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Old 03-05-2010, 07:28 PM
malkavia malkavia is offline
Join Date: Nov 2000
Location: Phoenix
Posts: 2,215
My cat, the breast cancer survivor (long)

One night roughly 8 years ago I went to a friends house to have dinner and watch an Angela Jolie movie on DVD. At some point during the movie, I heard the tiniest meow emitting from a blanketed box on top of my friends television set.

"Oh, someone left a kitten at the clinic the other day. I've been nursing it until it's old enough to adopt out," my friend chimed.

So we paused the movie and she brought the tiny cage to the couch while she trotted off to the kitchen to put together a tiny bottle for her night feeding. I, on the other hand, made the mistake of looking in the cage. She was two bright blue eyes shining from a tiny ball of brindled tortoise shell fuzz and I was immediately in love with her.

Without much thought (and without consulting my boyfriend at the time), I asked my friend if I could take her home. The friend assured me that once she was old enough to eat kitty food, I was welcome to her. If I recall, she was about 4 weeks at the time and it was another week or two before she ferociously bit the nipple off of her bottle, signaling that it was likely time for real food and the move to my house.

I picked her up the same day that I took my existing kitty (The now late, great Sir Dillinger) to the vet for his neuter. He was misery personified in the car, but she was all charm and wonder. I'd picked up Subway and was looking forward to taking her home for little quiet cuddle time before my giant tabby came home. Sitting on the floor in front of my computer in the spare bedroom, I precariously balanced one cookie on my right knee and one adorable kitten on my left. For only a moment. Because all at once my kitten hurled herself from one knee to the other (quite a feat, since I was sitting cross legged and she was the size of a medium load dryer lint ball) and wrapped all four paws around the cookie, hungrilly nomming on one corner of its oatmeal and raisin goodness.

That's kind of who she's always been. Quick to get what she wants, growly and feisty if you try to derail her (I almost lost the cookie battle to a kitten. ), slow to trust but immovably bonded to me (this took almost a year) and the sweetest, prettiest princess ever. She's always been a little vain, greatly enjoying makeup time where I'd brush her face with a clean blush brush and she'd purr and look at the mirror until it was time for me to go to work.

Nighttimes are her time because the bed is hers and hers alone. Other cats are not allowed on or near the bed and, if caught in her line of sight, battle ensues. "Battle" consisting of her crawl/running across the bed to punch the other cat in the head before it can jump up and ruin her night.

For 8 years she's been my little princess and moreover, she's been my best friend. So you can imagine how I felt when I ran my fingers on her belly one night to discover the tiniest change in landscape, a small lump where none existed before.

I called my friend (same friend, now a CVT) and she came over later that week to take a look. On the surface all was well, but a quick palpatation (very much against Gia's wishes) showed that I wasn't losing my mind, she's definitely a little lumpy.

My CVT friend advised that while sometimes kitties do get lumps and bumps, it's a good idea to check it frequently and if it changes at all in size to get her into the vet, as she's an older kitty now and having never been fixed (I know, I know.. I was terrified about making her travel to the vet, having invasive surgery, etc. She hates outside, has never once tried to go outside and has only been around fixed kitties, more on this in a bit), she's apparently at higher risk for a mammary tumor than a spayed, younger cat would be.

I noticed the bump felt a tiny bit bigger and that was it, no more stalling. We were very fortunate in that one of the best (all cat) vet clinics is about two blocks from my house so at least she wouldn't need to suffer a long and scary car ride.

Last Sunday night, I broke down crying while we laid together on the bed, her favorite place and a place I couldn't imagine snuggling on without her loud, steady purr emanating from some corner of the mattress. She softly batted my face with her paws and then pulled my face to hers (No lie! She gives hugs apparently, new trick) and licked my nose. I prayed like you'd think I had a walkie-talkie to God in my back pocket.

Monday morning, the vet confirmed our biggest fear; it definitely had the placement and behavior of a mammary tumor. Worse yet, it felt more like a small S shaped ridge than just a bump, which apparently is indicative of a tumor that is attempting to attack or has attacked the lymph system.

I tried to hold my tears while she doctor advised me of all of the preliminary work that would be needed to ensure that there's enough incentive to even try to fight this piece of shit tumor.

I cried while they took her in the back for x-rays and bloodwork and felt awful because she'd been SO good until then but got very aggressive and difficult to contain when they pulled blood.

In the first of many blessings, her x-rays came back clear. Strong heart and lungs, no sign of tumors there.

I'd held off on paying mortgage because I couldn't imagine not being able to fix her due to financial restriction and in another stroke of good fortune, I was able to qualify for Care Credit, which this vet accepts and a friend at work highly recommended. This was more important than I'd realized at the time. Our final vet bill for this past week was $2024.30 and my mortgage is under 1k. I wouldn't have been able to foot the bill, even if I let my mortgage slip by unpaid.

Once the blood tests came back clear (thank you, thank you, thank you) on Tuesday, she was in the surgery the next day.

She had a double (and a half) mastectomy, lymphectomy and spay. The vet advised that he removed roughly the size and shape of a soda can from her right side and that the tumor itself looked to be roughly 2cm but they will know more when the biopsy results come back in about a week.

The hope, of course, is that it was less than 2cm of a tumor and that the biopsy shows clear margins and no sign of disease in her removed lymph nodes.

Let me tell you folks, I once saw this poor kitty pee herself on a move from one rental to another and given that poor, pathetic face I saw peek out of the carrier on that occasion, I had NO idea what kind of inner strength this beautiful girl possessed.

She did beautifully during the surgery, has roughly 40 (very tightly and well done) sutures on her belly, is eating like a horse (drinking a little bit, but still no peeing since she got home this morning.. we're keeping an eye on that) and is handling this whole ordeal with an amazing amount of grace and patience. To know that she has NO idea why she has a mohawk down her back and additional patches of missing fur on her paw (IV) and chest (Fentanyl patch) or why she hurts or why momma left her with the mean vet people TWICE. And yet, she still let me pet her and purred for me this afternoon.

Right now we're just watching her to make sure she recovers well and we're hoping for (of course) a good prognosis from her blood tests.

Something else to mention about her spay, it turns out that she's had the kitty equivalent to PCOS (poly-cystic ovarian syndrome) for quite some time and the vet indicated that while a standard kitty uterus is roughly the size and shape of a wishbone, hers was about 10-15 times that and she's been stuck in some phase of a her heat cycle non-stop for some time. We had no idea. I'd give anything to go back in time and just suck it up at 6 mos and have her spayed. I had no idea it would ever turn into this. Please consider Gia's story as a gentle reminder to spay and neuter your furry friends, even when they're not at risk for reproducing.

When we lost Dillinger, I was out of state and had no idea that he was at risk of dying. I wish I'd been more vigilant and observant with him. I wish I had saved him. He died at 8 years old from what appeared to be heart failure and I still miss him every day.

This whole week has been such a series of ups and downs, but I'm confident we made the right choices and I'm grateful that my pending tax return will cover the care credit charges and I just feel so grateful and so blessed that my dear Gia is home with us tonight, recovering and alive. Please hold a good thought for her while we wait for the biopsy results and hug your furry friends often. My ex mother in law once said, "Pets are ambassadors of God". I'm not very religious, but I always think that yes, if perfect love were to send an ambassador, it would likely behave very much like the beloved family pet.

And because this OP is about kitties, here are the requisite photos:

Gia as a kitten

Gia as an adult

Gia the morning after her surgery (She's pretty upset about the back-hawk)
Old 03-05-2010, 07:39 PM
John DiFool John DiFool is offline
Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: Jacksonville, FL
Posts: 17,647
Good luck-hope she gives you many more worry-free years of life. My childhood cat also had said surgery, but didn't make it past the two year mark.
Old 03-05-2010, 09:06 PM
Coalcracker0 Coalcracker0 is offline
Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 67
I hope all continues to go well! My Tiggy had major surgery 2+ years ago; I won't even talk about the cost, but it was worth every penny!
Old 03-05-2010, 10:45 PM
Stealth Potato Stealth Potato is offline
Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: Seattle, WA
Posts: 2,009
Your story brought a tear to my eye. Gia looks like such a sweet kitty; she's lucky to have someone like you looking out for her. Good luck with everything, and may Gia recover fully to lead a long and happy life!
Old 03-06-2010, 10:09 AM
Dangerosa Dangerosa is offline
Join Date: Feb 2000
Location: Twin Cities, Minnesota
Posts: 21,667
We went through the same thing with a four month old kitten who had a vaccine related lump. It turned out to be precancerous. (She then ate a piece of dog toy and had $3k worth of gastrointestinal surgery two months later - the vet staff greats her with "its the million dollar cat!")
Old 03-06-2010, 01:28 PM
Surly Chick Surly Chick is offline
Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: Face down in the dirt.
Posts: 2,559
I think Gia needs a little kitty coat to keep her warm. I hope everything turns out well for her!
Old 03-06-2010, 02:57 PM
Alice The Goon Alice The Goon is offline
Join Date: Jul 2003
Location: Asheville, NC
Posts: 9,895
Poor thing! I hope Gia feels a lot better very soon.
Old 03-06-2010, 03:38 PM
Ritter Ritter is offline
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 113
What a wonderful, moving account of your beloved Gia - the kitten photo is out of control adorable! Her back-hawk is accompanied by a telling expression... what a trouper. All the very best for her recovery and I hope you have many more years to share with your dear companion.
Old 03-06-2010, 03:49 PM
Beware of Doug Beware of Doug is offline
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Location: My Own Private Iowa
Posts: 15,380
Kitty K, spleen cancer survivor going on 2 years now, sends purrs to Gia. If she wants an Angora-mix sweater, K will save her shed fur.
Old 03-07-2010, 06:43 PM
malkavia malkavia is offline
Join Date: Nov 2000
Location: Phoenix
Posts: 2,215
Thank you all for your warm responses. I'm happy to hear about surgeries that have ended well and John DiFool, I'm so sorry for your loss.

Dangerosa, we've been calling Gia "the opposite of the goose that laid the golden egg". It's a little wordy, but accurate.

I'm still frantically awaiting the results from the biopsy, but should have an update mid week or so. I'll be sure to keep everyone posted. My CVT friend came over last night to give me a hands on lesson on how to administer oral liquid meds to a pissed off cat and also to turn her pain pills into a liquid using some fancy drug compound that tastes like molasses. Incidentally, the cat cares not a whit for molasses and still froths at the mouth for 2-5 mins after each dose. Oy. She also bit my thumb, puncturing both the thumb pad as well as punching a small hole between my nail and cuticle on the flip side after one especially trying medicine dose.

Thank goodness I have someone to call in the middle of the night to talk me down from, "OH DEAR GOD, I THINK SHE'S RABID AND SHE BIT MEEEEEE!!" hysterics.

Also, just a PSA for those with cats who may someday need oral meds: Cat's can't spit. Because of this, they respond to bad tastes by hyper-salivating. This looks a LOT like rabies, folks. Don't shoot the cat.

So despite her tremendously sad appearance, she's graduated to walking around in the bedroom (we removed all of the furniture and just left the mattress and TV, so she won't be jumping on stuff), snuggling on the bed and purring up a storm whenever we lay down with her.

Here's the latest picture of Miss Gia, purring on the bed and flipping mommy the orange toe. She's very Thunderdome right now.
Old 03-07-2010, 06:44 PM
malkavia malkavia is offline
Join Date: Nov 2000
Location: Phoenix
Posts: 2,215
Originally Posted by Beware of Doug View Post
Kitty K, spleen cancer survivor going on 2 years now, sends purrs to Gia. If she wants an Angora-mix sweater, K will save her shed fur.
She's gorgeous! Shoot, I'll take a sweater if I get to look that good in it.
Old 03-07-2010, 07:18 PM
asterion asterion is online now
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Location: Albuquerque, NM
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I'm happy to hear that your cat survived. I lost a cat to the same thing, where the cancer wasn't detected until it was too late and all that could be done was to watch her and put her down when it was time.

I know the OP already mentioned spaying but I would like to mention it again. My cat had been spayed as a kitten. Spaying is supposed to decrease the risk but will not eliminate it. So, if you have a female cat, do get her spayed and still pay attention.
Old 03-09-2010, 10:46 AM
malkavia malkavia is offline
Join Date: Nov 2000
Location: Phoenix
Posts: 2,215
Quick update! Because the Tramadol dosing was going poorly with the mouth foaming and fighting and whatnot, I asked the doc for a new Fentanyl patch and was refused. Instead, he offered a new type of extended release Bupenorphine injectable that lasts 72 hours and isn't quite as potent as Fentanyl.

Gia seemed to be hurting quite a bit when I got home from work last night, as I'm pretty sure she flung/drooled out most of her morning Tramadol dose.

Thirty minutes after this injection she was a new cat. Happy to be pet, happy to let me put a warm compress on her sutures, happy to let me put a dry dish towel between her incision and her thigh to wick some of the moisture away from that area. Happy to be cuddled up in bed.. just a happy, happy cat.

We're done with Tramadol. If she's still hurting in a few days, I'll see if we can do another shot or maybe a sub-lingual Bupenorphine.
Old 04-17-2012, 08:56 PM
xtina333 xtina333 is offline
Join Date: Mar 2012
Posts: 1
Can you please do an update??
Old 04-18-2012, 09:39 AM
BottledBlondJeanie BottledBlondJeanie is offline
Join Date: Nov 2001
Location: Texas
Posts: 1,343
Very sorry for your kitty malkavia. My favorite kitty had breast cancer too. After the first surgery she was fine for almost two years, but it came back. We did another surgery and she was with us for a few more months. IF the margins were clean and you caught it soon enough, your kitty will likely be ok. Apparently the original tumor excision on my cat missed some.

Even given the results, I would not go back and do chemo. Dogs may be able to understand why you're making them sick, but I don't know if cats can. Fingers crossed! Those extra years were worth everything!
Old 04-20-2012, 01:13 AM
lavenderviolet lavenderviolet is offline
Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: usa
Posts: 4,805
Originally Posted by malkavia View Post
I'd give anything to go back in time and just suck it up at 6 mos and have her spayed. I had no idea it would ever turn into this. Please consider Gia's story as a gentle reminder to spay and neuter your furry friends, even when they're not at risk for reproducing.
This is an important message. We never got around to spaying my childhood dog because she was never around other dogs and never at risk of getting pregnant.
Unfortunately, in her later years she had multiple mammary tumors as a result.
That's not what killed her (all the tumors were caught early and removed completely), but it led to several expensive surgeries and a lot of stress/worry on our parts when we would find a lump. I definitely wish that we had just spayed her when she was young so that most likely she never would have developed the tumors.
There are many good reasons to spay/neuter, and this is one of the big ones.
Old 04-20-2012, 01:23 AM
ENugent ENugent is offline
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Location: Seattle area
Posts: 3,716
My beloved female cat, Rhodium, died of a cancer of the spleen, intestines, and kidneys in January. She had been spayed as a kitten. We brought her to the vet regularly. When we brought her in to have her teeth cleaned, she had a bit of a fever, and then the vet thought he could feel something on her abdomen, so she had an X-ray and then an ultrasound. The cancer was very advanced. We visited the veterinary oncologist, but it was going to be many thousands of dollars for a best estimate of an extra 6-7 months of life, and we just couldn't justify that. We took her home and treated her like a princess for another six weeks until she passed away. I miss her very much.


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