Rumba’s story began in 1988…
One dull Sunday afternoon in November 1988, I opened the door expecting to see my husband, Jim, with an assorted supply of DIY bits and pieces, having told me he was off to our local store. Instead, he was standing holding a cat basket and inside was a beautiful tiny chocolate 12 week old Burmese kitten. Having never discussed getting a cat, I must confess I was a bit surprised, to say the least! I had always thought of myself as primarily a dog-lover, having grown up with small dogs, firstly a West Highland terrier and then a long-haired Dachshund. I had never had any contact with cats, so I was a bit uncertain when faced with the prospect of sharing my life with one! Needless to say, within a matter of hours I was completely won over and totally fell in love with this kitten, who we named Rumba. Why Rumba you may well ask??? No, we’re not Latin American dance fanatics! The truth is that his full pedigree name was Rumba Rowen, and Rumba was the prefix our lovely breeder gave to all her kittens.
Within a matter of days, we realised just how smart Rumba was. Busy working lives meant we were out of the house for most of the day, so we decided it was unfair for Rumba to be on his own. He clearly demonstrated the need for companionship, typical of the Burmese breed, and so we contacted our breeder to see if she still had any other kittens in the same litter. Fortunately she did and exactly one week after Rumba joined our family, we picked up his brother, also a lovely chocolate boy, to join the household and keep each other company. When choosing a name for this latest addition, there really was only one choice when it came to what went with Rumba – and it had to be Samba!
Rumba and Samba transformed our lives! Whilst both were loving and affectionate to both of us, we found that particularly strong bonds were made between Samba and Jim, whilst Rumba and I became soul mates. I would never have believed that it was possible to form such a strong relationship with any animal and Rumba intuitively seemed to be able to read my mind!
We all lived perfectly happily together until one Christmas, when Rumba was yawning, I noticed something inside his mouth. I looked carefully and could see a red lump about the size of a pea. A cat’s mouth is so tiny that it looked very large but did not appear to be causing him any pain. I was alarmed but told myself it must be an abscess, although deep inside I knew if it were an abscess he would probably be in some discomfort. We took him to our local vet as soon as we could and the vet took some samples for testing. When the test results came back, both my husband and I were devastated to be told that Rumba had a malignant tumour in his mouth – a squamous cell carcinoma. Rumba was only 8 years old at the time and he looked like the most beautiful and healthy cat you could imagine. It was incredibly hard looking at him, knowing that he had this hideous cancer growing inside him. He was oblivious and in no pain – it was us, his owners, who were in pain.
Our vet surgically removed the tumour and when it came back she surgically removed it again, but this time, she also recommended a course of radiotherapy at the Cancer Therapy Unit at the University of Cambridge Veterinary Hospital. The clinicians we met were outstanding, and they did everything they could to help Rumba. I have no doubt whatsoever, that the treatment Rumba received at Cambridge helped prolong the quality of his life, but eventually the inevitable happened and his cancer spread and we had to take that tough decision. Rumba was 9 years old and in the prime of his life. It had been an absolute privilege and an honour to share our lives with Rumba, and at that point, Jim and I vowed to ensure that we would mark his life with some sort of legacy so that goodness came out of tragedy. The Rumba Foundation is a legacy to an animal that changed our lives forever….as well as all companion animals who deserve the very best of clinical care.