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, May 31, 2006

Status Report

Saturday -- Leo's mouth continues to bleed throughout the day. He found a new spot to hang out -- curled on a bedroom low bureau in front of window all afternoon -- lots of spots of blood, including a clot, on the towel he was lying on.

Sunday -- no significant bleeding. Seemed to be feeling better. Ate all his food overnight Sunday into Monday.

Monday -- today marks 18 weeks post-diagnosis -- Leo meowed, meowed, meowed from 5:30 AM to wake me up. No noticeable bleeding all day long.

In the evening, I could not get him to swallow Baytril pill (he spit it out repeatedly and was fighting me. I thought I had finally gotten it down his throat as he sat still on my lap looking me in the eye for a full minute...I let him go and he shook his head, propelling the starting-to-dissolve pill out of his mouth.) So I gave up on the Baytril.

Tuesday -- Did not wake me up in the morning, but he was there when I opened the door. Vet office called and said to put him back on Clindamycin, which we started this evening. No bleeding today.

Late morning I couldn't find him in any of his regular spots. Called him and he came out from hiding under dining room chair. He didn't seem to be feeling bad, but he went back under the chair and stayed there all midday into evening.

At night, I mixed his leftover morning food with cat milk...he ate most of that mixture overnight (Tuesday into Wednesday) but only ate about half his regular evening food.

Wednesday Morning 9 AM -- Did not wake me up this morning, but was waiting at bedroom door. Seemed to be acting normal when I opened the door, but he had bright red bloody drool coming out left side of his mouth. Ate a little food - not much - drank a lot of water.

He came over to me when he heard the kids go out the door for the bus (his usual routine.) As usual, he wanted to be held up and watch the kids outside. He purred as usual.

After the bus left, we had a couple more short bouts of petting, scratching and purring (as I try to gently pick all the wet goo and dried clumps of goo out of his fur.)

Afterwards, he jumped out of my arms, took a nibble of food and drank more water. Then he disappeared to under the slipcover of a dining room chair -- which is where he is sleeping now, at 9:12 AM.

It's unusual for him to be sleeping in the dark as he did yesterday and is doing now. Normally he would be lying out in a sunbeam somewhere.

So, this may be a signal that we are starting down the final slope -- may be a sign that Leo has begun to give up the fight. I will follow his lead with a hope that the end will be a quiet fade and not a wicked battle.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Bloody Friday

Half of this blog's purpose is to keep interested parties up-to-date on Leo's condition, and the other half is just to help me remember what is happening when.

And that's mostly what this post is about.

Leo seemed his usual hungry self this morning -- but before he could eat I had to give him half of a rather large (about the size of a human aspirin) Baytril pill. He took it pretty well, and went over to eat his food -- but ate just a couple bites and walked away.

His mouth was bleeding again -- bright red blood, not mixed with drool or saliva.

I couldn't tell where exactly the blood was coming from in his mouth (other than on the side where the tumor grew on his jaw.) Blood seemed to be pooled around his lower front "fang"...but it may have just drifted there.

Oh, and a few minutes later I heard retching and found he had barfed in several places on the living room rug -- there may have been a tiny little hairball in the midst of what appeared to be every bit of food he had just eaten, and probably most of the Baytril.

A short time afterwards, he seemed to be feeling pretty okay -- at least he was lying about as usual, wanting to be petted.

But throughout the morning he would approach his food dish, maybe put his nose to it, but then walk away without eating.

I actually left the house today (as opposed to my usual hermit-like existence)...and when I returned several hours later, I found Leo with pretty much his entire chin covered in blood. He looked like he was feeling rather rotten too.

However, when I whipped out my Secret Weapon (AKA Chicken of the Sea) he was magically revitalized. I took the mushiest parts from the can and gave it to him and he ate probably a quarter of the can.

He seemed to perk up too with some food in his system, and the tuna didn't trigger any further bleeding.

Got to the vet office 5 minutes before closing (just me, no kitty -- too late to talk to vet, but who knew they closed at 4 PM?) and picked up 10 cans of a/d food (high calorie, very soft food.)

When I fed the a/d to Leo tonight, he tore into it. The main ingredient (after water) is liver, and evidently, it's quite the foie gras. He's able to eat it just by licking because it's so runny, and it didn't make his mouth bleed.

He was cleaning (or try to clean) his face throughout the day, and it doesn't seem to hurt him at all as he rubs his paw over both sides of his face. So whatever was causing the bleeding isn't making for any extraordinary amount of pain.

Unfortunately, even though there's no bleeding right now, he's losing the battle with grooming -- doesn't seem to be able to remove the mucus/food from his chin. It's rather disgusting. Okay, it's really, really, disgusting.

But I love the beauty inside this beast and Leo enjoyed a lot of attention and purred his approval tonight, as caffeine (and watching A History of Violence on DVD) has kept me from falling asleep at a decent hour.

The vet is supposed to call me back on Tuesday (being a holiday weekend and all) regarding the antibiotic situation and the horrible drool smell.

Oh, one more note -- twice today I saw Leo drinking water from his dish. Usually, well, I guess he drinks from it - that's why I put it out for him - but normally I never actually see him drink. And my husband witnessed his drinking another time today.

It could just be that his mouth is feeling particularly dried out because the tumor has grown so large that he can't quite close it all the way. But this concerns me because Leo's brother Zeke started to drink large amounts of water as his kidneys failed.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Four Month Mark

Yesterday marked four months since Leo's jaw tumor was found on an x-ray.

I wish I had better news for this milestone. The tumor has grown noticeably in the past week or so. He doesn't seem to be able to close his mouth completely. As a result, the thick awful-swelling mucus-looking drool is leaking out the front of his mouth nearly continuously and his chin is pretty much always wet from it.

Up until last night, he was still eating well. But he had a bit of blood coming out last night after I gave him his antibiotic-compounded treat, and then he really didn't eat much of anything of his evening meal. This morning, there was another drip of blood out of his mouth -- enough that it actually left tiny spots of blood on the carpet...and thus far today he's eaten maybe half of his morning meal, and a bit of last night's that I left out for him.

But, Leo continues to take everything in stride, as you can see from his come-hither-and-pet-me pose this afternoon. If he is having any significant discomfort, he is hiding it well. He continues to groom (even though he ends up spreading the thick and smelling goo on his fur and it ends up in clumps) and he wants to be held and scratched and purrs in appreciation.

He's almost at the end of this course of Clindamycin antibiotic, and I'm thinking of trying Baytril again to see if a different antibiotic would at least gets rid of the god-awful smell of his mucus drool. (It really is the worst odor ever.)

The Baytril disrupted his appetite before, but if he's already not eating that much (and I'm sensing his lack of eating has to do with the bleeding, not nausea, since he meowed outside my door for an hour this morning starting at 5:30 AM to try and get me to feed him) I guess it can't hurt his food intake that much.

Oh, at least the fur is growing back on the bald spot on his chin. No more self-mutilating scratching going on...

Friday, May 19, 2006

Life is Good...

...for a furry cat in a sunny spot on the bed.

Monday, May 15, 2006

16 Weeks Post-Diagnosis

I just realize I haven't kept the medication portion of this continuing saga up to date.

Shortly after my "mystery solved" post, I called the vet office and told them about the scratching. They suggested I half Leo's prednisolone dosage and give it to him twice a day, as opposed to once.

It may have been a total co-incidence, but it worked -- Leo did stop scratching his chin. But the fur hasn't grown back yet, as evidenced by the bald patch you can see on his jaw tumor in the photo below.

No cat was harmed in the taking of this photo! He actually loves it when I pet him like this, pulling his ears back with my hand -- always has. My little knucklehead...

The theory on halving the pill was that it would keep the level of prednisone more even in his bloodstream.

However, a new development -- his drool (which usually hung down in strings from the side of his mouth) turned into a constant wet spot in front of his mouth. Also, it looked very much like mucus -- usually the dripping drool was clear. And sometime in the middle of last week, it started smelling really putrid.

His behavior remained pretty okay -- although maybe he seemed a bit more tired than he has been. He was eating great though.

I continued him on antibiotics (clindamycin) even though his course was set to end on Thursday -- because his bad breath seemed to indicate some sort of infection.

Saturday evening, he was lying on my chest with one paw kneading each of my shoulders...his face was a couple inches from mine and the drool smell was so freakin' nasty. And if you try to wipe the mucus drool off he freaks - I tried tissues, a slightly damp washcloth and a dry washcloth -- even the gentlest brush on his face totally pissed him off.

All to say that yesterday I decided to go back to the one whole pill a day prednisone routine, since it was the change in medication schedule that preceded the change in drool.

This morning he was feeling great (if great can be defined by waking your human at 5:30 AM with incessant meowing at her bedroom door for a half-hour and when that failed trying to head-butt your way into the room.)

He didn't have any mucus drool coming out of the front of his mouth (although I could catch a whiff that the inside of his mouth still isn't smelling sweet.) And he was super affectionate and wanting mucho attention, as evidenced by the rollover below.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Happy Birthday Leo!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Mystery solved, well, sort of

Well, I figured out what was causing the rawness on Leo's chin -- and it is more obvious than ominous.

He is doing it himself. Last night, after seeing bright red spots on his chin again, I asked my husband if he had seen Leo scratching his chin in the past few days. "No," says husband. "Neither have I," say I.

And, if only to prove us wrong, Leo proceeded to sit down in front of us and attack his chin with his back paw. Meowing at the same time, although it sounded more like "Ay,yi,yi,yi,yi,yi" than a proper meow.

No wonder the abrasions seemed somewhat linear -- they are claw marks!

I picked him up and he had scratched off all the scabbed spots and the entire nickel-sized area was raw again.

But why would the tumor start bothering/itching him now after three months? He's never seemed to even notice it was there before. If anything,his chin is looking better in the past couple days than it has in a long while, because there is no infection puffiness.

So now I just have to figure out what the scratching means, and how I can stop it.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Chin Lesion Photos

Semi-graphic photos to follow, so consider yourself warned.

The skinned area that first appearated on Leo's chin a few days ago now doesn't appear to be from scratching.

This morning, I found a bit of debris on his neck fur -- upon closer inspection it appeared to be a very thin layer of skin with hair attached, which may have fallen off from his chin, leaving this raw area.

Whatever is going on, it doesn't seem to be bothering him one bit.

He ate three cans of food yesterday (usually only has two) and also devoured his food like a demon this morning. Seems to have gained a good amount of weight -- he's at or close to his pre-tumor weight. And he's been acting like his old self too.

Sooo...I don't know. Does this mean his tumor is really Squamous Cell Carcinoma (not an osteosarcoma as the vet seemed to think?)

Or does he not have cancer at all and instead has "eosinophilic granuloma complex" which is basically an allergic reaction that can cause oral growths and also hairless scabby skin lesions (although these are two different forms of the complex and I don't think usually appear together.) The vet never mentioned this possibility, I just found it through my web searches.

I'm just going to take a wait-and-see for a couple days. He's not in any pain -- in fact he's happy to have me rub the tumor area and all around the raw spot.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

14 weeks post-diagnosis & 4 days post-crisis

Hard to believe that 4 days ago I was thinking the end was near...

Leo is feeling GREAT -- he's been super-affectionate, jumping on my lap, lying on my stomach, purring madly. Basically acting like his former normal self.

The bloody spot on his chin seems to be scabbing up -- although last night I thought it looked brighter red again.

But his jaw is not swollen anymore (just the hard tumor and even that looks smaller, if that is possible.) He still has constant gooey pus-like drool (nice mental picture) although that is joined by clear thinner drool when he's being petted.

Saturday evening -- his left lower jaw (right side in photo) is very puffy, extending out past his upper jaw

Monday morning - less puffy

Tuesday morning - no lower jaw puff