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Hercules by Theresa – When a sneeze is abnormal

Published on December 4, 2023.

Story from Hercules by Theresa – When a sneeze is abnormal

Hercules Story

Meet Hercules, my now 10 year old boy.  Hercules is crazy about food and head boops.  He loves to “snoot” your hand if you don’t give him his demanded pat, and will just shove his nose under your palm repeatedly until you give him a proper pat lol.

Every morning when he hears my feet hit the floor, he will already be sprinting up the hallway, tail bolt upright – “BREAKFAST TIME, YESSSSS!!!!”  He scoffs down his food, whilst keeping a close eye on the other cats bowls.  The instant he is done, he’s off to inspect the other bowls, nudging them out of the way so he could check out their “leftovers” (before they become leftovers!)

Hercules was initially a complete goofball when we first adopted him, and my other cats would give him a whack every so often to keep him in line.  Over time he’s become Top Cat, he takes no nonsense from them now!

His favourite place to be is on top of the lawn locker, which overlooks next doors back yard – he can watch the plethora of birds that fly over and gather on the neighbours palm trees and fence in the mornings.  After that he will go for a run in the grass and see what’s shaking in there.  No matter what kind of a day I may be having – he can make me laugh simply by being himself – he just lives life to the fullest.

One morning as I was getting ready for work I heard some strange, repetitive noises….. “cchhhh……cchhhhh……chhhhhhh”.  What IS that?  It happened again ….“cchhhh…… cchhhhh ……chhhhhhh …. cchhhh……cchhhhh……chhhhhhh”

Oh, Hercules is having a sneeze attack, must have something up his nose.  Nothing to worry about.

Over the course of the next few days, I kept hearing it….. “cchhhhh……cchhhhhh…..chhhhhhhhh” it’s happening again…better keep an eye on that….

Then I noticed blood coming from his right nostril, plus his right eye seemed weepy.  I didn’t hesitate to take him to the vet. They prescribed him a broad-spectrum antibiotic with the view he had a mild respiratory infection.  With a differential diagnosis of foreign body, fungal infection…..or cancer.

1 week later and the sneezing cleared up, yes I was happy, but still had a sense of unease… I could just “feel” something wasn’t right…. Sure enough the sneezing started up again not long after the course of antibiotics were done…..  I watched him closely and checked him over as thoroughly as he would allow (he can be quite difficult to examine!)  I noted badly decayed upper molars on both sides, so took him in for a dental scale & polish, tooth removal where necessary and dental x-rays, hoping that it was just going to turn out to be some kind of tooth/gum problem that was upsetting his sinuses.

However, the x-rays confirmed my worst fears – something was desperately wrong with his right nasal cavity – it was opaque – suggesting a tumour.

Aggressive antibiotics were prescribed with a recommendation for a CT scan.  CT scan and biopsies confirmed the worst – lymphoma – with massive bone destruction, eye displacement – hearing the words “obliteration of the right nasal cavity” was not easy – just exactly what you DON’T want to hear about your not even then 10yo cat who is so precious to you!

I had a big chat with my vet clinic regarding possible options – SASH and radiation therapy was recommended as the Gold Standard treatment.  I then, that day, booked my consult with SASH.

I googled WAY too much as I anxiously awaited my appointment.  I upset myself, and spent many hours lamenting and crying….. this turned out to be completely unnecessary and I do not recommend this step!

After my initial consultation with Dr Elias Gumpel, I felt hope for the first time since his diagnosis – it turns out that nasal lymphoma is HIGHLY treatable and particularly susceptible to radiation, especially if it hasn’t spread.  At the time of his first scan, Hercules showed no indication of spreading lymphoma.  Dr Elias went through in great detail, the options as far as radiation goes, along with the possible side-effects.  He made sure I fully understood every factor of possible treatment.  My mind was made up – we’re going for definitive radiation.

I had to wait for his scan with SASH, which included a full mapping of his tumour so that treatment could be planned.  During this time I saw him deteriorate day by day.  I was TERRIFIED!  I could literally SEE his tumour growing, displacing his eye, making his nose bulge…. I saw him starting to struggle with his breathing and could hear a nose whistle on the right side.  I questioned myself every day “am I being fair to him?” “Can he last until treatment?” “Is the treatment worth it?”

Thankfully he remained stable thanks to my regular vet clinic and their amazing care and treatment, and yes, I can assure you that the radiation treatment IS worth it!  3 days into his treatment his eye was all but re-aligned.  His nose whistle was gone, he was doing great!

This didn’t stop me from frantically awaiting my daily call to advise me how his treatment went that day, did he make it through? Was he ok?  Every day I felt such relief when I got the call that he did well that day.

Hercules boarded there during the week, as he had to have daily sessions of radiation over 10 days.  I would pick him up for the weekends and drop him back the following Monday morning for the week as I live quite a distance away.  The lovely nurses at SASH sent me pictures and videos of him every single day and I was so thankful for this.  Vanessa and Rachel always make sure to take him out of their busy day to come and say hi to him when he comes for his follow up visits.  Their care is so evident and appreciated.

Hercules is due his first of many follow up scans later this month.  He is going well, however did develop rhinitis and had to go back on antibiotics.  He has some fur loss on his nose, but apart from that, he’s perfect!

There is not a day that goes by that I don’t look at Hercules and smile and be SO thankful for the fact that this treatment was available and that the caring, wonderful staff at SASH were able to do this for him, and that they continue to be involved in his recovery and his journey.

I cannot recommend the staff and services at SASH highly enough!  Please, don’t hesitate to take your pet for assessment if you feel something is wrong.  YOU know your pet better than anyone, you know if something is wrong.  Don’t be scared to ask for further investigation and say if you feel something is wrong – you KNOW!

We wish you all the very best and long, healthy, happy lives for all!

Theresa & Hercules

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