My Name is Leo

An adored cat deals gracefully with a jaw tumor while his owner quietly falls apart.

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Location: Philadelphia area, Northeast, United States

Monday, January 30, 2006

The blog begins Day 7 post-diagnosis...

It's been a week since the vet said the dreaded T-word -- "tumor." Leo had just had a tooth extracted...a few days earlier, he had been having facial pain (the hissing and hiding in the basement were obvious signs) along with drooling and never-before-experienced nasty breath. The vet said he had a lot of plaque and a tooth that was loose. It all seemed pretty classic dental disease.

Even as she told me the post-dental-work x-ray seemed to show a tumor (she said his left jaw bone looked "gnarly") it wasn't 100% - sometimes things look like tumors on x-rays and are not. However, if he had a tumor the only option mentioned was to "put him down." (God, I hate that expression.)

If it was a tumor, it would continue to grow. She said that's how I would know.

Aproximately 8-million Google searches later, I had found absolutely nothing positive as far the outcome for a cat with a jaw tumor.

So I spent my days lavishing the cat with attention and trying not to cry.

This past Saturday I called the vet office with an update -- the antibiotic (Clavamox) took care of his infection and tenderness, but there was definitely a hard mass under his left jaw -- and it had grown during the course of the week.

The receptionist (administrative assistant?) took my info and called me back with the vet's instructions -- we would try giving Leo the steroid Prednisone...maybe it would slow down the tumor's growth, and at least it should help his appetite.

She asked if I wanted pills or a transdermal gel that I could rub on his ears. Well, that ear thing sounded good...

A small pharmacy in a nearby town specializes in veternary preparations -- who knew?

But, I didn't figure that my cat doesn't really like having his owner touch his ear while wearing rubber gloves (to protect me from the drug going into my system.) So, I tried again yesterday without gloves, which went better. And then I washed my hands with a thoroughness that would make an obsessive-compulsive proud.

Being the sceptic I was fairly convinced I paid $22 for vials of Oil of Olay or something similar. Leo had no visible effects from the steroid (typically it increases appetite significantly.) It may just be that my cat's ears are too fuzzy to let the drug get into his system?

He basically ate nothing yesterday morning. Then he lay around all day sleeping (seemed more tired and a deeper sleep than usual.) But last night, he did eat a normal amount (although I gave him twice as much food as usual, just in case the "Prednisone" kicked in.)

This morning, this first thing I noticed when I went downstairs was that the foyer rug was slightly askew. This might mean that he was actually running around overnight. (When in normal health, he does this crazy cat thing for fun where he will go nuts and run around like a maniac, sliding into the rug.) But I couldn't rule out that the kids were running around like maniacs last night and I just didn't notice the rug being out of place before I went to bed.

As I analyzed the rug position, Leo came over to me, and as soon as I picked him up, I noticed his fur felt cleaner than it has for quite a while -- he hasn't been grooming himself lately, and pre-tumor he was a cat who always kept himself impeccibly clean -- with the most beautiful, softest, silkiest fur. So, this also gives me hope that he is feeling a little better today.

He tore into his food this morning, although he walked away after eating only half of it.

In a half-hour I'll be getting the kids ready for school. Once they're gone, I've got nothing planned for the day except cat petting, cat head scratching, and cat cuddling. Oh yeah, and that ear gel thing.


Blogger Den said...

Hi Cin,

Sounds like Leo might be feeling a bit better if he's grooming, etc. I guess as long as the tumor is not visibly growing (in the last couple of days) it's a good thing. The pic is really cute!


Den :)

1/30/2006 10:49 AM  
Blogger poguemahone2K6 said...

I just wanted to say that I'm experiencing the EXACT same situation right now with my cat, Azzi....

She is 12 years old... about two weeks ago she started to drool noticeably... and I was reluctant to take her to the vet until the drool turned into a bloody one a few days ago.

The vet extracted two bottom teeth and discovered a bump under the jaw (the jaw is broken). She believes that it is most likely a tumor, but can't tell without a biopsy (no tissue with which to perform).

So here we sit... Azzi is eating much better and seems to be much more 'normal.' However, we are only two days into her antibiotics, which were prescribed to lessen the swelling IF it's NOT a tumor... and, thus far, no shrinking, no increase in the size of that bump.

So I'm in the same boat, it seems... I love that cat like crazy! She's been here for me during times of divorce, a layoff, the whole nine yards... the one constant in my life...

So, as I wish you two luck... wish US luck... :)

2/16/2006 11:07 PM  
Blogger Cyn said...

poguemahone2k6 -- Thanks so much for your comment. I'm so sorry to hear you are in a similar situation.

Leo has not had any bleeding, but his tumor has grown rather rapidly. Maybe you'll be luckier with Azzi and her illness will take a slower path.

My relationship with Leo at 12 3/4 years is longer than any other besides that with my parents & siblings -- he was there before my husband, I know how you feel.

My best wishes go out to you. Good luck.

2/17/2006 8:26 AM  
Blogger Isabellemarie said...

I wanted you both to know that I too am experiencing the same problem with my cat Marley. She found me (came right up on my doorstep) when I came back from Jamaica, so I named her after Bob Marley! She is over 16 years, and I realize I am lucky to have her even this long, but it doesn't make it any easier. I tell her she's my "best girlfriend"... :) Of course she doesn't know what the heck I'm saying, but as long as I say it in that tone she loves it! I just found out today from the vet that she may have an infection or a tumor, but due to her age, it is likely a tumor in her jaw - along with an infection. She is on an antibiotic (Antirobe) and pain killer (Buprenex). She had blood work done and I should have the results back on Monday. She was in pain suddenly a few days ago and wouldn't eat - she kept trying to eat and finally seemed that she wasn't in much pain at all. She is back to herself (even before the meds), so I'm just hoping she stays that way. I know that can only last so long though. The vet said that hopefully it will be a slow growing tumor, and there is no way to remove it from her jaw without operating and at her age, it's not a good idea. Anyway, I wanted to let you know you're not alone, and I wish you both the best. Enjoy every minute you have with them... :)

7/18/2008 6:18 PM  
Blogger Elk Whistle said...

Sorry to hear about Leo. My cat, named Mr. Red, who I have had for 13 years was diagnosed with a tumor in the midle of his head about two weeks ago, which was spreading down his nose and it was biopsy and found to be cancerous. The doctor suggested steroid or prednisone for a treatment. Within the past 5 days of treatement the tumor has reduced to 1/3 of its original size. I cried and thanked God for this because his eyes were no longer swollen and he seemed to be like himself again. Then today I went back to the vet to have his stitches removed from teh biopsy. BUT I received the dreary prognosis that the prednisone is not a cure, it just shrank his tumor. He is only promised a few weeks to 90 days more of life. I am still devastated but I pray to St. Anthony that he be spared and given more time. I love him so much but I don't want to see him suffer. However, we will cherish every day that we continue to have together. God Bless,

Elk Whistle

11/24/2008 6:44 PM  
Blogger Cyn said...

@ Isabellemarie -- I think I am just seeing your comment now for the first time, 4 months later (I'm supposed to get e-mail notification of comments, but it seems yours slipped through.) So sorry to hear about Marley - I hope you and she had many happy days after you wrote this comment. If you happen to read this, feel free to comment with an update.

@ Elk Whistle -- My sympathies to you. But it sounds like the prednisone was the right way to go - the tumor shrank - that's great! I'm certain that the prednisolone that Leo was prescribed contributed GREATLY to his quality of life, and in his case it only slowed down the progression of the tumor, so with the way Mr. Red's tumor actually got smaller -- sounds like you are in a better ship than we were to start with.

Like you said, all you can do is try and enjoy each precious day. My best wishes to you.

11/24/2008 9:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Cyn,

I came across your blog as one of my 8 mil responses to my Google search on "jaw cancer in cats." My Annie, who I got from an animal shelter when she was 9 mos old, is now 17 and dx'd with this dreadful cancer 2 weeks ago. I have shed probably more tears on this than I did for many lost relatives. Annie's poor little face, now a bit misshapen at the mouth, reminds me of my mother's after she had a massive stroke. My vet told me I would be the one to make the decision about when it was time, and that I'd know when it was time, but I can't imagine. Will it be that horrible that death would be preferable to watching her suffer? The only signs now that indicate anything is wrong are her mouth and some drooling. I try to wipe her mouth but that seems to cause some discomfort. She still moves well, drinks water from the tub faucet, climbs up on me and purrs, and jumps on and off the bed. How will I know when it's time? I never know when to quit anything. Maybe you can advise... or some of your readers.

I hate to ask how Leo is. From what I am reading about this cancer, you have prob already had to reach your point. I hope not.

Debbie, also in Phila

6/15/2010 12:34 PM  
Blogger Cyn said...

Hi Debbie -
I'm so very sorry you find yourself in the same sad situation I was with Leo. He passed away in October of 2006, more than nine months after being diagnosed. If you care to see how things progressed, I blogged through it all. It isn't pretty, I'm afraid, but gives an accurate picture of his journey. Although I got the impression that his surviving that long is not the norm.

Please bear in mind that although he looked truly horrible at the end, he didn't really suffer until the day before his euthanasia.

My vet told me that I would know it was "time" when Leo stopped eating. However, he managed to keep eating(even it was just baby food) through to the end.

Leo was an extraordinarily easy-going cat. So my decision was very much based on how he kept going and going through it all. He kept his daily the point of continuing to strut out to visit company (who I have to say were amazed to see a cat that looked that bad bounding up and down the stairs as if nothing was wrong). Leo's behavior was my guiding force in allowing the condition to progress as long as it did.

That said, I don't think I could go through it again myself with another cat. The stress it placed on my life (where my every day revolved around his care)...meanwhile I have two children who are not getting my attention and a husband whose idea of support is to "let me" take care of the cat completely on my own. Add the mental scars of watching a loved one deteriorate...not suffer (which he didn't) but deteriorate from a beautiful proud animal to one drooling bloody mucus, unable to clean himself.

See, there is no right and no wrong as far as your decision is concerned. The only thing that would be wrong is not caring -- and you obviously do care deeply for Annie. No matter how you decide to proceed, Debbie, whatever choice you make will be the right one, for you.

6/15/2010 4:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Last week I felt a hard knot on the back lower jaw of my kitty. I immediately took him to the vet. I was shown an x-ray told that I'd have to have my cat's jaw removed. At first the Vet said that my kitty would only live 4 months to a year following such horrible surgery, and then changed the prognosis to a regular life span following surgery. I've been home searching the Internet for hours, but nothing is positive. I just don't know about putting my cat through a tough surgery that will disfigure and cause pain. I've been told that his canine teeth will also need removing so that they don't dig into his remaining bottom lip. My cat is 13 years old and is in perfect health. He does not have ANY symptom of cancer. Perhaps the symptoms (drooling, blood,loss of apetite)come with time?

8/04/2010 7:17 AM  
Blogger Cyn said...

So sorry to hear about your diagnosis. As horrible as the surgery sounds, I have heard of cases where pets adapted well after it. (Although, if memory serves me, it was mostly cases involving dogs.) Imho you need to pin your vet down (maybe get another opinion?) as to just what the surgery would mean as far as recovery time, how would the cat adjust, etc. As far as the symptoms of drooling, blood, etc...well, it really depends on the aggressiveness of the tumor. Leo's was slow-growing - I realized (looking back on photos taken before the diagnosis) that the tumor had been growing for months before it was discovered. (I had noticed him looking "older" and thought the more-pronounced jawline was part of the aging process. He was 12 1/2 when we found the tumor.) So, evidently he had a number of months that were completely symptom free.

My vet didn't even bring up the possibility of surgery, so I'm afraid I can't offer much more in the way of advice. But I did find a lot of info from other owners in Yahoo Groups feline-cancer forum, and maybe someone there has had a cat that has undergone the jaw-removal surgery. The link is below. I hope it can give you the info you need to help make a decision, and it's definitely a good place to find support during this difficult time.

8/04/2010 11:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm living with a similar situation and it is agonizing, -as my husband loves this cat so much... and he's my favorite cat too (we have a multi-cat family)....
But the poor thing is drooling blood and green mucus EVERYWHERE. And of course, there is a stench that has been going on for weeks now.
My husband refuses to euthanize when the kitty still eats and purrs happily. I think to keep him alive is cruel and inhumane. We are at opposite poles and I'm more concerned about the health hazard the cat presents due to his constant drool... did I mention we have an infant in the house, too? And the other animals have to deal with the illness and mess, too.
I've had it and don't know what to do...
Your blog is just good to read and try to find some sanity in this terrible, dreadful time of our lives.
Thank you for writing it all down -and I'm so very sorry for your loss.

6/01/2011 6:07 PM  
Blogger Cyn said...

Thanks for your comment, and I'm so sorry to hear about your kitty. Sounds like you are really stuck in the middle of a stressful (and heartwrenching) situation.

I don't necessarily think it's cruel and inhumane to keep kitty alive while he's still purring and eating (if not in pain) and I don't know about health hazards. BUT I do know I personally would not have been able to go through what I did with Leo with an infant in the house. No way. Just the thought of it boggles my mind, given the amount of time and psychic energy needed for the care of a terminally sick animal (when infant demands, and deserves, every little bit of one's time and energy.)

Maybe this blog can open up conversation with your husband to help him see more of your point of view? I think at least it illustrates that the road ahead is not an easy one, and it does take a toll (more so on human than cat, I think.)

In the very least, I'm glad this blog able to be helpful to you in this difficult time.

6/01/2011 8:54 PM  
Blogger Yana Spencer said...

Love your story.

5/20/2013 2:40 AM  
Blogger Cyn said...

Thank you Yana!

6/14/2013 7:34 AM  
Blogger Cathy Strzyinski said...

My name is Cathy and we just had our kitty, Dubbie (short for BW which came from the fact he was a black and white Maine coon), down yesterday. This has been beyond a horrible experience!! He was only ill for 6 weeks. We had his teeth cleaned and the root of a broken tooth taken out on June 2, 2017 and he just wouldn't heal. Drooling, bloody, smell... everything! But he was eating, drinking, using the litter box, all the normal Dubbie stuff. In June he had X-rays and it was normal looking, yesterday they went in to clean his mouth and take more X-rays (while he was under) and it was obviously jaw bone cancer. No tumors on the outside but it was eating the jaw bone away and had begun to progress to the other side of the jaw. Extremely aggressive cancer! I had to tell them to euthanize while he was still under, the hardest thing I've ever had to say to anyone! I hand raised this kitty (along with 4 siblings) from 10 days old as they were rescue kitties. He nursed on the loose skin areas of my hand for the first year of his life! To say I was bonded to this kitty is an understatement! We buried him last night. I'm thankful he's no longer in pain but it hurts so much he's not here with me this morning. They tried 4 different strong antibiotics and an anti inflammatory (onsior) over the last 6 weeks. I must say at this point he was also a diabetic (6 years) and had an auto immune disorder since before a year old, we were managing both for years. While going through this they just thought he was a 13 year old kitty who had dental surgery and was struggling to heal because of his other issues. My heart breaks for all of you who I've been reading about, I understand what your feeling oh so well!! I will miss my Dubbie forever! RIP Dubbie! May 21, 2004 - July 18, 2017

7/19/2017 8:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

On 9/12 we noticed our cat seemed under the weather. He had not eaten in a couple days and his coat was unkempt. Also, he took to hiding in odd places. We had the vet over a couple days later, who hydrated him, took some blood for labs and prescribed anti-nausea med. The vet commented on his weight loss since treating him for bald patches only a month prior. A few days after her visit, with limited appetite improvement, our cat was in the hospital, once again getting hydrated, and once again he started eating again. During his 2 night hospital stay (he came home 9/19), they discovered a mass under his tongue and took a biopsy. Within a week the diagnosis was given: squamous cell carcinoma. For several days we had dealt with making food easier to eat, giving him liquid syringes of meds for healing the biopsy site and for pain. He ate little and drooled a lot. We decided since he was never going to improve and we were not putting the poor fellow (or the bank account) through surgery/chemo/radiation that would be futile anyway, we requested painkiller so he would be comfortable until his time came. The syringes did not go well; he HATED anyone near his mouth. With great heartbreak, we put him down after using up the 4 days' worth of painkiller, on 9/29. Even though he looked fine, had clear eyes and had some moments of running around energetically with his tail up, we remained realistic about his future: he could no longer eat, drink or bathe himself, and he had clearly wanted to do these things. The syringes were unbearable and he was helpless. We do not regret the timing of his euthanasia one bit. Everything went downhill so was crazy. :^(

10/03/2017 3:13 PM  

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