was diagnosed with Squamous Cell Carcinoma in his mouth in
the beginning of April, 2001. It was a freak accident in the late
evening of March 27 that lead to his diagnosis.
On that evening, Phil and his littermate
Don were play-wrestling in the kitchen. They were brought up together
and were very close brothers. They always did things together. They
slept together, and they played together. Their play-wrestling session
usually started with one of them arching his back and approaching
the other sideways, sometimes making a threatening (which sounds
too cute to be a threatening) meow. Usually Phil was the one who
makes this supposed to be intimidating meow. Then the wrestling
starts. They grab hold of each other and give kitty-kicks with their
hind legs. One gets tough and offensive, and the other gets submissive
and defensive, but they changed roles often within a session. When
they get tired after a while, they simply sit face to face and start
washing each other's back and neck. How I miss watching this wonderful,
That evening, something went wrong.
Phil made a horrible yelp and started running around the house like
crazy while crying. I couldn't figure out what had happened. I tried
to get hold of him but he kept running, himself not knowing what
was happening to him. He finally stopped running and was on the
desk in the home office. I looked at him and noticed his tongue
was hanging out from the side of his mouth. He seemed unable to
move his tongue, and he was in pain. I panicked for a moment, but
got hold of myself quickly and got out a telephone book. I started
to look for an emergency clinic where I can take him in right away.
It was about 9:30 P.M. I found one which was about 20 minutes away
and called them and told them I was bringing in my Phil.
the way to the clinic, Phil cried from the pain. I kept telling
him that he will be all right, that I will take care of him. I was
in a panic mode and forgot to look up the address of the clinic
in the map and I got lost! I drove around the vicinity of the clinic
several times until I finally found it. When we went in to the clinic,
they took him to the back right away to take a look what was wrong
with Phil. While I was filling out the paperwork, a vet tech came
out and told me that somehow Phil's tongue was caught between his
teeth and got stuck, but the doctor dislodged it and Phil is OK
now. She told me to wait in one of the exam rooms until the doctor
brings Phil back. While I was waiting in the room, I heard two people
talking behind the door about someone having cancer, but I didn't
think they were talking about my Phil.
When the doctor finally came in the
room without Phil, she had a very serious look on her face. She
started to explain about Phil's tongue and her guess as to what
caused it to get caught between his teeth. She said they found a
small "lesion" in his mouth, near the base of his tongue,
and she thought this lesion was the cause. She also told me that
Phil's teeth needed cleaning badly (which I knew, but I wasn't so
keen on putting him under anesthesia and kept postponing) and recommended
asking my regular vet to take a look at this lesion at the same
time. She didn't say it was tumor, but she virtually "ordered"
me to go visit the vet the next day, without fail, because she was
faxing the paperwork to them. (I didn't have a chance to look at
their exam report, but it could have been written in there that
she suspected a cancerous tumor, which she called a "lesion.")
The next morning, I called my regular vet and explained what happened
the night before and made an appointment for the next day for Phil's
the following morning, I dropped Phil off at the hospital. The doctor
was to call me when Phil's dental work was done. She called me at
my work around 11:30. I was expecting to hear that everything was
OK and his "lesion" was just an ulcer or something benign.
Instead, the doctor's voice was subdued. She told me that by the
look of the lesion, she suspects it is squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)
and wants to do biopsy of it while Phil is under the anesthesia.
Actually I couldn't catch the name of the cancer when she told me
on the phone. She went on to explain if it is indeed squamous cell
carcinoma, Phil will going to live only a couple of weeks to a couple
of months. I was totally unprepared for the news.
I was on an autopilot the rest of the
day. During the hours and days that followed that phone call, I
kept up a false hope that the doctor was wrong and there was nothing
wrong with Phil's mouth. The result of the biopsy was not expected
to come back for almost a week. It was a very difficult wait. I
started searching on the Web about various oral tumors in cats.
Because I didn't remember what the name of the cancer was, I was
just collecting any information that I came across on oral tumors
in cats. The one that had the worst prognosis was SCC. I tried to
persuade myself that Phil's lesion was not SCC.
(To be continued)