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Charlene Piskula, of Coplay, and her therapy dog, Sirius, provide a sense of comfort during radiation treatments. Charlene Piskula, of Coplay, and her therapy dog, Sirius, provide a sense of comfort during radiation treatments.
A patient at Lehigh Valley Hospital- Muhlenberg pets Sirius during an appointment.PHOTOS courtesy of Mark Reccek A patient at Lehigh Valley Hospital- Muhlenberg pets Sirius during an appointment.PHOTOS courtesy of Mark Reccek

GUEST VIEW

Wednesday, July 19, 2017 by MARK RECCEK Special to The Press in Columns

Unknowns of radiation made easier by local therapy dog

I wasn’t sure what to think or ultimately expect, despite the radiation oncologist doctor and other medical professionals explaining the process to me.

My first radiation appointment two weeks ago at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest consisted of meeting with the doctor and going over the goals of treatment and its side effects.

After I met with the doctor, he escorted me back into the radiation room. Like most rooms reserved for running tests and conducting treatments on patients, the radiation room was sterile, bright and cold. I was asked to lie on a hard, flat radiation table and remain still while staff made a mask for my face, to help keep my head in a stable position during treatments.

Less than a week later, the first treatment session began at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Muhlenberg. Because the mask was too tight and did not fit on my face, the radiation therapists had to position my head in the precise location, so the radiation beams could target and hit the skin cancer and tumor.

Treatments since that appointment have taken no more than 15 minutes.

Was I scared, and am I still fearful for what the future holds? Sure. Fear, for any human being, is a natural response to confronting a life crisis. Even the strongest, physically and mentally, find fear to be a feeling that can take one by sheer surprise and lead to a paralysis.

What helped me during my first radiation appointment was the arrival of Charlene Piskula, of Coplay, and her therapy dog, Sirius. Both Sirius, a gentle golden retriever, and Charlene provided me with a sense of comfort and helped me relax during the appointment.

I also got to witness firsthand the positive and therapeutic impact Sirius has on those battling cancer. The eyes of one elderly woman awaiting treatment lit up and a bright smile emitted from her face as Sirius sat next to her. As she gently pet Sirius, I could sense the woman was feeling more at ease with where she was.

Sirius and Charlene continue to make a difference in the lives of many at the hospital confronting and dealing with cancer. Both Charlene and Sirius have traveled the many halls of Lehigh Valley Hospital with a mission to help and comfort cancer patients making their own personal journeys through the scary corridors of cancer.

Battling and managing cancer are beyond comprehensible for me, and I can only imagine for countless others jostling the disease.

It’s reassuring to know there is a local person, like Charlene, and her therapy dog, Sirius, who are there for those who may need the support and comfort of a caring woman and her loving dog.

It all goes to show you, the cliché, “a dog is a man’s (woman’s) best friend” holds true.