Our family lost a wonderful friend yesterday. Tom lived and loved us for 14 years. Tom was abandoned by his owner at a PetSmart 14 years ago. One of the PetSmart employees fostered Tom while trying to find him a loving home. My DH and I were both attending college at the time we wandered into this PetSmart to look at the pets up for adoption. I saw Tom and the first thing he did when removed from the cage was wrap his front paws around my neck. I knew that he was to be mine. He was two years old when we adopted him.
Tom suffered many sore throats the first couple years that he was with us. We eventually got a diagnosis for his chronic sore throats at age five, feline stomatitis. The only successful treatment for when his sore throat flared was Depo Medrol injections. Sometimes he would find comfort for only a month and sometimes he found comfort for six months. We were told at age five that he would live up to three years on this treatment.
Tom loved the outdoors (even though he was our indoor cat). He loved to run out the patio door when opened to rub and roll on the brick patio. He was often treated to fresh catnip that we would have growing.
As he grew older, he became a lap cat. He would lay for hours on my lap. When my DH started working contract programming projects at home, Tom would run into my DH's office first thing each morning rubbing and loving my DH until he would pick him up and cradle him into a light sleep of purring and cooing. Tommy even got a portion of DH's desk for his cat couch, and he would sleep happily next to my DH most of his work day.
Tommy loved visiting Tennessee (even though it was a long drive). He loved going out on my in-laws screen porch to watch the birds and bugs. DH would even let him wander the yard under supervision.
At age 15 1/2 (in January of this year), Tommy developed a mass on his right tonsil. At first, it was thought to be a bad flare of stomatitis; however, it did not respond to the Depo shots. Due to its continued growth, our local vet performed a de-bulking procedure and sent samples to find out if it was cancer. We received what we thought was good news at the time - the tissue sample confirmed stomatitis and no cancer. With this news, Tom had a bad tooth on the right side, so he underwent a dental cleaning and tooth removal. Unfortunately, the mass on the right tonsil continued to grow, and his right eye started to bulge out.
We were referred to a local oncologist in late April, early May of this year. The oncologist suggested a CAT scan to see if the mass was only in the mouth. He also suggested another de-bulking surgery and tissue be sent out for review.
This time the news was not good. The mass went from his right tonsillar area up the right side of his jaw and was the culprit to the eye bulging. The surgeon de-bulked the mouth mass; however, the entire mass could not be removed due to its location. Even worse, the report came back as oral squamous cell carcinoma that had metastasized to his local lymph node and behind the right eye.
Tommy went on an at home treatment of Palladia for a month and a half (late May and all of June of this year). Palladia is an off label use to try and treat this type of cancer. During treatment, he eventually needed supplemental feeding through syringe a couple times a day to try and keep his weight up. Unfortunately, due to increased levels of calcium and a lowering red blood cell count, we had to discontinue the Palladia treatment. The oncologist suggested euthanasia at this point.
Since Tom's quality of life was still good at this point, we decided to return to our local vet for a re-evaluation and opinion. Our local vet saw the same thing we did - Tom was still a happy cat that was not ready to go yet. He suggested an e-tube to help get Tom's weight back up, removal of his right eye and drive up to Purdue small animal hospital to be evaluated for radiation. We opted for the e-tube placement; however, I was able to get my Purdue appointment quickly after the e-tube was placed, so we decided to not have his right eye removed.
I drove from Indianapolis to West Lafayette with my sweet Tom in early July of this year. Purdue oncology evaluated Tom, and they did not believe that radiation or chemo would help Tom at this point - only harm him. I drove home wondering what was best for Tom.
It was decided that I would hospice Tom at home until his quality of life was gone. Yesterday, August 1, 2011, I awoke to begin our daily routine to find my sweet man severely congested as the cancer had made its way into his right sinus. After flushing his mouth with water to remove the gunk, I gave him some antibiotics during our morning feeding. Previously his congestion would clear up by late afternoon following a dose of antibiotics; however, I noticed his breathing had become further labored as the day progressed. Tom was unable to keep down the food and water that was given by his e-tube by late afternoon. I called my DH,and we took Tom to the vet knowing deep in my heart that Tom was telling me it was time.
The vet agreed that Tom's quality of life was not good, and while lovingly rubbing his ears, my sweet man went to sleep peacefully. With tears in my eyes and my heart breaking, I kissed his sweet head for the last time and told him that one day I would see him again. I cried most of last night and woke up with a deep hole in my heart. It is hard to not walk or look somewhere in our house where I remember better times with my sweet man. I know that as time goes on, I will be able to climb out of this grief. My other three littles have been spending ample time cuddling with me. I believe they know that Tom is gone and miss him as well.
Until we meet again Tom. I will love you forever.