Tag Archive | intestinal lymphoma in cats

Chemo Kitty Gets Love and Other Drugs

This week was Martini’s off week in her chemo regimen.  She gets her chemo drugs every other week, and on the off-weeks she goes to see Dr. Kim and get her chemo blood-work and her weigh-in.  Unfortunately, she lost weight again – and is now back down to 6.5 pounds (I’m hoping part of that was due to the fact that she hadn’t had her supplemental fluids Sunday like she usually does – I had done them Saturday instead).

So, I went about the rest of the week, and Tini did ok, and seems to like her new green pea and venison food, but she was pretty grumpy.  Oliver got the brunt of it, but I felt bad because she was clearly feeling out of sorts – she normally doesn’t beat up Oliver constantly.  I was beginning to feel like I needed to referee; she was squabbling with him over and over, and not just at mealtime!  I got the results back later this week, and talked to Kim about the bad attitude when she called.  It seems Martini is now dealing with a case of pancreatitis, and the grumpiness is likely due to the pain associated with it.  So it was off to the vet to pick up supplies – a new painkiller medicine, more green pea and venison, a bag of lactated ringers and IV tubing and needles.  I feel like I’m becoming a pretty well stocked pharmacy!

Oliver Likes Green Pea and Venison Too - Good Thing Tini is Focused or She Would Be Beating Him Up!

Oliver Likes Green Pea and Venison Too – Good Thing Tini is Focused or She Would Be Beating Him Up!

The pain med seems to be taking the edge off her bad attitude, so hopefully peace will return to the house.  I hate that she hurts, and I hate that she can’t tell me.  The good news (I hate that this is good news) is that Kim doesn’t feel that the pancreatitis should get in the way of Monday’s dose of chemo.  She has to have another complete blood panel a week after that, and this time it needs to be a fasting panel – Tini’s not going to like that, and unfortunately Oliver will pay the price!

Chemo Kitty Goes to Bed

I had big plans for yesterday after work.  Well, not really, but I did plan on getting some things done around the house that I haven’t had time for (like painting the edges and corners of the family room – Jon did the roller work last week).  Yesterday was chemo night for Martini, and she braved her meds like a real trooper.  And then took herself to bed a half hour later.  So instead of doing all the chores I intended on getting done (best laid plans), I went to bed with her.  We just sat together and had a mellow evening.  I always know that she is feeling very crummy when she lays down next to Oliver and doesn’t even feel like giving him a smack on the head.

She didn’t feel like eating much at all this morning and I’m hoping a quiet day has her feeling better tonight.  This treatment is very hard on both of us.

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Martini, you should do more of this. I don’t even care if you make a big mess with it and get it all over your face.

Update:  Approximately 7 minutes after I posted this, Martini walked over to Oliver and smacked him in the head (several times).  Perhaps she is starting to perk up.

Kitty Chemo

We started Martini’s chemo treatment on Monday evening.  It feels like we opened a kitty pharmacy really.  We went from feeding one low allergen prescription food to having to dose the poor little girl with all this: chlorambucil (a chemo drug used to treat lymphoma), prednisolone (a corticosteroid to reduce inflammation from chemo, relieve nausea, and boost her appetite), metoclopramide (to relieve nausea) and carafate (an antacid used to treat ulcers, but also used to coat the GI tract and prevent nausea).  In addition, Martini is getting subcutaneous fluids, every other day at least, to help with her hydration levels.  Cats can very easily get life-threateningly dehydrated, and they don’t like to drink when they feel crummy.

Tini’s chemo drug is a pill.  3.5 pills, actually.  She gets 3.5 pills every other week.  Her other 3 meds are every day.  So Monday night, I put on my latex gloves (it is dangerous to touch the pills), and Jon helped hold her while I shoved pill after pill down her throat.  She was not pleased…  And I learned there is a special kind of misery when you feel like you are poisoning your baby.  Afterwards, I cried.  Martini was mad at me for awhile.  Especially because two hours after the chemo drug, I had to hold her down again and give her the prednisolone (doc wanted them given a couple hours apart in case one caused immediate nausea), and then hold her down yet again one hour after that to give her the carafate (you have to give it an hour after all other meds, because it prevents the GI tract from absorbing the meds for a couple hours afterwards).  Finally, after all that, she hid under the bed for several hours.  I felt terrible when I went to bed and she wouldn’t sleep with me.

And then, we waited.  I didn’t know what to expect – would she start vomiting?  Would she be really tired or achy?  Would she lose her hair?  The interwebs says some cats lose their whiskers but they don’t really lose their hair.  Well it has been 6 days now and here’s our experience.

Tini vomited once the night of the chemo, and once since then.  2 times in a week, that’s not bad, all things considered.  And at least she had the decency to not puke under the bed again!  We have a Tempur-pedic mattress so moving it off the bed to get under there to clean it up is a two person workout.  She was tired the first couple of nights, certainly, putting herself to bed about 7.  She hasn’t seemed more achy than usual, and is still jumping up where she wants to be – counters, beds, etc.  And after a few days, just like the vet said, her appetite started to improve!  We are giving her wet food whenever she wants it, which she is eating well, but she is eating some kibble too!  That makes me hopeful.

And while I wouldn’t say she likes her meds, she is tolerating them pretty well.  She doesn’t hide at med-time.  She doesn’t glare at me or hide after med-time.  She doesn’t like the prednisolone, because it makes her drool – but that’s just for a few minutes afterwards…  Last night she was protesting her subcutaneous fluids, but purring at the same time!  Jon says she bit him, but not hard.  How’s that for passive aggressive!?  Here Daddy, let me purr while I bite you!

So, one week into cancer treatment, I’d say things are going well.  We have a long road still ahead, but at least so far, it could be worse.

Undone…

This is how I feel today.  Because my sweet, fiesty, loving, cranky Martini kitty has cancer.  Low grade diffuse alimentary lymphoma.  Cancer of the white blood cells (lymphocytes) in her GI tract – hers is in her small intestine.  Low grade means slow growing (a good thing, relatively) and diffuse means instead of tumors she has cancerous cells – in her case throughout the lining of her intestine.

I got the news yesterday afternoon, and then went to pick up some meds to get her stablized.  An anti-nausea med to stop the vomiting, and a med to coat her GI tract to settle it down.  They seem to be working; she hasn’t thrown up since early Saturday morning (unless I haven’t found it yet!).  I’ve been peering under the bed with the flashlight and under other furniture every couple of hours – yes I know that might make me a wacko.

Martini (front) and Oliver Demanding Their Breakfast

But maybe I should back up and tell you about Martini, because she is more than a cancer diagnosis…  Martini came home on February 5, 2004.  I had been looking at PetFinder ads and noticed her, well, because she is just so cute.  I saw that she had been at the shelter for awhile, and at the urging of a friend, called about her.  The shelter didn’t have her anymore, because just the day before they had transferred her to the Alternative Humane Society, a no kill shelter.  I found out later that this was a reprieve from death row for her, because she had developed kennel stress and started biting people.  She was going to be put down if the alternative shelter didn’t take her.  Biting your new potential mommy or daddy… not the most effective way to get them to adopt you…

She was not spayed and she was found as a stray, so they really didn’t know much about her.  They named her Allie (as in Allie Cat – gag…) and she was 3-4 years old and had had at least 1 litter of kittens.  If you know cats, you know age is just a guess in adulthood.  She could have been 4 or even 8, which makes her 12 or even 16 now…  A world of difference in an elderly cat. She was small – about 8 pounds.  They brought her over fresh from her spay surgery, and Martini (I couldn’t keep calling her Allie, that was just too dumb) hid in my closet for the next 3 days.  On the third night, she crawled up onto my bed and slept next to me.  I remember reaching over to pet her and being a little nervous that she would bite me, because she had been biting people at the shelter, but she never did.

She did however, immediately set about asserting her dominance over my 16 year old male cat Zorro.  Zorro didn’t have a mean bone in his body, and she was ruthless.  She would hide around corners and jump on him when he walked by, and she would smoosh in between Zorro and me if he was sitting next to me on the couch.  She growled at him, pounced on him and chased him relentlessly.  About a week in, I even called the shelter and talked to them about giving her back, because I didn’t want Zorro to live out his days being bulled by this little pipsqueak!  She was half his size!  They convinced me to give her just a little more time.

Finally one day, Zorro laid down the law.  He was sitting next to me on the couch (his favorite place) and she jumped up and squeezed in between.  Then I heard this strange, unearthly high pitched growl from him (mind you, it was very strange because in 16 years I had never heard him growl).  Martini looked over at him, but did not move.  He growled again.  She stood her ground.  Then he reached over with one big paw and brought it down on her back so hard it made an audible WHOOMP noise.  No claws, no hissing, no fight.  Just one huge thump on her back.  She jumped down off the couch, and they never had a major problem again.  His spot next to me on the couch had been secured, along with his dominant position in the house.  I was so proud of my boy!

Zorro passed away a year later, and Martini has ruled the roost since then.  I’ve gotten two more cats, Oliver and Oscar, and even though she is smallest by far, she is clearly the matriarch.  And she loves me.  She loves to snuggle.  She loves to sleep on the bed, and under the covers if she gets cold.  She snuggles right up against me.  She has never bit a person since her time in the shelter.

But, she is super cranky about being brushed, and gets mats in her thick hair very easily.  She is pretty easy to pill, but it took awhile to get to where you can trim her nails easily.  When you brush her or trim her nails, she emits these yowls that would make anyone within earshot think you were cutting off her leg with a dull, rusty knife.  She loves to be pet, but not for too long, and if she is sitting on your lap and you move around too much, you run the risk of pissing her off.  And she will tell you all about it!

And then there is her meat obsession.  Ever since her food allergy was diagnosed, she has been a fiend for meat.  She trolls around looking for scraps, and will steal whole steaks or breasts of chicken that are defrosting on the counter.  Size is no object, she can haul off something almost so big you wouldn’t think she could get it off the ground.  She stole a piece of pizza once and had it all the way up the stairs and under the bed before I could grab her!  And the time she had the strip of prosciutto hanging out of her mouth was hilarious!  But all kidding aside, as much as she wants that meat, we always have to wrestle it away from her, because it makes her so sick.  It seems so odd for a carnivore to be allergic to protein.

She starts her chemo Monday – the goal is not a cure, but an attempt to give some time while maintaining a good quality of life during the time she has left.  I hope she can fight this with as much zest for life as she has approached everything else.

Have I Mentioned I Hate Not Knowing?

Martini had her ultrasound today.  I took her in at 10 and they took us right in to get down to work.  Martini got an exam, and they took her blood pressure (that was in the normal range – at 118).  Dr. Day explained the procedure (we’ve been through this before, so he really didn’t need to, but it was nice to have him go over everything), and then they took her back to have her belly shaved and her ultrasound done.  I came back 2 hours later and talked to Dr. Day about the results.

The good news – many of her organs look good.  Kidneys, liver, pancreas, carotid artery, all look relatively normal.  Her stomach has a bit of something odd, but her stomach was where she was having a lot of issues three years, ago, so it could just be residual scarring or sediment.  He took a sample with a small needle to see what he could find.

The bad news – Martini has one lymph node that is more than twice the size it should be.  Hers is 8.8 mm and it should be about 3-3.3 mm.  And then the small intestine has some thickening in the muscle layer and some areas that should be visible on ultrasound and are not on hers.  The small intestine is too small to sample from, because there is a high risk of puncturing the intestine and releasing some nasty bacteria into her abdominal cavity.  Instead he took samples from the lymph node, because whatever has gone awry in the small intestine will be draining cells into that lymph node.

He couldn’t say if it is or isn’t without testing the samples, but it could be intestinal lymphoma.  Cancer.  There are chemotherapy options, and Dr. Day told me that because they attempt to treat the disease rather than cure it, there are generally not as many side effects when treating cats with chemotherapy.

He was going to look at the samples this afternoon and get the results over to my vet, but I didn’t hear from my vet today (after confirming with the tech that he would call).  I’ll have to call in the morning.  Meanwhile, Martini got to come home, and she ate a little lunch, and was very wobbly for awhile.  She could only drunk-walk a few steps without falling over.  After she woke up all the way, she got some dinner.  Which she puked up all over the stairs two hours later.

She Couldn’t Barely Walk, But She Didn’t That Small Detail Get In the Way of Lunch (the vet said is was ok to feed her!)

I’m trying not to think about the scenarios, but I imagine I won’t sleep well tonight…