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Thread: Darby and his oral fibrosarcoma

  1. #1
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    Sep 2009
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    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. 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.

    Thanks,
    Dana

  2. #2
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    I think you made the right decision by going with the chemo pill. I haven't heard much good about radiation on cats. I would also look into the IV treatment and find out how that would effect your baby. Maybe the two-pronged attack will knock the cancer right out of him. Sending good thoughts and prayers your way.
    Proud to be a crazy cat lady!

  3. #3
    Goodness, what a story and what a brave furkid and parents! FWIW, I would've done the same thing as you. I've had friends w/cancer who couldn't stand the harsh radiation and chemo treatments, so if I ever had to make that decision for any of my cats, I would follow the same course of treatment as you've chosen for Darby. Having had up to 8 cats at one time, the diseases have varied but we've been fortunate to not have experienced cancer, thankfully. Best wishes to you and Darby and please keep us posted on his progress. Oh, and welcome to Pet Talk.
    Blessings,
    Mary



    "Time and unforeseen occurrence befall us all." Ecclesiastes 9:11

  4. #4
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    You might want to get a second opinion about that cancer. There is a type of cancer called "hemangiosarcoma" that's very rare in cats but I had a cat who had it. One of its characteristics is rapid growth/metastesis (sp?)

    Thanks for taking such good care of Darby, and welcome to Pet Talk!
    I've been finally defrosted by cassiesmom!
    "Not my circus, not my monkeys!"-Polish proverb

  5. #5
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    I am impressed by your love for Darby and wanting to do all you can do for him. I will admit that in the cats(older than Darby), my husband and I decided to fogo the treatments, and just tried to maintain the best quality of life as possible. It is never an easy decision. Also, welcome to Pet Talk....please keep us posted on Darby...will light a candle for you both.

  6. #6
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    Ask your vets if they have heard of Transfer Factor - it worked wonders for a cat here, and also extended the quality of life for another cat(who was VERY hard to medicate, despite hiding it in any kind of food whatever!).

    This is a long thread, but it is the cat Haggis's story (three guesses where he and his fur brother Hagrid live!):

    http://petoftheday.com/talk/showthread.php?t=147840

    Darling Darby sounds like a fighter - all bodes well! Prayers and DO keep us posted.

    um...any pics of this handsome sweet boy? You can just post them as attachments, NP.
    "To begin, begin." ~William Wordsworth

  7. #7
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    Thanks for the input everyone. Here are some pics of Darby before the surgery and one after.
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  8. #8
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    Awwww, what a sweet face! I can see why you fell in love with him!

    He looks so gentle. Glad you are going to the teaching hospital again. And you have made the right choice. Poor Darby!

    I hope they agree to the Transfer Factor - can't hurt, might help!

    Hugs and prayers for Darby!
    "To begin, begin." ~William Wordsworth

  9. #9
    Aw, poor sweet li'l guy. I sure hope that things go well for him. (((HUGS))) to you and gentle pets to sweet Darby.
    Blessings,
    Mary



    "Time and unforeseen occurrence befall us all." Ecclesiastes 9:11

  10. #10
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    Thanks for the welcome notes. So, the clinic shipped the chemo pill last night, I should get it today or tomorrow. I will talk to the vet about some of your suggestions, thanks so so so much.

  11. #11
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    Transfer Factor

    Is this what u were talking about?

    http://www.the-natural-pet.com/transferfactorcat.htm

  12. #12
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    Hi Darby - yes, that is the stuff, though I hadn't come across that website.

    Hopefully there is info there that the vets can look at...a specification sheet or something. Being a teaching hospital though, they might have heard of it.

    Just don't want it to interfere with chemo or anything.

    More prayers for Darling Darby!
    "To begin, begin." ~William Wordsworth

  13. #13
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    HUGS AND prayers for you both....

  14. #14
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    Thank you! It looks like a fantastic alternative and I will definitely ask about it. It can't hurt.

    Sending a new pic of Darby...you can see the tumor on the side of his nose, and after the surgery (since they took part of his gumline) his tongue hangs out. I think he looks handsome, though some may disagree.
    Attached Images Attached Images  

  15. #15
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    Darby could never be anything other than handsome!

    I hope the chemo helps. Will he be getting any prednisone to help the swelling?

    Here is another kitty cancer story with a happy ending, though it was a roller coaster at times: http://petoftheday.com/talk/showthre...kittykatharine

    I'm sure if you PM'd the owner, she would be glad to share stuff with you.

    The first pic in the thread - Sydney has such a sweet face that Darby would fall in love. What a match!

    PS - you might ask the vet what the success rate is with radiation, if you haven't already. Just so you have that info for reference. Sydney was on chemo. Just a thought.
    "To begin, begin." ~William Wordsworth

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