GUS IS SAVING CAROLE AS SHE BATTLES A RARE CANCER
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.”