We all love a good story, especially one that involves a princess. But like most fairy “tails,” this story includes some hardships along the way to a happy ending.

Zoey was born in foster care to a pregnant stray – a sleek, black mama cat. Once she was old enough, Zoey (who was named Snow White at birth, no kidding) was taken in by a small private rescue group. Then one day, a hero named Deborah was looking at adoption sites online when she came across a cat she wanted to adopt. She contacted the group, but as fate would have it, that cat was no longer available. However, they did have a seven-month-old named Snow White that Deborah decided to meet.

Deborah immediately fell for the furry ragdoll with beautiful blue eyes.

“It’s funny how cat genes work,” said Deborah. “I saw pictures of Zoey’s mom and sister and they were both all black with short hair. Even before seeing those pictures, I knew she was different and special.”

From the minute Zoey joined Deborah’s home, she received the royal treatment.

“I call her my fluffy little princess or sometimes Her Royal Fluffiness,” said Deborah.  “She eats her food from a plate and just wants to sit on my lap … I have to pry her off.”

Damsel in distress

After seven majestic years, Zoey’s life took a turn in the summer of 2016. That’s when Deborah noticed that Zoey was congested, sneezing frequently, and sometimes had trouble breathing.

After a series of antibiotic treatments were unsuccessful, Deborah scheduled a CT scan for Zoey at a local veterinary specialist. The images showed a soft tissue mass in Zoey’s nasal cavity.

Results from a biopsy revealed Zoey had nasal osteosarcoma.

“The news that she had cancer was devastating,” said Deborah. “She’s probably the gentlest cat I’ve ever known, so eager to please, with a guileless innocence about her that sometimes almost breaks my heart.”

CSU to the rescue

Following Zoey’s diagnosis, Deborah knew exactly where to go and scheduled an appointment with the Flint Animal Cancer Center at Colorado State University. Just two years prior, Deborah’s cat Tasha was diagnosed with a nasal tumor and received treatment at CSU.

“Cats are really good at hiding when they are sick,” said Deborah. “When we realized that Tasha had cancer, it had progressed pretty far. I was focused on treatment that would give her a good quality of life and a little more time. She passed after five months.”

Despite Tasha’s outcome, Deborah was determined to do everything she could for Zoey.

“I’m grateful to have close access to CSU,” said Deborah. “They were wonderful during Tasha’s treatment, and I knew they would provide expert care for Zoey.”

After their first visit, Deborah learned that Zoey’s nasal tumor was an unusual type of cancer for a cat and also different from Tasha’s diagnosis.

“Osteosarcoma is rare in cats and even more unusual in the nasal cavity,” said Dr. Carolynne Kruckman, radiation oncology resident at the Flint Animal Cancer Center.

With little to go on in the published literature regarding treatment for cats with nasal osteosarcoma, Dr. Kruckman couldn’t predict Zoey’s prognosis but recommended stereotactic radiation therapy (SRT) as a novel treatment option. SRT delivers targeted, high-dose fractions of radiation to a tumor.

In early December 2016, Zoey received three SRT treatments over five days and then headed home.

“Zoey did very well after treatment,” said Deborah. “She was almost immediately more active, and I could tell she was breathing much better.”

Happy ending

The months passed uneventfully, and in September 2017, Zoey returned for a recheck. Scans showed the tumor was significantly smaller. Another recheck the following year showed no physical signs of cancer.

Now, twenty-eight months after treatment, Her Royal Fluffiness is purrfectly happy. She’s a little more reserved, but Deborah thinks that might also be age.

“I consider her story a success,” said Deborah. “Two years ago, I didn’t think I would still have her, and I do. I am certain she’s here because of the excellent care she received at Colorado State.”