In my last post, you learned that we were taking our adorable cat Maude to a vet specialty center to be probed, scanned, and possibly operated on. From the original consultation and the observation of our regular vet, we knew the problem could be an infection (not so bad and treatable), a polyp (removable), or a mass (could be anything from not too bad to awful). We were optimists and hoped that the findings would be a very deep infection that a good scooping and lots of medications could conquer.
On Thursday, April 17, we dropped Maude off at the center after signing a “Yes, please do resuscitate” form. We were sad and a little nervous, but that didn’t keep us from going out to eat a hearty breakfast. In the early afternoon, the surgeon called and told us that it wasn’t an infection, but it was still hard to see what was going on without a CT scan. (I had made silly jokes about the “cat scan” to my friends earlier, and it’s time to get over myself.)
When she called back soon after, she told us that it’s a mass and that Maude needed a TECA, or total ear canal ablation. This possibility was explained to us during the consultation, but I still couldn’t wrap my mind around it. Remove her ear canal? Really? I quickly went online and found that this is done for both cats and dogs, and they do recover. Chances are great that they weren’t hearing well through the affected ear anyway, so the loss in hearing wouldn’t make much of a difference.
There was also the possibility that the nerve that controls blinking of the eye on the side of the surgery could be cut. If so, Maude would need eye medication at least twice a day to provide the lubrication that tears from blinking usually provide. I was again optimistic. What are the chances this will actually happen?
Within 15 minutes, we called the surgeon back and told her to go ahead with the ablation. I had a hard time with the decision but knew that if it wasn’t done that day, we’d still have to do it at some point, and then Maude would have to undergo anesthesia again. We went through the rest of the day depressed, sad, and worried.
Late that afternoon, a phone call from the vet center gave us good news and bad news. Maude was doing well after the surgery, but the tumor (yes, it was a tumor that was biopsied) was wrapped around the aforementioned nerve, and they had to cut the nerve to get everything out. That means putting medication in the non-blinking eye twice a day for the rest of her life.
We picked her up on Friday afternoon, after a technician explained how and when to administer the two painkillers and the eye salve. When Maude was handed over to us, she was wearing the expected e-collar, or cone, that all animals hate with a passion. At home, she bumped into walls, had difficulty getting her face down into water and food bowls, and was perplexed that she was unable to clean herself. She periodically lifts her back paw and, instead of bringing it to her mouth as usual, it just sticks up in the air with nowhere to go.
But she’s been pretty good about these temporary disabilities. We’re the ones who suffer, watching her try to navigate. Giving her two different liquid pain medications several times a day is the real challenge. While dogs will generally open their mouths for anything you put in front of them, cats are much more discriminating. And this cat certainly wasn’t going to allow her determined owners to pry open her mouth and shove a syringe filled with not-so-delicious liquid in. The first time we did this, my husband held her and I gave her the medicine. He got scratched. On both arms. We were nervous, and that increased her tension. After that, we captured her with a towel first. She objected loudly, but we got the medicine in.
When Maude first came home from the animal hospital, she spent nights in a dark corner of one closet or another. For the last few nights, she has slept on our bed between us, enjoying the petting and belly rubs from her two biggest fans. The stitches (and the cone) will be removed Monday morning. Hallelujah! It’s very sad to see this puzzled kitty not be able to get very comfortable while snoozing because of a piece of inflexible plastic around her head.
So until yesterday afternoon, I was feeling much happier. Only four more days until the cone comes off! Then the surgeon called with the biopsy results.
The tumor was a squamous cell carcinoma, which is usually a skin cancer—worse than a basal cell but not as bad as melanoma. I’m not sure how Maude got this so deep in her ear. Because of the narrow and delicate area where it was located, she could not remove nearby tissue to be sure it was all out. So there are a few remaining cells, and the surgeon said they could progress rapidly. The remedy is radiation. When I asked about the process, she said we would have to bring her in to the vet center every day for a month! Can you imagine taking a cat for a ride to the center every single day for a month and having her undergo sedation and radiation? Of course, it’s doable, but we don’t want to cause her more trauma while she’s recovering from surgery and the aftermath. We’ll meet with the oncologist to discuss her odds of recovery, what happens if we don’t do the radiation, and what it will cost.
This morning, as I awoke, I looked over at the little bundle of fur sleeping next to me and realized I can’t imagine not having her around. Pet owners everywhere can relate. I’ll let you know what we decide to do.