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Exceptional Care for an Endlessly Supportive Friend

Sarah Blume and Amelia
Sarah Blume and Amelia. Photo by John Joyner/NC State Veterinary Medicine

Sarah Blume and Amelia are more than owner and pet. They need each other.

Thanks to some timely advice from Jackie Murphy, a medical oncology intern at the NC State Veterinary Hospital, Blume and Amelia’s mutual support system is getting much-needed reinforcement from caring partners teaming with world-class clinicians.

Amelia, a 5-year-old Labrador retriever mix, has been a member of Blume’s furry family of dogs and cats in Wilmington, N.C., since she was a puppy. A couple of years ago, Blume came down with bronchitis, which worsened into asthma, then into a rare case of whooping cough and eventually chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD.

During the same period she developed fibromyalgia, a muscle disorder that causes chronic pain and fatigue. Today, Blume is confined to a wheelchair and unable to work. Even talking for extended periods is a challenge.

Blume now finds herself spending much more time at home with her pets. When Amelia exhibited troubling symptoms in August, Blume was concerned. Amelia has swollen lymph nodes and Blume had a dog previously who had lymphoma, a cancer that begins in lymphocytes, immune system cells that fight infection.

Amelia was initially diagnosed with marginal zone lymphoma, which is regarded as an indolent lymphoma, a slow-growing, less aggressive form of the disease. Amelia did not demonstrate other clinical signs of illness, indicative of indolent lymphoma.

Amelia was treated with the anti-inflammatory prednisone and oral chemotherapy. Her lymph nodes shrunk. Everyone was hopeful there would be continued improvement.

But her lymph nodes enlarged. She had trouble breathing when lying on her throat or side. Amelia was referred to the NC State Veterinary Hospital’s oncology service. Biopsy results indicated that the lymphoma had developed into a more aggressive large-cell lymphoma.

Clinicians recommended CHOP chemotherapy, a combination of four drugs — cyclophosphamide, hydroxydaunomycin, Oncovin and prednisolone — administered over 23 weeks.

Blume’s greatest motivation was improving her companion’s quality of life, but there was a major obstacle. Blume lives solely on disability income. She couldn’t afford 23 weeks of chemotherapy, plus regular travel from Wilmington to Raleigh and back home.

Then Murphy came to the rescue. She told Blume about the help available from the Petco Foundation and the Blue Buffalo Cancer Treatment Fund, thanks to a generous grant both organizations made to NC State. The fund helps clients like Blume who need assistance with the cost of cancer treatment for their pets. The treatment funds help owners like Sarah defray the cost of treating companion animal cancers. These generous investments help pet parents focus on providing the best possible care for their pets rather than the cost of care.

Amelia has begun treatments and is doing well. Blume is grateful to Murphy for the information and to the Petco Foundation and Blue Buffalo.

“This wouldn’t have been possible without their help,” she said. “It’s exciting that this is happening at a teaching hospital and can help with research. I’m pleased that some good can come from all this.”

~ Steve Volstad/NC State Veterinary Medicine