Mochi

By Joy C.

Mochi came into my life during a very difficult time. I had lost my beloved 14 year old Tuxie, Xander, and was diagnosed with the earliest form of breast cancer. I was not in a good place. One night, in an effort to stay off of medical pages, I went on Facebook and saw the most adorable Tuxie staring back at me. While I knew I could never replace Xander, I knew I needed a Tuxie in my life. It was like it was meant to be. Fate. We were not supposed to be a four cat family again (an agreement I had made with my husband), but this time, I didn’t even have to ask or beg. I simply showed him Mochi’s photo. “When can you get him,” he asked because he knew a kitten would be the perfect distraction. I filled out the adoption request and when we found out he could be ours, my son and I jumped up and down with excitement. It was the first time I felt happiness in a long time.

For the next week (the soonest we could get an appointment to meet him), I hardly ever thought about my cancer. We had a room to get ready. A new baby was coming home. I didn’t dwell on my cancer anymore and the running joke in our family was “Well, mom gets her fourth cat. She just has to lose a part of a boob to get him.” Fair trade in my opinion. Yes, we really do have that kind of sense of humor. Mochi was adopted on October 18, 2020, two days before my first surgery. Happiness and joy filled our halls once again. Now, my cancer was just an annoyance, something I just had to get through so I could acclimate our new kitten and our three other kitties. Mochi was the best distraction and the sweetest cuddle bug. I had my surgery during Covid times, which meant my husband had to wait in the car. I had to do everything alone, but I had my phone and showed all of my nurses and doctors photos of my cats. I had an extremely rough Fall with two surgeries, followed by a very serious infection that had me waylaid for six weeks. Mochi was a constant lap cat often laying with me for hours at a time when I was too sick to move. I have a wonderful and supportive family, but there is something calming and healing that happens when you hold a purring cat. A cat or cats on my lap is my happy place.

While all of my kitties are so sweet, Mochi and Percy are the two that love to snuggle. Jelly Bean and Hemi love attention, but are not eager to cuddle for hours. Mochi brought hope when we adopted him – a hope for better days. I never thought I would find another kitty like Xander and I began to think of Mochi as that symbol of hope. The holidays brought my oldest son and his kitty home. I was happy to have five cats and our family together again. I was finally recovering and gearing up for radiation. That would be the last part of my cancer treatment. On New Year’s Eve, we noticed Mochi had a rounded belly. On New Year’s Day, he quit running. He was still eating and walking around, but I knew something was wrong. I emailed my vet and messaged a friend who fosters cats. I was hoping I was just over reacting. He was still eating and playing, just not chasing springs. It nagged at me all day and I started searching online. FIP came up. I had the worst feeling and emailed my vet again and sent photos. We set an appointment for Monday and she told me to go to ER if he worsened.

Saturday morning, he had a fever. I knew he was sick so we rushed to the ER vet and my worst fear was confirmed. Mochi was diagnosed with wet FIP on January 2, 2021. This was a soul crushing blow. Devastating. We left Mochi at the vet for bloodwork and to get a definitive diagnosis, but the ER vet saw fluid in his belly and she believed he had FIP. I knew FIP was a death sentence. I knew this was the worst diagnosis we could get. I had heard of cat trials and through tears asked what we could do. I wouldn’t even entertain euthanasia. Once again, we were blessed as our ER vet had just successfully monitored a FIP cat and that cat was now cured. She told us it was an unconventional treatment, but it could work. When I found out that the treatment success rate is as high as 80%, I knew we had to try. How could I cure myself and not cure Mochi when I knew there was something I could do? Our vet couldn’t get the meds for us or help us administer them but she would monitor and run all tests needed. I cried hysterically all the way home and didn’t see how I could make it through the rest of my radiation treatment without Mochi. I felt like my hope was dying and my world was falling apart. Even though we had only had Mochi for a little over two months, he was a beloved kitty and had become my healing buddy. My husband tried to comfort me by saying it was going to be OK, we would get through this. The same words he spoke when I found out I had cancer. I couldn’t see how it was ever going to be OK or how I would continue my treatment without my buddy. My heart was breaking once again.

We got the lab results back: wet FIP was confirmed. I was devastated, crying, and inconsolable until my hubby gave me the wake up I needed and said get to work. Mochi is counting on you to save his life. What transpired after that is a blurred day of messages sent back and forth. I joined the group that our vet told us about. I had messaged my friend that fosters and she contacted Joy Smith, co-founder of FieldHaven. I was contacted by the cured FIP kitty’s mom. I knew I needed to start treatment ASAP. Wet FIP is an emergency and some cats succumb within days. I spent the next 8-9 hours with my phone gripped in my hand, not stopping to eat or drink until I had the emergency meds and had Mochi’s treatment group set up. Joy Smith contacted me and was willing to come to our house to help administer the emergency meds that I was able to secure. I was told the dose and now we just needed to start. I had never given an injection before and was in no shape, so I was so relieved when Joy showed up at 7 PM that night after a long day in the field saving cats. I am truly grateful!

We both stared at the vials and the liquid inside. The meds that would hopefully save his life. We were about to embark on new ground. Mochi was the first FieldHaven alumni to seek treatment. Would it work? Would he live long enough for the meds to kick in? Could he be cured like the hundreds of cats I had read about? On a wing and a prayer, we embarked on a journey that would take 168 days to complete. Joy injected Mochi and he cried out for a moment. The meds are viscous and they sting. Day 1 done. Only 83 more to go. While Mochi was very fortunate that we caught the FIP early (some are much worse off and much sicker at diagnosis), he was breathing rapidly and we were afraid he wouldn’t make it through the night. My son took the night shift and watched him. The next morning, Mochi’s fever was gone and he was grooming. Are the meds already working? A small bloom of cautious hope. Some excited emails aand messages sent to update everyone on his status. He was still here, alive, and looking a bit better. Joy came back for Day 2. Day 3, we were on our own and called Joy in a panic. The syringe was hard to fill. My hands shook but my son’s were steady. He filled the syringe while she talked us through it. My son kept me calm and gave me words of encouragement. I injected. I cried after. It was hard and I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to do this. I didn’t have any medical training, and while I had cared for Xander and given Sub Q, this was much more difficult. Joy made it look so easy and the long road ahead seemed daunting. I also knew we weren’t going to quit. We would forge on. We would do what ever it took.

The FieldHaven family rallied around us offering love and support. I will be forever grateful to everyone that prayed for us, offered encouragement, and donated so that we could purchase the life saving meds we needed. FIP treatment is extremely expensive. I would get anxiety and knots in my stomach hours before we had to do injections. As Mochi started to feel better, injections became more difficult. Every night, my son and I worked as a team. What followed was a week of improvements. I found myself believing that not only could this treatment work, but it would work. We were going to cure our boy! All belly fluid was gone at Day 7. The meds were working. Mochi had begun running and jumping again. We could tell he was feeling better. Our prayers were being answered. Our vets were now using the words cautiously optimistic. We still had a long way to go. Once again, Mochi proved to be the best distraction. I started radiation and most of it it is a blur because I was so focused on Mo Mo. We often piggy backed appointments together because I had radiation every day and in the first few weeks of treatment, he was going to the vet a lot for rechecks. Everyone that was treating me knew that I was trying to cure Mochi at the same time as curing myself. There is something very meaningful to me about this time of my life. While it was often terrifying, it was also a beautiful miracle. After the first four weeks of treatment, we ran the first set of labs. Mochi was on the right path, it really was working. The daily injections, while not always easy, became routine. We had good days and bad days. My son and I worked efficiently together. On bad days, tears still came but I was hopeful. On March 26, 2021, we gave Mochi what we hoped was his last injection. We entered observation. Now, we needed to get through 84 more days without relapsing. The first 30 days were the hardest, but after the first set of labs, I felt hopeful. The cure was in sight. No signs of relapse. On June 18, 2021, Mochi was deemed cured! We had final labs run and there was no evidence of disease. Our boy did it. Mochi beat FIP!

Today, Mochi and I are both 100% cured. I believe Mochi came into my life for a reason. While going through cancer treatment and FIP was certainly not fun, it’s given me a new appreciation for life. I’m grateful that I’m still here and so is my boy. Getting a FIP diagnosis is devastating and terrifying, but there is HOPE & HELP! My boy and hundreds of other cats are living proof that FIP is beatable! Sometimes, we just need to take a giant leap of faith and pray the landing is soft. I sometimes think about the lives that have been saved since Mochi began treatment and that brings me happiness. There was a reason, a bigger picture for us and the journey we went through. Now we are trying to spread FIP awareness and treatment options along with helping others seeking treatment. Not every cat will be cured, but the odds are in your favor. We feel passionate about it because we know it’s possible.