Like so many cancer stories, this not a simple one.
It involves conventional treatments that don’t work out, but it ends with natural treatments and a happy cat!
This story is a big deal to me because I lost a cat to high-grade (large cell) intestinal lymphoma. While low-grade lymphoma is more treatable, cats are not known to survive high-grade lymphoma. Even with intense chemotherapy, the best we were told to hope for was 6 – 9 months.
So I always have my ears open for helpful cat cancer healing stories. When I heard that a woman in Illinois named Connie Fischbein had a story to share (complete with pictures of the oncology scans), I set up an interview as fast as I could.
I was stunned to learn that her cat had survived high-grade intestinal and kidney lymphoma. I could hardly wait to hear how her 7 year-old Maine Coone, Nate, pulled this off!
Note: All the resources that worked for Connie’s cat are listed at the end of this (long!) article.
How it starts
LIZ: First of all, I want to know all about Nate’s initial diagnosis.
CONNIE: It was in the small intestine…he had been vomiting and losing weight and I had been going back and forth to the vet…I was leaving for work one morning and he hid under a chair, something he would never do unless there is something really, really wrong. I ran him up to the emergency clinic… he had an ultrasound. There was a tumor in his small intestine…it was removed surgically, they tissue typed it and gave me some options for chemo… We started him on the treatment that I thought would be least stressful for him….Lomustine [oral chemo].
LIZ: What did they do with the surgery?
CONNIE: They basically removed the tumor [it was blocking his digestion]. And resected the bowel.
LIZ: And what happened after that?
CONNIE: Within a couple of days he was pretty much eating his regular diet…And then 10 days later I brought him in to get his stitches out and that was when they started the oral chemo.
LIZ: I don’t think I was given surgery as an option. I don’t remember that ever coming up.
CONNIE: Well this was a single tumor. I know there are some forms of lymphoma where it’s more diffuse and it’s not that easy to remove surgically.
LIZ: The word “diffuse” does sound familiar. Maybe that’s what it was. So then Nate started the Lomustine. And what was that like?
CONNIE: He would get the dose once a month and he seemed to tolerate it fairly well, but after a couple weeks he would start having really bad diarrhea, which we would treat with metronidazole…
Connie begins researching alternatives
“After his first Lomustine dose I started looking online for alternative therapies in case the chemo didn’t work…I spent hours just searching, trying to find [good] products.
I found a cancer support product called ES Clear…it’s supposed to help with side effects from chemo. At work there’s a database I can use where I can look up interactions of some natural medicines and conventional medicines…and I didn’t see anything that was going to be a significant interaction.
I talked to the oncologist and he was fine with it too… With the ES Clear, Nate really seemed to perk up and had less diarrhea and less lethargy after his chemo doses.
I saw a vet online recommending a product from a company called Vitality Science. I talked to LeLa and to Steven Becker there. The whole approach was the opposite of the approach that conventional chemotherapy is about. Conventional chemo is all about suppressing the immune system and killing everything basically. Cancer cells metabolize faster so they absorb these toxins more readily, but pretty much every organ system is affected. But the alternative approach is to boost the immune system, give the animal a chance to heal itself.
I thought, “maybe this is plan B, because I’m kind of committed right now to the chemotherapy.” The approaches seemed to contradict each other. I couldn’t get my head around doing both at same time. They said you could, but I wasn’t convinced, so I decided to make it plan B.”
The cancer comes back after surgery and oral chemo
CONNIE: Nate did well for 5 rounds of oral Lomustine. He had his last dose at the beginning of May 2012. But at the end of that month we had a routine scan and unfortunately it had come back in his kidney. It was like a small 1.5 cm tumor at that point.
LIZ: How many months was he on the Lomustine?
CONNIE: Five. He was diagnosed early January and it came back at the end of May.
LIZ: It was the same high grade, large cell lymphoma – but this time in the kidney?
CONNIE: Right. And so we tried Elspar, which is specific for lymphoma. But the cancer was resistant. It just kept growing. So the week after that we tried [another drug] I wasn’t thrilled about. Heavy duty chemo. It was given by IV and made him sick…He wouldn’t eat from his food dish and became lethargic. His white blood cell count dropped and he was placed on prednisone and antibiotics.
Heavy duty chemo doesn’t work for Nate
“So we were just watching his white blood cell count every week. About 2 or 3 weeks later it came up enough but the tumor…didn’t shrink.
And then it started growing again so we tried one last resort called Palladia. ….But after 2 or 3 doses of that oral medication, he was vomiting and then he stopped eating.
He was kind of saying ‘I won’t do this anymore.’
Switched to 100% alternative therapies
“I talked to the oncologist and said, ‘I can’t do this anymore to him. I’ll just try to make him as comfortable as I can. And I think I’m going to try these other herbal products.’”
I also added another product Tripsy, which is for kidney support. I figured, even though he still had normal kidney function and all his labs were normal, he might need help excreting the metabolites of these products. I started him on Tripsy and the Vitality Science Advanced Immune Restoration Protocol [for cat cancer]. So I started these about a week after this last Palladia [chemo] dose.”
“About three weeks later we took him into the vet for a scan and surprisingly it has shrunk over 30% and he was…almost strangely energetic. I thought there was something wrong with him. I was like, “What’s going on? He’s acting weird.” It turns out this tumor is shrinking.
I brought him back three weeks later and it had shrunk another 30%. Both the oncologist and I had been skeptical before starting these alternative therapies. The oncologist was very surprised by the results and I was kicking myself that I hadn’t tried them earlier along with chemo.
The second time it shrank he called me into the consulting room, closed the door and said, ‘OK, what exactly are you giving him?’
I told him about all the products…he said, ‘Well, just keep doing this. He’s moving in the right direction. We’ll see what happens.”
I brought Nate back a couple months later and the tumor was still shrinking. Not quite at the same rate, but it was still moving in the right direction and then I think his third scan was in October 2012.
Then I brought him in January this year for another scan and it was completely gone. Normal kidney.”
CONNIE: Yeah. He gained weight… and he had another scan at the end of February…The scan was clean everywhere. His gut and his kidney and all of that. His recent scan [May 1st] was also completely clean.
LIZ: I’m blown away that even though Nate went through some really intense chemo his body was able to get rid of the cancer when you stopped – even though chemo breeds stronger cancer cells.
CONNIE: He wasn’t quite 7 years old when he was diagnosed…he had that going for him… And I think I got lucky with finding Vitality Science. I think those products probably made the biggest difference…there are ingredients that specifically have anti-cancer properties. And immune boosting properties. I think that was the big gun. Although it’s hard to say because there are no controlled studies.
LIZ: The tumor shrinkage you saw in late July – the doctor did not think it was from the earlier chemo, correct?
CONNIE: Correct, he had a scan after the chemo; it was still growing, not shrinking. …In fact, Nate’s oncologist was very excited about what happened with these herbals, so he now recommends it to his clients who don’t respond to conventional chemo.
Important Note: Only after a number of clean scans did Connie begin to taper down the alternative therapy doses that Nate was taking. I learned the hard way that this is essential. With cancer treatment, especially after chemo has been used, the strongest tiny cancer cells are the ones that survive, so if they start growing again they can come back with an unstoppable vengeance. For this reason, I would continue periodic cancer scans and have my cat on a maintenance dose of an alternative therapy for the rest of his or her life.
The resources that worked for Connie
Connie used a number of supplements – “the kitchen sink” – as she joked, so it’s hard to be sure which ones made all the difference. But, she suspects the Advanced Immune Restoration Protocol Cat Cancer Support and Tripsy may have been most essential to Nate’s healing.
Nate’s anti-cancer supplementation
Vitality Science Advanced Immune Restoration Protocol – Cat Cancer Support – An anti-cancer combination of enzymes, probiotics, green algae, and essential nutrients for immune system; herbal anti-inflammatory and anti-parasitic; fish oil, krill oil, Astaxanthin (extracted from Haematococcus Pluvialis microalgae), and natural vitamin E.
Nate’s immune, nutrition, and kidney support supplements
Pet Wellbeing Nu-Pet Feline Granular with Antioxidants – for appetite & nutrients
NHV ES Clear – for cancer support and immune strengthening (contains ingredients of Essiac tea, a reputed anti-cancer formula)
NHV Tripsy – for kidney, renal and urinary disorders in cats
(The last two products were originally available through Pet Wellbeing, but they have sense reformulated them, so now you can get the original formula Connie used only through NHV.)
Nate’s treatment for chemo-related diarrhea
Pet Flora – When Nate stopped responding to the metronidazole for his chemo-related diarrhea, Connie tried this special soil-based probiotic, which cleared up his diarrhea in 24 hours.
UPDATE June 2016!
I just got this update from Connie. Nate is still cancer-free after 4.5 years. She wrote: “Nate is doing very well (knock wood). He and his sister celebrated their 11th birthday this past February. Still can’t believe he’s a 4 1/2 year survivor. I feel like everyday with him is a wonderful gift. “ Connie added that she now helps Nate keep healthy with some immune supplements recommended by his new holistic vet and she also performs Reiki energy healing on him from time to time. (I will try to get more details and add them here.)