Back in May, 84-year-old Bill Hogencamp was diagnosed with incurable cancer of the liver, gall bladder, colon, and abdomen lining. He was told he wouldn’t make it to Christmas. Though he hadn’t had a dog in 20 years, his family recently took in a stray dog who seems to have helped the man beat cancer.
Even though his doctor told him there was no hope, Bill opted for surgery in October to have three large tumors removed.
“I have seven children and I’ve traveled all around the world,” he said. “I thought if this is it, then this is it.”
Eleven days after his surgery, Bill’s wife Kathy was on her way to pick him up from a rehab center when she caught a glimpse of a little white dog trotting down the road. She was in a hurry, but she knew he was in great danger of being struck by a car, so she stopped.
“He walked past six other cars right up to the side of my car and put his paws up on the door,” she said.
Kathy fell in love immediately, but Bill wasn’t so sure.
“I hadn’t had a dog in twenty years and I had no desire to have a dog,” he said. “I kept saying we need to find his owner.”
They searched high and low for the pup’s owner, and though nearly a dozen people stepped forward, none were the rightful owner. A vet visit determined that the Maltese was around six years old, and though fixed, he was not microchipped.
As the weeks passed, Bill and the dog – who was named Mahjong after Kathy’s favorite game – grew close. Whenever Bill sat down, Mahjong leaped onto his lap. When the man napped, his dog curled up right next to him. Mahjong would dance about excitedly whenever Bill returned home, and he couldn’t help but to feel some of that excitement, too.
Bill recently underwent chemotherapy, and just before Christmas, he was given some wonderful news – tests showed that he was free of cancer.
Though obviously the surgery and chemotherapy played a role, doctors are baffled at how a man given a death sentence has made such a miraculous recovery. Kathy and Bill believe their recent addition has been a key factor.
“The dog seemed to know right away that Bill was sick and it was his job to take care of him – and Bill knew it was his job to take care of the dog,” Kathy said.
Her husband agrees, noting that he and Mahjong gave each other a sense of purpose. He knows medical care and luck are the main reasons he is in remission, but feels that Mahjong certainly helped.
Bill still has two courses of chemo to complete, but is happy to be able to spend the holidays with his family.
“My life has been a miracle,” he said. “And now Mahjong is part of that miracle.”