Celica Blue and Lymphoma: The Journey Begins
June 25, 2016 1 Comment
This is the hardest post I’ve had to write. Celica Blue, the love of my life, has been diagnosed with lymphoma.
It started Monday, June 20, when she threw up her breakfast. She was rather lethargic during the day, then she experienced pain when her tummy was palpated, and refused dinner.
Although my first instinct is to wait a day, my husband insisted that we get her looked at right away. We took her to the nearby emergency hospital (Central Veterinary Hospital) that night. Radiographs reveal a mass in her abdomen.
They kept her overnight to do a needle aspirate and ultrasound, give her fluids, and do blood work. In the morning my longtime regular veterinarian, who is semi-retired, called to express his concern. He said he suspected lymphosarcoma – lymphoma.
The needle aspirate confirmed his suspicions. Plus there was some irregularity in one of her kidneys that may or may not be related to the lymphoma. I received a copy for my records and subsequently shared it.
Dr. Harley, the veterinarian at Central, discussed the immediate options. She said that surgery is not recommended at the outset because the time needed for healing delays chemotherapy, which is the primary tool for fighting the disease, even for holistic or complementary protocols.
When we picked her up Tuesday, Celica Blue was happy to see us and ate a hearty dinner.
As a journalist, I started researching like crazy and reached out to a couple of well-experienced friends. Robin Olson and Laurie Goldstein were full of helpful information. I shared the path report with them.
Robin recommended the Veterinary Cancer Center in Norwalk and Dr. Gerald Post. Laurie offered a lot of information about chemo protocols and supplements. I spent a lot of time talking and messaging with both of them, along with several other people going through similar things.
Sharing the news with her breeder, Liliya, was excruciating. She’s so involved with her cats and we are very close. I sent her the pathology report, which she immediately shared with her veterinarian. He agreed with the information and our work thus far.
On Thursday, we met with a veterinary oncologist, Dr. Gina Olmsted, who discussed a multitude of options. She came from VCC, so we felt that she was knowledgeable.
She spent close to two hours with us discussing the options, while Celica Blue, oblivious to the firestorm around her, wandered around the small room. She discussed the disease in detail, presented options for additional tests to confirm it (pass – the nasty news was evident), a myriad of protocols, including an oral protocol that was aggressive and relatively inexpensive, but because it worked quickly, could rupture the lining of the abdomen and damage the organs.
From my conversations with Laurie, I had an idea of how we wanted to proceed. Dr. Olmsted described the chemo protocol as “slow and steady.” She added that chemo is intended to knock down the disease, not necessarily cure it, and cats tolerate it quite well and it maintains their quality of life. She reiterated that surgery delays the start of chemo due to the time needed for healing.
Since lymphoma is aggressive and a systemic disease, but responds readily to chemotherapy, we elected to begin the chemo there and then, so Celica had her first dose that afternoon, Vincristine and B-12, which will be followed by Cyclophosphamide and Doxorubicin, and Prednisolone (in pill form at home) ongoing over a period of several weeks… then repeat.
Celica Blue is very young (she will be 2 in August), which makes the whole thing so mind-blowing, but she’s very healthy otherwise, so we’re hoping for a positive outcome. I think I blanked out when Dr. Olmsted discussed the prognosis. I just want to get us through the first round of chemo.
What makes us fortunate is the quick diagnosis. Conversations and comments mention the difficulty in diagnosing lymphoma and getting proper treatment. I feel like we’ve gone from zero to warp speed.
Of course, they thought she was gorgeous and she was a very good girl. So far, so good. She chowed down supper when we got home and has been acting herself. She was a little quiet on Friday, but ate well. On Saturday, she was more active. I have come to realize that she is a challenge to pill: On Saturday morning, I found the pred pill on the counter when I thought she had swallowed it. I was able to give it to her then and we managed the one at suppertime quite well.
She also has Cerenia for nausea. Fortunately, the only time she vomited was Monday morning, which set off the whole awful process.
After a couple of days of shock and licking our wounds I think we’ve come to accept this as a new normal. Celica Blue’s next appointment is next week, Thursday.
That’s about as much as I can process right now. I have a fat folder of info. I need to research appropriate supplements to support her. Even holistic protocols caution the use of certain supplements. One way we’re ahead of the curve is that she’s been on a raw/species appropriate her whole life; that can be tweaked to accommodate her treatment, i.e. krill oil rather than fish oil. Cancer feeds on carbs and so many people feed kibble, which does no good.
The genetics correlation was brought up in discussions, given her age. Lymphoma more often occurs in middle aged or older cats. There’s nothing that’s evident among Celica’s breeder’s lines. In a discussion with a Russian Blue breeder friend, Maartje Schoenmaker, she said she’s heard of various instances of cancer among breeders and describes it as “inbreeding depression, something at work that doesn’t show up in a cat’s pedigree… and builds up in every breed with a closed genepool.” She added that this in theory could have contributed, but doesn’t mean she is inbred. (Indeed, she has a very diverse pedigree.)
Breeders and owners of purebreds are often more likely to pursue a diagnosis, so there’s a greater awareness. And then there’s nutrition and the contaminants overall in the environment. So many factors at play.
That fat folder also contains a lot of receipts and estimates for the various options. On Monday night, they presented high and low options for costs and sucked out around $2,000 from our debit card. When we picked her up Tuesday, we shelled out another $200 or so. And Thursday with the consultation, additional blood work, and chemo, it was an additional $500-plus. Looking further, it’s $3,500 for the first round od chemo.
Cat Goddess Laurie Goldstein, who has seen more than her share of medical challenges with her cats, has graciously set up a fundraiser on YouCaring.com.
I never thought I would be on the receiving end of such a fundraiser (and I’ve donated when I could), so I am humbled at the response.
Cats live in the moment and we will make every one of Celica Blue’s moments extra special. This is just the beginning of our journey.