FETCH a Cure makes sure that your good boy gets the cancer treatment he deserves

By Tonie Stevens

What if your pet was diagnosed with cancer? Would you know what to do? What questions to ask? What steps to take? Where to look for information? Most pet parents feel a barrage of questions rushing through their heads when presented with the diagnosis of cancer. How did this happen? Is my pet going to survive? How bad is this, and how much will it cost? After the doctor answers these questions (and many more), moments of shock, fear, guilt, or devastation may set in. For some, a feeling of complete hopelessness washes over them. They are suddenly faced with life-altering decisions to make under the extreme stress of possibly losing their best friend forever.

One organization has made it their mission to help pet parents navigate these waters, weigh their options, and support them by providing access to all possible treatment options. FETCH a Cure is a nonprofit organization furthering pet cancer awareness, education, and treatment. Through their Companions in Crisis program, they provide financial assistance to families unable to bear the cost of life-saving cancer treatments for their pets. Many treatment procedures can range in cost from $600-$3,000 and up, depending on the type of cancer, protocol for treatment, and duration of treatment. FETCH wants to help families make decisions without the pressure of an overwhelming financial burden.

“Our motto is do as much as you can for as long as you can. We are striving to build a community where everyone has access to information, education, and treatment for pet cancer. The CIC program ensures no one is denied a choice for their pet health due to lack of options or funding. The program’s funds are administered through our Medical Advisory Board, consisting of regional veterinarians, vet oncologists, and surgeons.”

The parameters of the Companions in Crisis program require that the funds allocated to a recipient be sent directly to the primary hospital or clinic performing the treatment. FETCH is available to assist pets and vets in VA, DC, and Maryland. This program strives to provide pet owners with a sense of hope when facing a pet cancer diagnosis.

“FETCH works to provide families the opportunity for more time, to make more memories and share more love with their pet. For most of us, our pets are members of our family, so there is nothing we wouldn’t do to have them with us for as long as we can. Time is a precious gift, and we couldn’t be happier to provide this to so many. Having the time to accomplish bucket lists or say “good-bye” makes a difference you can quantify.”

Shaler, an adorable yellow Labrador, is a FETCH Companions in Crisis recipient. He was diagnosed with Grade II mastocytoma (mast cell cancer) in June 2010, when he was only sixteen months old. A rare occurrence in a dog so young. Shaler’s owners noticed a lump on the left side of his saddle area that, over the course of a couple weeks, began to suspiciously alter in size. One day it would appear smaller, the next larger, and so on. Concerned by the changing size of the lump, they took him to their vet for an exam. The vet found a mast cell upon aspiration of the site. Shaler was immediately scheduled for surgery to remove the tumor. The tumor showed a high mitotic rate, the rate at which cells divide and multiply. The consulting oncologist wanted cleaner margins, so Shaler underwent an additional surgery, just a week later. The tumor marker results were high and it was determined the tumor was behaving like and aggressive Grade II. Chemotherapy treatments would start soon. Eight rounds of chemo was the recommended protocol. By now, the expenses were adding up and began to burden Shaler’s parents. They needed help. The treating vet was familiar with FETCH a Cure and recommended they contact the organization. FETCH was able to provide financial support of Shaler’s chemotherapy and oncologist’s monitoring exam fees.

“We are so very grateful for their financial assistance that helped enable us to continue with Shaler’s treatment regime. Thank you, thank you, thank you to your [FETCH] organization, to those who have donated to this cause, and to the people behind the scenes who give their time, compassion, and dedication to helping our family and many others through this program.” — Dawn and Mike, Shaler’s parents.

Shaler is a remarkable dog: vivacious, energetic, and obedient. He successfully reached remission and has won his battle with cancer. Shaler also went on to win consecutive titles as a Dominion Riverrock Festival Champion Dock Jumper. His first ever jump was over 16 feet, and he kept improving from that point on.

“Shaler is not only a dock jump champ, but also a champion to us and many other dogs and their families. He is our longest-living survivor and has been cancer-free for seven years. He’s a beacon of hope to other families facing pet cancer. Shaler’s parents found a lump early on and reacted in urgency. This early detection helped Shaler win his battle with cancer. We hope all pet parents will perform routine lumps-and-bumps checks to detect cancer early on. A lumps-and-bumps illustration, as well as an article on the ten warning signs of cancer can be found on our website, fetchacure.org.”

FETCH has helped many other pet parents find peace of mind when faced with life-altering decisions regarding their pet’s health. Additionally, FETCH provides free bi-annual veterinary continuing education seminars to foster a greater understanding of pet oncology, cancer treatments, and geriatric care. It is their hope that more veterinary practices will refer their patients to them to provide help and support through the difficulties of pet cancer.

Tonie Stevens is Co-Founder and Director of Development for FETCH a Cure, a Richmond-based nonprofit dedicated to helping families cope with pet cancer. http://www.fetchacure.org/