Jessy sits comfortably on Allison Topham’s lap in the waiting room at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital. She’s attentive yet relaxed as she surveys the scene around her: a veterinary student discussing a patient’s care with a client, a volunteer offering hot coffee and hugs, and dogs of every size, shape and color splayed on the floor or guiltily ensconced on a chair (with a look that says, “I wonder if I’ll get in trouble for sitting on the furniture?”).
Jessy’s calm demeanor belies her current condition. The 11-year-old Scottish terrier is being treated for recurrent osteosarcoma (bone cancer) that started in her mouth and has recently metastasized into her lungs. After initially being given a month-and-a-half to live in October 2010, Jessy has been fighting her battle against cancer for a year-and-a-half with some victories and some losses along the way.
To honor Jessy, and those at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital who have been instrumental to her treatment, Allison has created a pending endowment fund to help other cancer patients whose owners may not be able to afford the type of care that Jessy has received. Jessy’s Leash of Love provides grants of up to $1,000 to both canine and feline cancer patients whose owners demonstrate a financial need. In addition to the endowment fund that will create an immediate source of funds for families in need, Allison has left a bequest that upon her death the fund will receive additional assets that will allow families in need to request up to $5,000 for cancer treatment for their animal companion.
“The ‘Jessy’s Leash of Love’ fund was created to honor little Jessy, who has not complained one time throughout her ordeal with cancer,” said Allison, of her constant companion. “Her enthusiasm for life has never diminished and she is the same sweet, loving companion that I have always known.
“The fund also was established to honor and thank Dr. Laura Selmic, Dr. Jenna Burton, Dr. James Custis, Dr. Rodney Page, Dr. Christine Hardy, Dr. Michael Nolan, and Judea Franck for the never-ending care and compassion shown to Jessy and me during the journey. We have met the most amazing people at the Flint Animal Cancer Center, and also shared so much quality time together during our travels.”
Jessy began her treatment for cancer at the Animal Cancer Center in 2010 upon recommendation from her veterinarian in Salt Lake City, Utah. Surgery was performed to remove a golf-ball size tumor from her right cheek and Jessy returned home where she received additional surgery to repair fistulas in her face. In May 2011, Allison noticed Jessy’s tumor growing again. She and Jessy returned to Fort Collins where Jessy underwent three doses of stereotactic radiation.
After treatment, same bright eyes.
While at the VTH, Allison met Dr. Page who gave her a tour of the Animal Cancer Center and explained the center’s mission and goals. It was then that Allison decided the cancer center’s work would become part of her work as well, and she set about to create a fund to support Jessy’s Leash of Love. She is currently providing an annual cash gift to support the fund, and Allison decided to split her estate upon her death to provide a final gift to Jessy’s Leash of Love as well as a gift to support research at the Animal Cancer Center.
Jessy’s stereotactic treatment succeeded in shrinking the tumor in her mouth, but on a return visit in October 2011, a chest X-ray revealed that the cancer had metastasized. Jessy began chemotherapy infusions, with good results, and the lesions in her chest were stable. By January, though, the tumor in Jessy’s mouth became larger and she traveled to the Animal Cancer Center for a second round of stereotactic radiation.
“I know that the time I have with Jessy is probably limited, but the Animal Cancer Center gave us another year and a half of a good quality life,” said Allison. “Jessy has been my constant companion since coming into my life in 2001. At the time, I was going through a difficult divorce, and I have since had to face my own medical challenges, but Jessy has always been there by my side.
“Jessy's enthusiasm for life remains so high. She is eager each morning to awaken, eats her meals with gusto, rides in the car with her head out the window, goes on long walks with never-ending energy, and plays with her brother Jacque, a Jack Russell terrier, and her new kitten sisters. We’ll take what we have one day at a time, but it does give me a lot of comfort to know that Jessy’s Leash of Love is there to help other owners who might have a chance at more time with their beloved companions.”