Yelm resident faces challenges with cat’s rare cancer diagnosis

By Brandon Hansen /For The Nisqually Valley News


Michelle Kroeger welcomed someone new into her life four years ago when a spontaneous visit to an animal shelter in Lacey led to an unexpected, life-changing encounter.

“Iggy is the sweetest, loving, most snuggly kitty I have ever met,” Kroeger said. “I wasn’t intending to adopt, but then I saw her bright eyes batting at me through the kennel. She purred and licked me on the nose. I knew she had chosen me. I signed the adoption papers in the next moment.”

Iggy, a vivacious feline, quickly became the heart and soul of Kroeger’s household. Little did they know that their bond would soon be tested.

Recently, Iggy was diagnosed with an extremely rare form of cancer: laryngeal lymphoma. This type of cancer is uncommon in cats and even more so in a young cat like Iggy, who tested negative for feline immunodeficiency virus and feline leukemia virus. The diagnosis was shocking, and Kroeger faced difficult decisions about Iggy’s treatment.

“Currently, Iggy is officially a chemo patient,” Kroeger said. “Palliative care would only be so palliative, and the cancer mass would slowly suffocate her. In-depth surgery would have meant partial larynx removal and a trach for her to breathe or even euthanasia. So, oral chemo it is.”

The journey toward recovery began at Summit Vet Referral in Tacoma, where Iggy received exceptional care.

“I felt listened to about the concerns I had for Iggy, and they found a mass in her larynx via X-ray,” Kroeger said.

The situation was dire. The mass was completely obstructing Iggy’s airway, and her treatment options were fraught with risks. Nevertheless, Kroeger made the difficult decision to proceed with surgery, which was successful. A portion of the mass was removed, and Iggy woke from sedation, defying the odds.

Iggy is now undergoing chemotherapy with the hope of eradicating the remaining cancer. Kroeger is optimistic about the treatment’s success and is grateful to the Summit team.

“Having Iggy home and healthy is very important to me,” Kroeger said. “She is not ‘just a cat’ to me. She is my best friend and really the center of the household. Iggy makes my life brighter, and I want to ensure she is as comfortable as possible.”

Kroeger has faced numerous challenges throughout Iggy’s medical journey, both emotionally and financially. She couldn’t secure pet insurance due to the pre-existing condition, and laryngeal lymphoma’s rarity made finding effective treatment options daunting.

Despite the hardships, Kroeger remains hopeful and has reached out to various sources, including vet schools and grant foundations, to help cover the costs of Iggy’s care. She also set up a GoFundMe page, “Help Iggy Breathe,”, to seek support from the community.

“Every vet personnel that has encountered Iggy has beamed to me about how special of a cat she is,” Kroeger said. “That she is really something else, loving and affectionate even while not feeling well … My goal for Iggy is the least invasive intervention for the most comfort. I am happy to have her home, even with the heartache of the unknown.”