It was an ordinary Tuesday when I came home from work and my husband told me that he had found a lump on Castiel’s left front leg. It was big, irregular, and felt hard and rough. It was like a peach pit had become embedded in the tissue of his leg. It wasn’t rubbery, it didn’t move, and it didn’t hurt. I’m a human osteologist, I knew this was bad. My husband had already booked a vet appointment for the following day. Family suggested that it could be a cyst but I didn’t think it was. I thought it was some kind of sarcoma and I was terrified because while my husband didn’t know what that meant, I did.
The lump seemed so big — how did we not notice it before? We snuggle with Castiel every night… we give him multiple daily belly rubs… but he is a big cat (a bit chonky) and it was kind of tucked in the inside of his arm. We felt like the worst cat guardians ever. We started looking back and re-examining every little thing. He’d had a limp for two years on that front leg. We’d brought him to the vet multiple times. He’d had X-rays and blood work, other than a little arthritis in that leg they said the tests were normal. We thought it was arthritis or because he was a bit overweight. He had started limping after a blood test not a vaccine. He was on a slimming plan and had slowly lost some weight. We remembered that he used to play chase more and jump more. He didn’t do those things as much now. We thought at nine years old that he was just settling into middle age. Could the cancer have been slowly growing for two years? We should have asked for more extensive tests and investigated the limp further. If we had watched his diet better, we would have noticed it earlier. If we had spent less time working. We spent the entire night on “what ifs.” We felt terrible…so terrible. He depended on us and we felt like we had failed him. We meant well but we had failed.
We vowed that every cat in the household would get full weekly pat downs from now on; that we would always investigate things – that when we heard quacking we would consider zebras. We went crazy with guilt. It was if our whole world came to a crashing halt.