I am sad to report that it very much looks like Daisy's days are numbered.
In 2022 she had three quite big operations due to the appearance of a lump just in front of her left ear. It looked very much like a small raspberry.
The first operation was in France for a biopsy that revealed that the lump was a sarcoma. The vet said it was not life threatening in the sense that it would not metastasise but was very invasive and we should have it removed. This was the second operation, done in June last year.
Four months later, just before we returned to the UK at the end of our 180 days we thought we saw a few bits of "raspberry" reappearing and our UK vet confirmed that there was some regrowth of the tumour. She performed a major operation on her face to remove it that involved using something called a "flap". This is where the skin from further down the neck was stretched and stitched in place over the wound. Clever stuff and, we thought, very successful.
After this third operation Daisy looked awful, her poor little face all stitched up like a rag doll, but the fur soon grew back although on her left cheek it was at a funny angle because it was neck fur not face fur.
After both of these operations the vets (one in France, one in the UK) stressed that it was impossible to be absolutely sure that all the sarcoma cells had been removed but she looked fine and has been fine until very recently.
An unfortunate consequence of both operations to remove the tumour has been that her left eye would not completely close, leaving it vulnerable to injury and infection. I had been putting artificial tear gel into the eye daily to help prevent drying out of the cornea. Then, about a month ago, I noticed that the eye looked sore, that there was a whitish spot on the edge of the cornea and some pinkness. I suspected an ulcer and vascularisation of the cornea.
I spoke to the UK vet who had performed the second removal of the tumour and she said to take her to a local vet as soon as possible. We went to our usual vet in Loches but was disappointed that we had not been booked in to see the young woman who had performed the surgery but one of her older male colleagues. I explained what had happened at length, providing him with post op photos from both occasions and after what was a cursory glace at Daisy's eye he prescribed some anitbiotic ointment.
One week later the eye was clearly getting worse so I specifically asked to see the young female surgeon. She examined Daisy much more thoroughly, using fluorescein to check the cornea and confirmed that there was an ulcer which was increasing, was a threat to her sight and no doubt very painful. She prescribed a whole barrage of eye drops to tackle it and painkillers.
She also pointed out that the tumour had come back and was quite large. We were mortified. We had been attributing the wonkiness of Daisy's poor little face to the appearance of the displaced fur over the wound but once we knew it was there we could actually see and feel a large lump.
One week later there was no improvement and clearly more deterioration. The vet prescribed a gruelling regime of drops, ointment and painkillers and we went back to see her yesterday. It was not good news.
The tumour is growing alarmingly fast and she thinks that the damage to the cornea is no longer due to bacterial infection as the antibiotics would have dealt with that. I was fascinated to see how she examined Daisy's eye at every stage and on this occasion she actually measured her intraocular pressure using a mini version of the same kind of non contact (air puff) tonomoter that is used routinely on humans. Glaucoma had been one of my worries, a common outcome of vascularisation, but thankfully the pressure was normal.
That was the only bit of good news though. The eye is almost certainly now blind, there being a large opaque disc near the centre of the cornea and she is almost certainly in constant pain. Ongoing treatment now comprises regular use of lubricants, drops, gel and ointment, and painkillers.
The vet has referred us to a feline ophthalmologist but frankly I don't feel inclined to go down the route of any more surgery. A corneal graft might been a possibility but not practical due to the fact that the eye does not close properly. Another option would be to stitch the inner eyelid together to keep the eye more closed but after three major operations already in only a few months we don't feel inclined to put her (and us) through that. Largely because the tumour itself is clearly growing so fast. Sooner or later it will cause her an unacceptable level of pain and distress such that euthanasia is the only option.
What we don't know is how long that will take.
Daisy was just nine years old on 4th July. She is definitely not herself, eating less and sleeping more than usual. She takes her medications stoically and is amazingly good. I googled "how to find out if your cat is in pain" and she demonstrates some of the signs but not others. The vet said that as long as she is still eating and "doing cat stuff" it's not time yet.
One of the websites I found said that it is better to put a beloved pet to sleep one week too early than one day too late and that worries me. How will we know?
We will miss her, when the time comes, that's for sure.