When Sally Williams noticed a tiny, slightly raised lump on her rescue cat Marlin, she took him to the vet, and an examination revealed it was a mast cell tumor (MCT) that had already metastasized to a lymph node. “He had surgery straight away to remove both the tumor and the lymph node,” says Sally. However, just a month later, she noticed Marlin had yet another mast cell tumor, a common type of skin cancer, which also had to be surgically removed.
Unfortunately, the handsome tabby and white cat, who Sally adopted on June 10, 2010, when he was just eight weeks old, developed several more tumors. However, Marlin’s parents decided against subjecting him to additional surgeries, opting instead to treat his mast cell tumors with medication.
“He now gets a chemo pill called Palladia three times a week along with Prednisolone and CBD drops daily,” explains Sally. Thankfully, Marlin responded well to treatment, and he recently celebrated a year of chemotherapy, which his family lovingly refers to as his “chemoversary.”
Today, Marlin, who turned 10 in April 2019, is doing well, and while Sally knows a lot of people might not want to subject their pets to chemotherapy and radiation, her beloved boy has remained happy and active while undergoing treatment. “He has had a wonderful life while receiving chemotherapy for just over year,” says Sally. “Sadly, people have images of what we go through when fighting cancer and we imagine it’s the same. Fortunately for our pets, this is not the case.”
View this post on Instagram
While there are always exceptions, most pets tolerate chemotherapy better than people, something Sally, who has had three cats with cancer, can attest to. In fact, Sally started The Brodie Fund, a non-profit organization designed to provide financial assistance to help families with the costs of treating pets with cancer, to honor the memory of Brodie, her beloved tabby and white cat who passed away on September 29, 2016, from adenocarcinoma. “Brodie was such an amazing cat,” says Sally. “He loved everyone. We used to say he never met a lap he wouldn’t sit in!”
Another one of Sally’s cats, Finnegan, also had cancer, which was easily removed. Today, Finnegan is thriving, and Sally has never regretted adopting him, Brodie, or Marlin. “If someone told me that down the road they would each have cancer, I absolutely would still have adopted them,” says Sally.
After all, aside from regular blood work and vet visits to monitor his tumors to make sure his cancer hasn’t spread, Marlin is a fairly typical cat who loves playing with wand toys and laser pointers, eating Tostitos, headbutting Sally, cuddling with his parents, and spending supervised time on the porch with his mom.
“He doesn’t know he has cancer,” says Sally. “He just knows he is loved, very spoiled, and has me wrapped around his little paw.” Even though Marlin doesn’t realize he has cancer, Sally does, which is why she makes sure to do everything she can to give this senior cat the best life possible, savoring every moment with this incredibly affectionate feline.
View this post on Instagram
After all, it’s impossible for her to know just how much time she has left with Marlin, and the tiny lumps on his body are constant reminders that despite his zest for life, he does have a very serious illness. “I see that sweet face and sometimes I can’t help but be sad or angry,” explains Sally. “I just wish I could wave a magic wand and make it go away!” Unfortunately, all Sally can do is continue to monitor Marlin’s health and to appreciate the special relationship she and this fun-loving boy have as a result of everything they’ve been through due to his illness.
“We now have this amazing bond because of the cancer,” says Sally. “Yes, I adore all of my cats and they are all so special, but Marlin needs more from me because he has cancer. I am his chauffeur, his nurse, his party planner, his social media director, his mom, and his BFF.” In addition to offering a great example of the amazing lives pets with cancer can have, Sally hopes that by sharing Marlin’s story, she can raise awareness about the importance of routine vet visits for cats.
“Cats don’t get annual wellness checks like dogs do, as they are 50% less likely to be seen by a veterinarian annually,” explains Sally. “Because of this, cancer can be missed or diagnosed too late for treatment.” Fortunately, when she noticed the first raised lump on Marlin’s body, Sally didn’t hesitate to take him to the veterinarian, potentially saving this remarkable kitty’s life.
While she isn’t grateful Marlin had to undergo multiple treatments for cancer, Sally is thankful she got to be the person who helped him through chemotherapy, surgery, radiation, and multiple checkups. In fact, Sally, who met Marlin when he was just a tiny kitten, believes they were always meant to be together, with her there to help him survive cancer and for him to teach her some very important life lessons. “I have learned to be more present and to really live in the moment,” says Sally. “He is a gift and he is my teacher.”
To learn more about this handsome cat, you can follow Marlin on Instagram.