EAST LANSING, Mich. — Samantha Marie Buckaroo is an unusual patient for the Michigan State University Veterinary Medical Center's oncology team: a five-year-old guinea pig with cancer of the lymph nodes.
“She came to us with large lymph nodes especially the one under her chin," said vet technologist Theresa Cyr. "We took a needle and inserted it into a lymph node and got some cells and the cells told us she had lymphoma
Sam stole everyone's hearts the moment she came in.
“She is so sassy I love it,” said veterinarian Rachel Uyehara.
She's getting treatment that MSU has rarely done on a guinea pig: chemotherapy.
“She gets a cycle of three different chemotherapy's, almost weekly, and then we move to biweekly,” said Cyr.
Uyehara starts Sam's visits with a physical examination and lots of pets and squeaks.
"She talks a lot and that's what her owner happened to actually say is that whenever she goes to vet visits is that she's always the talker," Uyehara said. "She always has something to say."
Cyr gets Sam ready for the chemo administration.
“She has to get sedated for her treatments because they are going to go IV they do need to have an IV catheter placed,” Uyehara said.
Once she falls asleep, they draw her blood and administer the chemo.
“Draw some blood so that way we can make sure she has enough cells to receive her chemotherapy and then administer the chemotherapy in really tiny doses because she’s so small,” Cyr said.
Uyehara said the treatment is expensive.
“It definitely is, unfortunately, pricey and it’s definitely some investment on the owners that are willing to pay this money for a guinea pig,” Uyehara said.
Because of the lack of research done on guinea pigs being treated for lymphoma, there's a big question mark as to how long this will help her live.
“We’re hoping for months to years, but, unfortunately, we can’t predict that,” Cyr said.
They just want to help her keep living a happy life.
“By helping her increase her and maintain her quality of life I think is priceless,” Uyehara said.
To make sure Same has more time to do the things she enjoys.
“She snuggles and attends Zoom classes with mom,” Cyr said.
And the things she tolerates.
“She had a little fashion show today," Uyehara said. "She may not appreciate it but we did.”
At her treatment on Wednesday, there was some good news.
“Her lymph nodes today have definitely felt smaller and they’re probably the smallest that they’ve been since we actually started treating her," Uyehara said. "So we consider that progress.”
Next week, Sam will finish her second round of chemotherapy and move to biweekly appointments.
“She comes in happy to see us every week so far, she’s been a little trooper,” Cyr said.
"She’s just amazing to work with she’s so much fun,” Uyehara said.
Sam's owner is asking the public to consider donating to MSU's Veterinary Cancer Research Fund to help continue their efforts in treating animals with cancer.
To learn more about MSU’s Veterinary Cancer Research Fund, contact the Office of Development and Alumni Relations at firstname.lastname@example.org or (517) 353-4937.
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