Many patients find pets bring them comfort and some relief from the emotional stress of coping with cancer. On December 9, Cure magazine (now called Cure Today) sent out a notice asking patients and survivors to submit a photo of themselves with their pet(s). The publication is asking patients to describe how their pets help them get through cancer treatment and recovery.
A selection of photographs will appear in a photo slideshow on Curetoday.com to accompany this upcoming article in the Winter 2011 issue.
Patients will need to register for an account on the site to submit their photos and descriptions. If you would like to register and participate in this article, you can click this link.
‘The therapeutic use of pets as companions has gained increasing attention in recent years for a wide variety of patients – people with AIDS or cancer, the elderly, and the mentally ill,’ states a web site for holistic care. ‘Animals bring out our nurturing instinct. They also make us feel safe and unconditionally accepted. We can just be ourselves around our pets.’
This article goes on to say that any kind of pet can benefit a patient – a dog, cat, rabbit, bird or even fish swimming in an aquarium. It’s important that the requirements of the pet match the personality of the person caring for it, and the person should have adequate ability to meet the animal’s needs. Caring for the pet should not cause any additional stress. With a proper match of person and pet, the creature can be an important part of the healing process.
‘Pet ownership may affect people physiologically through the soothing and relaxing effect of touch,’ the article goes on to relate, ‘and speechless communication with a pet, or simply watching a cat or fish, may produce a relaxation response with little demand on the patient. Pet owners often feel needed and responsible, which may stimulate the survival incentive. They feel they need to survive to take care of their pets.’
Some animals can be very intuitive, and seem to have an amazing connection with their owners. ‘My fur baby was willing to snuggle with me every day,’ said cancer patient Judy. ‘On days I needed a nap he got on the bed and napped with me. When I needed to walk post surgeries he went with me. I don’t know what I would have done without my Shihtzu, Bandit.’
‘For many people, pets are an incredibly important and meaningful source of unconditional love and affection. That’s what makes pets especially good sources of support for people dealing with cancer and cancer treatment,’ states the Caring4Cancer web site, in
the article The Power of Pets. ‘Pets can provide comfort and relief in many ways. Despite their good intentions, concerned family members and friends may at times actually increase your stress and pets can be a welcome antidote. While connecting with other people is vital, sometimes connecting with a pet is just as good, or even better because it is so simple and easy. Unlike people, whose schedules may limit their ability to be with you, pets are with you night and day, and they never let you down.’
The article goes on to state that caring for a pet can provide a reassuring routine, and a reason to get out of bed. The need to walk a dog could provide motivation for a patient to get some needed exercise. A psychological factor is that petting an animal distracts a patient’s focus and gives them something else to think of, helping to take the mind off the pain and depression that can be associated with long term, critical illness.
Some health concerns should be researched and considered when cancer patients care for pets. Just as pregnant women should avoid cleaning a cat’s litter box to prevent Toxoplasmosis, many cancer patients must be especially careful to avoid any kind of infection. If this is the case, maybe a caregiver or friend can help with this aspect of pet ownership, since scientific researchers have ascertained that owning a cat can actually benefit health for many reasons.
There is a positive, growing movement of patients and survivors sharing information in the ‘cancer community’. This pet article that people can participate in, courtesy of Cure Today, is one example of this kind of sharing. People need to share the pain and suffering of cancer. They also need to share their joy and the discovery of good things they have found to help them in their cancer journey.
Cure Today is a great resource for cancer patient education. This publication helps people understand their diagnosis, their treatment options, and survivorship. The magazine’s articles, which combine science and humanity, help make cancer understandable, and provide the tools that people can really use to cope with cancer treatment and recovery.
Free subscriptions are available for cancer patients, survivors, and caregivers in the U.S. When you sign up for a free subscription at this link, you can also get a 2011 Cancer Resource Guide. You can sign up for e-mail newsletters, which you can now personalize by tumor type, survivorship or caregiver status. At the same link, you can select to receive CURExtra, CURE‘s quarterly e-publication, which provides in-depth features, cancer news, reader responses, and more.
Cure Today magazine is also available as a digital publication. Here is the Fall 2011 issue.
Patients and survivors are invited to submit personal experience essays to be considered for publication at: firstname.lastname@example.org. You can interact with the publication on Facebook and follow their updates on Twitter.
Hope to see you and your pet in Cure Today!
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