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Cancer is no joke to humans, and it’s even more devastating when you find out that it happens to one of your companion animals. When it happens to your family you have this miserable panic where you blame yourselves because you didn’t catch things sooner. They can’t tell you what they’re feeling, and it’s up to you to sleuth when there is a problem. Even if you’re diligent about your twice yearly vet visits it can hit out of no where.
Last year was a terrible year for everyone Worldwide. Compounded with Cabin Fever, job losses, election year, and lack of paper goods, Pet Parents weren’t allowed to attend many visits with their vet techs and veterinarians in most states. I know we weren’t.
In January it struck me, through sleuthing, that Tom was going to die in 2020. Wow, did I not know what we were up against. We were able to meet with his doctor, go through several visits through the next six weeks. What we came down to was that Tommy had a wildly overactive thyroid. His T4 was so high that Dr. Heath said she wouldn’t be surprised if it were cancer. It was unmanageable with medication, which required blood draws before each new dosage was compounded. By the end of February we were referred to Dr. Conway for her assessment. She is the head of radio-iodine program at the local hospital that was certified by the state of Medicine to handle nuclear medicine.
I believe the visit with Dr. Conway all on its own was $800.
Before we made it to Dr. Conway it was $468 for 3 different blood draws with thyroid panels.
$65 to consult with Dr. Heath.
Every two weeks were were buying Methimazole or Felimazole at a different dose.
The first appointment in January was $6-700 to start all the tests.
We were roughly around $2000 or more to be ready for I-131 treatment. They were going to inject him with radioactive iodine, which would process through the thyroid. How large the thyroid was, and how quickly it was processing material, would be adjusted to neutralize the overactive tissues. If the thyroid material had traveled to other parts of the body (cancer) then the radioactive iodine would process that as well. Whatever he was going through, whether it had spread or not, this treatment we were looking at was the gold standard…
But I was tapped out.
The CareCredit account was 100 percent utilized. I got approval through Scratchpay before we met with Dr. Conway, through the original date of his admission for the procedure, but that was scheduled at the beginning of March. Dr. Conway had recently taken care of an ill family member, no one was able to actively get COVID-19 testing like we can today, and out of caution she had rescheduled Tom’s intake. By the time Tommy was ready to go for take #2, the Scratchpay offer had expired. I reapplied. I was denied. We are talking two weeks after the original expiration, where the country was now in lock down, and the lender saying that I no longer qualified. They said it was my FICO. My FICO and utilization amount was exactly where it stood when I applied six weeks earlier. Scratchpay seemed to have changed their scoring system practically overnight as the country was being laid-off. Instead of having the entire procedure settled, I was now only approved for $700 that would be repaid at no interest over a six week period.
Tom’s dad was livid. I couldn’t stop crying. I had a few hundred dollars from paycheck. Start over. Of course, I took their 6 week repayment offer because something is better than nothing, but I was ready for Tom to get a solid nights rest as much as I wanted mine. He’d been up vomiting every night at 2 am for 2-3 months as his hair was falling out and he was grooming it away.
Resources. There had to be resources. Then I found Fetch a Cure. While Tommy had not been formally seen by Oncology, this was basically the only circumstance that fell into “feline exceptions“. OH. My. WORD. Fetch works with canine and feline cancer patients in Virginia, D.C., and Maryland. It’s a little complicated going through the Companions in Crisis application and my own record keeping methods to provide them the required documents, but the Coordinator was phenomenal on walking us through, and within days she’d said the board was good to go on his case and was putting a deposit towards his care on our account with the hospital. I cried, hyperventilated, and yammered on during the congratulatory phone call.
I’m trying not to cry as I’m writing this past paragraph. There are only 2 times I did that happy-ugly cry: When I found out that Tommy reached his diet goal after 4 years, and when I got that call. Both times were life-changing.
Tommy stayed at the hospital April 6th-10th 2020. After he got home there were many restrictions. He was low enough on the radiation he was emitting to be able to be released, but not low enough to get close to us. On April 21st’20 he was finally allowed back in our bed. He really is a social, loving guy. While his dad was worried about him going through all of this that month and what it would mean for his mental state, I told him that as much as that hurts him and us, it HAD to happen. Tommy would never understand, but there are things we endure to keep living.
He has. He’s not exactly the same dude now, but last year he wasn’t the same dude he was the year before, or the year before. He’s been having maladies since 2016 and he has been meeting new people and making friends all over the DMVA.
Tom’s not totally recovered. He’s stable. In fact, he’s cured from what was killing him last year because of CIC. As you get older, things happen. The hyperthyroidism pushed him very hard by the time we’d had his diagnosis. His symptoms were first noted during summer 2019. It escalated until my epiphany that coming January. He had a very high heart murmur. His liver was elevated so high that it was questionable if he had liver disease as well. While the I-131 nuked his thyroid to normal, different things were happening now. His liver slowly recovered; the last value to come back to normal was his ALT. The heart murmur dropped a grade or two. However, once the kidneys adjusted we found that they had worked very, very hard. The blip on the labs for Chronic Kidney Disease was there: Stage 1.
The next labs at three months post-treatment: Stage 2 CKD
The next labs at six months post-treatment: Stage 2 CKD
The next labs just under 1 year post: Stage 2 CKD
ps his heart murmur is nigh undetectable
Tommy is a 12 year old domestic short haired cat, cured of hyperthyroidism, and stable on Chronic Kidney Disease.
Our Companion is NOT in Crisis. It means the world to us.
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