This is a hard post for me to write. 2014 hasn't started out well, to say the least. I was sick for the first two weeks, but now I've been hit with something much harder: Nico-kitteh has cancer.
It's hard news to take. As I'm sure you can tell, we're very close; I borrowed this pen name from him, after all. Over the years I did everything right: fed him high quality, grain free foods, took him to regular checkups, and gave him lots of cuddles and lovin'.
And now he has cancer.
In October 2013 we had a tumor mass removed from between his shoulder blades. The mass was around the size of a ping pong ball, and it only took a month or two to grow that big. He came through that surgery well, and he bounced back to his usual adorable and affectionate self. We thought that might have been a fluke - a one time thing, a growth that just appeared and then was removed. I was especially optimistic when the surgeon confirmed that the biopsy showed the margins of the removed tissues were free of cancer cells. That made me think that we got it all.
When I felt a little lump on his shoulder blade recently, I knew we shouldn't wait like we did the first time to "see if it goes down." So we had him into the vet hospital right away, and they removed the lump two days later.
But now we have to face the very real thing that the lump was not a one-time occurrence. Nico-kitteh has cancer, and given how aggressively these cells reappeared, it's likely not going to disappear on its own, even if the margins are clean again.
I cried. A lot. The ugly, blubbery crying, and it still comes and goes when I think about the situation. To be honest, I'm actually crying a little now while writing this post.
I'm not naive. I know that cats don't live forever. However, I thought that we'd have many more fun-filled, stress-free years with him. Instead, now we're faced with the question of what's best for him in the long run.
We spoke with the medical oncologist before his surgery. Apparently there's a cancer that tends to develop due to injections of vaccinations in the area between the shoulder blades. (Note to pet owners: Have your vaccine shots done on the hind legs or front paws where it's much easier to isolate problems should they arise.) He also spoke to us about treatments to address the fact that the cells didn't go away.
There's radiation therapy that would hopefully give Nico a better chance at ridding himself of the bad stuff. It's tough on cats, though, because they need to be anaesthesized each time they go under radiation. We'd also have to take him to facilities 1.5 hours away to have the treatments done. On top of all that, it's expensive. Like...really expensive. And when you take into account the cost of the surgeries, too, then this awful cancer has taken a toll financially in an amount that most people would probably say is absolutely crazy.
But here's the thing: he's my furbaby. He's my little boy. So I'm at least going to talk to the radiation oncologist to find out what we can do. And then I want to give him a fighting chance at having those many more years together.
And to everyone who says "how can you spend that much on a pet?" then I say shut the hell up. I don't want to hear it. If you're thinking it, then fine. Think it. But if you say anything to me about this in a way that criticizes me for doing what I think is best for me and for my furbaby, then you are not my friend. Period.
It's not your money. It's not your pet. It's not your life.
The way I see it, I don't have any kids. I'm not spending thousands on daycare every month or saving up to send someone to college. I don't have a mortgage. I'm lucky that I don't have any really big responsibilities at this point in my life. Nico is my responsibility. And I want to be responsible for giving him the best care possible so that he has the best chances possible at beating this thing.
Here's something that some people might have deduced about my situation from various posts or that, alternately, some of you might not know. I was a lawyer for many years and managed to save up enough money to take time off. I posted about this decision to take a sabbatical period a while ago, and I'm sure you've seen other posts where I've traveled and done some really awesome and fun stuff along the way. Even after over a year of time off, I still have plenty of those savings left. And after whatever this radiation therapy costs and whatever cancer will suck out of those funds, I'll still have more than enough as a nest egg.
So please don't judge. I know what's best for myself and for my boy-boy. Let me do what I want to do; it's not your decision to make.
That's what's happening with me. Big decisions. Big (and unsettling) news. And big hopes for a long, cancer-free future with my little Nico-kitteh. It's not often we can make decisions from our hearts and have the ability to support them. In this case, I'm doing what my heart says is the right thing to do, and that's to try to provide him with the best care possible. He'll have a chance, and hopefully he will beat cancer.
Your positive thoughts and vibes would be much appreciated as we go into this fight.
NJ and Nico-kitteh