In April 2003, dear little Woodstock was diagnosed with lymphosarcoma (lymphoma) of the kidneys. There were no warning signs--
April 7th - I noticed his left kidney was bulging. The vet said that since he was not showing any signs of pain or urinary problems, he could come in first thing the next morning. Cats under 2 years old do not get lymphoma unless there is a genetic problem or if they have the feline leukemia virus. (Woodstock tested negative for the virus.)
When Woodstock and I arrived at Savannah Animal Hospital the next morning at 7:30 am (we know I was very scared, because I normally can't get up until after 9 am), we found that his temperature was only 95 degrees (normal is 101-102), inadequate to sustain his vital functions. The first step was to warm him up. I was so shocked, I almost fainted (literally). This was so unexpected in my wild, handsome little man.
So I left him for the very first time (I'd stayed in the waiting room during his neutering). A few hours later, Dr. Clark called to say that he was in complete kidney failure and that the only way to possibly save him was to go to the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary Hospital in Philadelphia, about a 2 1/2 hour drive from home.
I threw a few things in a bag and rushed to pick him up. He was warmed up and hydrated.
At the University of PA he was admitted immediately to the emergency room, where they agreed that he was in kidney failure and that he probably had lymphosarcoma or feline infectious peritonitis. If it were FIP, they wanted to euthanize him immediately.
I spent a terrible night in a hotel, crying, not eating, talking on the phone to friends and family, and only thinking of my wonderful little cat. The next day Woodstock's new internist called to say he was doing well, making friends, talking, eating. She wanted him to stay for a few days for tests and IV fluids. She was very thorough in her explanations and answered all of my anxious questions. I visited with him for awhile before driving back to southern Delaware, not sure that we would ever be together again. He was, indeed, the life of the party on his 'ward.'
That night, his doctor called me at home. She had done a biopsy of his kidneys, and the cytologist diagnosed lymphosarcoma. She recommended chemotherapy--it is done to get cats into remission, to give them a little longer life (2-4 months or up to 2 years with remission), and to improve their quality of life. I readily agreed, and the next day he had his first chemo--Elspar, the wonder drug, by subcutaneous injection.
The day after chemo, I drove back to Philadelphia to pick him up. Thank the Universe that my mother came to be with me. We took a seat in the waiting room, and Woodstock appeared and was happy and loving all of the attention he was getting. (His medical bills for this week were about $2,500. My travel expenses were about $300.) His doctor and intern seemed to really love him. He would need daily pepcid, Alternagel liquid antacid--a phosphate binder, and prednisone.
The following week, Woodstock and I returned to Philadelphia for the next chemo treatment in the COP protocol. This time an IV injection of Vincristine. This chemo protocol involves IV drugs (Vincristine), subcutaneous drugs (Elspar), 2 oral drugs--methotrexate and cyclophosphamide (cytoxin), prednisone and pepcid.
We all agreed that our home vet could handle the chemo from then on, with advice from UPA, as needed. Dr. Clark at Savannah is the only one in the area who does any oncology work and the only one working with chemotherapy. What wild luck for us.
During the first 2 weeks after diagnosis, Woodstock lost weight, going from 7# to 6#. He was so tired--complete kidney failure, chemo, being away from home, long trips. The next week, things started to turn around--he gained the weight back, and he went through 5 more chemo treatments in the COP protocol. One week he appeared to be heading for anemia, so we started iron + B vitamins. I added fish oil, Anitra's Vitamins, supplementary calories, and daily Reiki treatments to his regimen.
April 21st - Dr. Clark reported that all of Woodstock's blood values were normal. He could skip his next week's appointment, since we have the chemo pill for the week here at home. (With cytoxan the pill-giver must take precautions like wearing latex gloves and not inhaling any dust. Cytoxan also can cause urinary tract infections.)
I watch him and follow him around. He is getting more spoiled. I offer him extra water, food, etc. Since Yoga is my spiritual path, I have decided to meditate on Woodstock--he is a role model of joy, non-judgment, present-moment living, generosity.
April 23rd - We are enjoying each day and ignoring gloomy predictions. If you are so inclined, please pray, send blessings or warm thoughts for this remarkable little cat.