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

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Day 9

The vet office called last night. Which was nice, but in a prime example of poor timing it was right as my daughter was waving a Chef Boyardee can of something or other in front of my face asking if she could have it for dinner. (My Italian grandparents roll over in their graves.)

The vet's administrative assistant wanted to know how Leo was doing. I managed to shout out "Okay...he's been eating and seems to be feeling alright." And I mentioned that I was a bit unsure about the administration of the prednisone in his ear actually working. Yes, again I doubt the transdermal method.

Because yesterday it really didn't seem to do a thing. He was indifferent about his evening meal, but he did end up eating it all during the night, so I guess I shouldn't worry.

It may seem weird, but the vet has not even given his tumor a name. And I didn't think to ask when she broke the news about the tumor's appearance in his x-ray -- I suppose I was in a state of shock.

Is it oral squamous cell carcinoma? OSCC is an aggressive tumor, the most common type of cancer that occurs in the mouth from what I've read on the web. Once diagnosed, cats will survive an average of two months. Or could it be Fibrosarcoma, Epulides, Osteosarcoma...?

At this point, the only thing I really know for sure is that it doesn't really matter what made this tumor grow on my beloved cat's jaw. Because my countless internet explorations give me no viable options for cure - regardless of what is fueling this tumor.

His jaw could be removed but I just can't put him through a surgery that is reportedly not well tolerated by cats and generally doesn't extend life significantly.

The scary thing about this tumor is how it seems to grow bigger every day. A week ago, I would have described it as a 1/4 inch hardened mass running along his left jaw bone. A few days later, it had grown towards the middle (under chin) and felt like a marble. Now, the part that is under his chin is more rounded, the size of a jaw breaker (unfortunate comparison, but true) and it extends all the way over to his right jaw bone.

The mass is not tender to the touch, and feels hard as a rock. I can't tell if it is also growing upwards into the bottom of his mouth, or if all growth is visible from the outside.

I write this blog because in the course of my internet searches, I came across a few accounts of other pets' struggles with similar tumors, and it really helped me to hear of other's journeys. For example, I now know to request pain killers if he appears to be suffering, and various methods to hand feed Leo if he stops eating on his own (which is the main threat from the tumor growth according to the vet.)

I feel an awesome responsibility to make the right decisions for Leo -- not only because he has entrusted me with his care, but because he is a truly special animal (I know, everyone feels that way about their pets, but he really is a unique cat.)

Leo's brother, Zeke, had to be euthanized -- exactly 3 months ago today. Zeke had kidney failure, with a swift decline and no suffering. Still, after the euthanasia decision I was riddled with guilt...that I should have let him live a few more days (even though the vet said the next phase would involved loss of all his bodily functions and uncontrolled vomiting.)

So, this is all like a one-two punch. [sigh]


Blogger Merujo said...

It's so tough - you wish they could just say, "Mom, I just feel crappy. Here's what I want you to do..."

Your little guy there looks so much like "Tigger", the cat I decided to bathe in an entire tube of Prell when I was a toddler. Nothing like a slimey streak of green and orange, growling, hissing, and leaving a slippery trail throughout the house!

Hope today is a good day,


2/01/2006 11:53 AM  
Blogger Den said...


Well Leo looks really good but the tumor growth sounds very scary. I hope he continues to feel well and eat. At least there are pain meds he can take if things get bad. The Leo blog was a great idea!



2/02/2006 10:20 AM  
Anonymous Emily- Lakeland Fl said...

Well, I am going throught exactly the same thing. My cat, Simon, who was once a big orange blob of happiness just seems to be so miserable now. I actually started noticing about 6 months ago that he was drooling. I didn't think much of it, I actually thought it was sort of cute. He's always been quirky, I thought it was just one of his "things." We started noticing about 3 months ago that his chin looked different, and he was drooling more often. Simon has never done very well at the vet, so we dreaded taking him. Then my husband found a vet that does house calls. She came and said it may be either an infection, or a tumor. She gave us antibiotics, hoping that it was an infection. Well, he started having diarreah, everywhere, but the lump didn't go down. We stopped giving him the meds. One day, shortly after, he was eating, and stared choking on his food. That was a scary reality for me. I stuck my finger down his throat while my husband did the himlick manouver on him. It would have been funny to anyone looking in our window, but it really was scary. I thought that was it for him. Yesterday I noticed he was bleeding in his mouth. I let him get water from the sink, and the blood was just running out. We are waiting to see what happens next. We need to call the vet, but that is too scary for me, I guess because I know what she's going to say....

2/02/2007 5:49 PM  
Anonymous McE said...

My cat also has a bone tumor in his jaw. It has advanced quickly, noticing a small bump 2 months ago which is now very large. He currently gets pain meds every other day. The drooling is excessive and he has lost a tooth (pushed out by the tumor) and, as the tumor grew up, his top fang punctured a hole in his bottom gum. He is still eating without any hesitation. The vet said his not eating anymore will tell me it's time. Plus his personality is 100% in tact so I watch him day after day laying there with his mouth apart, tongue hanging out, my poor picasso-faced little boy. The vet said the tumor may grow so big it could break his jaw and split his skin. I hope that it doesn't come to that before he stops eating. I don't want him to suffer like that. Of course, I wish none of this were happening at all. Anyway ... my heart is with you all who are also going through this with your feline friends. Best of luck to you all.

7/19/2009 9:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Today I lost my best friend of 15 yrs. She never did well at the vet but the lump in her rt jaw was growing and she was no longer able to eat her loved crunchies. I was feeding her soft food with some tuna water and a bit of pumpkin. Still getting smaller and drooling increasing. The rest of her body in perfect working order. Purring jumping on the bed. I had to know what the issue was and the internet always seemed to lure the tooth issue. The vet sedated her and 5 hrs later tells me she has a cancer tumor in her jaw bone. She said it's extremely painful for the cat and would only grow and get worse. I am riddled with guilt of not having one more day. I told her on the way over it was just a vet visit. They will help you. Not suppose to be the end. Letting go of a spirit I spent my 30's and 40's with is almost impossible but I know she would be in increible pain and so I let her go home.

8/12/2009 11:56 AM  
Blogger Cyn said...

@ McE and Anonymous:

Sorry to both of you for not acknowledging your comments earlier. So very sad to hear of more kitties' suffering.

McE, if you happen to see this, feel free to share what has happened in the past month. I hope you have been able to continue to have quality time with your guy, but I think one of the hardest things about these tumors is that they do not take a predictable path. Anyway, my heart goes out to you. It's not an easy place to be.

And Anonymous, your pain is so raw here. I hope it has gotten a little easier for you in the last week. You can't feel guilty - you chose to let your friend go before she had to suffer, and you made that choice with her best interests in mind. Leo was also with me through my 30s and 40s - before my husband and my children - it's like losing a piece of your life, a piece of your heart. I'm sorry you didn't have longer to say your goodbyes...but you did what you had to do. Hope you can feel some peace in knowing that you acted purely out of love for your cat.

8/20/2009 5:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just found out Lucy (my little diva of 18 years) has jaw bone cancer. I brought her home with enough meds to help with the pain through the weekend and part of next week and then we will say goodbye. I keep hoping I will find something on the internet that will give us hope, but so far have not found anything. Strangely, this blog has helped me realize I am doing the right thing for Lucy (although I can barely see the words I am typing through the tears). I am so sorry that Leo is sick. I hope you have many more quality days with him.

I was surprised to hear that someone else noticed the tumor seemed to grow by the day. I thought I was imagining it. My beautiful little girl now has a visible bulge on the right side of her face (she is still beautiful). She stopped drinking water today, but will still drink milk so we put that out periodically and feed her whenever she wants. She had a bowl of chocolate peanut butter topped with milk last night and I think she thought she was already in heaven. :)

Thank you for starting this blog. I am sure it will help many (as it did me). We get so attached to our little furry family. Maybe it is the unconditional love they give or the way they cuddle up to you as soon as you sit down for more than 30 seconds.

My heart goes out to you and your family.

5/16/2010 12:52 AM  
Blogger Cyn said...

I'm glad you found some comfort here -- helping others is the only bright side to the ordeal we went through with Leo. At this point, he's been gone more than 3 years...and although we had nearly 9 months with him after his diagnosis, I would be lying if I said it was easy. But it was a journey I felt I needed to take.

My heart is with you during this very sad time. I'm sure you will make Lucy's last days special (with chocolate peanut butter!) Be sure that you are doing the right thing for her.

5/16/2010 1:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My dear Dandy (born with his litter brother Doodle), were born on the 4th of July - nearly 15 years ago. My Dandy too has a jaw tumor which is growing daily and I know I only have a short time left with him. I too am very broken up about this but believe in quality of life for all living creatures, and will do what is right for him. I'm watching him carefully and as long as he seems OK, will keep him alive with soft food and many cuddles. When it's time - will take him to the Vet and give him his final goodbye. He is so beloved and will have his own stone next to his brother Doodle with pansies on his grave. Many hugs to all of us who have lost pets that we truly love

4/21/2011 1:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My cat Sebastian,has a tumor in his lower jaw. Like so many of the owners I have read about, I'm really going through a hard time. I ask myself if I could of found this sooner, would it made a difference. My cat is 15, so I feel he has lived a long life. He was diagnosed 3 days ago. I'm so surprised on how fast its already spread. I'm going to hang on to him for as long as I can. My heart is breaking. Thank you, for sharing your stories with me it does help.....

5/29/2011 11:41 PM  
Blogger Cyn said...

To Dandy's owner: I'm sorry it's taken me so long to respond, and of course even more sorry to read about Dandy's tumor. I hope the time since you wrote hasn't been too terrible for you. My thoughts go out to you.

To Sebastian's owner: Please don't beat yourself up about not finding the tumor earlier. When I looked back on photos taken of Leo months before his diagnosis, it seemed his jawline had been bigger for quite a while. And he really liked to have his chin scratched - every day (so you'd think I'd have noticed something was wrong. But I didn't.)

It's occured to me that all an earlier diagnosis would have done was give me more time to worry and mourn, and would have robbed me of the last carefree/normal months of our relationship...and the outcome would have been exactly the same. Sometimes ignorance IS bliss. The sad truth is: it's likely nothing you could have done would have stopped the tumor Sebastian is dealing with now, and it's just as likely that in his case it just appeared suddenly out of nowhere. Not that knowing that can stop your heart from least there is no need to blame yourself, for anything.

Please know how much I appreciate both your comments. It's the only good thing that's come out of Leo's story -- to know that it can help. Best wishes to you in this tough time.

6/01/2011 9:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thank you for your feedback on sebastian. It's going on his second week now, the tumor is bigger now. My vet saids I'll know when to get the need for when he's in pain . He's eating and drinking,and he purr a lot,so I think he's fine for now. I hope I don't wait too long. Did anyone's cat drool? I just try to make him comfortable. My other two cats groom him a lot. I fear it will be hard on them. I had silly fears that they might catch something from him during the first few days. now I've calm down and try to live with it each day I have.
This may be a question no one can answer, but what's the average time span? (Months,?)and does it get so bad he can breath.
That's my biggest fear.... when I at my vet ,that sat,and found out it wad a tumor I didn't ask questions, I just wasn't in the right frame of mind.
I just want to say thank-you . This site is helping me get thru this..

6/05/2011 10:10 PM  
Blogger Humble little girl said...

I came across your blog entry while further researching for my cat's (Woody AKA Mr. Poo Bear)Bone Cancer. There is nothing I can do for him. He's not eating or drinking and is on a IV 3times a day. I have to put him to sleep on Friday. I'm so crushed! :,(

6/29/2011 6:16 PM  
Anonymous TxMargaret said...

My little tortoiseshell cat Chelsea turned 18 last month, and about a month ago, I noticed she had a large lump on her lower right jaw. I took her to the vet hoping for just a tooth absess. But an X-ray revealed a tumor connected to her jawbone. The vet said that it would probably be a very agressive tumor, and that she would probably later have trouble eating and begin drooling. A week or two ago, she did have trouble eating her crunchy nuggets, so I switched her to baby food, which she likes a lot. Two nights ago, though, she started bleeding and oozing from her jawline on the outside of the mouth. Maybe the tumor has broken through and tore her skin? I have been cleaning it with a warm wet cloth, which she seems to like. She doesn't seem to be in any painful discomfort and is still eating and drinking, so I don't want to put her down just yet. I haven't taken her to the vet yet for the bleeding, but I may do so in a day or two because I am worried about infection. They may just tell me that it is her time to go. Has anyone experienced the bleeding?

I am so glad I found this blog. Thank you Cyn and Leo.

7/07/2011 1:04 PM  
Blogger Cyn said...

To Humble little girl: Oh, I'm so very sorry to hear about your loss. It is always heartrending to hear about another loved pet being lost to these terrible cancers. Sounds like you did everything you could with IV to give him quality of life as long as you could. I can only hope Woody's passing was peaceful and you found some comfort in that. My condolences.

7/07/2011 5:22 PM  
Blogger Cyn said...

To TxMargaret:

Leo had quite a bit of bleeding in the later phases of his tumor, and like Chelsea the bleeding didn't appear to be causing any pain. (He never seemed to even notice it.)

If you can deal with skipping to the later posts in this blog, there are some graphic photos of his bleeding that you can compare to what Chelsea is experiencing. I think maybe it was in July or August of the blog when the bleeding started...but can't really remember exactly, since I have intentionally not looked at any of the posts since Leo passed. I've tried to remember him healthy and not when he was sick.

He did get by for several months just eating baby food. But he was also on antibiotics the whole time, as well as pain meds by the end.

Hope you can find something helpful here. So sorry to hear about your Chelsea. Take care.

7/07/2011 5:54 PM  
Blogger Cyn said...

To Sebastian's owner:

Thanks for your update last month. I'm sorry I'm just now seeing it, and concerned that in the intervening weeks his condition may have worsened.

I think most all the cats with these tumors drool. Not exactly sure why, though.

As far as time frame, Leo was diagnosed in the end of January and passed in the beginning of October. But I think his tumor was unusually slow-growing.

Of course, I'm not a vet...but I think the problem with most cats that have these jaw tumors is that eventually they just cannot eat. (Although I think Leo might have had organ failure brought on by many months of medication, because his symptoms before euthanasia seemed like his brother's kidney failure symptoms.) I haven't heard of any cats having breathing problems, but I suppose it's possible if the tumor grows close to the throat.

You have the right idea to take it a day at a time...really that is all you can do. Nothing is gained by obsessing about what lies ahead (I can give that advice because I DID obsess, especially in the beginning. I spent way too much time mourning when Leo was still in relatively good shape.)

7/07/2011 6:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

sebastian gotten worse ,now his mouth is bleeding. it started two days ago. I don't see any loose teeth. Im not sure if I should, hang on or let him go. He doesn't seem in pain. He's eating and drinking ,then his mouth bleeds for up too five min. I'm feel like I'm holding on for me. This weekend is going to be a long one, I really feel like were on the short end of time. Hopefully hell let me know what to do.
I would like to thank everyone who gone through this difficult ordeal, and for anyone who just started hang on for each day. This has helped just to write stuff down,cry,and get advice.
Thank you..

7/21/2011 9:08 PM  
Blogger Cyn said...

Sorry to hear about Sebastian's bleeding. I really believe that if he were in any significant pain that he would not be eating. So, at least maybe you don't have to worry too much about that aspect at least.

7/22/2011 9:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, for me and sabastion the story has ended. I took him to the vets yesteday. The bleeding had slower down but hadn't stoped. I lovingly put him to sleep.the tumor had broken his jaw and skin,and I couldn't tell becauses he really wouldn't let me too close, when I cleaned his mouth. I know he's in a better place .
Thank you to everyone who has followed his story,and leos.

7/23/2011 9:20 AM  
Anonymous TxMargaret said...

Dear Anonymous,

I am so sorry for your loss of Sebastian. I still have Chelsea, although her tumor is growing very fast. She still has some bleeding and is starting to drool. But she still loves to eat, so I am keep her clean and comfortable knowing she is not long for this world.

Again, I am sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing your story.

7/23/2011 9:42 PM  
Blogger Cyn said...

So very sorry to hear about Sebastian. It's tough to find words that will mean anything in light of your loss. I hope you can find some comfort in remembering happier times...and knowing that you did all you could to make his last days special.

7/24/2011 7:45 PM  
Blogger Cyn said...

Hi TxMargaret,

Thanks for the update and your kind words for Sebastian's owner. Glad to hear that Chelsea is hanging in and still eating well.

You've reminded me that I should also thank everyone for sharing their experiences. Every single story has touched my heart.

I remember how hard it is to know what to do and when, to doubt your decisions, to feel so alone with the weight of it all. It's not the way any of us would have envisioned losing our feline friends. It is a tougher reality than words on a page can ever convey.

All we can do is to love our cats, for as long as we can...whether that means hanging in till the bitter end or letting go before it gets too bitter.

Thanks again for sharing, and take care.

7/24/2011 8:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Our sweet kitty, Isis - 8 yrs. has been suffering from a swelling mass directly beneath the center of her chin. It steadily grew without causing her apparent pain or suffering to the size of a walnut. Throughout this we had taken her in for evaluation by different veterinarians. But the decision was made to put her to sleep. We took her to our local vet. He diagnosed her condition as an "Atopic Dermatidus" and a "Localized Carotinization of the hair folical." He enthusiastically offered to perform a simple "investigative" surgery without gaurantee of success but a high chance of it. We decided to have the surgery done. He performed nothing short of a miracle! He removed a smooth oval shaped mass - hollow in the middle with a thick "shell like" wall. (He documented the surgery with photographs which he has not shown me) Our sweet Isis recovered within a week. The skin healed well and the fur grew back. However, Within 4 months time, the mass began to grow again - much quicker this time. We are weighing all the pros and cons. We are thinking of putting our Isis to rest.

8/26/2012 11:41 AM  
Blogger Cyn said...

To Isis' owner: I'm so very sorry I didn't respond earlier to your post, but I really appreciate your sharing your story. I think your experience with Isis' diagnosis and surgery could really be helpful to someone else dealing with the same thing (as it seems to be a more uncommon diagnosis.) I applaud your local vet for at least giving her (and you) those pain-free months before the mass returned - although it must have been extremely difficult when the mass did return. If you ever feel like posting a follow-up, it would be appreciated...and maybe could help someone else. Thanks so much.

3/12/2013 12:21 AM  

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