May 9, 2019 – Jessica Stephens fondly remembers the first Morris Animal Foundation fundraiser she ever organized. In May 2016, she strolled with friends and family through her neighborhood to raise money for Morris Animal Foundation’s Unite to Fight Pet Cancer campaign (now Stop Cancer Furever). Their inspiration was Jessica’s 5-year-old Gordon setter mix, Enzo, who was fighting his own battle against cancer.
“We didn’t raise a lot of money,” Jessica said, “But it made me feel good that what we were doing could potentially help someone else not have to go through what we did. Or, when they did, it could be a better experience or outcome.”
Stop Cancer Furever is a two-month campaign raising awareness of and funds for animal health research leading to new understandings about how to prevent, diagnose and treat animal cancers in our pets, horses and wildlife.
For Jessica and her husband, Jeff, Stop Cancer Furever is especially important because of Enzo. They rescued him as a pup and dubbed him Mayor of the Neighborhood because he was so friendly, greeting those he met on his walks as if they were out solely to say hello to him.
He also was healthy, which was why Jeff took him to see a veterinarian after Enzo had a couple of accidents in the house. Blood results revealed that Enzo did not have a bladder or urinary tract infection as suspected, but late-stage T-cell lymphoma. Jessica and Jeff were shocked that their seemingly healthy, young dog had an incurable cancer.
“When I thought of cancer, I had this idea that animals get a diagnosis, fight it with treatments, go into remission and live a long time,” Jessica said. “We thought for sure we’d do treatments and he’d get better; but we didn’t realize how severe animal cancer can be.”
Enzo received aggressive chemotherapy treatments, and complementary therapies, including acupuncture, that seemed to lessen treatment side effects. It gave them a little more time together, but after eight months of battling cancer, Jessica and Jeff knew it was time to let their beloved Enzo go.
The experience motivated Jessica to take action to honor Enzo’s legacy. She held another cancer benefit fundraising walk in 2017, accompanied by a music event in her home, and in 2018. This June, she’ll host an event at a local pet store, with a raffle of donated pet products to encourage even more donations.
“I want to support Morris Animal Foundation and this campaign because I don’t want anyone to ever hear that their pet’s cancer is incurable.” Jessica said. “And these events are great forums to share information about cancer and the research the Foundation funds to stop it.”