Darby and his oral fibrosarcoma
This has been a long, hard road so far, but I would like to share mine and my kitty, Darby's story.
Darby is a 7 yr. old black domestic long hair cat that I adopted at a shelter here in Chicago when he was 10 mos. old. I never had a cat before, but I fell in love with Darby's sweet personality and could not bear to leave him in that cage another second. We have been best friends ever since. He sleeps under the covers with me at night, he loves to listen to music with me, we "talk" back and forth and generally have a beautiful relationship.
In May of this year, as I was studying for a computer certification, Darby came up and was laying on my lap. I noticed a weird smell coming from him, like bad breath. I smelled his fur, thinking our other cat Ozzy and he were playing and Ozzy had gotten some of his saliva on him. Found nothing, then thought to look in his mouth. On the top right gum, he had a large red growth. It seemed to have grown over a tooth and was slightly protruding out under his upper lip.
I took him to the vet that day. They did some blood work, an xray on his lungs, urinalysis and biopsy. I was praying that it was not what I thought it was.
4 days later, our vet called my husband and I to tell us that Darby's biopsy did in fact reveal a Maxillary Fibrosarcoma. From what I have learned, most fibrosarcomas are caused by vaccines. An oral fibrosarcoma is pretty uncommon, though I have found many many stories about them online from other cat owners. But our vet insisted it was rare. He referred us to an oncologist who we went to see the next day. I immediately did not like her, as she was semi-nice, but did not have the bedside manner I wanted for Darby. I searched and searched and finally found the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Clinic in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. It is two hours South of us here in Chicago, but I talked to a lot of different people who highly recommended them.
The wonderful people at this clinic took such good care of little Darby. They performed a right partial maxillectomy on June 1st, to try to remove most of the tumor. I have to say, that I almost passed out in the office when we went to pick him up...he looked awful. Most of his upper lip was gone and his bottom tooth was sticking out. I lost my footing, not expecting such a dramatic change. I felt so bad for him! They did warn me that he may have to be on a feeding tube for not only the few days after surgery, but also for weeks after if he did not start eating immediately. Fortunately for him and us, Darby hated the feeding tube and was eating normally two days after surgery. He has recovered well, and is eating and drinking more than I have ever seen him do in the 6 or so years that I have had him. He is as cuddly as ever too.:love: The vet said that they got great margins and while there was still some of the tumor remaining, Darby could go quite awhile without any signs of re-growth. The vet did also say that they would recommend radiation therapy. After much thought, research and soul-searching, I decided not to go that route. I have heard horror stories about radiation therapy, especially near the mouth. It burns the tissue and sometimes causes them never to eat again, thus ending up being on a feeding tube. We decided to try our luck with what we had already done.
About a week ago, I noticed that the surgery site was starting to look swollen. My husband took Darby back down to U of I on Monday, and they did all of the normal tests, ie; urinalysis, blood work, CT of the head etc. The vet called me and let me know that the tumor had started growing very rapidly, much to their surprise. Fibrosarcomas are known to be slow-growing tumors compared to other types. It had started to damage the bone below his eye. The vet again recommended 4 rounds of radiation therapy, (once a week for four weeks) or a new drug the is given by IV to strengthen the bones, or a chemotherapy pill that is given every 4 weeks. We have tentatively decided on the chemo pill, as it seems the least invasive. I want to avoid making my poor cat suffer at all in what little time he may have left and it seems like radiation is such a harsh treatment that doesn't always work anyway.
The reason I decided to post here was to get some input on what everyone thinks about 1) the disease and 2) the treatment options. I am incredibly conflicted about what to do now. While I would love for Darby to always be with me and I cannot IMAGINE life without him, I don't want him to suffer because his Mom is weak and puts him through all kinds of unnecessary treatments. Please let me know your thoughts.