Sick as a parrot… Woman says sad farewell

The Daily Mail
March 19, 2010

A woman who spent more than £50,000 on chemotherapy treatment for her pet parrot has said a tearful to the bird after it lost its battle against cancer.

Areba, a Wagler’s Conure, underwent chemotherapy for almost a year but the 42-year-old bird passed away on Tuesday evening at Tampa’s Florida Veterinary Specialists.

Cared for round the clock by Dr Teresa Lightfoot and her team at the Avian and Exotic animal ward, Areba had been battling a form of skin cancer since October of 2008.

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Anne Lowery holds her pet parrot Areba on the day it died after a long battle with cancer

She was diagnosed in February last year after her owner, Anne Lowery, noticed a strange lesion on her beak.

Areba then braved weekly chemo and became a firm favourite among staff at the world-renowned animal hospital.

A companion of 30 years to Lowery, Areba’s treatment costs were of no consequence to her caring owner.

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Dr Teresa Lightfoot sedates Areba before her chemotherapy treatment at the Florida Veterinary Specialists Avian and Exotic animal ward in Tampa, Florida.
‘When the doctors at Tampa told me that Areba had cancer, they gave her only two months to live,’ she said.

‘Even though she was in middle age for a parrot, this seemed an aggressive time frame and I thought nothing of putting her into the care of the staff at the Florida Veterinary Specialists.

‘As it turned out we got an extra nine months with Areba and the staff there ended up loving her as much as did.’

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Areba receiving chemotherapy at the Florida Veterinary Specialists Avian and Exotic animal ward in Florida

Treated for squamous cell carcinoma, which developed on the outside of her beak, Areba’s cancer was difficult to treat.

‘Parrots such as Areba are extremely drug-resistant to chemo and so to get the right dosage is tough,’ said Dr Teresa Lightfoot, the vet who treated the bird.

‘We had to inject the chemo straight into the lesion and this was a tough course for Areba.

‘However, we believe that we improved her quality of life and of course gave her and her mom, Anne, a lot more time together.’

Because of the nature of her treatment, Areba moved into the avian ward in Tampa so that she could be given 24-hour care.

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Areba had battled cancer for a year before passing away this week

‘I would visit her every day and at times I would spend up to five nights at the hospital with her,’ said Income Tax specialist Anne, who takes in rescue animals and owns 11 other parrots.

‘Some members of the staff were so taken with her that they mentioned to me that she was the first bird that they had felt comfortable with, because parrots aren’t considered tactile birds.

‘When she was treated they would put her under with anaesthetic and then inject the chemo into the cancer.

‘After each course she would noticeably improve, but it was always clear that this was borrowed time.’

Areba passed away on Tuesday evening, but left her mark on the hospital.

‘She would speak extremely well, always calling for her “momma” and had become quite used to the rigours of the treatment,’ said Dr Lightfoot.

‘We will miss her.’

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