Woodinville Man Fights Brain Cancer with Help of His Dog

September 17, 2012 | by Seattledogspot

In June of 2011, 62-year-old Steven Hawley had a bike accident and suffered a serious concussion.

He now considers it one of the luckiest days of his life. 

Steven Hawley and Joey
Steven Hawley and Joey


Steven had endured concussions before, and since he didn’t feel much pain after the accident he figured he would be fine after a few days.

But a week later, while driving to work at his insurance company in Woodinville where he had worked for over a decade, he suddenly lost his way even though he was only about 2 blocks from the office. 

That event convinced Steven something serious had happened, and unfortunately a CAT scan soon after that confirmed it – he had a brain tumor that would kill him in 2-3 weeks unless it was removed immediately.

That’s why Steven considers himself lucky to have had the bike accident – if it hadn’t happened, he would be dead now.

Almost immediately after his doctor discovered the tumor he was at Swedish Cancer Institute for brain surgery to remove it (Steven asked me to mention that his doctor Greg Foltz did a fantastic job).

The operation was a success, but since the tumor was deeply embedded in his brain, the doctors couldn’t remove it without causing some brain impairment.

After the operation, Steven’s short-term memory was seriously damaged. He also lost all of his peripheral vision so he could only see things directly in front of him.

Because of these problems, Steven had to quit work and give up driving. Bike riding was out too. Since his wife worked during the day, Steven was unable to get out much.

So within about a week, Steven:

  • found out he had brain cancer
  • had major brain surgery
  • found out that only 10% of people with brain cancer survive longer than 2 years
  • lost most of his short-term memory and all his peripheral vision
  • started 30 days of radiation treatment
  • had to quit the business he started
  • had to quit driving and bike riding
  • lost control of almost every aspect of his life


Joey's cuteness is overwhelming
Joey’s cuteness is overwhelming

Most people would have difficulty coping with so many major life changes, and Steven was no different, but he had something that helped him move forward – his dog Joey. 

Joey is a 5-year-old Border Terrier and a bundle of cute. After Steven let him out of his carrier, Joey bounded over to greet me andthen proceeded to take out every toy that Steven had carefully put away when I came in.

While Steven was perfectly pleasant during our visit until then, he definitely perked up a bit more when Joey came in the room.

After Joey played tug-of-war with me for a few minutes, he settled on the floor with a chew toy while Steven and I resumed talking.

When I asked Steven how Joey helped him get through the difficult period after the surgery, his face brightened as he said, “He gave me a reason to get up and out in the morning.”

With Joey at his side, Steven began walking daily, and now he walks 4 miles a day. Pretty impressive for someone who endured major brain surgery. He also rides a stationary bike at home.

And now that Steven has recently finished his year of chemotherapy, he wants to begin agility training with Joey,something they did together before the accident.

His goal is to compete with Joey at the Seattle Kennel Club’s All-Breed Show next March. He plans to start training with Joey at Mega Dogs in Woodinville soon.

Steven was eager to show me Joey’s weaving skills, and since he had weaving poles set up in the basement, he gave me a demonstation.

Not bad, right?

I could tell that practicing agility work with Joey will help Steven immensely – not only will it improve his mood, it will also help his coordination and motor skills.

But working with Joey on agility training isn’t Steven’s only project. He plans to participate in the Seattle Brain Cancer Walk this Saturday, September 22 “to 

Joey tries to get me to play tug-of-war
Joey tries to get me to play tug-of-war

help bring awareness to this terrible disease.” 

If you would like to make a contribution to Steven’s effort go, to the Walk’s website, click on the donate button, then click on the donate to a team or participant button, then put HAWLEY in the seach box to get to his fundraising page.

I encourage you to make a donation if you are able. Any kind of cancer is bad, but brain cancer is particularly insidious because the survival rate is so low and it destroys two of the most precious possessions we have – independence and memory.

As I noted earlier, only 10% of people with brain cancer survive longer than 2 years, but I think Steven will beat the odds because of his fantastic attitude.

When I asked him what advice he had for people in similar situations, he said:

  • Form a game plan
  • Get back on your feet
  • Live as normally as possible
  • Remain positive
  • Don’t let your disease define you

And having a dog like Joey will help you follow this advice. Dogs will not allow you to wallow in self-pity or isolate yourself from the world.

As Steven said, they “give (you) a reason for getting up and out in the morning.”

Good luck with your recovery, Steven. We look forward to seeing you in the 2013 Brain Cancer Walk!




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