Grace's Story

The honest truth is cancer doesn’t care who you are, not even if you’re a North Carolina champion kitty. Lady Grace, a beautiful Ragdoll cat, knows that all too well following her diagnosis of mammary cancer in 2016.

“She’d never been sick a single day,” said Grace’s owner, Jean. “And then, I found the tumor.”

Jean adopted Lady Grace in 2010, after Grace was retired from breeding at the age of seven. “I was really lucky to get Grace,” shared Jean. “Ragdoll kitties, especially champions, are hard to find.” Grace's Story

When Grace was diagnosed at the age of 12, Jean panicked. Her veterinarian referred her to a specialist. Following, Jean pursued a second opinion at CSU’s Flint Animal Cancer Center. At the end of the visit, Jean met with Grace’s oncology team, including, surgical oncology fellow, Dr. Arathi Vinayak, who confirmed that Grace had two masses in her right mammary chain.

“I was so grateful to everyone who took the time to explain everything to me, including Grace’s prognosis and treatment options,” Jean explained. “Everyone was so kind and caring, I knew Grace was in good hands.”

After weighing the choices Dr. Vinayak presented, Jean opted to schedule a removal of Grace’s right mammary glands, which Dr. Vinayak performed the next day. Grace recovered well and Jean opted to schedule removal of the mammary glands on the left side in April 2016 in an attempt to prevent local recurrence. A full mastectomy of all mammary tissue is typically recommended in cats because breast cancer tends to be aggressive, more aggressive than in dogs.  At the end of April, Grace began doxorubicin, a form of chemotherapy, to address further spread of her cancer. Grace tolerated chemo very well and completed treatment in July 2016.

In September, Jean noticed a small mass on Grace’s abdomen and brought her in to see the team at FACC. Jean opted to have the mass removed the following week. Histopathology revealed the same cell type as her original cancer. 

“Unfortunately, mammary cancer in cats can be aggressive and sometimes requires additional treatment,” said Dr. Brittany Wittenberns, one of Grace’s doctors. “Cancer is still unpredictable, but we’re learning more every day.”Grace with Dr. Wittenberns

This time, doctors recommended that Grace begin carboplatin, a chemotherapy drug that is often used as a second line of treatment for this cancer. Grace received four doses of the drug over the course of four months, completing treatment at the end of 2016. 

“I owe Grace’s life to CSU, no question in my mind,” Jean said. “I’m so happy that I made the decision to come here and I tell everyone I know about this place. Everyone has been amazing, from the staff at the front desk to the business office and from the students to the residents to the faculty.”

Today, Grace is doing well. Jean and Grace recently moved to a new home and Grace loves the new view out the window. Her rechecks show no sign of cancer and Jean is looking forward to celebrating Grace’s 14th birthday in early November.

“When Grace was diagnosed, one of the doctors told me that with treatment Grace could live anywhere from eight months to six years. In January, it will be two years since her diagnosis. I am so grateful for every additional day I’ve had with Grace and I’m hoping for many more.”

Your gift to the Flint Animal Cancer Center will support our mission to improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer in beloved pets like Grace. Please join our team of hope. Together we can make a difference; together we can work toward a cure.