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Holly first Spring outing as a Tripawd kitty!

It’s been a little over 2 months, and Holly is doing so GREAT!  She is showing us what a true “Heroine” that she is!  She was anxious to go out onto our patio even with the snow still covering some of it.  Must have been cold, since she came in quickly.  I am so impressed with her courage and curiosity.  She hasn’t quite been able to jump up to the kitchen island yet, but I am still hopeful that she will scale this height sometime in the future.  As I have said before, she has been more loving since her surgery and we are loving every minute of cuddling with our little girl.  I find myself checking her good leg for bumps from time to time and had a few bad dreams about cancer, but those are fading quick.  Every day is a JOY with Holly.  If you are at a place where you may have to choose between radiation and amputation, I hope Holly’s story can help in some small way when making this daunting decision.  I welcome your comments and hope all my friends at Tripawds have the BEST SPRING EVER!  Our family will!

HAPPY SPRING and enjoy watching Holly go hop, hop, hop, like the Easter bunnies, LOL!


Holly’s and our family”s journey has been long and hard, but she has finally transitioned to a TRUE TRIPAWD KITTY!  To all the future tripawd animals and families, I have to say the journey is not easy, but well worth the effort.  On Thursday, we received the news we have been anxiously waiting for:  The pathology of her amputated left, rear leg and specifically the lymph nodes showed NO CANCER cells!!  This was the absolute BEST news that we could have gotten.  Time to proclaim “SUCCESS” and to give a heartfelt THANKS to all the heroes in the Tripawd community and the doctors who helped us navigate the rough waters of this journey.

To recap, our journey began with a routine well kitty check up.  The primary vet, Dr, Safford, notices a growth on her left rear hock. She called and asked if they could do a needle biopsy aspiration, which eventually determined that there was mesenchymal cells, which basically means that the cancerous cells attach to the connective tissue.  This is rare in cats, and the tumor had grown very quickly – two bad signs.  She suggested that we go to a specialty clinic, VCA, and have a tissue biopsy (which meant surgery), which verified that she in fact had myxosarcoma.  We had to wait over a month from the biopsy to her surgery, due to Al having full hip replacement mid December.  For over a month, I had to deal with Holly’s  soft tissue cancer on my own, knowing full well that I had to do the research without Al’s help, he had more than his share to deal with, facing a tough surgery. Luckily, my son Kyle, was around to help me get through the tough times and help with research.   Even though this cancer is commonly classified as a “slow growing” cancer”, it has “tendrils” and the cells can break off and attach to other healthy cells, when the tumor is cut into, which was in late November.  Time was working against us, so I was concerned about the pathology coming back clean, after any surgery we decided upon.  I patiently waited til Al was 4 weeks out from his own surgery and then we had THE TALK.  Al, at first, refused any talk of the amputation, so it took a lot of work to convince him that we weren’t doing this “to her” but “for her” as Chantal, so wisely, characterized the difficult decision.  Without amputation, we were looking at “probable recurrence”,  at the site (behind her left hock), or worse yet, the cancer spreading to her lymph nodes, which would then infiltrate her lungs.  I, of course, went to another oncologist, an hour away at  VSC, and was lucky enough to have Dr. Gagnon (a compassionate oncologist) for a second opinion, who suggested that I do a lung x-ray to make sure that the cancer had not spread.  Luckily, the lung x-ray came back negative, and I would recommend VSC of Buffalo Grove to all pet owners who are dealing with cancer.  Lastly, I emailed my hero, Dr. Neil Christensen, of the veterinary radiation oncology department of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, who had emailed me many times during my research.  Let me say what an invaluable resource he was, along with Dr. Gagnon (Oncologist,VSC of Buffalo Grove, IL), Dr. Safford (Holly’s primary care vet), and Dr. Green (Oncologist) at VCA, where Holly had her surgery through Dr. Abel (the gifted surgeon who performed the delicate amputation so well) .  All of these caring professionals, helped tremendously, with the daunting task of making the decision to amputate rather then radiate.  With their help we had to decide to do one of three things:

1. Do nothing and hope that this cancer would not come back or spread.

2. Surgically remove the rest of the mass on her left rear hock, and then put her through 20 radiation treatments.  All the doctors agreed that the tumor would return within 1-3 years and would be more aggressive at that time, since the location prevented them from obtaining a “clean margin on 3 cm”.

3. Amputation to remove, “with clean margins”, all signs of the slowly invasive tumor.  I had to realize that there is a definite difference between “hope” and “cure”.  All the doctors considered this option a “cure”.

All of these options are right for some pawrents, but after a lot of research and a lot of tears, amputation and the possibility of a “CURE”  was our choice.  Holly came to us as a feral cat, 7 years ago.  For the first time,  since we have had the luxury of Holly’s companionship, we knew WHY she came to us.  Holly is part of our family and my human sons would say that our cats are more important than even us, LOL, and for that reason, our decision was given the careful attention it deserved.  As I said previously, Al was originally dead set against the thought of amputation.  I was never a fan, but being more realistic, I hoped for another option to keep her leg and more importantly, HER LIFE!  The radiation option was a possibility, but ALL the doctors reminded me that the chances of the cancer returning after radiation, was fairly high. As a feral cat, Holly was sweet, but not a fan of other humans.  To have to take Holly to the vet every weekday for a month for a radiation treatment, and then have her live in a “cone” seemed like TORTURE, for our little girl.  We could not put Holly through all this, and then most likely,  have to amputate at a later date anyway.  Radiation seemed selfish and cruel, just to protect us from seeing her without a leg.  After all, cats are not people, and the creator of small animals, gave them survival instincts, and they just move forward and “accept” the new normal of having 3 legs.  To be perfectly honest, I am not able to “accept” seeing her this way without feeling sad, but I am guessing that this is the downside of “abstract thinking”.  Each day Holly is showing me that she is still and always, HOLLY!  Her new challenges are difficult and she faces them bravely, like a hero.  Our nickname for Holly, was Holly her highness.  Now, my new name for her is, Holly my heroine!  Animals are essential to a complete life, and I have been so lucky to have had 4 wonderful cats, and 2 dogs in mine.  I have learned so much from sharing my life with these brilliant animals we call our pets.  Within their small bodies, lies such courage.  Kobe, our other cat, and Holly’s older brother, is dealing with arthritis in such  a stoic way as well.  He is now, Kobe the courageous.  BTW, Kobe is a unique kitty, as he is probably the most friendly and intelligent cat we have ever known.  We are sure that he understands many of our words.  Both he and Holly have trained us well, and we willingly admit to it, for we gladly pay this price to have them in our lives!  Stay strong for your little ones, all you pawrents out there, and have HOPE!

Enjoy these recent photos of my beauty, Holly my Heroine!  Hopefully, her hair will grow quickly….

Holly watching her birds, that Mommy feeds!

Holly watching her birds, that Mommy feeds!


Holly walking/hopping very well!

Holly walking/hopping very well!


Day 6 after surgery

Well, sorry for the break, but I am EXHAUSTED!!  6 days of watching my sweet Holly all day and, more importantly, ALL NIGHT, has lead to extreme fatigue.  I hit the proverbial wall yesterday, but feel much better now that I took a break and visited my Mom, who had broken her hip and suffered several compression fractures last year. It felt good to be with spend time with her, after missing her the week before. I had a day off watching Holly and that has rejuvenated me.  My amazing husband, Al, and equally fabulous son, Kyle, gave me the break that I needed.  To top it off, Al decided to let Holly out of the room this morning, which is exactly what my baby girl wanted, but was equally scary for me, the overprotective Mom.  That was the best thing he could have done.  She seemed so glad to be back to some semblance of “normal”, but soon found out that things just weren’t quite the same.  She tried jumping up to her normal “cat watch” on a couch in the our sun room, and soon found out that she would have to relearn how to jump up.  For some reason, jumping up was harder post medication.  Watching this struggle broke my heart, but on some level, I knew this is the beginning of her journey to mastering her new tripawd life.

The boys did an outstanding job keeping her from licking or biting the “dreaded” staples all day, to my relief.  Kobe, her older bro cat, seemed glad to have his little sister back, but made sure everyone knew that he needed attention as well – he is 6 years her elder.  She is slowly settling into her new life, as I continue to waste time grieving her leg and previous life.  Sometimes, it is hard to tell which of us is the “intelligent” mammal, since right now Holly and her animal wisdom, seems like the clear choice. She doesn’t “grieve” the loss, and instead she eagerly greets the new challenges of her new existence.  She just adapts to each new obstacle, or when that fails, she moves on.  That is my new lesson from Holly, “JUST MOVE ON”!  Today, when I finally returned home from my field trip away from Holly, Al told me that she was actually running around the house and he could not catch her.  I laughed and reminded him that it didn’t surprise me, since he was still walking with a cane from his recent hip replacement.  A few moments later, she ran away, just like she always had.  This day ended with hope and the knowledge that, with time, Holly will be ok.  This was a very good day!

Day 3 after surgery

It is 11 AM and I am finally dressed for the day.  Long night and the wear is showing, I am looking like a ZOMBIE!  The vet called at 9AM and woke me up, out of a dead sleep.  I could barely speak, let alone,  answer the questions, but learned something very important.  Al told me that Holly could lick her staples a little, but  the tech said, “no licking is good licking, put on the collar if she continues”.   My watch just got harder.  Also as Holly becomes more ambulatory (meaning she starts to walk), then I have to watch and worry about her more.  She actually jumped onto our very high bed, she continues to AMAZE us.  We have an intricate series of soft steps that we fabricated, but she just jumped right up.  She is still wobbly, but she is getting better each day.  The Tech also told me that the Fetanyl patch is at it’s peak today, so she said don’t worry if she doesn’t eat.  I am also supposed to wean her from the oral pain medication, Buprenorphine, starting today, so I will watch for discomfort, before automatically giving her the pain meds.  Looks like Day 3 is getting harder,  ahhhh!!  I need a break, LOL!

I am posting this photo of Holly’s incision, so hope it doesn’t make the perspective Tripawd Kitty Moms and Dads nervous.  Actually, I think it looks great now, took a few days of getting used to seeing my sweet girl like this.  I simply can’t wait until her hair grows back and she starts eating more.  She is losing weight and she doesn’t have much to lose.  On this journey, PATIENCE is a VIRTUE!

21 staples later

Day 2 after surgery

After a long day of final preparations, Al and I were able to brave the DEEP FREEZE (and slow drivers, hee hee), and pick up our little, pretty girl, Holly yesterday evening.  I baked a Cinnamon Streusal Cake and decorated it with pink and orange (for Holly) and brought that with to help distract me from the shock of seeing her for the first time.  I also was very grateful to Dr. Abel and his amazing team at VCA, and wanted to show my appreciation for their immense concern and care for our baby girl.  They were so pleased about the cake, but told me they would have to wait until the morning to dig in, since Dr. Abel would be back then, LOL!  Hope they liked it!!  It was made with lots of LOVE!

Back to my girl.  It was hard to see her without her Left leg, but I reminded myself that we were NOT doing this TO HER, but really FOR HER, as Chantal and Fang said on their inspirational blog.  Dying from lung cancer is hard on humans and especially kitties, who cannot express their pain, so I wasn’t going there.   As hard as this has been, the “nuclear option” of doing nothing and watching her die, was never considered to be a viable option for me.  Having written that, I respect everyone’s judgement when faced with this daunting decision and by now means, feel that my decision should be yours – ONLY YOU can know what is best in your unique situation.  I now realize, even though she is having difficulty transitioning to walking on 3 legs, that this was the RIGHT thing to do and probably knew this the day I picked her up after her original check up where Dr. Safford found the lump on her hock.  After our primary vet, Dr. Safford had explained that she thought this was a malignant tumor (from the feel of it) and that amputation was the most likely outcome, I asked the hard question, “what should I expect?”.  Dr, Safford was surprisingly straightforward with me and said, “expect the worst”!  That was , without a doubt, one of the hardest days of my life, and it got worse when I told Al and he said defiantly, “NO ONE will take my little Holly’s leg!!”  That started a long 2 months (right through the holidays) of sleepless and long nights filled with fear.  My dear, wise Dad, who died of Lymphoma 1 and 1/2 years ago, once advised me to, “stop crying and start DOING SOMETHING”, when I called him after losing my cat, Bandit.  That advice worked then – the flyer I distributed resulted in Bandit being returned to us – and it is just as valid now – I prepared very well for this journey, THANKS TO TRIPAWDS.    As I realistically face the challenges that lie before Holly and my family, we can finally KNOW  that Holly will be ok.  With that said,  I just want to let all perspective Tripawd’s Pawrents know this important lesson my family and I have learned so far,  (We truly hope it eases your pain in some small way):

Let go of the guilt and worry (these are useless emotions) as quickly as you can, and simply BELIEVE that you can do this!! Then, spend your time doing research, and read this blog with all the invaluable information from the Tripawd’s dog and cat pioneers who have selflessly paved the way before you.  I promise, the Tripawd community’s love and compassion will ease your sadness and worry.  It worked for me, and this post is my proof!

Love to all the Tripawd pawrents have taken their time to support and pray for my Sweet Holly.  You were my family’s lifeline and for that I am forever GRATEFUL!

Holly sleeps peacefully her first night home!

Holly sleeps peacefully her first night home!


Holly is having surgery today

002Holly whipped topping island

Above are a few new photos of Holly. In the top photo, she is being snuggled and feeling safe with her Dad before her big surgery. The stretched photo below, is from last night, when she was given her favorite treat, whipped topping.

Hello and thanks to all my Tripawds community family!  Al and I dropped Holly off at the vets this morning and it was the coldest day of the year so far, – it is -15C but feels like -42C. Wow, couldn’t have been colder!!  We had to take 2 cars since Al was going back to work after working from home for 2 weeks post hip surgery.   Needless to say, there was a lot going on this morning.  Luckily, Holly played with me this morning and slept with us all night.  This has made me appreciate her so much more!  I kept my emotions together until Al told me that Kyle, my amazing son with the old soul, had left me a note on my cell phone.  It was so beautiful and inspiring that I had to share this note from my son, Kyle, with you all:

“Morning Beautiful (he knows how vein I am, LOL!)

I hope you were able to sleep a couple of minutes.  I just wanted to let you know that you are really the strong one.  No matter how much you have going on in your life, you are there for all of us.  You’re, without a doubt, the rock in our family.  Extreme trials/challenges bring out the best in the best.  I know it won’t be easy, but I know your immense strength will push you though this.  Be strong for Holly….she would want it for you and for her, and she is going to be GREAT.  She’ll be the same lovable cat, just with a bit more swag to her cat walk.  She’s strong, just like her mother.  Keep a smile on that beautiful face. It’s all about perspective.  The night is always darkest, just before the dawn, and the dawn is near.  2014 is our families year.

Love you so much,


P.S. You look great.  Nice puff 🙂 (that refers to my “puffy” hair)”

This encouraging note from my youngest son (Kyle), who I couldn’t be prouder of, got me through the morning!  He gave me strength with these words, as all of you have.  I often say, that as humans, we are angels in training, earning our wings one feather at a time.  Kyle and all of you, are on your way to earning lots of feathers, to fly high in heaven!!  Thanks is not a big enough word, for the gratitude that I feel for everyone.  Enjoy the new photos of Holly.  BTW, we call her, Holly her Highness! Can’t wait until she is home, sitting on her throne again!



Tomorrow is my sweet Holly’s surgery day!

Time has gone be both quickly, sadly and slowly, which is worse.  I find I spend as much time as I can with Holly as a 4 pawed cat, imagining how she will play, walk and eat, with only 3 paws.  I intellectually know that she will be fine, thanks to all my new friends in this compassionate community, but I am still grieving the upcoming loss of her leg.  Al said that he will be able to “rationalize”  this amputation, by imagining that her leg was badly injured and this was our only option.  In other words, he, like me, have agonized over the fact that our choice was so hard.  She has a slow growing sarcoma, and we could feasibly wait – her leg looks perfectly fine and she has no visible pain.  The reason we have made this difficult decision to amputate now,  is because everyone says that this type of cancer is “insidious”, a word that scares the life out of me.  Again, I am reminded of my Dad.  He was the picture of health at age 84, when he was diagnosed with a fast growing lymphoma.  For some unknown reason, he had carefully ignored his warning sign symptoms.   I watched him basically, “die” for 7 months in pain and not quite himself.  It was one of the hardest times I have had to endure.  The thought of my sweet, YOUNG, little girl going through anything like this, is my motivation to get rid of the cancer before she would have to go through that same fate.  We have time now, so I am committed to use it wisely.  My son, Kyle, read a story from another loving cat owner, who chose to let her cat die naturally, thinking it was the right thing to do.  Sadly, she realized that this was not a good choice, and with great courage, wrote a blog to warn others not to follow her example.  The death that her cat had to experience was worse than she could have imagined.  These are our reasons, and hopefully, this will be what gives me strength in difficult weeks to come, along with the love from this community.  Today, I will commit to PREPARE, the best I can, since my husband is still recovering from his full hip replacement.  A heartfelt and warm thanks to all that have shared their stories with us.  You have been the cornerstone of my strength and I hope to be able to “give back”, once we get through the “storm” ahead.  Ironically, I live in Chicago, and we are in the middle of an actual SNOWSTORM here.  Even the universe has a sense of humor, LOL!  Now if only I could get mine back…..

Thanks for your support and Holly will officially join the Kitty Tripawds on Monday!

Well after hours of research, numberous calls and emails to Oncologists, and the unbelievably kind support from this community, Holly will have surgery and officially join the compassionate Tripawds Kitty community on Monday, January 6th.  It was perhaps the hardest decision we have had to make to date, which is saying a lot since my husband and I are in our mid 50’s.  My cats are just as important as my human sons and Holly is my one and only, precious, little girl.  She is a feral cat and naturally shy with all humans except our family and she is as sweet as she is pretty.  She has never bitten anyone and I have only heard her hiss once (when she had the biopsy of her tumor), most likely since she was on pain medication.  All veterinary personnel comment on how sweet and gentle that she is, which makes this so very hard.  I know that the decision is the best decision for my pretty, little girl, and all the oncologists agree, but the thought of the impending surgery weighs heavily on me still.  Like all good cat parents, I obtained a second and third opinion, in my quest to cover all the bases.  In my heart, I prayed for a kitty miracle, where she could keep her leg, but that was not in the kitty cards.  Instead, I have become a mini expert on all things sarcoma (not my idea of fun), and to top it off, I had to choose to either amputate or radiate.  In the end, with amazing help from Vet and Tripawds Angels, we chose life without cancer for Holly and I am sure it is the BEST decision we could make, just not the EASIEST decision. I realize that everyone has many things to pray for at night and I am not sure that I should even ask for this, but I love Holly soooo much that I will do this anyways:  PLEASE say a little prayer for my sweet, little Holly girl so that she has a great recovery from her surgery on Monday.  Her surgeon, will be Dr. Steven Abel, who I have not met, but will also ask that you pray with me that he be at the top of his skills for her surgery on Monday.  I believe in collective good will and kharma, and appreciate anything that you do.  I will pay this kindness forward as well.  Thanks to all my new friends, for all that you have already done and I pray that you all have an amazing 2014 filled with love and good health for your  2, 3 and 4 legged family members.


Karen and Al, Holly’s grateful parents

Decision time is quickly approaching, so please HELP?

Hi Fellow Animal lovers,

I have to decide what to do for our precious Holly, a torte, short haired cat with myxosarcoma of the left hock.  Basically, this is a soft tissue sarcoma, but it is in a precarious spot on her hock.  The surgeon cannot get clean margins, so amputation is the only sure “cure” for her.  I know that Fang’s Mom went through a similar challenge a year ago, so if there is anyone who can offer words of wisdom or support, I would truly appreciate it.  I am still unable to sleep, and with a husband barely 2 weeks our of full hip replacement surgery, this is now going well.  All I can think about is Holly and the possible amputation.  My husband was dead set against amputation, but he has come around.  I truly don’t think she could undergo 20 rounds of radiation as she is very afraid of all humans, except of course, her family – US.  We have had a Physical Therapist come in 3 times a week, and since he started coming, we don’t even get a glimpse of her during the day.  That is how afraid of humans that she is, which makes complete sense, since she is feral.  We were housing her Mom and 2 siblings approximately 6 years ago, when she was born at our house.  I feed the outdoor animals my cats leftovers and attract all kinds of wild friends.  Anyways, I convinced my handy husband, to make a heated “cat house” and Mommy kitty left her behind.  She was definitely the most beautiful, and now she is our only daughter, we are so blessed.  Anyways, contact with other humans is very traumatic to her.  She does not get mean, she has never bitten anyone, she just gets petrified.  The vets and techs who treat her, say she is very sweet.  I realize that amputation is drastic, but with the knowledge that most sarcomas come back after 2-3 years, we have pretty much decided to amputate.  Any advice or suggestions are great appreciated.  Happy New Year!

Holly's journey to become a super tripawd kitty!! is brought to you by Tripawds.