I Got a Grant from a Foundation to Treat My Cat's Cancer
Beans was born in the backyard of my husband Dave’s parents’ house in Staten Island on May 17, 2010. He was the only kitten to survive in his litter, and seeing the little cat struggle, Dave’s mom, Bette, took him in at two weeks old. She soon realized this little guy was an energetic handful compared with her three older cats and asked us to take the kitten. Thus, Beans came to live with us in Queens.
I instantly became obsessed with Beans. My coworkers would share pictures of their newborn children and I would just as proudly show pictures of Beans giving a morning throat massage to Dave. He had a distinct personality -- he would play fetch and sit in the bathroom sink and meow until you turned the water on and meow again when done, to which Dave would always reply, “Thanks Buddy,” and turn the water off. He was also a beautiful cat model -- one of the winners of this year’s Catster Instagram Cat show Contest in July.
Right after that fun win is when things started to take a turn. He had his yearly vet checkup with vaccinations and got a clean bill of health. The next day he was not himself and began to vomit. After a call to the vet, she said that this sort of thing can happen and he should be fine once the effects of the vaccinations wear off. They didn’t and he continued to vomit. We brought him back to the vet and she felt something in his intestines that she did not feel the previous week. After X-rays, it looked like his intestines were inflamed and that he needed antibiotics. Beans was fine for a few days but towards the end of the week the vomiting started again.
We took Beans to the emergency vet and further X-rays found that he had a mass in his intestine. We met with oncologist Dr. Joshua Lachowicz (of Blue Pearl Veterinary Partners) who told us that Beans had high grade lymphosarcoma of his GI tract and kidneys, and he was severely anemic. Lachowicz explained that “lymphoma causes the lining of the intestines to become damaged and prone to bleeding.”
All I heard was CANCER! How could this be? Beans was only three years old. I asked Lachowicz why this had happened, and he said that unless it’s linked to things like FeLV/FIV infection, ingestion of carcinogens, IBD and/or other GI diseases, it’s basically a “unique genetic phenomenon” where the cause can never really be determined. Basically just bad luck. Lachowicz explained our options and said that chemo could help put the cancer in remission. He did mention that it could be a long and expensive process and there are no guarantees. My husband and I discussed it -- we would use what little we had saved and try to help Beans. We scheduled our first chemo session for the end of the week.
We soon realized just how expensive the weekly treatments, medication, and an unexpected blood transfusion were going to cost, and we knew that soon our funds would run out. I started to do research on aid for pet parents and their medical bills. Unbeknownst to me, my friends were setting up an online donation page to help raise money for Beans (which ultimately raised more than $1,000). I found a few places that gave grant money to people struggling to pay vet bills. The application process included a recommendation from a vet that the animal in question had a good prognosis with medical attention, and also required your tax returns, and we had to apply for a care credit card. The first organization thought we were not as financially burdened as others -- and we were denied.
Feeling defeated, I emailed Lachowicz (I emailed him a LOT) and asked if he knew of any other places. He mentioned his foundation, the Joshua Louis Animal Cancer Foundation, and that we should apply. The JLACF’s mission is to help owners pay for the cost of cancer therapy through money raised by music sales and fundraising. Music sales, you may ask? Yes! Lachowicz (under his stage name “Joshua Louis”) recently released a song he wrote called “Tomorrow” on iTunes and all profits from its sale goes directly to the JLACF. The foundation launched in late 2011, and this year was the first year the group was able to accept applications for aid. In the first year of giving, it was able to donate approximately $30,000 to cancer care for pets across the U.S., with Beans being one lucky recipient.
I was super excited to receive an email of acceptance, but sadly my excitement was short-lived. That same week, Beans’ condition began to decline. He was not eating and was sick of taking the daily cocktail of pills. Lachowicz explained, “Beans did respond to chemo, but not fully, and he ultimately developed what is called ‘functional ileus.’ This means his GI tract does not have the normal function and/or motility to push ingesta through -- it basically becomes a limp noodle instead of an active organ. This explains why he would not eat since the food wasn't moving ... evidence of his lymphoma not being in remission.”
With Lachowicz’s help, we decided to stop any further treatments. I was adamant about not putting him down at the vet’s office. I could not imagine putting Beans in the cat carrier and not having him come home again. We contacted Wendy McCulloch at Pet Requiem to come to our apartment and give our beloved Beans peace. She was compassionate and sympathetic, making a difficult time just a little easier -- I wouldn’t have done it any other way.
Even though my story does not have a happy ending, I wanted to share it with the Catster community to let others know that there is help out there. You can raise money with a grassroots campaign or apply to a large organization for aid. Believe me: There is hope when you are dealt an emotionally and financially devastating hand.