Two weeks before Mark and I were scheduled to leave for our trip to Africa, our cat Mittens developed some diarrhea and vomiting. She had been diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease 8 years ago and has been receiving medicine for it ever since, and has done amazingly well. Her main symptom has always been vomiting; diarrhea was something new. I put her up on the kitchen counter and examined her, and was dismayed to feel a firm, golf ball-sized mass in her abdomen, which I believed was in her colon. Ultrasound confirmed the presence of a colonic mass, plus some enlarged abdominal lymph nodes. I’ve been doing this for years. I knew what this meant.

Fortunately, she was still acting normal and eating well, but she was straining to defecate. I wanted a definite diagnosis, but the mass was in a location that was risky to aspirate. Based on past experience, I made a presumptive diagnosis of high-grade lymphoma.

Lymphoma usually responds to chemotherapy, so I opted to treat. I left her in the very capable hands of my friend and colleague Dr. Peter Soboroff at New York Cat Hospital, for 17 days, not knowing if she would respond to the treatment or continue to decline.

According to Dr. Soboroff, Mittens has responded dramatically well to treatment, to my great relief. Her diarrhea resolved, her appetite picked up, and after three doses of chemotherapy, he reported that the tumor has noticeably shrunken in size.

I am deeply grateful to Dr. Soboroff for the skillful and compassionate care that he gave her, updating me frequently and sending me photos while I was on the other side of the world. Mittens has always been a sensitive cat who gets scared and irritable at the vet, but the photos showed her to be calm and comfortable. Heartfelt thanks to technician Justin Lee, who IM’d me with updates and a few photos, and special thanks to my own wonderful technician, Hiromi (of Manhattan Cat Specialists), who visited her and told me how relaxed and happy she looked, and then sent me a photo to prove it. I left for this trip worried that I would have to rush back from across the globe to say goodbye to my dear sweet Mittens. Instead, I was able to have a fabulous, worry-free trip to Kenya and Ethiopia, and come back home to a strong, happy cat. I am truly blessed.

3 Comments

  • Brad
    Posted December 30, 2019 12:56 pm 0Likes

    Yay Mittens! Glad you’re doing okay and getting the best treatment in all of NYC

  • Gary A Barnett
    Posted January 5, 2020 8:21 pm 0Likes

    We’re wondering if you can help us with a difficult situation concerning out cat, Rafaela who is 11 years old,experiencing continual weight loss and some ibd symptoms. We’ve gone the route of blood tests and ultrasound with no conclusive diagnosis. Last night i read your article from 2013 about using tk levels as a diagnostic tool for lymphoma. Has there been further research? Do you think it is worthwhile to to this before doing an endoscopy since we don’t want to get a surgical biopsy. Thank you for your time.

    • Arnold Plotnick
      Posted January 9, 2020 8:48 pm 0Likes

      I’ve not kept up with the status of the TK test since I retired from practice. In my opinion, though, there’s really no good substitute for a biopsy, and endoscopic biopsy is a proper approach.

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