Lowe a humanitarian with heart – and cancer

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One of Dori's passions is horses. Here, she pictured with Make Mine Vanilla, the Region 2 Champion Half Arabian Western Pleasure Horse 2014. Photo by Donna Ritchie.

One of Dori’s passions is horses. Here, she pictured with Make Mine Vanilla, the Region 2 Champion Half Arabian Western Pleasure Horse 2014. Photo by Donna Ritchie.

Meet Canyon Lake resident Dori Lowe, a humanitarian who has been battling cancer for the past 10 years. Before moving to Canyon Lake in January 2015, Dori had traveled all over the world to work with children and rescue animals.

“Children, animals and those who don’t have a voice are the most important to me,” says Dori.

In May 2005 Dori traveled to Sudan to visit an IDP camp. IDPs, Internally Displaced Persons, are people who are forced to flee their homes. But unlike refugees, IDPs remain within their own country’s borders. According to Wikipedia, “At the end of 2006 it was estimated there were 24.5 million IDPs in some 52 countries. The region with the largest IDP population is Africa with some 11.8 million in 21countries.”

In September 2005, Dori was riding her horse when the horse slipped and fell on top of her. She had been riding horses since she was 7 years old and never experienced an accident like this. Her doctor ordered her to have a CT scan. The results showed abnormalities in her thyroid and throat. Dori was ready to leave for New Orleans to rescue animals from Hurricane Katrina when she received the news, so she decided to put off further testing until after her trip.

Dori had a biopsy done when she returned home from New Orleans. The results showed that she had cancer. She says, “I cried hysterically for about an hour. Then I realized crying wasn’t accomplishing anything.”

At the time Dori learned she had cancer, she had been working as a ballet instructor. Four days after explaining to her students that she would be gone for awhile, Dori was at UCLA undergoing surgery to have her thyroid removed.

Unfortunately the cancer had spread to her larynx and lymph nodes. Her lymph nodes were removed but her larngeal nerve was cut while the doctors were trying to remove the cancer. For a year Dori was prohibited from speaking beyond a whisper. Seven days of radiation followed surgery. Dori didn’t know it at the time but more devastating news was to come.

In 2006 a pulmonary embolism almost took her life. “There was an embolism in each of my lungs. My doctor told me that if I had not gone to the doctor’s that day, I would have been dead by the following day,” Dori says.

Dori, a lifelong avid horse competitor, was informed by her doctors that she had to be on bed rest and couldn’t be around her beloved horses while she was taking medication and having treatments. The news was devastating to her. It was the only other time that she wept for herself.

“Losing a passion, a love and a dream was heartbreaking,” she says.

Dori’s next big blow also came in 2006 when her doctors informed her that the cancer had spread to additional lymph nodes. She had to have another surgery. It was during this surgery that she received a laryngeal implant that allowed her to speak again.

Dori was not going to let cancer keep her down. She collected clothing to take to the “Children of the Dump” in Mexico,  an organization that assists children and their families who live and work day to day at the dump in a very low level of existence. After her trip to Mexico, she visited Casa Hogar, a children’s orphanage.

“Doing humanitarian work has always been a passion of mine; it’s what gives me strength,” she says.

While undergoing more radiation in 2006, Dori decided to go to nursing school. She says, “While volunteering in Africa and Haiti, I decided I wanted to do more than just pass out food. I wanted to do more to make a real difference. I decided that I was not going to put my life on hold because of the cancer, so I went to school to become a nurse.” Dori had more radiation treatments while attending nursing school.

In 2006, Dori traveled to an orphanage in Kenya to work with HIV positive children. “These children in the orphanage have been rejected by their families because they are HIV positive. They were born with it and then left because their families believe it’s a ‘spell’ rather than understanding children get it from their mothers, who more than likely got it from their husbands who often have many wives,” Dori says.

Dori discovered a need for pens in Kenya. “The children didn’t want candy, they wanted pens,” she says. So in 2007, she and a friend formally incorporated “Pens for Kids International, Inc.,” a California-based non-profit corporation that works in conjunction with “Pens for Kids,” an organization founded in 2000 by Claus Hjomet.

Pens for Kids relies solely on donations of pens and monetary contributions for postage. Their mission is to help kids in Africa get an education. “The hope for the future in Africa is through education,” says Dori. “If you don’t have anything to write with, how do you get an education?”

Dori finished nursing school in 2008. Today she works as a nurse. She hopes to put her nursing degree to good use by helping the children of Sudan, the reason for her going to nursing school in the first place.

Through the years, she has visited about 50 different countries. A 2008 visit to Israel resulted in her living there for close to a year. While there she visited the Wailing Wall, placing two prayers in the wall. She says, “Israel is a wonderful place and I can’t wait to go back there.”

In 2009 Dori’s cancer went into remission. It returned again in October 2014. More radiation followed.

While on a recent trip to Singapore with her boyfriend, Dori fell ill and was admitted to the hospital. Now back in the states, Dori is looking for a doctor who specializes in dealing with her rare form of cancer, a cancer that she will have to battle the rest of her life.

Dori’s battle with cancer continues to this day but she is not letting it stop her from living life to the fullest. Last year, Dori and her horse, Vic, won the Regional Championships, where they were undefeated in the show ring.

On her good days, one can catch Dori at the Canyon Lake Equestrian Center with her 3-year-old horse, Maxi, or boating on the lake. She continues to travel and do humanitarian work in different parts of the world.

She says, “Cancer can take away who you are if you let it. It can take away your health, your job, your travels, your joys and sometimes even your family and friends. It makes you stop. What I learned from having cancer is acceptance, and to live in the moment and not put off things to do later.”

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Donna Ritchie