WSU Cougar Head Logo Washington State University
Veterinary Teaching Hospital

They call her Lucy Sunshine

Tami White and her family had recently traded in their city life in the Tri-Cities for life out in the country.  “We wanted a quieter way of life and peace of mind,” says Tami, a graphic designer, who lives with her husband and three dogs.

Not long after the move, she noticed Lucy, their then 12-year-old Boston Terrier, started sneezing more than normal.  “At first I thought it was allergies from living in the country,” says Tami.

She took Lucy to her local veterinary who at first put her on antibiotics to see if that would control her symptoms. “She continued to sneeze,” says Tami.  “And then there was a little bit of blood splatter.”

Tami knew then that it was more serious than just allergies.  WSU veterinary alumna, Dr. Diana Thome (’04 DVM) at Desert Veterinary Clinic in Richland, Washington referred Tami to the WSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital where they did a CT scan and saw Lucy had a tumor in her nose.

But this wasn’t Lucy’s first time at the veterinary hospital.  “She is a frequent flyer at WSU,” says Tami.  Lucy was first treated at WSU for GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, 12 years ago when she was just a year old.  Years later, Lucy was diagnosed with mast cell tumors and received chemotherapy at WSU and fully recovered.

A Tough Cancer Diagnosis

When Tami first found out Lucy had nasal cancer, she said she couldn’t even think about it.  But the doctors told her even though it is bad news, it is not the worst news because they could still treat her.  They told her that Lucy has a lot of happy days ahead of her with treatment.

“I appreciated the encouragement when trying to decide a course of action,” says Tami. “They would tell me all the options, what the treatment entails and the prognosis. They helped me feel like I was making the best choices.”

Lucy was happy to come to the veterinary hospital to get her treatments. She would eagerly jump up on the table and put her nose in the cone to start radiation therapy with veterinary technician like Kacey Burton.  “Kacey is a joy,” says Tami.  “You can tell she really cares about the animal. She went above and beyond for Lucy taking extra care of her and helping me laugh during a tough time.”

Through it all, Lucy kept her cheerful disposition.  “She is a fantastic dog.  A ray of sunshine,” says Tami.  “She has never had a bad day.  She is always, always happy.”

Lucy’s Cancer Symptoms Return

After the first round of radiation, Lucy was symptom free for eight months.  Then the sneezing and the blood returned. The initial tumor was quite large, says Tami, and she was told from the beginning that the treatment would help with quality of life and not cure the cancer.  “I thought we might have a year,” she says.  “But I’m not disappointed because I was never led to believe the tumor would be eradicated.  I’m happy we had a summer together.”

When she came back to the veterinary hospital in the fall of 2019, Lucy’s nose had started bleeding again.  Veterinary oncologist Dr. Janean Fidel was worried the cancer may have started growing, but she wouldn’t know for sure until the CT scan came back.

Once the results were in, Dr. Fidel told Tami she had some good news and some bad news.  “I was expecting just bad news,” says Tami.  But the CT scan showed that the tumor was about a quarter of the size of the initial tumor. Dr. Fidel said that it would be appropriate to retreat with radiation because the tumor responded so well before.  “Dr. Fidel is terrific and helped me feel hopeful about Lucy’s treatment and prognosis,” says Tami.

Nowhere Like WSU

For Tami, the care her animals have gotten at WSU is like no other.  “We feel really fortunate we have this quality of a facility so nearby,” says Tami.  And she knows veterinary students, like Nichole Bauer (’20 DVM) who cared for Lucy, are also getting a good education at WSU.  “I feel privileged to be a little part of that,” she says. “I can’t speak highly enough about WSU’s veterinary hospital.”