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Maceo Cat's fibrosarcoma -- an overview of radiation & upcoming surgery
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23 July 2017 - 12:45 pm
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Hi everyone,

First of all, thanks for making this amazing community possible. It has helped me lots already, and countless other people and animals I'm sure.

I'm starting this thread to detail my cat Maceo's fibrosarcoma, in case some of this info can be helpful to others, and in case anyone has any tips to add!

We first noticed the lump on his shoulder on the night of Friday June 23, 2017. A friend came over and said, "What's that lump on his shoulder?" After the remark, my husband and I thought, Wow, there IS a big lump! We hadn't noticed it before, due to its location on the already-rounded shoulder area. In retrospect, looking at pictures (we have so many), we can see that the tumor has been growing since at least January. I was very, very sad not to have noticed it sooner, but ultimately the many rounds of self-blame and regret weren't helping the situation, so I decided to let it go and focus on treatment.

Radiation at UC Davis

Over the next several weeks, we saw 5 medical oncologists, 2 surgeons (one of them a top cancer surgeon), and 2 holistic vets (one of them for several acupuncture sessions). We finally got an appointment with UC Davis' veterinary oncology department, where they have a $3 million linear accelerator that handles the radiation.

There are many mixed reviews of UC Davis' Veterinary Teaching Hospital on Yelp, but our experience there has been top notch and very enjoyable for the humans. It's a nice facility with nice staff, free wifi, and a good, inexpensive cafe. The leading radiation oncologist there, Dr. Michael Kent, is a very kind and generous person, and we felt incredibly lucky to get to work with him.

They also have the best machines in the world, so they're able to detect things on their CT scanner that other facilities can't detect. They're able to do precise radiation, plus surgery, acupuncture, the works. So far, we have just had a CT scan there and are undergoing radiation now (Day 4 of 20 starts tomorrow, Monday 7/23/17).

We live in San Francisco, and Davis is about an hour and a half away by car. Rather than driving back and forth every day, which is extremely stressful for Maceo, we have opted to drive up on Mondays, stay the week till Friday midday, then come home for the weekend. Since we have another cat, a kitten named Charlie, we have to bring both of them. The kitten does not tolerate the trip well, poor thing, so everyone in the family is making a sacrifice for brother Maceo.

After the radiation is finished on 8/15/17, he'll be a candidate for amputation of his left arm and scapula. It will be an intense surgery, as the tumor covers so much area. Hopefully, he will be a happy Tripawd after that! 

Primarly tumor and growths in the lungs

So far, Maceo has a humongous fibrosarcoma primary tumor on his left shoulder / neck, and two small nodules in his right lung. The doctors at Davis said they were worried about these nodules, but couldn't conclude that they were metastasis. They are very small and too small to be picked up in an X-ray -- only a special CT can pick them up. They do not seem to be increasing in size.

Normally, they would not go through definitive (20 session) radiation plus amputation surgery for a cat with metastasis, but in his case, since they are not sure and yet the primary tumor is gigantic, we all agreed to go ahead with the "Innocent Until Proven Guilty" approach, where we assume that he can fight this.

Supplement protocol

To that end, I have put him on an intensive supplement protocol, which I've detailed here:

http://tripawds.....l/#p195550

We love our Maceo very, very much. He goes for walks on a leash every single day, he plays fetch (used to play fetch down our long hallway for hours on end -- till the point where the humans could not stand it anymore), and he knows how to open all the cabinets and drawers in the kitchen. He was once toilet-trained, until I realized that's terrible for cats, and he is incredibly sensitive and intelligent. 

All of that is a big reason why we've spent so much time, effort, and money in this process. But, the main reason is because I believe that adoption is a commitment, and we must honor our commitments in these deep relationships -- in sickness and in health! 

Money stuff

A lot of people don't talk about the money side, but I find it can be useful.

The 20-session radiation will cost between $6,000 and $7,000. The surgery will cost $4,500. Chemo, should we try to do it, will cost between $200 and $400 a month. I've spent about $400 on supplements, much of which is wasted (see the supplement post for why).

We've also spent about $3K for various scans and diagnostics, plus another $1k for all the consultations.

We do not have pet insurance 🙁 Instead, we have savings and a great credit card (the Chase Sapphire Reserve) on which I have a bunch of reward points that we're using for our hotel stays in Davis. It's small compared to the total treatment cost, but it does help.

It's a LOT of money. Davis is a non profit educational institution; they are not profiting from these treatments. The machines and the experts simply cost a lot.

But, we are lucky in that we don't have personal debt, and we have steady incomes. When I think about the other ways I'd spend $10K or $15K -- like on vacations, or nice clothes maybe?? -- it just doesn't seem important or interesting. We live in a rent-controlled apartment in San Francisco, are by no means wealthy, do not own property, but have stable finances enough to support emergencies. Money always regenerates itself, but a life cannot.

I highly encourage anyone with a decent credit score to look into the bonus reward options for opening a new credit card. If you are looking at spending several thousand dollars, you'll be able to hit the reward threshold right away, and then those points can be used towards other things you need. In my case, I had been saving points on my Chase card for years, thinking that we would splurge on some kind of extravagant business class flight. We were getting really close to being able to do that points-wise, but ultimately, spending it on hotels for our time at UC Davis is a much more practical necessity. I've learned to be comfortable in economy, for that next vacation (hint: melatonin!) 🙂 

For now, we are resting when we can, and taking Maceo on as many of his beloved walks as possible. My team and company are extremely supportive (they're all pet people), and my husband also works remotely. So that is how we are able to feed Maceo at odd hours during the day, and go to Davis for four weeks! 

We are hoping for the best, but we also respect the process of care -- not just the outcome. It is really a spiritual journey for all of us to learn to care for another life with patience and love, and without the condition that they respond to the care how you want. Cancer is a tough card to be dealt, and none of us can predict how it will behave. But, caring for Maceo every day is a practice and not just about the end result. 

Please keep sharing your stories! It really helps to know that there is a community around all of this.

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Michigan
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23 July 2017 - 1:24 pm
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I will make time to respond properly at a different time ok!

Thank you again!! You absolutely rock!! & we could not agree more!!

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Michigan
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23 July 2017 - 7:53 pm
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susanandjose said

ultimately the many rounds of self-blame and regret weren't helping the situation, so I decided to let it go and focus on treatment.

After the radiation is finished on 8/15/17, he'll be a candidate for amputation of his left arm and scapula. It will be an intense surgery, as the tumor covers so much area. Hopefully, he will be a happy Tripawd after that! 

We are hoping for the best, but we also respect the process of care -- not just the outcome. It is really a spiritual journey for all of us to learn to care for another life with patience and love, and without the condition that they respond to the care how you want. Cancer is a tough card to be dealt, and none of us can predict how it will behave. But, caring for Maceo every day is a practice and not just about the end result. 

I am so glad you let go of the self blame & put all the focus on treatment!! You are a very wise soul!! 

I do believe Maceo will be a happy tripawd! I cannot believe how Purrkins has adjusted! It really is amazing ! I know after the recovery period you will not be questioning if Maceo cares if he loses his leg! Surgery is scary & recovery is not easy! I questioned myself the first day home the first hour if we did the right thing!! After Purrkins settled in and knew he was home and happy to be home that was all I needed to stop the second guessing & get on with Recovery!  

We are also hoping for the best for Maceo and it is all about the spiritual journey for us all to learn to care for another life with patience and love, and without the condition! Purrfectly said!!!!!

Cancer is not the card any of us choose! It has no rules and we have no idea how it will or will not behave.  We may have some idea on the behavior depending on the type but it is a disease with no rules! We do the best we can to advocate for our animals & make the best quality of life decisions we can for them!

Maceo and the kitty and family are very blessed to have you!! 

Thank you for taking the time to document Maceo Journey! We are so glad you found us!

Hugs!

Holly & Purrkinsheart

Bonito Flakes for Maceoheart

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25 July 2017 - 12:50 pm
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You. Are. PAWESOME! clapThank you for starting a topic about Maceo here. What great details!

We had Jerry's amputation done at Davis and we think they ROCK. Yelp shmelp I say. I think many times people don't know what it's like to work with a vet hospital and yeah, it's a different relationship experience than it is with a general practice or private practice vet, but to us the trade off of working with the brightest minds in the world and the best equipment ever is more than worth it.

We too love Dr. Kent! Talk about bright minds! Here's an interview we did with him about UC Davis Cancer Clinical Trials:

feature=youtu.be

We encourage talking about money here, because you are right, treatment is expensive. Feel free to add your details here so others can get a good idea of what to expect when they are in a similar situation.

Costs of Amputation and Chemotherapy for Cats: What Did You Pay?

Thanks again! Oh and as I mentioned in your Eating Healthy topic, we can't see your photos so let me know how I can help OK?

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25 July 2017 - 1:53 pm
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Thank you so much for sharing that video with Dr. Kent -- that is too cool! He's lost some weight since your interview 😀

I would love to share more photos, but they do show up on my view. Where do most people upload them to -- or do they use their own photo storage elsewhere and just link to the photos?

It's been a challenge to get him to eat well during radiation, simply because he has to fast until his daily treatment is done, and his most exciting food time is first thing in the morning. It pains me to have to ignore his pleading meows for food, and also to reduce his "eating hours" by about half a day, but it's necessary.

Any tips on really filling up those eating hours would be much appreciated! Will ask in the food and nutrition category threads too.

5 days down as of today, 15 to go! 

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