My name is Cru and I was born in April 2008 in Phoenix, AZ. One night in late May, my parents came home and heard meowing in the parking lot. After a little investigating, they found me in the dumpster trying to get out. Initially, they thought someone had put me in there, but then they saw my cat mom not far from the dumpster trying to figure out how to get me out and assumed I probably fell in while playing. I was a feral kitten, but didn’t hiss or freak out when my dad pulled me out of the dumpster. I was so relieved to be out, fed and in a comfortable space inside. I kept my distance the first couple of days, but quickly realized I hit the kitty lottery because I was spoiled, cared for and deeply loved the rest of my life and not just by my parents, but also the rest of my cat family, which grew considerably after I arrived because I was so special my parents wanted to help more kitties like me. I always knew I was special and their favorite even though they tried to hide that fact from the others. All of the other cats loved me too. They didn’t all get along with each other, but I was the glue that held everyone together.
Shortly after I turned 10, my dad felt two small lumps in my rear flank area. I wasn’t sick at all and felt great so I wasn’t sure why I had to go to the vet, but they insisted. After a needle aspiration came back as inflammation I had to take meds for a few weeks, but that didn’t seem to help. Surgery was recommended to remove the masses just to “be on the safe side”. On May 15, 2018, I had surgery to remove both masses and on May 24th, I was officially diagnosed (to everyone’s surprise) with subcutaneous hemangiosarcoma. By that time, I had pretty much recovered from my surgery and again was confused why everyone was so upset. I felt great and didn’t see what all the fuss was about, but I did take advantage of all the extra cuddles, toys, treats and supervised outdoor time!
On June 11, 2018, I met Dr Freeman and Dr Wooldridge and came up with a treatment plan. We also learned more about this type of cancer. It’s somewhat common in dogs, but rarely seen in cats and because of that, there wasn’t a lot of information. The average life expectancy seemed to be between 3-6 months depending on treatment. I had to have another surgery to be sure all of the cancer was gone and also to do a biopsy of my abdominal wall because something there didn’t look right and they were concerned it was another type of cancer. Thankfully that wasn’t more cancer – it turned out to be Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). Again, I was confused because I didn’t have any symptoms of this disease either and was enjoying life.
A couple weeks after my second surgery, I started chemo treatments. I went to see Dr Freeman every 3 weeks for 5 treatments. Even though I didn’t like going, I was always a good boy and chemo really isn’t a big deal. I took a little CBD before I left the house to relax me before the treatment and other than feeling a little tired 3-4 days after getting chemo, I pretty much felt normal and did everything I wanted to do. Dr Freeman and her kind oncology team made sure to give me enough chemo to fight off the cancer, but not too much to actually make me sick.
My parents were desperate to do anything they could to give me the best shot at beating the odds, so I also went to see Dr Keith at Animal Healing Arts. He’s a different kind of vet. I just explored the office while my parents told him all about me. I think he snuck in an exam, but I didn’t really notice. He sent me home with some smelly herbs to put in my new raw food. I loved the new food, but didn’t like the herbs. Thankfully my parents started topping my food with some freeze dried chicken liver so I ate it right up. I also only had to have the herbs added when I wasn’t getting chemo.
I finished my first round of chemo in September and spent the next several months happy and healthy. Unfortunately in late December, my mom felt another lump near my original surgery site. In early January, I had a third surgery, but this one was a breeze. Dr Wooldridge was very careful and made sure I’d still be able to do all the fun stuff I want to do while trying to get all the bad stuff out of me. Dr Freeman started me on an oral chemo a couple days a week at home. I didn’t even notice I was on chemo. I had no side effects and was just loving life. I had a series of immunotherapy vaccines after surgery as well. These were new and something my parents found in an attempt to do whatever they could to help me try to beat the cancer. I didn’t have any side effects from those either.
At the end of March, I was back in for my normal check-up and unfortunately the cancer returned again! This time, surgery wasn’t a good option because in addition to another mass at my original surgery site, there were also several spots in my abdomen. My parents looked into SRS/SRT radiation. It’s an advanced radiation that can be given in 1-3 treatments with little to no side effects. Unfortunately, that didn’t seem like a good option for the spots in my abdomen so I had to go back on chemo, which was alternated each week with a different drug. I think I was on every chemo treatment possible. Even though I really didn’t like going to the vet so much, I was so happy to be home and maintaining a high quality of life through it all.
In July, the cancer spread again, now to my spleen. Because the cancer was in so many locations, surgery still wasn’t a good option and neither was the SRS/SRT radiation so I went back on chemo again. After the next few scans the spots in my abdomen were gone so surgery became an option again. I had my spleen and the mass that regrew at my original surgical site removed. Although the surgery went well, it took me a little longer to recover than the previous surgeries.
After my last surgery in late September 2019 my parents decided to give me a break from chemo and just let me enjoy life and I did! I gained weight, was eating better than I was all summer and just did all the things that I loved to do. In early November, they decided it was time to go back on chemo though. It was just one pill that I took at home which was nice, but shortly after I wasn’t feeling great. We assumed it might be a reaction to chemo, but it wasn’t. I wasn’t scheduled to go back for new scans until mid December, but we moved them up. The day before Thanksgiving we got the worst news – the cancer had spread to my lungs, liver and also back to the original surgery site. My parents were devastated and considered trying more treatments, but they knew I had enough and didn’t want me to go through anymore given the prognosis (even with further treatment) wasn’t good. I know it’s a decision they are still struggling with today.
After that, doctors from At Home Veterinary Services came to my house to monitor me and keep me comfortable. The first several weeks I was feeling okay, but this horrible disease finally got to me and on December 21, 2019, I had to say goodbye to my family. While I’m so sad (as I know my family is too), I’m thankful for the extra time I had (19 months from when the tumors were discovered). Even though I went through a lot, it was worth every extra minute I had with my loving family. I hope what I went through gives others hope that the original prognosis isn’t final and there are things that can be done to extend your time all while still enjoying life.
Cru was a very special being. He was the happiest cat we’ve ever met. He loved life and was so sweet and easy going. Even after all that he went through, he’d come home and forgive us immediately. He loved going outside for supervised outdoor time. He was very curious and loved exploring, climbing trees or just lounging in the yard or his favorite bush. He always wanted to be where we were — he was our little “helper”. He would be at the door the second we got home, he would be in the kitchen when we were cooking and on our laps the second we sat down. He took “lap cat” to a whole new level. He gave the best headbutts and loved to cuddle. We miss all his little antics too — like shredding an entire roll of paper towels or promptly pushing anything left on the counter to the ground. He wasn’t being bad, just letting us know he wanted our full attention and we were happy to give it. He was loved by everyone that knew him. He welcomed all the other cats, fosters and even dog visitors we had. They all loved him so much. He always had his choice of nap buddies or playmates. He was our world and we all miss him terribly.
Even though Cru’s life was cut much shorter than we ever expected, we will always cherish every minute we had, never forget him and because of him, we’ll devote our lives to helping as many animals as we can. We wish we could have saved Cru — not a day goes by that we don’t question what more we could have done, but we really hope that his story gives you hope and helps you move forward with the available treatment options knowing they can have a good quality of life even through treatment.
Dr Freeman and Dr Wooldridge and their entire team are wonderful caring people that are focused on the best treatment and maintaining the highest quality of life possible through it all. We also appreciated them being open to alternative treatments and exploring every possible option available. We thank them and all of his caregivers that helped extend our time with him.