Then I started thinking about this, went back and checked some posts, and discovered that it was in the spring of 2007 that the vet gave her initial diagnosis. Not the spring of 2008. So it's almost THREE years ago that we were told he was terminal.
And we wonder why my husband calls him the Lazarus Cat?
We're not 100% sure that it's bone cancer, since we didn't put the cat through a biopsy, but that's the vet's best guess. Whatever tumor is in his leg, it's been growing, and it's been having more and more ill effects. Using the cat box is basically no longer an option, whether that's because he has too much difficulty getting into the box (even though we've made it as easy for him as possible) or because he just can't control it anymore. Cleaning up cat feces and urine has become routine, and these days when he's indoors we have to limit him to the bathroom (which, happily, is quite sizeable in our new apartment).
Then, a few days ago, he peed in his own food, which was extraordinary behavior even for him. So S took him to the vet yesterday and got him checked out.
This is the same vet who thought the cat would have passed away nearly 3 years ago now. One of the reasons I like her so much is that she's able to be happy she was wrong instead of getting upset that she was wrong out of some twisted sense of professional honor. Another reason is that she's been very understanding about our reluctance to use heroic measures. She gives us a range of options (when we first found the tumor, she recommended amputation and chemo -- not an option) and then lets us decide the best approach, without making us feel guilty. We ended up medicating him at first, when it seemed to be helping, then taking him off the meds when it was clear he'd be around longer than we'd thought (and when it was therefore a likely possibility that the meds would kill him instead of the tumor). He's been off medications for at least a year, and during that time he's been losing weight, limping around, having "inappropriate elimination" issues -- but also still loving, purring, enjoying life. Doing remarkably well, all told.
Up until the peeing in the food, that is.
I was all set, emotionally, for the vet to tell S, "It's time." I was prepared for her to tell us that he was in a lot of pain and that it would be kinder to let him go. Bone cancer is supposed to be excruciatingly painful. I think S was feeling the same. So it was with great relief that I heard his report last night: the cat has lost 4 pounds (dropping from 17 to 14 pounds) and the tumor is pronounced (it looks like there is a sizeable orange in his back leg) so yes, he's not well. But the bone has not fractured, and most importantly he does not seem to be in much pain at all. The vet was able to examine him and press into the tumor and check out the entire leg without it causing him hardly any distress. She said his affected paw was very cold, so there may be some circulatory issues. Who knows --perhaps the tumor has grown enough to be affecting nerves and/or causing numbness? For whatever reason, it's a comfort to know that he's not in agony (as best one can tell with an animal, anyway).
Bone cancer in cats is, apparently, quite rare. She's said more than once that we're off the map with all this, and she's based what predictions she 's made (like 6 weeks to live) on the prognosis for dogs. The bottom line is that the vet was amazed that he is doing so well, and so are we!
It turns out that he has a UTI, which is her best guess for what's caused the peeing in the food, so we'll be having to pill the cat twice a day with antibiotics for the next two weeks.... not a fun proposition. But considering that I really thought I'd be planning a cat funeral for the near future, it doesn't sound so bad. For now, we're just grateful for every day we continue to have our Lazarus Cat in our lives.