By Sandy Quadros Bowles
Doriann Jasinski looks forward to her little talks with TC.
TC, a 13-year-old purebred Manx cat, “talks to me all day. I’ll respond to him and he’ll just keep on going.’’
So when TC fell silent one day, Jasinski searched for her pal and found him rolled in a corner, his eyes glassy.
She knew something wasn’t right. But she didn’t realize just how wrong things were.
A visit to a local veterinarian led to an X-ray and bad news. The veterinarian suspected TC had a stomach tumor. He was, the veterinarian told Jasinski, “very, very sick.’’
Jasinski took immediate action. “I got him in the car and drove straight to’’ the Foster Hospital for Small Animals at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine in North Grafton.
There an ultrasound showed a mass in the pancreas and enlarged lymph nodes. TC was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
The news couldn’t have been much worse, Dr. Lisa G. Barber told her. “Pancreatic carcinoma is a very rare cancer, estimated to represent less than one half of one percent of all cancers in cats and dogs. It is highly malignant in people, cats and dogs,’’ Dr. Barber said.
In most cases, the disease has metastasized by the time the diagnosis can be made, she said. “In TC’s case, the lymph node was abnormal indicating the cancer was on the move. Thankfully, there were no detectable nodules within the lungs.’’
Still, TC faced dire odds. A recent study reported the average survival for cats with pancreatic carcinoma was 97 days, Dr. Barber said. Without intervention, the average survival time was just seven days.
For cats undergoing surgery, chemotherapy or a combination of the two, average survival was 165 days. This study also found that fewer than 10 percent of cats survive for longer than one year and their longest survivor was 510 days.
Jasinski acknowledged that TC had received “pretty much a terminal diagnosis.’’ But she was determined to take every possible step to help TC beat the odds and maintain his quality of life.
“He was a member of our family,’’ she said.
TC underwent surgery to remove the cancerous portion of the pancreas and abnormal lymph node. He then received six doses of carboplatin chemotherapy.
Interestingly, “TC tolerated all of his treatments well,’’ Dr. Barber said. “He was never ill with the chemotherapy and actually seemed to like coming to the hospital.’’
That reflects his social, people-oriented personality. “This cat is an amazing animal,’’ Dr. Barber said. “He is absolutely gorgeous. He is a real people cat. He even gives honest-to-God hugs.’’
TC was an enthusiastic and even loving patient, she said. “He wraps his paws around your neck and nestles under your chin. It is enough to melt even the most hardened heart.’’
Two years after that terrifying day when TC first went to the vet, the cat remains well, continuing to “chat’’ up a storm at home while enjoying his normal routine. Jasinski knows that may not last forever.
The original biopsy showed that the margins were not clean, proof, Jasinski said, that “at some point, something’s got to give. It’s a ticking time bomb.’’
But for now, she is grateful to have TC happy at home, two years after she learned that some cats in similar situations live only a week.
And she credits his success to the care he received at Tufts. The staff there was “phenomenal,’’ she said.
“If you have a very sick animal and you want the best care possible, there’s only one option. If you want the best that’s where you go.’’