Petco Cancer Treatment Fund Helps Coco and Her Owner Overcome Illness Together

When Nicolette Kametas-Dykes was being treated for a rare brain infection and benign brain tumor last spring, her beloved dog Coco never left her side, providing constant companionship during one of the darkest times in her life. So when Coco received her own diagnosis of Oral Squamous Cell carcinoma just a few months later, Nicolette and her husband, Rob, knew they were going to do everything they could to return the favor.

Little did they know how challenging that would be. For one thing, all the veterinary clinics near their home outside Chicago wanted approximately $10,000 before they’d even consider treating Coco’s cancer. That was a steep price to pay, especially since the cost of treating Nicolette’s own illness–the symptoms of which also cost her her job as an ultrasound technician—had severely strained the young couple’s finances. Undeterred, Nicolette kept searching for possible options for Coco’s care, and was repeatedly met with the same insurmountable financial obstacles. It wasn’t until she contacted UW Veterinary Care in Madison, WI, where she finally found a glimmer of hope.

“We initially thought Coco might qualify for a clinical study that UW was doing for her type of cancer, but she ultimately didn’t meet the requirements,” Kametas-Dykes recalls. “But everybody we talked to at UW was so helpful, and they told us that if we were willing and able to make the trip to Madison that they’d try to help Coco if they could.”

Nicolette and Rob didn’t think twice. After making the three-hour trip north, they met with UW radiation oncology resident Dr. Claire Faletti, who presented them with a possible care plan for Coco: radiation treatment, once a week, for a month. What they still didn’t have, however, were the finances to pay for it. That’s when Dr. Faletti encouraged them to apply for financial assistance from the Petco Love Cancer Treatment Fund, which helps clients who don’t have the financial resources to cover the costs of oncology care.

They applied and were granted $4,000 for Coco’s care, which covered nearly the entire amount of her month-long radiation treatment plan. Nicolette says the funding could not have come soon enough.

“The Petco funding meant everything to us, especially since we were told Coco would likely only live another month without treatment” says Kametas-Dykes. “We literally had no options left for Coco before coming to UW, and everybody up there was so kind, so caring, and so willing to help us when nobody else would even try. We are so grateful to Petco Love and to all the people at UW who helped Coco and us through this.”

Dr. Faletti says that without the Petco funds, the progression of Coco’s disease would have required Nicolette and Rob to make the hardest decision owners can make. Instead, Coco is not only doing amazing but is once again by Nicolette’s side as she continues her own treatment and recovery.

“Like most vets, I got into this field because I love animals, but I have come to realize that the bonds we form with wonderful owners like Nicolette, and pets like Coco, is an amazing “perk” that truly makes this job so great,” says Faletti. “I cannot overstate the value of being able to offer Petco funds to owners who otherwise wouldn’t be able to help their pets. Seeing a client’s face of worry transform into one of relief and hope when they hear about funding options is one I’m not sure I can adequately put into words. For most people, pets are more than animals but members of the family and at the end of the day, we all want to be able to help our family members.”

The UW School of Veterinary Medicine is one of 12 of the nation’s top veterinary oncology programs to be awarded grants from Petco Love for oncology client assistance. Since 2020, UW SVM has received upwards of $250,000 from Petco Love, which has so far helped 62 clients pay for their pet’s cancer treatment who otherwise would not have been able to do so.

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