The year of bad luck for the pets continues. About two weeks ago, we noticed that Calvin had bled onto the sheets (he hides under the covers to sleep sometimes). Events such as these have happened before: Calvin is prone to outbreaks of FLUTD when he is stressed out and cats, being finicky by nature, get stressed out easily. Unfortunately, these bloodstains were a bit different; they didn’t smell the same as they normally did. In other words, there was no urine mixed in with the blood. We determined that it was saliva and not urine and then looked at his mouth. Cats must be British in origin because many of them have bad teeth. Calvin is one of those cats. We feared it was an abscessed tooth and that he’d have to have surgery to take it out.
We promptly made an appointment with the vet – the one who has a doctorate and not the strange woman with a strange accent (New Zealand? The hinterlands of Australia?) with a strange degree called “B.Vet” – and took him in.
Calvin does not travel well, so he managed to poop, pee, puke and drool all over himself while driving there. The latter two were pink tinged on account of the problem with his mouth. Upon arriving, he was sent to the back to be cleaned up because he was unpresentable and did not want to see the vet covered in what should be inside him. We waited in the examination room.
Shortly thereafter, Calvin and the vet came in to the room and the vet informed us that he has cancer. She explained that cancer is frequently found in the mouths of cats, but that we – or, perhaps, Calvin – were lucky because his tumor was located on his lip and, thus, most likely not in the jaw or bone structure of his head. This came as somewhat of a surprise to us. We had no idea that he had a huge tumor on his lip. It must have grown pretty fast.
So, we were told to make an appointment with a surgeon specialization in small animal oncological surgery. One of four, we later found out, practicing in Canada and just one of thirty in the entire world. At least we didn’t have to drive to Toronto or Guelph, where the major vet school is. Incidentally, where the surgeon also conducts research. Incidentally – again – I’ll take this moment to point out that he, too, is Australian. [Blythe points out that she calls him "McAussie" - presumably on the model of "McDreamy" and "McSteamy" from Grey's Anatomy - "because his accent is sexy" and "like Ben Lee, but more mature.] It seems they are everywhere.
Our appointment was a week later and, during the intervening period, we were giving Calvin that dreaded antibiotic, Clavomox. A drug with which we are quite familiar (Igge, Mickey and Calvin – twice, now – have all been on it this year). The pets, too, are quite familiar with it and I’ve never seen animals hate a drug more. Calvin’s medicine was given to us in liquid form on the assumption that it would be easier to get a syringe into his mouth than a pill. “Easier” is in the eyes of the beholder, we shall say. It was not easy and Calvin did not enjoy it. We didn’t enjoy it either.
Finally, it was time to take Calvin in for his appointment with the specialist. He was quite excited; the surgeon, not the cat. The man was your standard surgeon: he really likes to do surgery, to cut into flesh, to take body parts apart and put them back together again, to receive accolades, but never to see patients and clients. He had a huge watch, which he wanted everyone to see. One can only assume it related to what is no doubt a deep affection for “extreme” “sports” on his part. As I said, he was quite excited. He took a look at Calvin and determined that not only was it operable, but that he’d be happy to do it that very afternoon.
He walked over to his whiteboard and drew a picture. It was supposed to be a cats head, but it looked like a cross between a fish and a snake. [Blythe: I made you add teeth and an eye to the picture while McAussie left the room to print out the estimate. Then made jokes about snakes on a dry erase board, and wanted to steal the red and green sharpies.] We hoped that his hands were steadier with a scapel than with a sharpie. Inside the mouth he put a black circle – it represented the tumor – and he drew a dotted line around the tumor – it represented the incision. It was his plan to cut about a centimeter of flesh around the tumor out so as to ensure that he got the whole thing. The first vet – the one who was from Australia – said he was aggressive and willing to cut out more than others.
He then explained that Calvin had enough extra flesh on his cheeks, in his mouth, and his neck to enable him to reconstruct the mouth where he took out the tumor. How lucky for Calvin: not only was he getting a tumor cut out, he was also getting plastic surgery. The surgeon was so confident in his ability that he didn’t think an ultrasound was necessary (good thing: the imaging is about $500 and the consultation with the internal medicine specialist – who we are also quite familiar with as Igge and Mickey have both seen her this year – is another couple hundred dollars. She, by the way, isn’t Australian. He figured an x-ray and a couple blood tests would be sufficient. He figured the lab could have the results that afternoon and he could cut into Calvin’s mouth before going home.
Turns out that the lab results weren’t in quick enough and Calvin had to stay the night waiting on a thyroid test of some sort. Finally, some time after noon, it was Calvin’s turn to go in for the surgery which, all things considered, didn’t take that long. We didn’t get to see him that night and were told that someone would call the next morning to arrange his discharge.
Eventually the woman – also not Australian – called and we were able to go get Calvin at our “discharge appointment.” Mostly we sat around a long time waiting. The appointment itself was primarily a waste of time as no useful information was conveyed to us. We did, however, ask a couple times why he wasn’t prescribed antibiotics, but they assured us that cats have clean mouths and that it shouldn’t be a problem. By “they,” of course, I mean the woman. We haven’t seen or heard from the surgeon since. He was “on an extended lunch” during the discharge appointment and, when I called today, he “wasn’t in” today.
Anyway, we got to bring Calvin home and we proceeded to hand feed him – as you can see in the above pictures. And, of course, by “we” I mean “Blythe” proceeded to hand feed him. I, however, took the pictures. He made slow, but steady progress until Saturday, when he started to stink. It was sickly-sweet; like a dumpster filled with McFlurries on a hot day. The smell got worse through Sunday, so I called the vet’s office asking what to do. They didn’t know, but they’d leave a message with the surgeon. He’d call me back the next day. That is, he would call me back today.
Eventually we got tired of waiting for his call and called the clinic ourselves, at which time we discovered that he “was not in” today. The woman from the discharge appointment, however, was willing to talk to us. She decided – on what basis, I don’t know – that it was an infection and that we should go ahead and make up a batch of clavomox (it is as though we have a supply on hand at all times). Unfortunately, Calvin would have none of that and he absolutely refused to open his mouth. Indeed, it seemed as though he could not. He was having trouble eating as well.
So, we all climbed into the car again and drove to the vet. Again (I should point out that it takes about an hour and a half to get there). This time we saw another surgeon. He too had an accent, but he had been in Canada long enough that it was impossible to tell if it was British or Scottish or Irish – or Australian. (What’s with these people?) After a strange series of questions and answers, he pulled out a swab and started cleaning the sutures. It seems this was something that wasn’t told to us during the “discharge appointment” – cleaning the area would be a good idea. Cleaning the area would prevent infection and necrosis. While there was no visible damage, he graciously agreed that Calvin’s wound stunk. He suggested clavomox and we suggested this wasn’t the best solution. He suggested baytril, we agreed. Mickey had been on baytril (prescribed, incidentally, by the internal medicine women mentioned above) and it seemed to work well enough, although we were under the impression that it was primarily used for internal infections in the organs than as a general antibiotic. All the same, Calvin is now home and, in a half hour, we’ll try to give him his first dose.
[Blythe provides the following comments by ICQ:
The title of this article is just fucking awesome, and the picture most accurately represents what he actually looks like (cute and athletic, but not Australian soap star hot):
Then there's this picture where he's tanned like a surf god, his hair looks sunkissed, all his wrinkles save for some dimples have been smoothed away, and his teeth look perfected somehow.
I think the Australian soap hunk glamour shot is totally worth posting, or linking to (like saved to your website, but not posted in the entry), because in person, he looks nothing like that picture. As a chick, it was a disappointment. It truly was.
There's also his site which states that he is "currently President of the Veterinary Society of Surgical Oncology." And, even better, that "Dr. Liptak is committed to providing optimum care for animals with cancer and their owners." Haha.