A couple years ago my old boy “Pete” (Ch Primadowdys Repete Performance of FABULS ) – my first show cat – had a couple of odd dark brown blotches appear on the iris of his left eye…. I took him to the vets and the vet said that he couldn’t see anything within the eye that looked abnormal and that the eye was reacting normally ….so Pete and I went home thinking all was well and this was just an anomaly.
As the months turned into a year or more, the brown blotches had now caused the iris of his eye to be completely black. The cornea was still clear and the lens was reacting to light and dark. I used to joke that I had an “odd-eyed” red cat – only one eye was black and one eye was copper. Pete was acting his normal silly, dufus self and was in no pain and so, though I was curious about it, I still did not worry.
One day about 3 months ago I noticed that the cornea of his left eye was no longer clear but had turned dark brown – like the color of a root-beer bottle. When had this happened???!!!! But what really began to alarm me was that the affected eye now seemed to appear larger around and more prominent than the other one. For a week or more I told myself that it was just an optical illusion because the one eye was so black. However, I decided that I really needed to get some medical answers as to why his eye was doing this…. So even though he showed no signs of pain or any discomfort what-so-ever I took him to a renowned animal eye specialist.
The vet immediately knew what it was. CANCER! The big “C”….. My heart was a leaden lump that somehow had quickly jumped from my chest to my throat and wound up rattling around somewhere in the pit of my guts. He’d seen this condition many times previously the vet told me, and most of the time there was treatment for it. But Pete had developed a large tumor within the eyeball itself and it had to come out – now! The entire eyeball had to be removed.
OK – I said, I can live with a one eyed cat but I don’t want to be without my Pete!!
I took Pete back to my regular vet whom I know and trust implicitly and had him confer with the eye specialist. Pete had his eye successfully taken out and he has responded well to the operation. He is back to his silly old self, sleeping in the crook of my arm at night, and thundering willy-nilly through the house for no apparent reason. When the hair grows back it should just look like he is permanently winking at me.
Fortunately the biopsy on the eye showed that the cancer appears to have been contained within the eyeball. It had not metastasized to the sclera of the eye or the vessels leaving the eyeball. Both of the vets were pleased with what the biopsy report told us. Pete’s survival chances are about as good as can be hoped for and he is adjusting well to only having one eye – though it is a bit disconcerting for me when at night I see only one eye glowing back at me.
Two weeks after Pete had his eye out I was sitting with my favorite girl, Gala (GC FABULS Galatia ), on my lap watching TV. Gala is Pete’s daughter.
From the moment I first saw her I fell head over heels in love with this little girl - she grabbed my heartstrings and she hasn’t let go yet. As I was combing her that evening I felt a lump in one of her breasts! Oh, my God!!! What the $#%!! was this lump?
The next day, a Friday, I took her to the vet where they aspirated the lump (actually two of the breasts on her right side had lumps) and it was an awful looking coffee colored, gritty substance. We did a smear and…… CANCER !!!
Again, in less than two months, cancer had manifested itself in one of my cats. My darling girl had breast cancer and I was devastated beyond what any words could convey …. We immediately scheduled her for surgery on the following Friday.
Gala and I went home to wait out the week before the operation. I’d of course read and heard for years about mammary cancer in Siamese cats – but Gala is a Persian! That evening I did something I’ve never, ever done alone before. I sat out on my patio, gazing at my half-finished back yard, and for hours cried my eyes out as I consumed a whole bottle of wine by myself. And I prayed like never before - imploring God to guide the vet’s hand during the surgery and that the biopsy would not indicate she was terminal. The thought of losing Gala to the same insidious disease I’d almost lost Pete to a few short weeks earlier, and the disease to which I had lost my mother to years ago, was overwhelming. NO, the wine didn’t help ease any of my pain….. I knew it wouldn’t - but I drank it anyway.
Gala came through the surgery as well as could be expected. She has hundreds of stitches from her armpit to her groin but she is healing well. They took all of the mammary glands out on one side and one out on the opposite side. The prognosis is “guarded to fair” as the cancer (fortunately) was a Level I grade (the lowest grade). The lumps were still fluid filled and had not adhered to her skin or any of her internal organs and they had ‘clean’ edges indicating they’d not invaded the surrounding tissues. The best news was that the largest lump was only 12+ sq/cm. The real danger is when the lumps are 28 sq/cm or larger.
I urge you all to please regularly check your cats no matter what the breed is (and check yourself, yes men – you too!) If you see or feel anything that is even remotely out of the ordinary have it checked out as soon as possible. Don’t wait!!! It may be the one solitary act that may mean the difference and save a life.
I don’t know if Gala will develop more cancer or not. The chances are that she will, but as soon as she heals from this bout I will have her remaining mammary glands taken out as a precaution. The next 6-8 months will be a time of waiting and watching. I think my ‘one-eyed Pete’ will be OK since his cancer was more localized than Gala’s was. The two cancers had no relation to each other – it was just a fluke that the cats were related.
I am now very conscious of a subliminal fear that lurks in the back of my mind. But I will not allow the fear of the cancer returning to overshadow the unbridled joy I have had from sharing my life with these beautiful animals. I’ve been blessed by their companionship and I will continue to cherish them and give thanks for each day the Lord gives me to be with them.