There is a strange coincidence between my cat's obsessive grooming and my cancer symptoms.
Stacie Chevrier is a recovering type-A, corporate climber who made a big life change after being diagnosed with cancer in September 2014. She now spends her days focusing on writing, fitness and healthy living. Outside of these passions, Stacie can be found practicing yoga, enjoying anything outdoors, traveling and defying the odds as a pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor survivor.
I know this might make me sound crazier than a crazy cat lady, but, I think my cat might be able detect cancer.
Before someone orders a straightjacket to be sent to my house, let me explain.
In 2012, my cat started licking and eating the hair off her belly. Thinking she might have an allergy or an invisible strain of fleas, I took her to the vet. After several swipes of my Visa and many tests, the doctor ruled out any physical problem and told me he believed my cat had a mental disorder called psychogenic alopecia. Basically, it is the feline equivalent of obsessive compulsive disorder. Instead of washing her hands a million times a day, she over-grooms. They sent me home with a version of kitty Xanax, which failed miserably. Those of you who have ever tried to give a cat a pill understand.
2012 is also when I began experiencing symptoms of neuroendocrine cancer. For me, the initial symptoms of this rare, silent cancer included facial flushing, occasional heart palpitations, bloating and trouble digesting food.
After a couple years of my cat obsessively licking her belly and my symptoms increasing, eventually I became symptomatic enough to prompt my doctor to perform a myriad of tests. Neuroendocrine cancer is often misdiagnosed for five to seven years, but I was “lucky” enough to be diagnosed with a pancreatic neuroendocrine tumor one month after my first doctor's visit. Weeks following the diagnosis, I had a distal pancreatectomy and splenectomy and was sent home to recover without any additional treatment. My cat stopped licking her belly for a couple months and then started again. Soon after some spots were found in my liver. And the cycle has repeated itself a few times. When all is well in my body, her over-grooming ceases and when something's astray, the licking commences.
Could it be a coincidence? Sure, but if scientists are beginning to research dogs’ abilities to detect cancer, perhaps they should explore the secret power of cats as well. And should scientists accept my invitation, I know a certain tabby feline who would happily raise her soft, over-groomed paw in exchange for a couple servings of Fancy Feast.
Neuroendocrine cancer (sometimes referred to as NET or carcinoid cancer) has the largest growing incident increase rate of all cancers. To learn more about this cancer and its symptoms, visit www.carcinoid.org.