Oliver fought a cancer that’s very rare in cats – hemangiosarcoma. You can read his story at https://www.gofundme.com/f/oliver-fights-rare-cancer
Everyone has favorites. They won’t normally admit it, but there is always one kid who is loved a little bit more than the others. For me, that kid is Oliver.
I met Oliver in the beginning of November 2007. At the time I was volunteering at the Humane Society of Southern Arizona and he was surrendered by a family with too many pets who did not have time to correct the few behavior problems he had.
From the moment he arrived Oliver was my favorite. He had a wonderfully calm personality, loved belly rubs, and would lazily push himself around the kennel with one leg while lying on his back. He was said to be great with cats, great with dogs, great with kids. He was interested in play, interested in cuddling, and generally unfazed by the chaos around him.
I spent three weeks getting to know Oliver and trying to match him with potential adopters. He fit every thing on every family’s list, except that he was an adult. At one and a half years old (young for a shelter cat) he was passed over multiple times in favor of kittens.
With the Thanksgiving holiday approaching and The Most Perfect Cat In The World continually being rejected I made him a deal: get yourself adopted to a nice family by the time the shelter closes for the holiday, or I will adopt you.
And that was how Oliver, my youngest, joined the family.
Oliver died on December 27, 2021 at slightly more than 15 years old, due to complications from hemangiosarcoma. Oliver had been fighting this cancer since at least mid-July 2021 and truly survived and thrived with the disease much longer than any of his vets or myself even hoped for.
In mid-July Oliver started losing energy and appetite and his physical exam and blood tests showed likely infection. He was treated with antibiotics, but 2 weeks later had a random moment of panting after coming inside from being out in his catio. Panting is NEVER a good sign in a cat. Luckily Kevin was scheduled for a vet visit an hour later so I called the vet and got permission to bring Oliver along. That ended up being a bit of whirlwind visit that culminated with us being directed straight to a local hospital so that Oliver could receive a blood transfusion and more advanced diagnostics to figure out what was wrong. Leaving my regular vet I knew it was cancer based on how large and lumpy Oliver’s spleen looked on xray, but didn’t know what kind or what his chances of survival were.
Oliver was in the hospital August 3rd through August 7th. During that time he had 3 blood transfusions and surgery to remove his spleen and install a feeding tube. When his spleen was removed his surgeon saw that the cancer had also spread to his liver. The vet and I agreed that leaving those tumors in place was better for Oliver’s short-term recovery chances than risking even more bleeding and surgery time to remove them. Oliver’s recovery from surgery was mostly uneventful. He’d always been a very lazy cat so restricting his movements involved exactly zero changes for him. He moved around enough to crawl into or out of my lap, or to use the litter box. Mostly he just slept or cuddled with me, which is exactly how he spent his entire life up to that point anyway. He did have a little bit of excitement when he developed a small infection around his feeding tube and needed a minor surgery to clean the area and re-stitch the tube in place. But otherwise his recovery was very boring, in a good way.
Although Oliver’s spleen was removed on August 5th and the entire thing sent out for histopathology to identify the type of cancer he had we didn’t actually receive his diagnosis until September 23rd. There were a lot of random bits of weirdness that made it quite difficult to get an actual diagnosis. We think the biggest delay was due to the fact that Oliver had been taking corticosteroids for 2 years which interfered with the results of all the tests. His diagnosis was so long in coming that I truly thought I’d lose him without ever knowing exactly what he had in the first place.
Oliver was always a lucky kitty and being a vet favorite also meant that he was able to meet his oncologist and have his first chemotherapy treatment less than 24 hours after his diagnosis came in. That’s a pretty big deal because the oncologists in my city are generally booked out 3 months in advance! But they made time for us to get him in right away.
All through October and November Oliver defied the odds and improved with every visit. We even had very encouraging news from the oncologist that he was down to a single tumor on his liver (started with 8 or 9), and there were signs tat his liver was healing in the spots where his previous tumors had been. But toward the end of November there were signs that Oliver was possibly bleeding internally again. Internal bleeding is common with hemangiosarcoma so this wasn’t too surprising. And it appeared to be a slow bleed, not something that would require another blood transfusion or more surgery.
Oliver was scheduled for his 5th chemotherapy treatment on December 17th, but at that visit he was too anemic to have treatment so we waited a week to try again. On December 23rd he was less anemic than the week before so he was able to have what turned out to be his final chemotherapy treatment. Following that visit he was feeling good that day and most of the next day, but his appetite disappeared in the evening on that second day. Then on December 25th and 26th he had basically zero energy or appetite. Well, he did have enough energy to fight against syringe feeding, but no energy for anything else. By the end of the day on the 26th I knew that he was done fighting.
On December 27th, I took him to vet for the very last time. Oliver received tons of pets and cuddles from his vet and all his favorite techs who stopped in to say goodbye. He then sat in my lap, purring and making biscuits right up to the very end.
But Oliver’s story isn’t truly over! His vets are writing up a case study on his experiences so that vets all over the world can learn from him and use that information to help future kitties diagnosed with this disease. So, although Oliver couldn’t live forever his legacy will.