Clide is my 15/16 year old handsome tuxedo cat, and I just found out today via biopsy that he has oral squamous cell carcinoma.
Pounce over the squiggle for more.
Clide has a story, and I think it's a special one and one that I'd like to share.
I rescue. I believe every living thing deserves a chance at love, compassion and caring, and I just happen to have a talent for putting that belief into actions for discarded, abused, neglected and forgotten cats, particularly ones that are older or that have special needs. I am their voice.
This was the picture I saw on December 22, 2010:
That's Clide's shelter picture. He was dumped there by his "family" on December 22nd. He was 14 years old, and he had a mouthful of rotten painful teeth. But you can tell from the picture how chill he is - just taking it all in. This is very unusual in a shelter setting. I think I decided right then and there that we were going to get this cat rescued no matter what, despite the fact that he had two strikes against him - he was senior, and he had a medical issue (bad teeth). Both issues affect his ability to be rescued because a) senior cats are very hard to get adopted; and b) dental issues are very expensive.
BUT. A few things came together at once for this sweet cat who didn't deserve to be abandoned at a high kill shelter at age 14. One, the shelter's rescue coordinator had a rescue-friendly vet literally DONATE his dental - BIG step. Two, a friend (well, she's now a friend) stepped up and said that she would foster him while he recuperated from his dental. Three, I found a sanctuary that I knew and visited frequently that would take him once his mouth had healed.
So fast forward through January and half of February 2011, when he was with his wonderful recuperative foster. He came to me for what was to be a week of fostering before being transferred to sanctuary. Problem was, he had some medical issues - a burn on his side likely from the heating pad on which he was placed during his dental surgery - that simply HAD to heal before I transferred him. So, he was with me for month:
I took him to sanctuary in mid-March 2011. I didn't want to take him there, frankly. But I had a longstanding agreement with Mr. RenaRF that four permanent cats was our limit, and I already had four and was only fostering Clide. So he DID go to sanctuary, and I told the lady who owns/runs it that I was Clide's Fairy Catmother and that IF he ever needed anything, to call me and I would provide it.
Fast forward again to late April 2011. I got a call from the sanctuary. Clide was very sick - they worried he was dying. They asked if I could come get him and take him to the vet.
So I did.
And he WAS sick - with a pretty pernicious kitty cold. I had to medicate him and syringe feed him and love him and nurse him back to health. When he was feeling better, my husband I decided that this was his home, four-cat limit be damned. Truth be told: in my heart, I knew he belong with us anyway, and my opinion was that things worked out the way they should have.
What a lucky set of circumstances for my husband and I, let me tell you. Clide is endlessly entertaining. He's his own personality. It's virtually impossible to imagine how anyone could decide that they just didn't want him as a part of their life any longer for him to wind up at a shelter. He's loving, calm and sweet - his very demeanor is calming for me, and I have an incredibly stressful job. Petting Clide - and all of my other four cats - provides instant soothing to an over-amped day. Clide loves these foam balls that you can get at virtually any pet store. He'll chase them around, pick them up in his mouth, and smack them RIGHT back to you when you toss one to him:
He "talks". He'll walk around just chirping and chatting until you call him, and then come settle next to or near you with his loud purr and just chill in your presence.
I mentioned that I do senior and special needs cat rescue, and Clide is both of those those things. In addition to being 14 when we got him from the shelter on the day he was to be killed, he was diagnosed with diabetes in the summer of 2011. We're very fortunate that we've been able to manage it with diet only - he eats a low carb, wet only diet (and he eats like a horse!) and gets many small meals throughout the day via a timed feeder.
The issues with his mouth persisted throughout the time that he's been here as well. At his first dental, they took all but five teeth. In January 2011, because his mouth was still inflamed and sore, we took the last of his five teeth, leaving him toothless (not that he seems to care). In June of this year, he went to a dental specialist for further root work above the gum line - in other words, his original free dental was done poorly, and many roots and fragments were left behind that were causing him oral inflammation.
Since June, he'd been GREAT. Because he's an older cat who has diabetes and other health issues, I like to get him regular checkups. And because of his age, I don't like to physically take him to the vet any more than necessary, so I called the mobile vet to come and check him out last week.
That's when she felt the mass.
It's on the inside of his cheek at the very back of the right side of his mouth - near the "hinge". Because he's had so many mouth issues, I didn't immediately panic, but I scheduled him with the veterinary dental specialist the next day for a biopsy. That happened last Thursday, September 27. The options ran the gambit: he could be having simply inflammation secondary to his stomatitis (best case) all the way to having oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC - worst case).
It was today that the specialist called and told me it was a worst case scenario. We have an appointment with the oncologist tomorrow morning.
So this is not good news. OSCC is very aggressive and incredibly hard to treat. BUT - we found this almost accidentally. Most people discover their furry friend has OSCC when they start getting symptomatic, and by then it's often too late for any serious kind of treatment. Clide, on the other hand, doesn't know he has cancer and he seems absolutely fine - he's eating normally (and a LOT), pooping and peeing normally, and doing all the funny Clide things that deepen our love for him here at the RenaRF household. I am hopeful that we can pursue some treatment, which is likely going to be a combination of removing the mass and trying to get clean margins and palliative treatment designed to stop the growth of the cancer. I'm no pollyanna on this - I'm hopeful, but I have rules. Whatever we do, we do FOR Clide and not for ourselves. The quality of his life is the measuring stick. With a little luck, we can have him with us for a long time to come.
But if not - and no mistake here, I'll be devastated whenever the time comes for him - I don't and won't regret a single thing about bringing him into our family.
Senior pets and pets with special needs are killed at a disproportionately high rate in shelters. They are considered "unadoptable" due to age or condition or both. Yet they are often THE most rewarding rescue of all.
This is not a political diary - but it IS a glimpse in to the heart of this liberal. And more importantly - it's a request to each of you, good liberals all, to consider opening your heart and home to a cat (or dog, or whatever) like Clide. You'll be richer for it - trust me. The older ones and ones with conditions and issues that need attending seem to just know how fortunate they are when they're saved. They seem to bask in the glory of simply being alive, and they give it back exponentially.
Check out The Grannies (Facebook, website), Seniors for Seniors USA (Facebook, website), your local shelter or Petfinder to find a senior animal who desperately needs a home. Diabetic Cats in Need (Facebook, website) has a TON of wonderful diabetic cats that desperately need loving homes of their own. Blind Cat Rescue & Sanctuary (Facebook, website) rescues nothing but blind cats (who adapt perfectly!). The CH Kitty Club (Facebook, website) finds homes for cats and kittens with Cerebellar Hypoplasia (CH), a condition where their cerebellum is under-developed in vitro, leaving them with coordination and balance issues - the condition does NOT progress and requires no special medical attention. There are a ton of pets on Handicapped Pets that have different medical issues who need great homes.
There are a TON of cats in your local shelter or with a local rescue who are hyper-thyroid, require a special diet, you name it - who long for a loving home of their own, who are banking all their love and waiting for their own person to make a withdrawal and share that love.
For our part, Clide and I would greatly appreciate your warm wishes, thoughts, great karma, and - if you pray - your prayers for successful treatment and a long time together ahead. No matter what the outcome, however, or when the outcome, I wouldn't take a single thing back with Clide. Not. One. Thing. The joy has, thus far, been all mine.
Thanks for reading.