Dear Zeus Varis Fund Trustees, Frankie’s Friends, and BluePearl Brooklyn: Thank you more than I can say for making it possible for me to continue giving my cat Ivan the treatment that has been enabling him to thrive this past year against the odds.

At twelve years old, Ivan had been successfully cured of a thyroid condition the year before.  He was doing great, except that his meow had become strangely quiet.  After his primary vet ruled out a number of possibilities, Ivan and I first went to Blue Pearl, and he was diagnosed with an undifferentiated carcinoma on his pharynx.  The statistics were terrifying, and there was no guarantee that the available treatments would have any effect.  Most feline oral cancers are extremely aggressive, and I was told that with or without treatment, he might have as little as months.   However, if left untreated, the tumor would probably block Ivan’s airway until he couldn’t breathe.

No matter what my financial situation, I had always gotten Ivan the best treatment.  And, no matter what was needed, Ivan remained my sweet, silly, outgoing boy, never holding a grudge or getting worked up about meds or vet appointments.   I decided to try him on chemotherapy, and Dr. Britton began trying Ivan on different treatment plans.

As predicted, the weekly vet trips didn’t faze Ivan.  He also took the twice-daily half-hour long home regime of chemo meds and homeopathy into stride – often even coming over to remind me when it was time to start his routine.  Meanwhile, I managed the expenses and time demands of Ivan’s treatment as best possible.  I budgeted carefully and got creative, including finding a seasonal second job to defray some of the growing costs.  I also scaled back on the weekly volunteer work I’d been doing at an animal sanctuary for years so that I could give Ivan all of the time and care that he deserves.  As long as Ivan had a good quality of life, I was committed to doing whatever was necessary to maintain his care.

By summer the tumor was occluding most of Ivan’s airway, after a bad reaction to injectable chemo.  Suddenly, my vivacious little guy, who had remained happy and affectionate throughout the ordeal seemed withdrawn and sad and scared.   He started sleeping alone in the bathroom or in a cat bed, and I had to hand feed him his wet food.    His breathing was labored and he was losing weight.  Once Ivan’s cell count had rebounded, his vets suggested trying a stronger dose of the pill chemo he had started on to see if it made any difference.

Then, something I really hadn’t planned for happened.  Ivan got better.

It was slow at first…Ivan jumping back up on the bed to spend time with me…finally eating a full meal, then asking for seconds.  His checkups continued to show weight gain and improved bloodwork.  Then, even after what I had seen at home, I was stunned to hear that the tumor had shrunk to a third of the size it was before.

 IMG_20131008_084329_452

IMG_20131008_084329_452

Over the next months, Ivan kept doing better and better at home.  Stealing the pillow back from his sister.  Following me around the apartment asking for treats.  Spending most of the evening in my lap.   I even began to hear him talking again – in a tiny voice but talking.  I had my Ivan back, but realized that his treatment was taking a very different course than I’d expected.  Instead of short term treatments that might work, I was looking at long term treatments that were working.

Ivan’s oncologist and I discussed ways to manage the mounting expenses.  Ivan was tolerating the new medication well enough to space his rechecks further apart, so we started with that.  The next option I was forced to consider was taking Ivan off the medication.   I couldn’t imagine risking that after Ivan had beaten all the odds.

Then, earlier this month, Ivan and I had a bad scare.  With both his primary vet and his oncologist on vacation, Ivan went from fine in the morning, to listless, not eating, and scaring me by night.  I’d been home with him all day just the day before and had no idea what could have gone wrong so quickly.  After the first vet trip, he continued to struggle, so he spent a night at the vet’s getting IV fluids.  I went to visit him and was told to make an appointment with his oncologist but to prepare for the spread of cancer.  Ivan came home with me before his Blue Pearl appointment, and, even though he didn’t want food and barely wanted water, he sat curled next to me as long as he could and kept his paws around my hand all night.

Then, in true Ivan defying the odds style, I heard from Dr. Britton, that Ivan was eating again and had even head-butted her for pets!   The news continued to get better.  Ivan had acute pancreatitis, which required further hospitalization then close care at home, but his cancer was NOT spreading.  His lungs had been x-rayed (clear) and his pancreas biopsied (also clear)!  Within a day, Ivan was home and beginning to act like his regular self.  Financially, it was another set-back, but in terms of Ivan’s well-being, the news was wonderful.  Within a week, Ivan was back to full strength, and Dr. Britton re-started him on the palladia – beginning at reduced frequency to ease him back in.  Writing this now two weeks later, I am thrilled to report that I woke up this morning to Ivan sleeping on my chest for hours – something he hasn’t done in ages.  In another Ivan miracle, he is back to feeling great, eating well, and wanting attention every second.

The assistance from the Zeus Varis fund comes at a time when Ivan and I needed it the most to be able to maintain the treatment that has been keeping him well and happy for coming on a year.  Throughout his treatment, Ivan has remained the same sweet, silly constant companion of my last thirteen years.  Watching how fully he’s rebounded yet again (eating like a champion and acting like the same Ivan who wants to be so close that he steals my pillow and steps on my feet) confirms that Ivan deserves every chance that I can give him.  Your assistance, which will help me keep giving him that chance means more than I can say.  The assistance right now makes all the difference in helping me be able to keep Ivan on the treatments that turned everything around for him for as long as he needs them.