Living with Chemo: Cooper’s Battle with Bone Cancer

Ten years ago, Vance and Lori Nelson of San Jose lost their beloved German Shephard to natural causes. The couple was left with a void in their life that could only be filled with the love of another big dog. As the duo searched for a new companion, they received word that a hunting-dog breeder was dealing with a returned dog. An 8-month-old chocolate Labrador named Cooper proved too hyper for the hunter he was sold to and was given back to the breeder. The couple jumped at the adoption opportunity and brought the energetic retriever into their home.

“Cooper is a great dog, but he’s always had a tremendous amount of energy,” said Vance. “It was too much for his original owners, but he fits right in with us. We have three dogs and he’s the leader of the pack.”

Cooper’s lively attitude is perfect for the retired couple’s lifestyle. Vance takes Cooper to the dog park twice a day, and although he’s entering his senior years, the loving Labrador turns back into a puppy with every visit.

“Cooper loves the park, and we’re there so much that he has a whole group of friends, both dogs and humans,” said Vance. “He leaves playing fetch to our Boxer mix, and prefers to greet everyone at the park. He’s definitely a social butterfly.”

The Nelson’s signed Cooper up for pet insurance from Nationwide when he was a puppy, but haven’t had to use it for much besides a few bumps and bruises throughout his life. However, the last few months changed all of that when Cooper was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma, also known as bone cancer.

It all began one day when Cooper started to sneeze profusely. The family believed that Cooper was dealing with allergies and monitored the situation closely, until they noticed some blood coming from his nose. Taking no chances, the Nelson’s took Cooper to veterinary hospital to be evaluated. The veterinarian used a scope to look inside Cooper’s snout, but didn’t find anything alarming.”

“They found a tiny cut inside his nose and we thought that’s what was bothering him,” said Vance. “Cooper was treated and the cut was closed up. We thought that would be the end of it, but it was far from over.”

For two weeks, Cooper seemed to be back to normal, but eventually the same symptoms appeared. However, this time, a small lump appeared on his snout. Within just a few days, the lump began to grow and the family took him back to the veterinary hospital. After tests, the staff confirmed that Cooper was dealing with bone cancer on his snout.

“It went from a small cut on his nose to cancer. That’s not something you’re ever prepared to hear,” said Vance. “We weren’t just going to give up on Cooper. We started him on chemotherapy right away. We had pet insurance in case something like this happened and knew we were covered.”

After Cooper’s first round of chemotherapy treatments the mass began to recede, and within two months it had nearly disappeared. But just as the situation was looking resolved, a second lump just below Cooper’s eye appeared. This lump grew far faster, and within a week, a lesion formed on top of the mass.

“His tumors have grown incredibly fast, but we’ve countered them with rounds of chemotherapy each time,” said Vance. “Cooper is a strong dog, and most of the time, you’d never guess he was fighting cancer. He’s still acts like a puppy every day at the dog park.”

Cooper’s fight with cancer is far from over. He is currently on the fourth treatment of his second round of chemotherapy and the results have varied. The veterinary staff has ruled out surgery and put forth a long term plan, but little is guaranteed. The Nelsons have vowed to do everything they can to give Cooper a long and enjoyable life.

“All that matters is that Cooper is happy,” said Vance. “There’s no way to see how this will end, but we can’t thank everyone who has helped enough. The veterinary staff has been amazing to Cooper, and we can’t believe how much Nationwide has covered. All of this has given Cooper more time to have fun.”

You can help support pets like Cooper throughout November during National Pet Cancer Awareness Month. Nationwide will donate $5 to the Animal Cancer Foundation on your behalf for every social media post with #CurePetCancer17. Visit to find out how you can raise awareness and $50K for cancer research.


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