On the job: Jenny Rose
Just like people who develop cancer, animals with cancer have a variety of treatment options that can help them live longer, more comfortable lives. “We can always do something to improve their quality of life,” said Jenny Rose, a veterinary technician in the oncology department of the Veterinary Medicine Teaching Hospital. “If we can’t get rid of the cancer, we sure want to help them live with it the best we can.” To help get that message of hope across to pet owners and veterinarians who refer oncology patients to the hospital, three years ago Rose developed an annual calendar featuring pictures of the hospital’s oncology patients along with stories written by their owners. Rose, who joined the UI’s staff 11 years ago, earned an associate’s degree in veterinary technology from Parkland College in 1997.
Why did you get into the veterinary field? Are you an animal lover yourself?
I started in the oncology department right after I got my degree in 1997. I worked in a private practice prior to going to school, and was a music major, but then decided I wanted to get in the veterinary field. I fell into this job and love it.
Tell me about the services your department provides.
Our goal is to figure out what the patients have, where they have it and how the rest of their body is functioning. Then we can decide the best way to treat our patients – and their owners too. I tell our owners, ‘Our job is to educate you about what your animal’s going through, and then help you decide the protocol that’s going to work best for you and them.’ We can do that with radiation therapy, chemotherapy or if nothing else, with a warm, fluffy blanket and a hug.
We have wonderful staff in oncology. It’s not uncommon for us to have our patients out on the ward playing with them. If you have an animal that doesn’t want to come in, the owner isn’t going to keep bringing them back.
With better diets and maintenance care, animals are living a lot longer now, and we’re coming across more animals with cancer, but we’re able to treat it. It really scares people to hear the word ‘cancer,’ but it’s just another disease process that can be treated.
Are chemotherapy and radiation for pets the same as it would be for a human patient?
No. Their lifespan is a lot different than a human’s, so they react a little differently.
Most patients don’t lose hair like people often do, although some breeds’ hair might get pretty thin. The side effects are usually very mild and treatable. Sometimes they do have nausea and vomiting, but if that happens we’re going to change the treatment. My dog went through full chemotherapy, and you would have never known that she had it.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
That I get to meet animals and their families, and that we’re doing something to improve their quality of life.
How do you deal with difficult calls and delivering bad news?
I listen. It can be a sad time, and people can get upset. You just have to understand what they’re going through and try to be as human and real as you can be. I lost one of my own animals to cancer, so I know it’s sad. I listen and figure out what it is they’re really wanting and try to provide that to them in a fair way. I try to help them understand it, not sugarcoat the truth but make it as un-scary as possible, and make them feel really comfortable talking to me.
About three years ago, I started making a calendar that oncology sells and gives to veterinarians who refer patients to us and to pet owners. I take pictures of our oncology patients and have the owners write little stories about them. I put information about the disease with it. Then when clients have questions, they can read stories people have written about their pets who have had cancer.
What do you do when you’re not working?
I raise quarter horses and I used to race division I barrel horses regularly but that slowed down when I had children. My daughter, Ramsey, who is 6 1/2, rides now. My son, Nolan, who is 3, prefers the tractors.
I’m a singer with a classic rock band, Mister Sister, that plays all over Illinois. We’re headlining the Champaign Street Fest July 12 and are opening for Foghat and for Blue Oyster Cult this summer in Peoria. When I can squeeze a horse show in, we go.
I have two border collies, two cats and three horses. I also manage Prairieland Stables.
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