Breast cancer survivor now comforting cancer-stricken dog who's been longtime companion

Debi Strochak's dog Norm diagnosed with mast cell cancer last August


MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – A South Florida woman, Debi Strochak, has battled breast cancer not once, but twice so far in her life.

"My journey started in 1998. I was 47 years old," she said.  

Strochak's second diagnosis was three years ago, following a series of radiation and chemotherapy treatments, along with a surgery.

Her beloved dog, Norm, has been a constant presence during Strochak's most painful and difficult moments.

"When I came back home and had all the drains in me, he would lay at the foot of my bed," Strochak said.  

Now, Norm is the one who needs Strochak's support after he was diagnosed with mast cell cancer last August. 

Given what she has gone through, it was a tough decision to proceed with treatments and watch him go through a similar path.

"I wouldn't want to lose him for all the money and years in the world, but I didn't know if I wanted to put him through that," Strochak said.  

Norman has already had three surgeries and 16 radiation treatments. Strochak is now returning the favor back to Norm and is doing what she can to make sure he’s pain-free and comfortable.

"I'm petting him and I'm helping him get through how he feels. He had his chemo yesterday," Strochak said.  

Norm still needs more chemotherapy, but he's responding well to it. He has also gotten his energy back and is taking more walks.

"He's fighting a battle," Strochak said.  

The months ahead will be a battle for Norm, but Strochak understands the journey and will be there every step of the way.

"We give each other emotional support," she said. "He knows that I love him. We know that he loves us."

The American Cancer Society's Relay for Life movement is holding its Bark for Life event from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at West Kendall District Park.

The Bark for Life event is a fundraising event honoring the life-long contributions of canine caregivers.


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