I've had better Tuesday afternoons....

Well, this sucks.

A couple of days ago, in the morning as I was lying in bed, strangling Schooner away from shoving his cold wet whiskery nose in my face (“Breakfast time! LOVE you! Lovelovelove FEED ME!”) I noticed something odd in his neck. Something not right. Two somethings, in fact: Two somewhat mobile lumps, one on either side of his windpipe up near the jaw, roughly the size of a fingernail.

He was otherwise his usual plump healthy vigorous self, so I didn’t worry too much, though I also noticed when I looked closely that his neck seemed a bit puffy in that area. Checking the other cats, I found no similar anatomical features on them. Schooner did sound a wee bit snarfly now and then, though, and the more I thought about it, the more worried I got.

I managed to get him in to see the vet yesterday afternoon, the same one who’d taken care of my recently departed Peanut. First reaction on seeing me: “Oh, no! Not another one!” Schooner got palpated and had his claws clipped; we talked a bit about how he’s been; yes, the word “cancer” came up; then I left him with them for a blood draw, a needle biopsy, and further workup while I went home to get some urgent work out.

When I picked him up at 6:00 p.m., the vet was guarded. Blood work and biopsy still needed to be processed; in the meantime we decided to start him on a steroid to try to shrink the throat blobs. She got a pill down his reluctant throat and called in a liquid compound prescription to our local pharmacy. Drat! I’d thrown out Peanut’s leftover steroid just a couple of weeks ago, too! I’ve got a pill for tonight (to crush and mix into his food; it took the vet and vet tech both to get the pill into Schooner last evening) if the compound isn’t ready today.

We talked briefly then about whether I’d consider chemotherapy if it proved to be cancer. We discussed it again this morning, when the vet called with the blood work results. His results were all robustly normal except for a gray area thyroid value, but he certainly isn’t looking hyperthyroid. The biopsy results won’t be in till next week. I said I preferred quality of life over quantity, which she strongly agreed with.

For Schooner especially, who is terrified of strangers and does not handle being taken from his familiar surroundings well, having to be driven an hour to get to a specialty clinic where strangers will do frightening things to him, in pursuit of a cure which might well fail, or only buy him a few more months of life, with who knows what side effects – well, as I said, quality of life over quantity matters more to me.

It is also possible – just barely – that the masses could be removed surgically; there is a specialist surgeon who comes to my vet’s office periodically who could do it. But the lumps are in an area fraught with surgical peril, and it’s quite possible they simply aren’t removable anyway.

So Schooner will stay on his steroid for now, with a checkup scheduled for next Tuesday morning. If he becomes distressed – difficulty eating or breathing – he’ll be seen right away. (So far his eating is no problem!) We’ll go on from here with the prime directive his happiness and comfort, and do what must be done when it must be done.

Damn. Had him from a kitten, and he’s only ten years old.

{{{Hugs Schooner}}} extra treats for him!

Schooner is always up for extra treats! He’s not a beachball these days – careful portion control took care of that, plus shutting him in the half bath at meals so he couldn’t steal everyone else’s food :smiley: – but I’ll know he’s seriously ill when he starts refusing food.

Justin Heyward is sad.

Most of the pets I’ve ever had will eat ANYTHING! So when one long hair cat began to feel thin, I knew he was not well.

Ill be thinking of Schooner. Tell him my Atilla says “hi!”

Was he named for a beer glass?

Maybe he was going to be named after either a type of ship or a primitive weapon, “catamaran” and “catapult” were already taken, and they didn’t want a pet called “boiling oil”. :slight_smile:

I’m so sorry. Here’s hoping for a better prognosis with surgery. Keep us informed.


Thanks, all, for kind thoughts.

I live in a maritime town north of Boston, and schooners used to ply the coastal waters. I could have named him “Beachball” for his unfortunate tendencies if his intake is not carefully controlled, but that seemed a tad disrespectful, so… Actually, schooners are graceful vessels, and he’s more of a dory. Or dugout canoe.

A friend told me she had a cat who was on a weekly pill for chemotherapy which kept him going without side effects about a year after starting on it – but she had to wear gloves, it was so toxic to humans, and she had a live-in SO to hold the cat for pilling. So I still don’t see that as a likely path to follow.

Surgery? Well, if the surgeon’s willing to try it, and the lump biopsy comes back as cancer, maybe. I would go into it with the express wish that if the surgeon got in there and found it to be too widespread or perilously located to eradicate, then euthanize my boy right then without waking up.

Hugs and prayers to you and Schooner

:frowning: Kudos for the love and support you’ve provided Schooner.

I hope Schooner’s final results are good.

if you do end up needing to pill him, we had a cat begging for her daily pill by wrapping it in a little cheese. Since she was hyperthyroid and underweight, the extra calories weren’t bad for her. After trying several types, we ended up with Kraft singles. a single slice would last over a week as we’d tear just enough off to coat the pill. She would gobble it down so fast she never noticed the pill.

We used little pieces of a Kraft Single for our dog’s pills when I was a kid, too. You can gently pinch or mush them into a pocket, to enclose the pill.

Talked to the vet today, and the news is not good. The cytology sample extracted via needle biopsy came back as lymphoma. So the cancer could be roaring through his lymphatic system; could in fact have originated elsewhere and only become palpable when it reached his neck. Surgery is out; chemotherapy might, depending on various factors, have a 50/50 chance of giving him another year or two of life.

How fast will it spread? Hard to say, but the two nodes I originally noticed don’t seem any smaller despite his having had two doses of steroid, and I thought I felt a third small nodule on the front of his windpipe this morning. Lymphoma can be indolent or it can race through the body.

The plan at this point is to bring him back to the vet Wednesday morning for a surgical biopsy under anesthesia to get a better idea of exactly what we’re dealing with. The steroid he’s on now is a complicating factor in that it might shrink the lumps too much for Dr. Corbett to get a sample, but having started him on it, it would be inadvisable to stop now and then try to restart in a few days; the cells might no longer react properly to it. If I did choose chemotherapy a steroid would be part of the treatment plan anyway, and in the meantime, given his breathing is already marginally being affected, it is the better course to continue him on it, now dosing him twice daily instead of once. Luckily he has no problem inhaling the steroid on his wet food!

Poor Dr. Corbett was clearly upset at having to give me such bad news, although I was expecting it; she’d been hoping it was his thyroid, which I gather would have had better odds of being fixable. She’s outlining the options but not offering false hope, for which I am grateful. My own inclination, pending results of next week’s biopsy, is palliative comfort care for as long as he’s happy.

This really sucks.

Oh, man, I hate to hear that. I think I would choose comfort care also. Stay strong.

I’ve been mulling over what to do about Schooner all day, and just got off the phone with Dr. Corbett after discussing a lot of things, like just what the proposed biopsy would involve – procedure, risks, recovery, etc. – what information it would provide, and what the possible treatment options would be depending on the answers.

For the biopsy she’ll have to sedate Schooner, shave his neck, and dissect down to the nodules – if they’re still large enough after a few days of steroid treatment to even be operable – and take the sample(s) for analysis. So he’ll have the terror of going to the vet, followed by postsurgical recovery, with hopefully no complications for the many vital structures in the surgical site.

The lymphoma may be treatable, either by chemotherapy or radiation, which would involve multiple visits at a specialty clinic, under anesthesia for each treatment, and which carries its own risks. Treatment could buy him a year, maybe two. In the long run, though, there is no long run.

Or the lymphoma may be unresponsive to treatment (about a 50/50 chance of that), in which case we’ve put Schooner through all that for nothing. Given the speed with which this has shown up in Schooner, Dr. Corbett seems to suspect it’s the intractable kind.

So I’m really wavering on whether to go ahead with the biopsy after all, and I gathered during our conversation that Dr. Corbett has reservations as well, though she assured me that if I chose to treat Schooner aggressively she would do everything necessary. Basically she supports me whichever way I choose to go.

So the plan now is to have the originally scheduled followup visit on Tuesday, to see if the steroid has reduced the nodules at all and to settle on a final decision about which way we go from here. Schooner’s currently happy, robust, doing what he always does, and I’d like to keep him that way for whatever time we have left.

My memory is that, in dogs at least, the first course of treatment is often prednisone (steroid, as you’ve said), so you’re already on the right road. If Schnooner seems otherwise comfortable, I’d say keep going with the steroid. I think you’re correct to question the value of the biopsy, however. Have you had any x-rays or non-invasive other tests done that would tell you how far its spread? Meaning, yes, lymphoma is systemic but in my dog, for example, he developed a very large internal tumor visible on x-ray. If I were you, I’d pursue the non-invasive measures first. If you’ve caught this early, you might make a different decision than if it’s later in the disease progression.

Good luck to you and skritches to Schooner.

I’m sorry for what you and Schooner are going through, ETF. You sound like you’re handling it as well as anyone could, and Schooner has the best possible care and concern for his well-being.

Making these decisions for our beloved pets is so stressful and painful. I wish the best for you both.

We haven’t done x-ray or ultrasound yet; my vet can do x-ray but I’d have to take Schooner to another animal hospital for ultrasound – that’s where the imaging was done that showed intestinal lymphoma in the last cat I lost, Peanut. I’d consider that, but I’m pretty much determined not to go to anything invasive or drastic. I’ve heard from friends of mine who tried and failed to beat cancer or other diseases in their animals, considered or actually went ahead with all sorts of tests and treatments, and in retrospect wish they’d not put their beloved friends through that.

As one friend put it: “We have to ask ourselves if we are treating them for them, or for us.”

ETA: I don’t fault anyone who chooses to treat aggressively; their animal, their knowledge, their right to choose – although I will say I have seen horses kept going long after it was apparent that life was a miserable burden for them, because their owners couldn’t bear to lose them. I will never do that to any animal I own.

Hugs to you and Schooner. This is always a tough decision. Keep us posted.

Whatever you decide to do, don’t let anyone second guess you. You, and you only, are the one who will know what is right. You are closest to Schooner. Not even the vet knows him like you do.

You are obviously a loving and responsible pet owner. Your decision, whatever it is, will be the best one.