PULLMAN, Wash. - Linus the cat was a medical first for his neurologist at Washington State University's Veterinary Teaching Hospital when his family brought him in with not one, not two, but three brain tumors.
"In my 15 years here, I have never seen three separate meningiomas in a cat," said Dr. Annie Chen-Allen.
MRI imaging showed that the masses were large, approximately marble-sized and were putting large amounts of pressure on his brain.
"He would cry if we touched him," said his human, Holly Freifeld, "we had no idea what was going on."
But as they battled with the possibility of having to put their beloved pet down, they remembered the unconditional love he had shown them, the tough times he had gotten them through, and they made the decision to stand with him through his.
Teams of veterinarians, nurses, and vet students prepared for what would be a very intense surgery.
"We knew it was going to be a radical surgery," said Chen-Allen who described the tumors as covering almost the entire surface of the brain.
The goal was to get all three tumors out at once, but when they started surgery, his brain began rapidly swelling limiting their efforts to removing only two. They closed him up, but had to do so without replacing the skull they had removed.
"I was very concerned Linus wouldn't wake up from surgery," said Chen-Allen, who was aided by closely by her resident Dr. Jessica Chavera, "but to our surprise within 20 minutes he was awake, and to our surprise again within the next 24 hours Linus was looking around and moving around."
He recovered so well, that they began to have hope they would be able to go back for the third mass.
"Bit by bit we started to realize he was going to make it through this," said Freifeld.
The next surgery in, they were able to remove the final tumor, but there was still the challenge of how to cover it all up.
"They had to innovate, which is part of the magic of this all," said Freifeld.
Veterinarians were able to model his brain and the skull that was removed and using 3D printing technology design a skull to cover it up.
Four months of treatment later, Linus is now healthy but he will have to go through radiation treatments to make sure none of the tumors regrow.
"Team Lunus is humongous and we are all rooting for him long term," said Chen-Allen.
The care was expensive, in the five figures, but Freifeld say they are grateful they had the means to pursue his treatment, and also that medicine has advanced to such a level that care like this can be done on pets.
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