A Cat With Cancer: Sydney’s Story

Sydney is one All For Animals TV Host Susan Richard’s four legged family members.  In October of 2017, at just three years old, Sydney was diagnosed with a malignant nasal tumor.

This page is an accounting of Sydney’s journey and Susan’s experience as a pet parent.  It is not intended nor should it be used to diagnose or treat any other pet.  Always consult a qualified Veterinarian for your pet’s specific needs.

(Click video to play/Click photos to enlarge)

December 9, 2017

Little Sydney was home for the weekend after 12 radiation treatments. On Monday, December 10th, Dr. Farrelly at Blue Pearl called and said while her RT is going well, a tube pulled out of her nose following treatment was kind of smelly, indicative of an infection of some kind, possibly from irritation formed from the treatment, so they gave her a two week shot of convenia (anti-biotic). Otherwise she’s doing well.  She’s eating normally, which is good, considering she’s pretty finicky.  She had practically an entire jar of baby food Sunday.

I will say, the hardest part for me right now is bringing her back on Sunday nights.  She’s all chilled out for two days and boom — there I am putting her in the carrier.  This week she was onto me and hid under the bed.  I had to pull her out.  Very upsetting — for both of us.  I can’t wait for RT to be over.  Very stressful.

December 5, 2017

Visited little Sydney at Blue Pearl.  She was pretty nervous and wanted to hide so I made a little cat cave from a towel and the garbage can.  Otherwise she is doing very well.  In this video she’d had undergone 9 of 20 radiation treatments.

December 3, 2017

Sydney after 7 radiation treatments (click photo to enlarge). The tumor appears to have significantly shrunk but we’ve still got a long way to go for full treatment plan. They said 19 rounds in all but her discharge papers from Friday night (she’s home weekends) said 7 of 20, which means all this week and next and then another 2-3 treatments the week after. Side effects, by the way, (baldness/possible skin irritation at treatment spot & cataract) don’t appear until toward the end of treatment. But she’s in good spirits and is eating and playing and being snuggly. Hard to take her back to Blue Pearl tonight but we’ve gotta zap this sucker! Will visit her during the week. Paws crossed for Sydney girl.

December 1, 2017

Little Sydney is home for the weekend after her first full week at Blue Pearl Veterinary Partners in NYC.  She’s doing very well.  They gave her an appetite stimulant because she wasn’t eating enough and they were concerned that she was either not smelling the food (as a side effect of treatment) or she was just anxious being in the hospital (even though her disposition was good). She was certainly chowing down at home!

November 26, 2017

Sydney’s back at Blue Pearl for 5 days of radiation. She was not happy getting into that bag, let me tell you. Frankly I can’t wait for the next three and a half weeks to be over. She is stressed and so am I!

November 25, 2017

Radiation continues next week but little Sydney seems very glad to be home.

She’s eating well, although she did have a bloody sneeze in her food (I know, photo is a little gross). Nothing alarming, but I will let her doctor know.  Otherwise she’s acting normally and seems to enjoy hogging the bed!

November 24, 2017

What at small world.  I’m sitting in the lobby waiting to pick up Sydney from Blue Pearl Friday afternoon to bring her home for the weekend, and a woman asks me if I work at 1010 WINS. I say, “Yes, I do, how do you know?”, and she reminds me that her family came to visit the radio station with our number one fan, a lovely young man named Trevor Lines.  It turns out, it was Trevor’s mom Cindy, whose family dog (a sweet girl named Joey Ramone !) was also in for radiation treatment!  Joey is a rescue who had been used as a breeding dog and is very fortunate to be with the Lines.  She’s almost done with treatment and is doing great.  Cindy and I traded rescue stories and talked about how shocked we both were when our pets were diagnosed.  For both of us there was no question we would treat if that was considered an option, but we both realize that’s not always doable for pet parents. I, personally, have become a big advocate for getting pet insurance. I also suggest shopping around, and talking to your Vet about both common and uncommon illnesses in your type of pet, and what the cost of diagnostics and treatment can run.

November 23, 2017

Sydney came through her first treatment just fine.  There was no treatment on Thanksgiving Day but she remained boarded at Blue Pearl through Friday. The radiation oncology nurse said she was nervous and hadn’t been eating much. I brought her some turkey but she wasn’t interested. I am hopeful that over the next two and a half weeks she will get used to being there and will eat more.  I really loathe the notion of a feeding tube. She also seemed confused about the kitty litter, which was a different kind than she’s used to, so I found an open grocery store and dropped off different brand which I was later told did the trick.  Since she wasn’t hooked up to any IVs, they put us in a small room so she could walk around.  We spent most of it under the little couch, but that’s OK. Two videos below:

November 20, 2017

Final appointment at Blue Pearl before Sydney starts radiation treatment on Wednesday 11/22.  Got some detailed info about what we can expect.  The tumor itself is actually in the sinus area but is close to her left eye. Radiation will result in fur loss/balding and possible skin irritation at the treatment site (and potentially the roof of her mouth but that is less likely). The left eye is also in the treatment zone and so the radiation will cause a cataract in that eye, likely making it appear white and causing her to lose much of her sight in that eye.  When her fur grows back it will be a lighter color, either grey or white.  I’ve been told that cats generally tolerate radiation well. She will need to be sedated during treatment, the first of which will last about 30 minutes.  Subsequent treatments are 10 to 15.  She will have between 15 and 20 in all.  She’s currently scheduled for 19.  I’m feeling very sad that this poor sweet being is about to undergo something over the next three weeks that I cannot explain to her.  She will likely be scared and confused, and I can only hope that she gets acclimated to the routine and doesn’t get too anxious. They’ll be monitoring her behavior while boarded.  We need to make sure she eats.  I’ve decided to board her because she has to be fasting before being sedated (for 8 hours prior) and that would mean putting her in a carrier while I feed the other cats and then getting her to Blue Pearl every morning at 7:30am before I go to work and then picking her up at night.  Somehow all that seems more traumatic to me, than boarding her there for the treatment days and bringing her home on the weekend.  We’ll see how it all goes.

November 17, 2017

All is well ahead of the start of Sydney’s radiation treatment next week.  Here are 3 photos of her taken pretty much in succession.  I thought it would be interesting to show just how different she looks from front to side.  From the side you can really see where the tumor is.  From the front, incredibly, hardly at all. Click photo to enlarge.

November 14, 2017

UPDATE: SYD’S LYMPH NODES ARE CLEAR! Meaning… the cancer has NOT metastasized and is isolated to the tumor. This is very good news and we will zap this sucker with radiation starting 11/22.

Sydney had her final CT before radiation starts (next Wednesday). During the scan they checked the rest of her little body which is NOT showing signs that the cancer has spread beyond the nasal tumor (yay!). Still waiting on lymph node results but she is basically good to go for treatment. Blue Pearl has been great. Very thorough and professional and I feel confident that Sydney is in good hands.  Appointment Monday 11/20 with the Radiation Oncologist to go over the plan of treatment in more detail and set the radiation schedule.

November 13, 2017

The plan is unfolding for Sydney. Pre-radiation therapy CT and other tests to confirm that the cancer has not spread beyond the nasal tumor. Then radiation will begin, five days a week for three weeks. She’ll be staying at the hospital during each course of treatment. I will pick her up on Fridays. Cancer is a crap shoot and there are so few studies in cats, so prognosis is anywhere from 6 months to a full life span! Depends on how her body responds to treatment.

For those who may be questioning why I would put a cat through three weeks of radiation treatments, let me say that I have given this a great deal of thought and had a very comprehensive conversation with Veterinary Oncologist, Dr. Tim Rocha at Blue Pearl.  We agree that Sydney is a good candidate for treatment.  She’s only three years old and is otherwise perfectly healthy.  So far there is no evidence that the cancer has spread (although they will recheck lymph nodes and do a full body scan during her pre-radiation treatment CT).  If the cancer has spread, the entire conversation will change.  If the cancer is isolated to the tumor, there is a strong possibility that radiation treatment can be effective.  Without any treatment, the tumor will grow, destroy her nasal cavity, perhaps impair her vision and ultimately penetrate the brain.  Without any treatment, she will die in six months.  So this is where we’re at.  I will say, the financial cost is high.  I have pet insurance, but my coverage caps at a $5000 annual payout and the diagnostic testing alone will max that benefit.  I expect my personal cost to be around $8,000 – $10,000.  It’s a personal decision.  One, unfortunately, not everyone can make due to financial constraints and I consider myself fortunate to be able to move forward without that being an issue. The blessing is not lost on me.

November 12, 2017

Well, now Sydney’s journey is taking a roller coaster ride. The Animal Medical Center’s CT scanner was down for several days (as many as 5 per my understanding but I do not have confirmation on that) and now they’re backed up and I still can’t get an appointment for another CT needed before we formulate treatment plan. The resident assigned to her case (who has been exceptional) can’t get Oncology to schedule appointment. I called and was told 12/4 is the earliest. I am not waiting 3 weeks. It’s been 2 weeks since she was diagnosed and it’s time to get moving. As it is, we’ve gone an entire week without moving forward beyond a lymph node needle aspiration.  So.. I am taking Sydney to Blue Pearl Veterinary Partners for an appointment tomorrow. Got all her records and films from AMC. Frankly I can’t believe this and am pretty angry.

 

November 9, 2017

Needle aspiration from lymph nodes NEGATIVE, but it’s not a full biopsy, so we take this for what it may be worth. One more cat scan and then we will formulate a plan of action, which will definitely include radiation. Chemo TBD (let’s hope not). In the meantime, she is acting normally and doesn’t appear to be in any pain or distress whatsoever.

 

 

November 7, 2017

Little Sydney checks out the new cat carrier as her cat mama (me) waits to get more test results before we form a plan of action to try and zap her nasal tumor. We know it’s cancer but we need to see what stage we’re at. In the meantime, she’s started some meds (antiobiotic and steroid) and is acting normally, eating, peeing, pooping, purring and playing.

November 5, 2017

The WTF look on little Sydney’s face is exactly how I feel, after learning that the biopsy of the lump in her sinus area revealed cancer. A 3 year old cat with cancer. WTF? More tests Monday to determine the plan going forward. She is currently acting completely normal. In fact, the bloody nose a week ago was the only sign that anything was wrong. Please hold Sydney in your highest thoughts. If treatment is doable, we’ll treat. If not, she will be kept comfortable, loved and massively spoiled.

October 29, 2017

Little Sydney is having a cat scan tomorrow and some other tests including a biopsy of the lump in her forehead. Hard to see but toward the end of the video when she turns to the side you should be able to see it. Turns out, when I took Fanny to the Vet last month, thinking she was the one sneezing blood (because she had been sneezing and coughing a lot), I had the wrong cat. Sydney had a full on nose bleed last week and the sack of fluid above her nose suddenly appeared (I had not noticed it before). Well, a needle aspiration came back negative for cancer but so did every other test including for a fungal infection, so now we are doing some major testing. She is currently on antibiotics and is otherwise acting normally. Frankly, I need this to turn out to be a $4000 sinus infection (something told me to get that pet insurance!). Please hold this sweet girl in your highest thoughts. Thanks.