I honestly thought that if I were to ever discuss cancer on my blog, it would be because I'd lost the genetic lottery and developed my own cancer. I did not think my cat would get cancer.
Well, I used to crack jokes that because my cat was so healthy and rarely required the vet, she'd probably have a serious condition later in life. Here I am to eat my words. Don't make jokes about cat cancer. It will hear you and will come to visit.
On July 26, I found a weird bump on Belly's right hip. I was being a dork and pretending my hands were the walls of a cat petting machine, kind of like a car wash. So I was running both of my hands down her sides at the same time and noticed that one hip bone seemed to stick out more than the other. I poked and prodded the area and then immediately called the vet. They got us in for an emergency appointment the following day.
On Saturday, Aaron and I wrangled the cats and took them to VCA West Linn. The vet did a general check up for Tana and then spent quite some time discussing Belly's weight loss and checking on Belly's bump. We decided to take a sample of the bump and send it to cytology, and then go from there based on the results. The vet hit a cyst the first needle poke, so she had to do two pokes in order to get the sample. We were sent home with an updated food for the cats and to wait for a phone call with the cytology results.
Now, Belly had been acting 100% normally before the vet visit. Even when I poked and prodded her bump, she seemed to just take the pokes as pets and seemed unperturbed. After the vet visit, it was like she noticed the bump for the first time. She began obsessively cleaning the area, which took the fur off the surface of the bump and started a rough abrasion on the skin. I picked up a cone to keep her from hurting herself.
By this point, we've made it to Wednesday. I'm exhausted. I've been spending the night sleeping on the living room floor with my hand on Belly's side, because for two nights she insisted on sleeping under the couch and I couldn't bear to step away from her. I switch my work schedule from mornings to nights, and wait for Aaron to come home before I leave. Belly stays supervised nearly 24/7, I manage to get to work, and when I'm home and stressed and unable to focus on the television or a book, I work on tasks for GISH.
Aaron calls the vet on Thursday. We are tired of waiting and just want answers. The vet tells us it is a spindle cell or soft tissue sarcoma, a kind of cancer that tends to be quick to grow locally and slow to metastise. She emails me a referral to a surgical center that has an oncologist on site so I won't have to hunt down multiple professionals, coordinate information sharing, or have to take Belly to multiple new places. I didn't even have to ask, it was just incredibly considerate.
I mean, shit. I'm going to take like two minutes here and just tell you that the vets from VCA have been a godsend and I refuse to go anywhere else. When I was younger, I had several rats as pets. I had a trio of lady rats - a mama and two of her babies - and one of them developed a tumor. Rats are considered an exotic pet, so I needed a vet who treated exotics. Enter the VCA hospital in Orchards. These people were so nice and treated our rat well. When we had a second rat develop a tumor and we had to have her put to sleep, they sent us a signed condolences card and made a donation in her name. When I moved back to Oregon, I forgot to set up a transfer of my cats information. One night, Belly got extremely sick and threw up 8 times in the span of an hour and a half. I panicked and called the VCA West Linn location and let them know I'd never been to their office before, was a prior client at Orchards, and needed an emergency consult. They had me come in right away, got all her information moved over, gave me a free appointment because I was new to that location, and worked with my incredibly tight budget to treat Belly. (I had $44 until payday, and they gave her a very cheap anti-nausea shot that wound up taking care of the issue entirely.) They called me the next day to see how Belly and I were doing. I just... I feel heard and considered when I'm speaking to anyone at VCA, and they are so careful with my cat. I had a previous experience with a vet that made me scared to take Belly anywhere, so it's been wonderful to have such a long and happy relationship with a vet clinic I trust. End mush.
Back to the cat cancer. On Friday the 2nd, I called the surgery center and scheduled a consult. The earliest they had available was August 20. (My vet said this was fine, that we don't need to rush.) At this consult, we will be determining a number of things: whether Belly is a candidate for surgery with her weight loss; whether the tumor is operable; whether that operation is an excision of the tumor and surrounding tissue or is a limb amputation. Only after those things are determined will we know how much this would cost.
This is where I get to shout out my wonderful, amazing, beautiful and kind family and friends. As soon as we heard from the vet, my mom set up a fundraiser to help us collect enough funds to make this surgery a possibility for us. My mom has been an Avon representative since 1996. She is in the President's Club level of sales for the 5th year in a row and is working on making it to the Honor Society level for the 4th year in a row. She has an awesome blog, which you can follow here: https://hopelesslyheather.com/
My mama has pledged to donate 100% of her commissions to help cover the impending costs of Belly's cancer treatment. You can support Belly's Cancer Treatment Fund by shopping for Avon through this link: https://avon.com/fundraiser/bellatrix
Our friends Emily and Morgan brought their son Dash to visit, and gave us a lovely care package to help us have comfort and distraction. I would have included the snacks they gave us in the photo, but we have eaten almost all of them. I would tell you to get you some friends like them, but you can't have them. They're mine. And I guess Aaron's and technically Belly's. But mostly mine. :)
We have also received a ton of wonderful messages from loved ones, people who love us and love our kitty girl. Friends have come by to visit, offered their support, offered condolences. In the face of something overwhelming and difficult, we are getting flooded with love instead. So thank you, everyone.
I hope this update gives you more answers. I've been inconsistent about sharing the specifics of our news. It's hard to write about. As my last post indicates, I am very depressed. The depression hasn't been entirely because of Belly's cancer; I have been fighting this latest depressive episode since Christmas. The news that Belly has cancer didn't help, though, and I very much was pushed over the edge into a very dark place. I am glad I can tell you that I've been remembering to eat a meal each day for the last four days, and none of those meals have been cheesecake. I was also able to sleep the last two nights, in bed, for realsies. And Belly's abrasion has scabbed over, which reduces her urger to lick the area, and she's been able to go several hours without the cone on. Tana has been mostly nice to Belly, and is still cute.
Thanks again for the support. If you know someone who likes Avon, please send along our fundraiser link. Every bit helps.