With a love of photography and a fun Instagram account for a sweet Saint Bernard puppy named Lucy, I spent several years learning to photograph her adventures while exploring the beautiful forests of Ontario, Canada. I slowly built up a following of other die hard Saint Bernard lovers on Instagram. All the while, looking for anything and everything I could to buy for St Bernard dogs which was few and far between.
A few years later while on a camping road trip with Lucy down the east coast of the USA, we stopped in the little town of Senoia, Georgia, otherwise known as Woodbury of the tv show The Walking Dead. We joked that Lucy was the most perfect dog, so why not get another one?! So along came Norman, a fluffy 25 pound puppy full of beans.
My Insta followers cheered little Norman on when he was afraid of the stairs and happily watched his silly antics in extreme cuteness overload that only a giant puppy can do. They loved Lucy even more watching her patiently teach him how to be a good Saint. That summer, several puppy videos I uploaded went viral and my account blew up to tens of thousands of followers in a matter of days. It was crazy fun!
Soon after I discovered how great the Insta dog community was as I was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia that came out of no where. They gave me love and support from all over the world while I was in the fight for my life.
When you hear the phrase “you have Cancer”, everything is a blur and becomes instantly clear, it speeds up, and it slows down, all at the same time, if that’s possible. You remember every detail of that moment unlike anything else. My first thoughts were, “how do I find the strength to get through this?” “How do I survive this? I’m not done with this life!” So, I leaned heavily on my husband and he took the full force of my rage, my denial, and my despair. He became my rock, even more so than before.
I couldn’t live without several blood transfusions every week and needed a stem cell (bone marrow) donor to save my life. Without one, I only had a 10% chance of survival. Luckily, someone, somewhere in this giant beautiful world was a match and they agreed to be my donor. And if it wasn’t for all the wonderful people who take the time to donate blood, I would never have even had a chance for a stem cell transplant. So, I began many intense treatments at the Princess Margaret Cancer centre in Toronto that lasted over a year and is still counting to this day, 4 years later.
I like to tell people that I was lucky to get through it all without major complications but my doctors would probably say otherwise. It was the hardest thing I have ever endured and I often found myself crying into the soft folds and fur of Norman to get through it all. He was the one that patiently held me up with his giant shoulders while I was in the deepest depths of my despair. And Lucy was the one who used her body to protect me from falling down the stairs.
They say people choose dogs that are similar to themselves, and I would have to agree! I definitely have the stubbornness and broad shoulders of a Saint Bernard because just days after my transplant, as exhausted as I was, I stubbornly kept working on a t-shirt design from my hospital bed. From that day, Lucy + Norman became a collection of original designs of things I love the most: the outdoors, road trips, nature and of course my majestic and sweet St Bernards.