A vet visit to investigate the lump

We showed our vet the lump. She seemed calm… she always seems calm even when she is being bitten or covered in cat poo, as is usually the case with Castiel.  He always pees and poos when he is nervous — a real nightmare at vet visits. Our vet’s office takes these nervous movements in stride, even when he smells up the whole office so bad that we’re left gagging. No amount of fasting solves the problem, we’re convinced he saves up poo for car rides and vet visits.  We come prepared with pads and cat wipes. We often joke that we should get our vet a full raincoat that she can reserve for his visits. Our vet is super nice and gentle — and calm. And she was calm while she felt the lump.

She mentioned that lumps could be lots of things.  I think she was hoping it was something else too. We clung to that hope — even though, I didn’t think the result would be good. She did a Fine Needle Aspiration. She took X-rays of his leg and thoracic area (lungs). The X-rays didn’t show anything, just a little arthritis in that leg. We had to wait three days for the FNA. They were painstaking. We wanted it to be a lipoma or a cyst but it wasn’t rubbery and it didn’t hurt but still we wanted to believe it wasn’t malignant.

Three days later, we received a call from our vet with the results — it showed inflammatory cells and spindle cell proliferation.  The report said there was “concern for sarcoma” but more testing was needed.  The pathologist couldn’t say for certain. We clung to hope. Spindle cells don’t necessarily mean cancer — but they often do — they often mean some kind of sarcoma.

Our vet suggested we do a surgery to remove it. We scheduled the surgery for the first available date –early the following week. We wanted to test sooner but there were no appointments.  We debated if we should have the surgery at a specialty vet hospital but our vet was confident she could do the surgery. I wonder if maybe she thought it might be something else too. We still had hope it might be something else. In retrospect, we probably should have gone to the specialty hospital when we suspected sarcoma, but we didn’t know it was sarcoma and we were still in diagnostic mode.

In less than a week, the lump grew. Cancer means rapidly dividing cells. Benign things don’t grow that fast, I told myself.

We found a lump

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.

Introducing Castiel

Castiel is our adorable goofy parlor panther. He is a 9-year-old black cat named after an angel who doesn’t quite get humans from the tv series Supernatural. We adopted Castiel at 6 months of age from a local rescue group. It was love at first sight. I swear our hearts double in size every time we look at him. He has two adopted much loved tiger siblings, one-year-old Clover and three-year-old Aleksandr. We all live in the SF Bay Area, and all the cats are strictly indoors as we live in an area with coyotes, hawks, and mountain lions.

Castiel is possibly the most food motivated cat on the planet. He is constantly plotting to steal his siblings chow. He is an expert at breaking into cupboards and is not opposed to helping himself to leftovers. He is a big long cat whose people and vet have him on a strict slimming plan, which he thinks stinks.

Castiel has had a few prior health issues but nothing serious. He got blocked up something fierce after chewing up a double roll of toilet paper as a kitty – about $800 worth of enemas and care solved that issue. He has suffered some constipation issues over the years that resulted in a vet prescribed small Miralax dose but otherwise he is a pretty typical cat.

He spends his days lolling around the house, following sunbeams, lying across jigsaw puzzles, playing with his siblings and catnip toys, and playing fetch and feather toy.

Less than a month ago everything seemed perfect, and then we found a lump.

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