One cat's battle with cancer
Ziggy was a once in a lifetime sort of cat. The type that never took his claws out and was always down for a cuddle session. When I was in High School a local farmer gifted him to me and we were attached at the hip for 11 years. When he was young he was an indoor/outdoor cat and would come running from the woods or garden when I arrived home. He would jump onto the hood of the car and saunter up to the roof to greet me with head bumps before following me inside to help with homework. He was a cuddle monster much to my chagrin at times and I would give anything to have had more time with him.
Ziggy was also a very vocal cat - meowing along with humans as though he was a part of the conversation. His propensity to always be a part of the conversation led to the first sign that something was seriously wrong.
In August of 2016 while I was getting ready to feed our trio of cats, Ziggy was expressing his excitement with happy meows when he suddenly let out a loud screech. At first I thought he may have gotten underfoot in our small kitchen but I certainly had not felt anything and had gotten quite adept at manuvering around 3 cats circling like sharks at meal time. With no obvious signs of trauma I shrugged it off and finished serving the kitties, Ziggy had a dental appointment in the next few days and if anything else happened I could talk to the vet then.
After his dental cleaning the veterinarian called and told me that she had found a mass in Ziggy's mouth that she was concerned about. As carefully as she explained I didn't quite understand the severity of the situation when she told me that she was not able to get margins on the growth and would be referring me to the Small Animal Oncology Department at North Carolina State University for further evaluation. I followed her recommendation and immediately reached out to NC State so I could get him seen as soon as possible. This was the beginning of the end for my dear Ziggy and reality had not hit me.
The team of veterinarians, technicians and students at the NC State Small Animal division moved swiftly and delicately when we arrived with Ziggy. In my mind this was going to be a simple fix - possibly some chemotherapy, medication, and further surgery to make sure that the entire mass was removed. Our regular (amazing) veterinarian just did not have the specialized equipment for this procedure - right? Everything was going to be fine.
The good doctor recommended various tests from x-rays, to bloodwork and CT Scans. Ziggy was my pseudo-child, I was going to give him anything he needed if it meant he would be okay. He compassionately explained Ziggy's diagnosis to me - Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma - a particularly aggressive tumor that does not have a good prognosis for cats. He explained that cat's mouths are so small and the research just is not there yet to be able to give me hope for Ziggy's longterm survival. Even with chemotherapy and other treatments we may not even get 6 months with him.
It wasn't fair.
It wasn't fair that this sweet cat wasn't going to be able to grow old with me, 11 years?! I knew cats that lived to 20! It wasn't fair that the survival rate for cats is lower than it is for dogs. It wasn't fair that he was in so much pain. It wasn't fair to put him through further pain of surgeries and treatments when he had shown me nothing but love and kindness through his life. Through the pain I was feeling I knew it was not right to keep him alive for my sake, I needed to do what was best for him. We decided to make him comfortable and enjoy the time we had left.
I bought Ziggy a tent so we could enjoy the outdoors together - he never liked the switch from an indoor/outdoor cat to indoor exclusively. We put on his harness and went on walks. We gave him shrimp - his FAVORITE. He got french fries. We played and cuddled. When I cried he would paw at my face or lick the tears away - an annoying habit of his that I now cherished.
Just three short weeks later the time came when we knew that Ziggy could not hold on any longer. His mass had begun bleeding and he did not want to be around us. I made the hardest phone call in my life - to schedule an appointment to have him humanely euthanized. I held him and pat him and watched the clock tick down to the time we had to leave. Does anyone ever arrive on time for these types of appointments? I certainly didn't.
On September 9, 2018 Ziggy lost his battle with cancer.
It was months before I could even talk about him without breaking down into ugly Kim Kardashian tears. At the time I managed a grooming salon for a national pet store chain and decided that I would give back to others that found themselves in a similar situation during the company's yearly Pet Cancer Awareness campaign. Each year since 2019 I have promoted the campaign tirelessly to my grooming Guests and donated 100% of my gratuities for the month that the campaign was active. The campaign is close to my heart, especially because some of the donations were given to NC State to help mitigate the cost of cancer treatments for pets and families that qualified. With Furology I will keep the donations going and raise funds for Pet Cancer Research at NC State in Raleigh, North Carolina.