You may not know it unless your pet has been diagnosed, but dogs and cats get cancer too. And those diseases are very similar to humans’.
When a beloved animal faces amputation from a cancer like osteosarcoma, owners react as human beings. They imagine the difficulty of life without a limb.
Yet animals live in the moment. They don’t consider their loss. They don’t worry what they look like. They adapt.
Dr. Edwina Love recalls one dog. Less than two weeks after losing a leg, he sprinted down the street.
She had done the chemotherapy. Before the operation she spent time with the dog’s owner, explaining the procedure and helping a human cope with the animal’s disease.
Love is a veterinary oncologist. At Cornell University Veterinary Specialists she helps many Westport patients (and owners). She has plenty of local bona fides too: Her mother Karen Kahn is a 1970 graduate of Staples High School, and Wilson — who grew up in Washington, DC — spent most of her adult life here.
Her husband, psychologist Matt Love, is a 2004 Staples grad. They met while working at Saugatuck Rowing Club.
Love always was fascinated with animals. But she majored in history and international relations at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, then joined the fashion industry with Ralph Lauren.
A year in she asked herself, “What am I doing?”
Encouraged by her family she moved to Westport, went back to school to take veterinary prerequisites, then headed to California to earn her degree at Western Veterinary College in Pomona.
She did her internship and residency at the Animal Medical Center in New York, and did research with Memorial Sloan Kettering. “Animals are very good role models for human cancer patients,” she notes. “Drug trials can be done for both species. There’s a lot of overlap in treatment.”
If a regular vet can be considered a “general practitioner” for animals, a veterinary oncologist is a specialist. Love assesses treatment options — surgery, radiation, chemotherapy — just like a human oncologist. She specializes in chemo.
A cancer diagnosis can be devastating for owners, Love says. “A dog or a cat is more than a pet. They’re a member of the family.” She understands. She spends as much time with humans as with animals.
The humans can be harder to help. “Their emotions come to the surface,” she says. “They have preconceived notions of radiation or chemo. But animals are strong.”
In fact, says Love , 70% of dogs and cats suffer no side effects from treatment.
Veterinary oncology is a rewarding field. She positively impacts animals and people.
For a woman who made a career switch away from Ralph Lauren, that’s a feeling that will never go out of fashion.