Zoe’s Journey: funding cancer research in dogs

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Jayne May, founder of Zoe’s Journey UK, talks about the astonishing accomplishment of raising over £250.000.00 for cancer research in dogs – and about the amazing dog who started it all.

It all started back in 2013 when my Golden Retriever, Zoe, was diagnosed with Lymphoma. I would like to emphasise that I took her to the Vet the same day I noticed her lymph nodes/glands were swollen. The diagnoses was stage 3B Cell Lymphoma – it didn’t leave much hope, but hope there was if we started chemo immediately, which I did. I was guided by my vet who, was prepared to fight for her as I was. In eight days, Zoe hit remission, aged 12! No one could believe this, but the chemo continued.

In 2014 Zoe was deemed cured of cancer. I was humbled and in awe of my wonderful vet, Steve Tasker of Watkins & Tasker Vet Group. Zoe’s programme was like no other. It was different and not the standard protocol being used at that time – nor, I believe, now.

I asked Steve, how common is cancer in dogs? I was taken back when I learnt that 25% of all dogs will be diagnosed; 50% of all dogs over the age of 10 will be diagnosed. I wanted to give back, to thank the research that gave Zoe back her life. It was the most worrying “journey ” of my life. Steve suggested I try the Animal Health Trust, who had a dedicated Canine Cancer Research Unit.

I started a Justgiving page asking for people to donate direct to the AHT to help research. I was asked by the AHT whether I had a target? I stumbled and said, “Errr, yes, how about £5,000 in a year?”. Little did I know what lay ahead! In three months Zoe’s Journey UK smashed through that and continued as if unstoppable. An online auction site came next, allowing people to auction anything they no longer needed for a donation to the cause.

Before long we were looking at £50.000.00 We then attracted the likes of celebrities. Mark Labbett, aka “The Beast” from ITV’S The Chase was on board. He too has a Golden Retriever, named Baloo. Mark went on to “Tipping Point: Lucky Stars” and won £20.000.00 for Zoe’s Journey UK. The Insurance Company Bought By Many (now Manypets) donated £2,500.

At this point the next target was £100k – could that be possible?

As for Zoe herself, back in March 2016 she did her own special ‘interview’ with Clare Baldin at Crufts for Channel 4 that was shown that week. Zoe made it to almost 16 years old when she passed peacefully away in April 2016 from old age. When Zoe died, she was cancer-free.

Later that year we had an invitation to the Patrons lunch where we saw the Royal Family – but attracted a special member with the Zoe Mascot we took there. HRH Prince Harry came up to us and asked about the dog mascot we were holding. We told him and he agree to have some pictures taken of him holding Zoe’s mascot. He said to let him know when we hit the big one, which was £100k.

The group grew by the day and by then I had decided to open another group – not to raise money, but to help and support folks who have been told their dog has cancer. There are people out there with no kids, no family and sadly some with no friends; these dogs are everything to them, but cancer remains dogs biggest and quickest killer of all time.

The group now enters its seventh year and I can announce that July 2022, Zoe’s Journey UK has raised a staggering £250.000.00 for Cancer Research in dogs! We now have members from all over the world within both groups of Zoe’s Journey UK.

No one knows your dog as well as you do and if you see something that is not right, please go to your vet

The group members have done almost everything one can think of – from jumping out of a plane, running the London Marathon and climbing a mountain. I cannot thank them enough for what they have done and achieved.

But the biggest mountain to climb is the one dogs and humans have – and that’s cancer. Sadly we can’t save them all, but these funds will go towards helping research help the puppies of tomorrow so they stand a better chance when cancer strikes.

But the message I send out here is this: no one knows your dog as well as you do and if you see something that is not right, please go to your vet. Social media is not the place to ask for help – it is your vet, and do this as soon as possible. Zoe had chemotherapy 24 hours after diagnosis. Please do not give cancer time – if you do it will probably kill them. We have seen dogs as young as 12 weeks old with Lymphoma, so please don’t wait.

Zoe’s Journey Uk is the biggest independent cancer fund that the AHT had ever seen. Due to their closure all of Zoe’s funding now goes to The University of Edinburgh, where there is a dedicated team of scientists researching canine cancer. If you need help dealing with a blow like this when Cancer strikes, or want to donate items or funds to help then, please visit FB Zoe’s Journey UK News and Support.

This is a guest post by Jayne May. Want to write for us? Visit www.dogstodaymagazine.co.uk/essay-submission or email editorial@dogstodaymagazine.co.uk.

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