Dad-of-two passes away from Covid after beating cancer then losing his treasured dog to the same disease

Russell John and his cockapoo dog Enzo were inseparable.

So when 60-year-old Russell, from Margam Village, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, Enzo became even more important to him and his family.

Amazingly, Russell battled his cancer, but then came the heartbreaking news that Enzo also had cancer. The little dog was not so lucky and was lost to the family.

But more tragedy was to follow. Despite being double stabbed, Russell subsequently caught Covid-19 and, despite a brave, hard-fought battle, lost his life on October 13, 2021.

Now his family has decided to remember him and Enzo by supporting a cause close to Russell’s heart.

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Russell’s wife Helen said: “The past two years have been so bittersweet for us. Russ’ battle with pancreatic cancer was brutal, but together we won the battle.

“It’s an experience that changed us forever and I would never want to see another family go through what we did, but good came out of it.”

Russell John and Cockapoo Enzo (Image: Helen John)

While Covid-19 restrictions put many people’s lives on hold, for Russell, Helen and their children, Cassie, 26, and Thomas, 21, it meant even more family time with Enzo.

“Going through the pandemic gave us the opportunity to spend time together. We spent hours walking in Margam Park with Enzo, we became part of the wonderful Margam Village Dog Walking community and we had precious time together with our children who are not disrupted by work or our previously chaotic lifestyle,” added Helen.

From left to right: Helen John, Thomas John, Russell John, Cassie John and Enzo. (Image: Helen John)

Russell spent 2020 battling pancreatic cancer, one of the deadliest forms of the disease. The pandemic also hit Wales in March of that year, bringing the country to a slow halt.

But as Russell slowly began to win his battle, the family received a second round of devastating news with Enzo’s diagnosis.

Cassie said: “2020 was such a difficult year as our father battled pancreatic cancer during the Covid pandemic. The only thing that helped him through this battle was his faithful companion, Enzo the cockapoo.

“Later that year we received the devastating news that Enzo also had cancer – we were lucky to have him until May 2021. Enzo brought so much joy and happiness to our family at such a difficult time, but especially to our father. They were inseparable.

Helen added: “Unfortunately, Enzo passed away in May. We were devastated, but we looked forward to a future with cancer behind us. We were all double stung as a family, Russell had had everything off and life was starting to return to some sort of normalcy, albeit we remained very vigilant about Covid.

Enzo, the beloved Cockapoo (Image: Helen John)

The family tried to get their lives back on track after their devastating loss, but in September 2021 Russell was hospitalized after contracting Covid-19.

He remained on a ventilator for three weeks before losing his battle against Covid on October 13.

Helen said: “To go through what we have been through for the past two years and to have Covid take Russ away from us is unbearably sad and difficult. We’re just a normal family, but our lives have changed forever.”

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In memory of their father, Cassie and Thomas have set up a GoFundMe to raise money for Many Tears Animal Rescue, a charity based in South Wales. They have already raised almost 5,000 euros.

Cassie said: “Many Tears Animal Rescue was always close to his heart because he had already donated Enzo’s belongings.

“The response has been amazing and we know Dad would be so grateful for all the support we’ve had. It shows how special he was to so many people and it has given us immense comfort to know that we are doing something to help others .”

Helen added: “The support we have received from family and friends over the past few weeks has meant so much and we know that Russ would have been truly blown away by the kindness and generosity people have shown in donating to Many Tears. We are really so grateful.”

Enzo and Russell were inseparable (Image: Helen John) (Image: Helen John)

Sylvia Van Atta is the founder of Many Tears Animal Rescue. She said: “Based in Llanelli, we mainly take in ex-breeding dogs that are no longer needed; those on “death row” in the pounds and those whose owners are no longer able to keep them.

“We are a unique rescue because the majority of our dogs are ex-breeders and many have never seen the outside world. With the help of our staff, foster parents and other volunteers, we provide a special and loving environment to help all our dogs adapt and find a permanent, loving new home.

“We house over 3,000 dogs a year and all of our dogs are spayed/neutered, microchipped, vaccinated and dewormed. We also get a lot of dogs that need specialist veterinary care. Any treatment required is funded by donations to the rescue which enable us to ensure each dog receives the specialist care they require.

“We are completely dependent on the kindness of volunteers and those who donate to our charity. £5,000 is a huge amount and will make the biggest difference to so many of our dogs in urgent need of veterinary care and loving homes. We can’t thank Thomas, Cassie and Helen enough for thinking of us at what must be such a difficult time for them.”

You can donate to the Cassie and Thomas fundraiser here.

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