This is Golux, one of the two kittens we acquired about six months after moving into our current house, which is now nearly 15 years ago. (This is a suspiciously good photo which, although it originates on my camera, I darkly suspect was taken by Steve). While the Evil Landlord and I technically co-own Golux and her sibling Todal, in fact Golux is pretty much my cat and Todal the EL's, if bed distribution and Todal's fondness for gargoyling on the EL's shoulder means anything at all. You will note Golux's somewhat adorable pink nose, one of the endearing possible features of a tabby-and-white.
That nose is an adorable bastard. Our African sun is not kind to pink skin lacking in pigment, and Golux suffers the inevitable problems of pink-nosed or pink-eared cats in this climate: she burns. Which means she's subject to skin cancer. (Some people try to sunblock their animals, but our vet is of the opinion that it makes absolutely no difference at all as the cats lick it straight off). We first identified the little pre-cancerous spots about seven years ago, during one of her annual check-ups, and our amazing vet instituted a process which has effectively kept the cancer at bay for the whole seven years. Every time the spots appear, which is at approximately 12 to 18-month intervals, I bring her in for a series of histofreeze treatments - he anaesthetises her and burns them off with liquid nitrogen, using a niftly little specialised gun thing which achieves pinpoint accuracy. While she hates being boxed once a week for four weeks and her nose is always a bit raw afterwards, this beats the merry hell out of the alternative, which is full-blown tumours and a nosectomy, i.e slicing the nose off entirely.
We have now reached the natural end of the possibilities for this process. The periods between freezes have been getting shorter, and this year the spots were back within a couple of months of the last freeze. When I took her in to the vet last week, he had to admit that there further freezing wouldn't work, the tumours were advancing too quickly. We have, really, only two alternatives: a nosectomy, or to stop treating her and accept that we'd probably have to put her down within about a year.
This is a horrible decision which is absolutely and beautifully balanced between two unpleasant alternatives. The nosectomy is traumatic and ugly and would give her at least three weeks of discomfort, however well we manage the pain; it also only has a 60-70% chance of catching all the cancer, which might have already started working back into the brain. Our vet says the nose skins over quite well and after the first trauma most cats deal with it very well. But she's an old cat, 15 years old, and while she seems to be otherwise perfectly healthy, she probably doesn't have more than a few years left anyway. If we decide to simply stop treating it she'll probably live with the tumours without discomfort for a while, it's only right at the end that they start being painful, but when they reach that point all we can do is to have her put down. The vet reckons she probably won't survive the next dose of summer sun.
I honestly don't know what to do. In a sense we've won already, as much as it's possible to win: she's had seven years of very happy existence she would not have had if we hadn't managed this so well. Every year we can stave the tumours off has been a gift. But the EL and I cannot decide if it's worth the trauma of the nosectomy given (a) her age, and (b) its chance of success: whether the operation and mutilation would be more or less awful for her than the full-blown tumours, and whether the probable extra few years of life are worth all that. I think I'm leaning very slightly away from the nosectomy, but I don't know if that's about her experience or about my own squeamishness.
A brief "aargh" suffices, I think. But your positive kitty-ward thoughts would be appreciated.
Subject line is a quote from the Golux in Thurber's The Thirteen Clocks, from which, of course, both cats' names are taken. The Golux is an eccentric, frequently invisible, gentle, offbeat little character who helps the Prince win his Princess. The Todal is a blob of glup, an agent of the devil sent to punish evil-doers for doing less evil than they should. Both cats fit their names rather too well, I think. wolverine_nun was right, we'd have stored up less trouble for ourselves if we'd named Todal Creampuff instead.