Anita was rescued from a kill pen in central Pennsylvania by Omega Horse Rescue. As she stood in the kill pen, she looked like she had almost given up. She had been neglected and was suffering from cancer in both eyes. That said, Anita held on, and her rescuers were determined to find a cure and a better life for this sweet girl.
The removal of Anita’s eyes at 10 years of age would have made finding her a home nearly impossible. Saving her eyes might have been the only way to save her life. It was decided that Anita would be the first horse to receive photodynamic therapy (PDT), a laser treatment created for humans that treats cancerous cells on the margin of tumors. The PDT team at Penn Vet’s New Bolton Center had previously treated cats, dogs, and birds, but Anita would be the largest creature to ever receive this treatment.
Anita underwent a surgery that was close to four hours long. Large visible parts of the tumors were removed from each of her eyelids, and a photosensitizer was then injected to treat the remaining tumor cells. The surgery went well, and she was discharged 10 days later.
Anita’s eyes healed with minimal scarring, but a few months later, the right eye proved to have more cancer cells. She underwent chemotherapy for three weeks, but the tumor continued to grow. It began to grow so large that if it weren’t removed, the cancer would begin to grow into her bones. Anita’s right eye needed to be removed in order to save her life.
In April 2016, our horse Lily was being treated at New Bolton and we were told that she and Anita, now cancer-frree, had become fast friends. When it was time for Lily to come home, we realized that we couldn’t break up these two gals. We had fallen in love with Anita just as hard as Lily had.
Because of her white coat, Anita will always have an increased risk of developing tumors, and she will need lifelong monitoring to ensure that her left eye continues to do well. To prevent cancers in the future, she wears a UV protectant mask that shields her face from the sun when she goes outside.
Anita has put her hard days behind her and is now living the life. Our farmer friend Bobby Laurino sends over fresh carrots grown on his farm as treats. After Lily passed away, Anita’s other dear horse friend, Ally, stuck by her side, and together they enjoy sunset strolls in our grassy paddocks. There isn’t a person who meets Anita that doesn’t comment on her gentle ways and tremendous personality.