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Timely Coincidence Means Hope for Max

Lori Wooten pets her dog Max
Lori Wooten pets her dog Max before his appointment at the NC State Veterinary Hospital. Photo by John Joyner/NC State Veterinary Medicine

When Lori Wooten’s 9-year-old yellow Labrador retriever, Max, was diagnosed with lymphoma she almost lost hope.

That changed when a bit of unexpected information brought her to the NC State Veterinary Hospital.

Max has been a part of the Wooten family — Lori, her husband and their two kids — since he was a puppy and they lived in New Hampshire. They got Max when their previous dog, Willie, a chocolate Lab, died when he was 12.

“He’s a big baby, just the sweetest dog,” said Wooten, who now lives in Moseley, Va., of Max.

In April, the Wootens noticed that Max was acting mopey and wasn’t eating well. He also had what Wooten calls a heavy “Darth Vader sound” at times when he was breathing. A trip to their local veterinarian revealed that Max had lost 8 pounds since his last visit. Further testing brought devastating news: Max was suffering from lymphoma, a cancer that begins in lymphocytes, immune system cells that fight infection and are found in the lymph nodes, spleen, thymus, bone marrow and throughout the body. Max’s lymph nodes were quite enlarged.

The Wootens investigated nearby sources of cancer care, but were dismayed by the high cost and uncertain about what to do next. “I didn’t think we had any options left,” Wooten said.

Sometimes, though, fate lends a helping hand. Max’s primary veterinarian, Leslie Jones, happened to visit her mother in North Carolina at the same time the Wootens were trying to decide what to do for Max. Her mother’s dog was also dealing with lymphoma and was being treated at the NC State Veterinary Hospital. Jones knew about NC State’s reputation as a world-class provider of compassionate care for animals, and while here, she learned about an amazing opportunity for the Wootens to get help.

Jones let the Wootens know about a generous grant investment from the Petco Foundation and Blue Buffalo Cancer Treatment Fund to NC State to help clients defray the cost of cancer treatment for their animal companions. The program helps more pet owners have access to critical care so they can focus on providing the best possible care for their pets rather than the cost of care.

“We were afraid to get our hopes up at first,” Wooten said. “We wanted to be sure that Max would have quality of life.”

They decided to bring Max to NC State in May and were finally able to feel hopeful again. The Wootens were approved for assistance from the grant. Max began a course of chemotherapy that he is tolerating well. The swelling in his lymph nodes has already started to go down, and his appetite is improving. He has experienced no ill effects from treatment. It’s going to be a long road, but one Wooten is happy to walk.

“We’re so thankful this hospital is here and to the Petco Foundation and Blue Buffalo Cancer Treatment Fund,” Wooten says. “We feel more optimistic after this.”

~Steve Volstad, NC State Veterinary Medicine