Andrew adopted Jumper a.k.a Calvin and his sister Monty a.k.a Annie (b. 6/1/1994, d. 6/2001) in July, 2005 from North Shore Animal League America ( Calvin was born on ~June 1, 1994… A cat with the most impeccable table manners; generous with his affectionate head butts and love bites on one’s toes. We met for the first time November, 2001 in Cobble Hill, New York- a soft fluffy round tuxedo cat came to greet me while I sat on the couch. I wish I had had the pleasure of getting to know Annie and Marcie (another of Andrew’s previous cats).

Calvin in Crinkly Cat Tunnel

Calvin in Crinkly Cat Tunnel

Overall, Calvin’s health had been excellent ever since his adoption. 2008 has been a very tough year. I am including details of his disease progression and treatments for especially those who have a pet diagnosed with cancer, my empathy couldn’t be more genuine…

October 11, 2007: Annual Exam (good results) & receives his first dental deep-cleaning. I can’t stress enough that the best gift you can give to your pet is quality and timely veterinary care and enrolling in a pet medical insurance program.

April 27, 2008: Observable excessive drooling, foul breath, and left-side facial ?rash. Otherwise behavior, eating, drinking, grooming, and litter habits remain unchanged.

April 29, 2008-May 1, 2008: Primary Vet visit. Receives I.V. fluids due to some dehydration. Vet initially believes this to be “plasma stomatitis” (essentially gum inflammation with a variety of possible causes) or “eosinophilic granulosis” (an immune disorder). Vet observes he is having difficulty with drinking water, thus leading to increased constipation. We are instructed to give him water several times a day through syringes by mouth to maintain hydration. Clavamox (antibiotic) prescribed. Initial steroid injection given.

May 15, 2008: Calvin diagnosed with amelanotic melanoma of oral cavity (an aggressive form of cancer) based on his biopsy results. Dehydration, constipation, drooling, and difficulty swallowing persists. Otherwise, activity levels remain unchanged. Calvin is referred to an oncology specialist for further medical attention. I will never forget the moment Andrew told me that Calvin had cancer- my heart just sunk.

May 20, 2008: First oncology specialty visits. He weighed in at a little over 8 lbs. Calvin was 13.5 lbs. when he was well. Inner canthus of left eye observed as abnormally out-stretched. Vets also observed left facial paralysis. Head MRI showed a small brain-stem tumor. E-tube placement done (for food, water, and medication intake). Erythromycin (antibiotic) eye ointment given. Clavamox treatment is continued. Prednisone treatment begins. We are instructed to administer 240cc of prescription food and 240cc of water each day via syringes into his e-tube; taking care to flush the tubing with water before and after all administrations to prevent the tube from clogging. E-tube site checked daily for signs of infection and wound dressings at e-tube site to be changed twice weekly. We recognize that this e-tube was his lifeline- there would have been no extended time with him without it. The question of “emotional cost” came up during the initial conversations as a guide-post and we decided to make the necessary selfless sacrifices to see Calvin through this time. It was explained to us that the goal of pet care especially in these circumstances would be to increase the pet’s quality of life even more so than “curing,” as I was always taught to be the ultimate goal for human patients. These are some hard questions and significant issues which I will never forget. Sometimes you get to know your pet’s personality and can be at peace with all the decisions you make for him. Calvin loved life and being with his family. It was clear to us what we needed to do for him.

May 26, 2008-June 3, 2008: Oncology follow-up visits. Calvin’s melanoma vaccine and Cee-Nu (chemotherapy) treatment begins during this time. Previous treatments remain unchanged. Due to Calvin’s type of cancers, radiation was not the best alternative. We were relieved that he did not suffer any negative effects of chemotherapy e.g. vomiting, diarrhea, whisker loss, change of fur texture. The areas of shaved fur due to previous I.V. placements were still slowly growing back even after chemotherapy. We did notice that he had a slight “brownish blush” to his tuxedo face, back legs, and tail. No corneal ulcer was found as previously suspected so eventually his erythromycin eye ointment was discontinued and replaced with daily “artificial tears” to keep his left eye lubricated. The veterinarians were very supportive and understanding; making sure to never over-extend their influence.

June 17, 2008: Administration of melanoma vaccine and chemotherapy. The veterinary oncologist observes that he may have an abnormal perception of his face and oral discomfort due to the progressing cancer; causing him to persistently scratch the left side of his face. His left cheek became so raw that we needed to place an e-collar on him to prevent further scratching and promote his facial healing. Along with an e-collar, hydrocortisone ointment to treat the wound was also prescribed. His face eventually healed nicely. I was a little nervous about not being able to maintain “true sterile technique” with his e-tube dressings being done at home. I’m so relieved his e-tube site was always clean, dry, and infection free. Maybe Calvin’s small plus that his mom is a RN.

July 1, 2008: Follow-up oncology visit. Melanoma vaccine administered. Cee-Nu discontinued and changed to compounded Hydroxyurea (another chemotherapy treatment) since the specialist suspects the Cee-Nu is not having much positive effects. Calvin’s gait has become much more unsteady and wide-based within the past few weeks, but still well enough to independently use his litterbox. I was so used to seeing Calvin in the comforts of home; taking each day one at a time never being able to look back, not realizing how far he had strayed from his normal days. Being out of his usual home environment put things into proper perspective. He was not doing much jumping at this time, not even onto his favorite spot by the window to enjoy the warm summer breeze. As suggested by the specialist, we have offered him his favorite foods on many occasions since after his e-tube placement and chemotherapy treatment- only to be met with a couple of disinterested sniffs. We were guessing that because of the diligent e-tube feedings, he convinced himself that he felt full? There was a small hope up to this point, based on Calvin’s behavior, the vet believed him to be experiencing mild mouth discomfort rather than in severe pain.

July 11, 2008: Follow-up oncology visit. Baytril (antibiotic) prescribed to treat nasal congestion and sneezing. In hindsight, we realized that these symptoms were caused by the melanoma progression. Calvin still seemed occasionally playful up to this point. He still loved to be brushed and receive gentle pats on his head and back.

(This is an excerpt of a letter written to relatives)

Our beloved Calvin passed away ~12:30am on July 22, 2008 after a courageous three-month battle with melanoma. His last moments were peaceful and in the presence of his family. To the very end he enjoyed his cat brush and got to spend a little time the previous evening out on the porch lapping up the outdoors air. Calvin will soon claim his place among the peonies in the yard he could never get enough of and will always be remembered as a truly sweet and wonderful companion.

I’m still really saddened by his death, but unrelenting in keeping his memory alive in different ways. I think some days I feel better than others and I’m sure Andrew’s still privately grieving. Calvin’s courage taught me to live life to its fullest and regret nothing. We are very thankful for all the knowledgeable guidance and compassionate care he received which made possible our extended time with him. Besides the aforementioned, these are just a few of the many things I will remember him for:

His love of fresh catnip, especially rolling around in it
Ham, roast beef, free-feeding on kibbles from a gravity feeder (he was ~21 lbs. when we met)
Sleeping on his back with front paws slightly folded up
Jumping into a box filled with packing peanuts

I would like to finish this entry by saying how lucky we were to have shared such fun and wonderful times with him… that on especially sunny days I’m imagining that he’s somewhere over the rainbow bridge happily playing in the company of his siblings and new-found friends.

Art by Peter Van Allen

Art by Peter Van Allen

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