A Co Antrim woman’s battle with cancer led her to help her canine companions

A Larne mom who battled a diagnosis of terminal breast cancer is using one of the health tips she learned to help pets.

At one point, Lynette McHendry was so sick — with brain tumors — that she didn’t think she could see her sons grow up.

But five years later there is no evidence of active disease (NEAD) and Lynette, (43), is now an entrepreneur running two businesses.

His latest venture launched in June is Paws & Nosh, a company that makes and sells locally made beef bone broth for dogs. Lynette discovered the nutritional benefits of bone broth when she was looking for things to improve her own health after several rounds of intensive, and ultimately life-saving, chemotherapy.

“If it wasn’t for my cancer journey, Paws & Nosh wouldn’t exist,” she laughs. “In a roundabout way, it got me to this point. Bone broth is extremely healing for things like gut issues and skin issues — and dogs can battle these things the same way humans do.

Becoming a businesswoman was the furthest thing from Lynette’s mind in 2017. After a two-year battle with breast cancer, she was told it was still spreading. Her boys, Jay and Lewis, were only 12 and 10 years old. She had previously undergone a double mastectomy and treatment for a secondary brain tumor.

“In May 2017, they discovered another brain tumor,” she recalls. “I had a craniotomy and whole brain radiotherapy.

“Me and my husband, Graeme, were supposed to take the kids on an unforgettable vacation to America that summer, to make memories, so my surgeon was trying to prepare me for that.

“At the airport, I just raised my hand and found a lump in my neck, which turned out to be another tumor.”

That autumn, Lynette began a grueling course of a new type of chemotherapy at Belfast City Hospital. It was so hard that after each treatment she needed a blood transfusion.

“I had 19 blood transfusions,” she says. “I was hospitalized for two weeks with sepsis. I was really sick.

But in March 2018, something amazing happened. A full body scan showed Lynette had no evidence of active disease – and it has been that way ever since.

But Lynette felt ravaged by all the treatments so she needed to rebuild. She came across bone broth online and, after doing some research, started drinking it daily.

“All the antibiotics and steroids had left my digestive system in a mess, and bone broth is good for gut health,” she explains. “It’s also high in collagen and other minerals.”

Lynette struggled to source locally made bone broth, with most being made and imported from Norway, America or even Australia, so she decided to make her own. In January 2021, she launched her first company, Spear & Arrow.

She secured an industrial unit in Larne and made the stock herself, with help from her sister Charlene McRoberts. The bones came from Topping Meats, Larne, from grass-fed cattle raised in the UK and Ireland.

She says: “I created a website and started selling on the markets. It was a challenge, even though bone broth was a staple in the diet of our grandparents’ generation, it had disappeared over the past few decades, so I was educating my clients on the benefits.

And it wasn’t just humans who benefited – soon Lynette was approached by pet shops wanting to know if she had made a version for dogs as well.

As an animal lover herself – with her own dogs Labrador Ted and shih tzu Alvin – she spotted a gap in the market.

“I did some research and found that no one made bone broth for dogs in all of Ireland,” she says. “It was an opportunity I had to take.”

Lynette’s Bone Broth is made from just three ingredients, cattle bones, water and Armagh Apple Cider Vinegar. The only difference between broth meant for humans and dogs is the exclusion of pepper from the canine recipe.

She obtained a pet food manufacturing license from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, and her second business, Paws & Nosh, was born.

“Our broth is 100% natural, with no additives, and it’s antibiotic and GMO-free,” she says. “I have complete traceability, from the hen house to the bowl. I did some product testing, sent out pre-launch samples, and everyone came back to say their pets loved it. It’s also a great way to attract picky feeders.

Paws & Nosh Bone Broth is available in 300ml or 500ml sachets which can be used as a meal garnish or as a treat.

Customers can buy directly from Lynette’s website, where a subscription service is available, and she also hopes to start supplying pet stores.

Lynette medically retired from her public service job at the height of her illness, but says she loves being able to work again and build her businesses with products she truly believes in.

Her health is currently stable, although she is being closely monitored and having check-ups every six months.

“I wanted to live, and here I am,” she laughs. “Lewis is 15 and Jay is 17. He drives, which I never thought I would live to see.

“I’m still living with secondary breast cancer and I’m under no illusions – when you get to my stage, there’s no such cure.

“But at the moment the cancer is not active, so I’m making the most of it. When an idea pops into my head, I go for it, because if not today, then when?

“It’s funny to think that my cancer journey led me to start a pet food business, but that’s the way it is.”

• Visit www.pawsandnosh.com or www.spearandarrow.co.uk

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