgia came out of remission. We caught it early, and this time around
had the benefit of a brand-new veterinary oncologist in town, Dr. Rachel Reiman at the Animal Emergency Center in Glendale, to help us.
We started the WI-Madison protocol again and easily fell back into the chemo routine. Side effects
were much less the second time around, and Georgia handled it well. Georgia continued to fight bravely
for several months, never letting cancer take her beautiful loving spirit, and always giving us new reasons to keep hope alive.
But, in early April, the treatments stopped working and despite changing drug combinations, we eventually found that
Georgia was ready to stop fighting. Looking back, there were only a handful of “bad” days during
her 13 months of treatment. For this small thing I am grateful, as just a week before she went to the Bridge
she was playing soccer in the backyard and playing tug-of-war with her little brother. She was our wonderful,
happy Georgia until the very end.
Georgia left us on an unusually warm and sunny day, April 24, 2006. She was only 5 1/2 years old.
We called Dr. Reiman and had her meet us at the hospital. It had been a rough few days, and despite
all of our best efforts, it became clear that Georgia was ready to let go of her struggle. We took her
outside on a big soft blanket in the sunshine at about 11:30 am. With those she loved most in the world with her, holding
her and telling her how much we loved her and would miss her, she left us. Peaceful and silent. It
happened so fast, and seeing her there, it was so hard to believe she was gone. She was no longer
in any discomfort, but our hearts were now shattered.
There were days after Georgia left us that I was convinced that life could not go on.
The sun does not shine as brightly without her here, and our hearts and our family will never be whole again.
But, with each passing day, it becomes easier to remember all of the happy moments that we shared with our beautiful
angel rather than those moments of pain that we all faced during her battle against cancer. The lessons
we learned from her were many, and the love she brought into our lives is immeasurable. Despite the intense
pain of losing Georgia, I would not give back one second of her life with us. To never know that kind of
love would be so much worse.
I don’t know why Georgia had to get cancer, especially at such a young age. And I don’t
know why she lost her battle when others have succeeded. I will also never know if we could have changed
her fate by making different decisions, however big or small, at various points throughout her life. What
I do know is how unfair it all seems, and how lonely it is to be the parent of a pup with cancer when you would give anything
to help them but you don’t know where to turn. That’s why Georgia’s Legacy was founded.
To honor Georgia’s life and spirit by helping other families whose lives have been affected by canine cancer.
By telling Georgia’s story, she is remembered. And by working to raise awareness of this devastating
disease, and helping to provide hope to those currently in the fight, I am comforted by the idea that Georgia’s battle
with cancer was not in vain. We were fortunate in our ability to find answers to our questions, surround
ourselves with compassionate, qualified doctors, and to be able to afford the treatments Georgia needed to sustain her life
for an extra thirteen, wonderful, months. For those who are not as fortunate, Georgia’s Legacy is
a voice of hope, support and connection to resources that can help you in your battle against cancer.
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