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Maceo Cat's Cancer Journey

Diagnosis Archive

Jul 10

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Monday 7/10/17

Today was Maceo’s big day at UC Davis… his long-awaited consultation with their oncology department! We were fortunate to be able to pull in Dr. Michael Kent, who’s the radiation oncologist there, as well thanks to some string-pulling on the part of the kind surgical oncologist we spoke to last week here in San Francisco (normally that might be a separate appointment).

Well, it was a hot day out in Davis — about 100 degrees and we didn’t realize our A/C was on the Prius’ “eco” setting, thus rendering it totally useless against the blazing sun. Poor Maceo started meowing as soon as we got out of the cool foggy Bay Area and the car started heating up. His little paws were sweating, and they were hot just like him. Poor guy! He meowed not just because of the car ride, but also (or mainly?) because of the heat. When we finally fixed the A/C, he seemed to do better, but by then he was already at the end of a long day and pretty exhausted and fed up.

We left for the appointment at 11 am to arrive by 1 pm, since Davis isn’t terribly close to San Francisco. So, we were still able to have a pretty normal morning, with a morning walk, a supplement snack, and a full breakfast.

As soon as we got home, Maceo headed straight for the first food bowl he could see (Charlie’s, that we had to leave out in the morning as we were hurrying out of the house). So, it’s great that he was hungry, but after eating, he limped quite a bit and had no desire to go out for a walk. He’s typically always up for a walk, so this was concerning to me.

Tomorrow, the holistic vet is coming and promised to bring some pain meds (she’s a regular vet too!), so hopefully that will help tide him over till further treatment on the tumor.

The UC Davis Appointment

Totally contrary to the horror stories we read online, our experience at UC Davis was positive — aside from the long wait times. The staff were professional and nice, and clearly loved animals very, very much. Maybe more than any other veterinary staff we’ve encountered in our dozens of visits so far!

The oncologists at Davis seemed more empowered with knowledge and tools than any other oncologists we’ve seen so far (that’s four total besides the two we saw at Davis), and that’s probably because they’re at a world-class facility where they can actually do stuff, instead of just refer people to Davis.

They were pessimistic, or realistic, depending on how you look at things. They emphasized their concern about the nodule that was found on Maceo’s lung, and said that if it represented metastasis, then treating the primary fibrosarcoma via radiation and surgery could delay (palliative) treatment of the lung nodule using chemotherapy, with disastrous consequences for Maceo.

After much talking, and much more waiting (we waited about two hours total, separate from our actual appointment time), I basically bulldozed my way to a definitive radiation treatment for Maceo. When you are someone’s mom, you must be the last person to lose hope, and you have to be so strong in that.

I understand the doctors have a duty to tell me the median outcome, and to make sure I fully understand the risks of what we’re getting into. They don’t want another nasty Yelp review saying they don’t care and are just after the money, or that they “promised” a cure, but the animal died anyway. I understand them needing to be protective and conservative — even pessimistic — after the intense negative attention that’s come their way over the past couple of years. So that’s fine… but that doesn’t lessen my conviction or my belief in my strong Maceo.

(In the same conversation, the radiation oncologist told us about his own dog who had two nodules in the lung that they were sure were metastatic cancerous growths after another tumor appeared in the spleen. They operated on the spleen, found it to be benign, and did nothing about the lung nodules. When he died 5 years later, they autopsied him and the nodules were nowhere to be found. So, as that doctor said, we don’t want to “condemn him for the results of one test.”)

Anyway, there’s so much more to say, but in short we decided on the following action plan (again, bulldozing!):

  • CT scan on Wednesday July 12 to prepare for IMRT radiation treatment
  • They will also try to needle aspirate the lung nodule one more time from a different angle to see if they can get some of its cells and see if it is indeed metastasis)
  • If not, they’ll begin radiation on Monday July 17.
  • Radiation is 20 treatments, 5 times a week for 4 total weeks. My husband and I would temporarily move up to Davis so we could be with him daily.
  • If it IS metastasis…. well, I don’t know right now. We’ll have to cross that bridge when we come to it.
  • They probably can’t do chemo and radiation at the same time (the medical oncologist’s chemo drug of choice, doxyrubicin, doesn’t play well with radiation), so we really have to pick just one route at a time.

Long car ride home through traffic and 5 o clock heat, then home to rest. I took the day off work today, so tomorrow will be busy.

I’m extremely nervous about Wednesday and what tests will show. I have a lot of faith and show strength for my baby, but I also feel worried inside.

Here’s his intake today.

Total supplement intake:

  • 1500 mg Turkey Tail mushroom
  • 700 mg IP6 with Inositol
  • 4 scoops Transfer Factor
  • 2 tea pills of Chai Hu Shu Gan Wan (bupleurum)

Total food intake:

  • 3 blocks of Primal Chicken & Salmon (46 cals per block) — 138 cal
  • 1/8 cup Origen kibble — 50 cal
  • 1/4 cup homemade chicken bone broth — 20 cal
  • 1/2 Tablespoon of raw pureed chicken liver — 10 cal
  • 1 jar Gerber all chicken baby food — 100 cal
  • Some treats

Total Calories: 318

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Jul 04

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Tuesday 7/4/17

It’s been 12 days since we noticed the lump.

Now, looking back, it’s crazy to think that we didn’t notice it before — it’s so bulbous and foreign underneath his velvety coat. But, it’s there on the shoulder blade, sort of like a football player’s pad on top of his regular bone and tissue.

“Wow, your cat is so friendly. But what’s that lump on his back?”

Thank god that our friend Ryan, with his fresh eyes, saw something and said something. At first, we thought maybe he’d been bitten by an insect while on his daily harness walk in the back yard. That was how sudden it seemed to appear. But no, it didn’t seem like a bite of any kind.

We took him to the emergency clinic the next morning, a Saturday. After waiting and waiting, he was needle aspirated and examined. He didn’t have an infection, which only left worse possibilities. I went home with Maceo, who had been patient in his carrier for the entire 3 hour visit — half of it without me — full of worry and apprehension.

The next day, Sunday, the vet called me at 8:30 pm at night. The initial results indicated sarcoma, she said, sounding awkward and robotic on the phone. I’m sure it’s tough news to deliver. We would get the official cytology results the next day.

My heart dropped into my stomach. I never thought I would be hearing this about my most special, most intelligent and most robust kitty. Maceo was the one who fought off fleas. Maceo was the one who never got sick except for his run in with calicivirus earlier this spring. Maceo bounced back from emergency small intestine surgery after just one day. This couldn’t be happening to Maceo… yet I knew it was.

I fought off nausea and switched into action mode. I started Googling everything I could, and started making appointments. Because it was the week before July 4th, I made about a dozen calls before I got him an appointment with an oncologist in Redwood City, 45 minutes away from San Francisco where we live. I also made him another appointment with a well-regarded holistic vet in Santa Rosa, an hour and 15 minutes away, and an appointment with 5 other oncologists later that week and into the following week. I also made him an appointment at UC Davis, which couldn’t accommodate us until July 10th. Why so many? You can never be too sure, was my reasoning, and it was better to stack up the appointments and then amend them, then have to wait again.

Maceo is strong and independent, and has been eating raw since I adopted him at 8 weeks old with his bonded ‘brother’ Spike. I sent them to live with my mother in Seattle when I decided to take a sabbatical from my busy life in San Francisco’s startup scene and live in India and Bali. Maceo and Spike were 6 and a half years old at that time, and had learned the ins and outs of apartment living with me. They knew how to open drawers, freezer doors, and cabinets in their insatiable pursuit of forbidden food. I used to ask myself, is this because I’m feeding them raw, and they’re not getting enough calories? But they were a healthy body size, especially Maceo, who was dense and muscular, though soft at the same time.

Those years away were crucial to my formation, but I sure did miss my kitties and now I sometimes wonder if it was really worth it to be away from them.

Can’t take it back though, so here we are.