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Mirapaw: An Inspiration and a Comfort

                Mira the Whippet, radiation oncology patient at University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine

(Knoxville, TN.)  Mira, a 7-year old whippet, lost her battle with cancer October 25, 2013. Mira and her pet parents, Christine Hawks and David Smith, worked hard to help raise awareness about canine cancer. They even earned top fundraising honors at the PetSafe 2013 K9 Cancer Walk in September. When Mira's health took a rapid turn for the worse, Christine and David made the very difficult decision not to let her suffer as the tumor apparently was progressing into her brain. Even in their monumental grief, they share Miras story with the hopes she inspires and comforts many.


Mira the Whippet, radiation oncology patient at University of Tennessee Colelge of Veterinary Medicine


October 1, 2013-- Hi!  I'm Mira, short for Mirapaw.  I'm a 7-year old whippet - a member of the sighthound family, related to greyhounds - and an Oncology patient of Dr. Nathan Lee at UTCVM.  My parents are Christine Hawks and David Smith who adopted me when I was 4 months old.  I have gone through quite an experience in the last year and wanted to share my story with you. 


In December of 2012, my parents noticed a bump on my head, near my left eyebrow.  Since one of my nicknames is "Crash" (because I run everywhere and occasionally into things!), no one really thought much of it.  When the swelling didn't reduce with time and an anti-inflammatory, my parents called in some professional help.  Doctors Ed and Chris Lehman and all of the kind people at Village Vet in Maryville, TN love to have me visit and took such extra special care with me during my two surgeries - one in January and again in May when I had a nosebleed that wouldn't stop - to try and determine the cause of the bump.  The recovery after the surgeries hurt some, at first, and my Mom and Dad were scared, but I was a brave girl and didn't even bother with the stitches on my head.

Samples from both surgeries were sent to UTCVM for analysis.  The first sample in January came back as inconclusive.  But, in May, the second sample indicated that I had a nasal carcinoma.  This is a rare type of cancer that affects less than 1% of all dogs and the doctors say it is unusual to see nasal tumors in dogs like me.  I could sense that my Mom and Dad were scared again and so sad.  Mira the Whippet with Dr. Nathan Lee, radiation oncologist at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine(Click here for FAQs about canine cancer.)

They took me to a new doctor -       Dr. Nathan Lee with the Oncology department at UTCVM.  He was very kind and gentle with me and so were the two nice ladies that he works with - Dawn and Jamie.  At first, I was nervous about being in a new place, but eventually, I wasn't even scared to leave my parents and go for a walk with Dawn or Jamie.  I could tell that these people were "dog people" and I liked them. (You can see me with Dr. Lee at the K9 Cancer Walk. The only veterinary radiation oncologists in the state are at UT vet school!)

Though my cancer is terminal, there was a treatment option available for me to help reduce the size of my tumor and extend my time with my parents. It was right here in Knoxville with Dr. Lee.  My treatment began with a CT scan to determine how large and how far the tumor had spread.  Under advisement by both Dr. Lehman and Dr. Lee, my parents opted to treat my tumor with the recommended palliative radiation.  Once a week for four weeks, I visited Dr. Lee and his team and they put me to sleep for a little bit and when I woke up my parents met me in the office and talked with Dr. Lee.  He is a very patient person because my Mom sure asked a lot of questions!  The treatments really weren't bad except I always knew when they were going to happen since I couldn't have any breakfast those mornings before they made me go to sleep!

My parents started putting a thick lubricant in my left eye since it was prone to drying out from the treatment.  It felt a little weird at first, but made my eye feel nice and I always got a treat afterwards.  I also temporarily lost my hair in the treatment area.  I sure did look funny with my bald spot and had to wear baby sunscreen when I played outside for extended periods, but my hair is starting to grow back.  Boy!  Is that process ever itchy! 

With treatment, the average dog with this type of cancer lives 6-8 months, but as my Mom and Dad will tell you, I am not your average dog and will try to beat that average.  I completed my radiation treatments at the end of June and I'm feeling like a puppy again!  Though the tumor is not completely gone, the radiation treatments did greatly reduce its size and slowed its growth.  Aside from taking a pain medication once a day, I am back to all my normal fun and games.  For me, that means cuddling with my Daddy (my favorite person ever!), playing with my flying squirrel and stuffed rabbit and chasing my greyhound "sister", Penny, in the backyard.

 Mira the Whippet, radiation oncology patient at University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine                                                                             I hope that you don't get any bumps like I did, but if you do, know that though it is scary, you do have options and the caring people at UTCVM you can turn to for advice.  Everyone's situation is special and Dr. Lee will treat you as a special case.  I hope that by sharing my story, I can help comfort others.  My Mom and Dad still get sad sometimes, but we do lots of stuff together like planting apple trees, since slices of Ginger Golds are my favorite treat, volunteering with the East Tennessee chapter of Greyhound Pets of America and participating in the recent K9 Walk for Cancer to benefit Morris Animal Foundation.  I am appreciative to have had the options available to me that maybe weren't available a decade ago.  My time with my parents has been extended and I am feeling much better than I was at the beginning of this year thanks to the treatments.  I hope that I've left a paw print on your heart and through my story and how I spend my days, I leave behind my little print on the world.



Posted: 11-12-13 Viewed: 15425 times

Media Relations

Sandra Harbison
College of Veterinary Medicine
University of Tennessee
2407 River Drive
Knoxville, TN 37996

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