I recently shared Cooper’s hyperthyroidism story on the diagnosis, the treatment and the conclusion. As serious as hyperthyroidism is in cats, Cooper was in good hands with his vet. We had a plan and we carried Cooper through each process with success. If you followed Cooper’s three-part story, you will know that Cooper is fortunately cured of hyperthyroidism. What I did not share with you was a dramatic event that occurred in the middle of the hyperthyroidism treatment process. Cooper had a tumor on his pancreas!
Warning: I am sharing post-op pictures of Cooper in this post, but they are appropriate for the nature of this post. I would not classify these pictures as graphic but they may be uncomfortable for some readers. Click “read more” only if you are in agreement to view these photos.
As I have stated before, but I should emphasize again. I am not a veterinary health care professional. I am sharing this experience with Cooper as experience only. This post is not meant to give healthcare advice, but rather to recommend you follow the advice of your pet’s doctor. I will avoid the technical terms in this case due to the overwhelming amount of terms, diagnosis, procedures, etc. that were involved in Cooper’s case. My descriptions of the terms, diagnosis, procedures, etc. are put in layman terms to avoid misinformation and any inaccuracies.
During the x-ray review in preparation for Cooper’s radioactive iodine treatment, the doctor at Radiocat (Marietta, GA) discovered a tumor on Cooper’s pancreas! As soon as they discovered the tumor the doctor called me to tell me that we needed to postpone the radioactive iodine treatment to deal with this tumor that was in a very high-risk area of Cooper’s body. I was devastated. As serious as hyperthyroidism is, we were faced with something more serious. Cooper may have cancer! A tumor does not necessarily mean that it is cancerous. But, let’s face it, that is the worst case scenario in a situation like this and the first thing that comes to mind when you hear “tumor”.
We were still at the Radiocat facility and fate would have it that it also shares the same location with a 24-hour emergency animal clinic that also was the location of an internist. As desperate as the situation was, Cooper was fortunate to be at that facility. The internist made time that day to see Cooper. I agreed to Cooper getting an ultrasound and a fine needle aspiration cytology test (they insert a small needle to obtain samples from the tumor, etc.) In addition to the pancreatic tumor, the ultrasound also revealed spots on Cooper’s spleen. Unfortunately, we would have to wait a week for the cytology results to come back.
Cooper and I took our long drive back home and waited. I anxiously waited, and Cooper was back home enjoying life like it was any other day. A week passed and the cytology results came back as INCONCLUSIVE! What? The results cannot rule out cancer nor can they confirm cancer. I was expecting some sort of answer, and certainly hoping for no cancer, but an inconclusive result! Well, the consensus with the doctors was to do another ultrasound and fine needle aspiration cytology test in four weeks. So, that is what we did, but, this time, we were home and had it done at Cooper’s vet, Riverview Animal Clinic. Once again, we waited for the results.
The results came back, and they were not inconclusive this time. The cells were suspicious of cancer. So, based on the second lab results, the next step for Cooper would be exploratory surgery to explore this area inside of Cooper, remove the tumor (hopefully), take more tissue samples, etc. X-rays, ultrasounds and fine needle aspiration cytology tests are great up to a certain point. However, surgery was the necessary next step to get to the bottom of what this was inside of Cooper. So, we scheduled Cooper’s surgery with his doctor within days. We were less than two weeks away from Christmas, and we were having to schedule Cooper for surgery! However, Cooper was in the best care and with a doctor I trusted. Regardless of the outcome, this surgery would give us the answers, good or bad.
So, surgery day was soon upon us. I drove Cooper to the Riverview Animal Clinic early that morning. What would they find? When would Cooper be able to come home? Would Cooper be coming home? So many questions crossed my mind. But the fact of the matter is, Cooper had to have this done to give him a fighting chance. We already knew the cells were cancerous in nature, but did he have cancer now? Could they remove the tumor? Only exploratory surgery with Cooper’s doctor would give us those answers. I dropped Cooper off with a great group of people that would give Cooper the best care. I went to work and waited for Cooper’s doctor to call me after surgery.
Around noon that day, Cooper’s doctor called me. She was able to remove the tumor along with a portion of his pancreas. She also removed his entire spleen. Cooper did well during the hour long surgery, and I could visit him that evening. I visited Cooper that evening and every day that Cooper was recovering from surgery. During Cooper’s post-op stay at the vet, the results came back. Cooper did not have cancer! However, the cells were evident that this would have developed into cancer had the tumor along with the part of his pancreas and the spleen had not been removed. A huge weight had been lifted with this news! Cooper still had to recover from surgery, and it was a slow process. He had to build his appetite back up and get his strength back. But we beat cancer before it could rear its ugly head!
We were also fortunate that Cooper was able to come home just in time for Christmas. We kept the festivities quiet and calm. Besides, we had the best present that year. Cooper was home and did not have cancer!
As you can see, the surgery was extensive.
Cooper was able to move around pretty good. The incision area and staples were hard for me to look at, but Cooper did not ask for any sympathy.
He slept a lot in his cat bed during the day.
But at night, he slept with us on the bed while wearing the mandatory cone of shame. 🙁
I would get up with him at night for a litter break and a snack. He could not eat with the cone on, so we would remove it to eat. But, the cone had to stay on unless he was supervised.
I was grateful to have had the events line up just the way they did. By Cooper having hyperthyroidism, he had to have an x-ray which also revealed the tumor that was growing on Cooper’s pancreas. Had Cooper not been in for treatment for hyperthyroidism, we would have never know that Cooper had a mass that would have developed into cancer. Cooper had a fortunate outcome, and I am forever grateful for the events and every doctor and tech that cared for Cooper during this process. Because of the excellent care and the proactive procedures Cooper received in the small time frame, Cooper is here today right next to me while I write this post.
I am sharing this story out of complete gratitude and humility. As bad as a report can sound, there are happy outcomes. The odds were in Cooper’s favor. However, I have also lost cats to cancer. One of my precious childhood cats passed away from bladder cancer. I have also lost a cat to pancreatic cancer because the tumor could not be removed from the area it was located on the pancreas, and the cancer had already aggressively spread. Cancer is not selective, and I would not dare boast about Cooper’s outcome. The timing and location were just right in Cooper’s case. There are some commonsense measures we can take with our pets to help prevent some cancers and other ailments, but even when we do everything right cancer and other ailments can appear regardless. As I bring this post to a close, the advice that I will give and will always give is to keep regular appointments with your pet’s vet. Preventive and proactive care are crucial to your pet’s health. The outcomes can be great, but they can also be heartbreaking. However, the worst thing is to do nothing at all.
I am honored to have Cooper as my cat and as a part of our family. Cooper has a tenacious spirit, and he persevered through this ordeal. It was heart wrenching to see Cooper in pain and be in such a vulnerable state. However, Cooper trusted us to care for him which made his recovery easier for him and us. I know Cooper can’t read this, but as I tell him every day, thank you for being my cat. Thank you for being tough (but you really don’t have to bite and scratch everyone at the vet 🙂 ). Thank you for trusting me to take care of you. I love you, Coop!