Carole Nor­man didn’t think it was fair to get a dog. The aged pen­sioner had been di­ag­nosed with the ul­tra-rare cancer of the sali­vary gland in 2011 and no one could tell her how long she might be around.

She vol­un­teered to raise a guide dog puppy – it seemed a safe bet she would be there for a year be­fore its for­mal train­ing started – but she wasn’t pre­pared for the emo­tional wrench of hand­ing it back.

“I knew I could never go through that again,” she says. “I’d thought a lot about adopt­ing a grey­hound but didn’t think it would be right if I wasn’t able to live for the rest of its life.”

A chat with a spir­i­tual man con­vinced her to get a dog. “He said ‘What­ever hap­pens, that will be the dog’s jour­ney’ and it was like he gave me per­mis­sion,” Carole says.

She adopted Gus from Friends of the Hound. He was one of eight taken to a vet to be put down but the vet couldn’t do it and con­tacted the re­hom­ing or­gan­i­sa­tion in­stead.

“I’ve fat­tened him up but I haven’t saved him as much as he’s saved me. It’s a two-way street.” Hav­ing Gus has lifted her spir­its and given her some­thing else to fo­cus on.

But Carole’s cancer bat­tle is reach­ing a cru­cial stage. To date, she’s spent her en­tire $300,000 re­tire­ment nest egg on cancer treat­ments and the funds are al­most gone.

In the past 12 months, she has had al­most mirac­u­lous suc­cess with the im­munother­apy drug Keytruda, which has re­duced her cancer by half. Al­though it is avail­able un­der the Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal Ben­e­fits Scheme for $40 a month for some pa­tients, her cancer is not on the sub­sidised list. She has been pay­ing $3500 every three weeks for treat­ment, a re­duced rate her on­col­o­gist helped ne­go­ti­ate.

“It’s work­ing,” she says. “But my money is gone. The next step is for me to sell my house to keep hav­ing treat­ment and I think where will I go, and what will hap­pen to Gus?”

Rare Can­cers Aus­tralia is try­ing to help Carole with fundrais­ing and Carole has writ­ten to politi­cians plead­ing her case.

“I’m pray­ing to the uni­verse that some­thing will hap­pen,” she says.

In the mean­time, it’s just her and Gus. “Some­times I think he knows what’s go­ing on,” she says. “When I’m hav­ing my treat­ments, he’ll be sniff­ing me.

“He’s been so good, but I just don’t know what hap­pens to us next.”

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