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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Firstly, I just wanted to say how happy I am to have found these boards. The wealth of knowledge and support I have seen on here has been so comforting.

Last week, my 15 year old fur-kid (Kitty) was diagnosed with a cancer uncommonly found in cats. A tumor presented in July on her left cheek, and was removed in August, which turned out to be malignant. Lab results show the tumor was an apocrine carcinoma. We are lucky enough to have a board certified pet oncologist in the area, and have consulted with him on our options. He informed us that the cancer has spread into Kitty's lymphatic system, and now has access to her entire body (although no other tumors have been found yet). I literally felt my heart breaking when I heard this.

Our oncologist could not us a clear prognosis, and said we could see the cancer "come back" in a week, a month, a year. We were given options of radiation and chemotherapy, both of which sound high stress and require a significant time (and financial) investment. I cannot justify leaving Kitty at a facility for 3 weeks at a time in order to get radiation/chemo treatment... not when I do not know how much time I have left with her. The oncologist said he strongly recommends against doing nothing, and also recommended a lower-dose chemo pill (I do not know the specific type yet) and steroid treatment. The oncologist believes she will be able to maintain her current quality of life, while delaying the return of the cancer.

It is just so hard to make this decision when she looks and acts just like she always has. She is still very affectionate and playful (as playful as 15 year old can be!), and has a hearty appetite (in fact, she GAINED weight between vet appointments!). I am wary of starting her on chemo when she seems to be doing so well, and am torn on what to do. Even at 15, Kitty is "young" for her age. I've been told by my vet that she would have placed her as a young/mid-aged adult, and that her blood work is pristine. A recent tooth root abscess and this cancer diagnosis are the only health problems she has had.

Any input/comments/advice on this type of cancer, Kitty's prognosis or treatment options? I still feel so lost on what to do. Kitty and I have been together since she was a kitten and she is one of the greatest things about my life. I am so afraid of making the wrong decision and shortening the life quality/time she has left. I only want what is best for my little munchkin.
 

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Hi FallingSilver,

I am so sorry for what you are going through. I do not have much experience with Cancer but it seems as though you are taking the appropriate steps.

Given that your kitty is 15 years old it is a tough desision to make. If I was in your position I would not go through radiation/chemotherapy. I have heard a lot of stories of regret when animals spend their last days in a facility. Chemo and raditation are very potent drugs and the side effects may not be worth putting your baby through.

I think the option the vet gave you with the lower-dose chemo pill and steriod treatment would be the route I would take. This way your can have her home with you. You can make sure to give her the best quality of life and finally when she decides it her time to go, it can be in her home and with you.
I don't know if you believe in pyschics but I have heard of people going to animals pyschics.... maybe it could offer you some spiritual help and guidance. idk... just a thought.

My thoughts are with you. I could not imagine the stress you are going through.
 

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I agree with Lila--given that the cancer is in the lymph system, and it's not an "if" but a "when" diagnosis, I think my reaction if it were my cat (or human family member, for that matter!) would be to do what would keep her close and spend as much precious time as you can with her before she goes. Radiation and aggressive therapy can be wonderful tools if the prognosis is excellent but with an aggressive/unknown type of cancer I think your kitty would be happiest with you.

The other aspect of the argument is that stress (which Kitty would have if separated from you for that length of time) has been shown to decrease immune function, which might work the opposite of the way you want it to. Just a thought.

<3
 

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I concur with Fyrflie. At 15, your Kitty is already considered a senior cat, and the trauma that chemo and/or radiation can cause is high. Add to that the stress of being away from her humans and her home, and it could have the opposite effect.

I am so very sorry that you have to go through this. It's a difficult choise to have to make, and when it comes to cancer, there is really no right or wrong answer at this stage. It's not a simple "yes" or "no." It's open ended, and no matter what path you take, you will always wonder later whether or not you made the right call. I'll keep you and Kitty in my thoughts. You will know which choise is best for you and your family. Trust your gut.
 

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I lost my beloved Samantha to cancer 5 days after her 16th birthday.
She'd always been healthy and active.
I discovered her lying on the floor in distress, the day before she'd been fine.
I rushed her to the vet where ultra sound revealed tumors around her spleen and in her intestines.
The only option was surgery with little hope of anything more then a little more time.
I've seen what extensive surgery does to the elderly and I could not put my baby through the ordeal.
Over night she'd gone from healthy kitty to old and feeble, her eyes were no longer bright and her coat was dull.
It was time, she passed in my arms knowing Papa loved her more then life itself.
It was a heart breaking decision, but it was the right one.
One bad days doesn't cancel out a life where she was never hungry, hurt or injured ever.
I'm proud to say I spoiled her rotten every day we were together and it was a privilege to have been her human.
I hope you spend your remaining time together lavishing her with love.
 

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Ah...poor Kitty. I've had to make similar decisions and know how difficult it is. Given her age and overall prognosis I would not opt for the full chemo/radiation treatment. I would go with the low dose chemo/steroids. My understanding is that cats do better with these types of drugs than humans, they don't have the same level of side effects. Of course you'll want to research when you get the names of the drugs he's recommending, but I think it will be a reasonable course for you. Give Kitty a snuggle for me and my crew.
 

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I lost 2 to cancer, one at 16 and one at 18. With both, we decided that we'd take better quality of life over longer life. Did your vet give you any suggestions for medications that could give your cat comfort and make him feel better even if not curing the cancer?

With the cat that I just lost, we were able to give him transdermal medications (had to have them formulated at a human pharmacy, but well worth the cost. You just rub them in the inside of his ear) that reduced some of his inflammation and (hopefully) gave him some temporary relief. We only got an additional 2 months of life from diagnosis; however, the alternative only offered a possibility of another year or two at best.

For us, it was the right decision. For us, two months with a cat that we loved dearly who got to live out the rest of his life at home surrounded by the people and things he loved was better than putting him through surgery which could've killed him and radiation that would have cost him quality of life.

If he were a young cat, we probably would've made a different decision. It's hard to say to someone else what to do though as every situation is so unique.
 

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I agree with everyone here that quality is better in this circumstance. I've very sorry. My girl slowly died from thyroid problems, even with medications at 16. It isn't easy.
 

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I felt my blood pressure go up when reading your thread. Ive personally have dealt with cancer and a precious cat after the fact of being given chemo and radiation. Ive also talked with many hard core cat lovers who have put their cat thru chemo and radiation treatment. All of us agree wed never ever recommend putting a cat thru this after our experiences.

Did you ask the oncologist the range of time after treatment would this add to you cats life? Bottom line in all diffacult decissions is quality of life. I strongly recommend not to take the path of treatment but to throughly enjoy and lavish your companion with love and your presence with her in the time she has left. Help her transition into her next life when she becomes too uncomfortable. That is the humane route to take for your kitty.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Thank you everyone, for your kind words of advice and support. I am so sorry for those of you who have been in my position before, it is certainly a painful one. I should start by saying I fear for the worst for my little girl... she has started wheezing/coughing frequently (every 2 or 3-ish days), and from what I have read, it sounds like a symptom signifying that the cancer has begun to metastasize in her lungs. I do not know how much times this leaves her. :(

I have not yet made a decision, I am waiting to hear a “final” opinion from the oncologist. Full blown radiation/chemo are out of the question for me – I cannot put her through that. He has not yet been able to view Kitty’s x-rays from our normal vet, since they did not have power all last week due to the hurricane. Once he views the x-rays (hopefully today), I will hear what he has to say and decide at that point if proceeding with the low-dose chemo is even worthwhile, given the wheezing I have witnessed. I think I will only proceed if the chemo will prolong her life, without having an impact on her quality of life. I agree with quality over quantity (and am hoping the low-dose chemo will provide both for us). If I do proceed and see the chemo affecting her, I will most definitely take her off of the treatment. The last thing I want is for Kitty not to be “Kitty” at the end – that is not how she would want to be remembered (and selfishly, that is not how I want to remember her).

That said, she is still as active as she ever was… I bought her a whole bag of new toys last week and she’s going CRAZY over a little ball with a bell over it. She’s almost like a kitten again when she’s batting that thing around the living room! Still eating/drinking normally. I spent much of yesterday with her cuddled by my side while watching movies. I even went out and got her favorite movie (Ice Age!) for her, which we plan on watching soon. She, for some reason, adores this movie and for the most part, cannot take her eyes off it when it is on. I think she likes the squirrel with the acorn the best... I’ve caught her pawing at him on the screen! Anything I can do to bring joy to her day… It’s the least I can do to repay her for all the joy she has bought me for the past 15 years.

I will certainly keep everyone updated on how we are doing. Thank you all again - it truly means the world to us.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Well, after a long and frustrating battle trying to get Kitty's x-rays into the appropriate hands, we finally seem to be on the right track. We met with Kitty's oncologist yesterday, and have started treatment today. Minor wheezing attacks still occur, but it was really encouraging that the vet said he was "thrilled" to see how great she was looking post-surgery (esp since we had not started treatment yet). I'm starting to think that she might be a tougher little gal than I thought!

The vet has put Kitty on Cytoxan (1 pill per day) and Metacam (2oz doses 3x per week). Does anyone have any experience with these drugs? I have not found much information on Cytoxan, and I have found some rather upsetting research on Metacam (ie, associated kidney/liver failure). This makes me a little nervous to give it to my little girl, but I know the vet has her best interest at heart and we will be bringing her back monthly for check-ups and blood work to keep an eye on how things are going. I also read that many of these side effects appear in cats that already have kidney/liver issues (which Kitty luckily does not have). She is still affectionate, active and HUNGRY!, and I hope she remains so. The vet said to let him know if we notice anything that seems wrong with her, so we can re-evaluate the treatment options. He also let us know that we can take her off the treatment at any time if we feel it is becoming too much for her.

She ate her chemo pill inside of a pill pocket this morning with no issues. I'm sure the Metacam (that we've been instructed to squirt directly into her mouth) will not go down quite as easily! :p

Any thoughts or comments, esp regarding experience this treatment regimen, are appreciated!
 
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