In an surreal twist of fate, the dreaded “C” word – cancer – has already returned to our borrowed abode, this time striking our awesome little cat, Doctor.
Two months ago, noticing that our cat Doctor was losing weight and acting more lethargic, we took him to the vet for blood work. I had a gut feeling that he had cancer, but I thought I was probably just paranoid after losing Charlie to that disease 6 months ago. Running a “senior panel” on an older dog or cat is the most efficient way to get the whole picture of their health – the measurements often show illness that has already begun, or hint at illness that could begin soon and can be prevented or stalled with a little extra care or change in diet.
As we feared, a few of Doctor’s blood results were off, hinting at some sort of chronic disease. An abdominal ultrasound with an internal medicine specialist was recommended, because it would literally provide a picture of how all his internal organs were doing – liver, spleen, kidneys, etc. it’s not a cheap diagnostic tool, but the quality and quantity of info it gives you makes it worthwhile.
I was horrified to find out that my gut feeling was right. Doctor had large cell Intestinal Lymphoma, a cancer invading his lymph nodes and intestines. The doctor explained to us that the cancer was thickening the intestinal wall, and eventually it would become so thick that nothing could pass through it. When this day comes, Doctor will start vomiting and it will be a sign that we have to let him go.
However! It’s been about two months since the diagnosis, and Doctor is doing well. I took him to the oncologist who treated Charlie just to see what our options were. We didn’t get in there until a month after the diagnosis (since we have been out of town helping my mom with her cancer issues) and the oncologist expressed surprise that Doctor was doing so well, given how invasive the cancer looked on the ultrasound.
Chemotherapy for Cats
Chemotherapy is just as hard on pets as it is on humans, if not worse, because you can’t explain to the pet what is going on and why they feel cruddy – but it can work wonders. It gave us quality time with Charlie that we otherwise wouldn’t have had.
We were given a few chemotherapy options for Doctor, all of which would extend his 3-month(ish) prognosis by another month or two. We chose not to pursue them.
The cat is actually happy right now. Why mess with that by administering meds that won’t save his life, but which are guaranteed to make him feel sick? While chemo has its benefits, it can be a slippery slope, with pills piled on top of other pills, all to combat the side effects of the main drug. Additionally, giving cats pills does not make the cat happy. . .
We considered other factors before saying no to the chemo. Because we are spending so much time out of town with my parents, we didn’t feel chemo was something we could do well. I hated to think of Doctor sitting at home with us out of town, feeling crappy, and not having us there to comfort him or give him love. Also, it’s hard to find friends who are comfortable administering medications to cats, especially chemo ones.
Sometimes your life situation will influence how much medical care you can realistically provide to your pets. I think ultimately it’s not about how much veterinary care you can provide, but how much love you can give the pet, and how you respect them by letting them go when they are no longer happy.
So – long story short – we’re enjoying our time with Doctor, but are prepared to say goodbye when he’s no longer doing well. In the mean time, he’s getting all the stinky wet cat food he can eat.For awesome updates & exclusive discounts on Janery pet beds, please sign up for my newsletter!