When I first started my FIP journey in March 2020, I was angry. I wanted to know what I had done, let alone what those tiny kittens had done, to deserve dealing with this terrible disease. I would never have believed that two years later, I would be actively doing research into FIP treatment and celebrating the publication of my second paper in the field. The title of this posting (above) was a comment that I made when I was privileged to be a speaker at the July 2022 “Health Breakthroughs for EveryCat: FIP and Beyond” symposium in Gainesville, Florida. I gave what I would term the least “professional” presentation of my research career, but it was the most meaningful. I only teared up three times; considering the topic, I deem that a successful outing.
So, it made sense that when I was assigned to pick an object that could answer the question: “What is the meaning of my work to me?” in my leadership development course, I had to pause and really think about what to choose. As a professor in a human medical school, I pondered a few items: my trusty old calculator (circa 1994), my stuffed Dr. Fauci doll (a gift from a student during the COVID pandemic), a current textbook for my class…but what I reached for was a simple object: an empty vial of GS-441524 that had been transformed into a special keepsake by a fellow FIP Warrior parent. It contains a few beads, a paw print charm, and has a tag that says “Warrior” on a purple ribbon. It is a prized possession. It embodies all of the experiences that I have had in that aforementioned FIP journey: as a pet parent that lost three precious kittens to FIP, as the person that became determined to save the one kitten I had left, as the person that needed something to distract me during the 168 long days of treatment and observation and found the most wonderful new research partners I could ever have imagined, as the person that celebrated my Tawny’s cure date in January 2021, and as the person that continues to fight and work towards the day when we can say that we have conquered FIP.
I consider myself to be very lucky. I made myself a promise that if I could save Tawny, I would do everything possible to pay it forward. Thankfully, I was at the right place, at the right time, and with the right skills, knowledge, and abilities to be able to help amplify the great work that so many people have been doing in this field. Or perhaps I was at the wrong place at the right time – one of those mysterious forces in the universe that gives us the opportunity to be chosen to follow a certain path, not knowing where it will lead. I am grateful that I was chosen. I am grateful that I can help.
I am willing to bet that most of us wish we had never heard of this disease. I am willing to bet even more that all of us are grateful for the wonderful community that exists because of this disease. We still have a long way to go to make FIP something that is readily diagnosed and readily treated. While treatment does exist, it isn’t the end of the road – these discoveries show us the way towards other journeys that we need to take to ensure that we can take care of all cats, no matter what kind of FIP they have, and no matter where in the world they live. We need a better way to rapidly diagnose cases of FIP so treatment can start immediately. We need a broad arsenal of treatments that can be used to treat resistant cases and attack any mutation that this stupid virus can throw at us. We need a vaccine so that we can get to a day where FIP can be prevented altogether.
So, help me to continue to pay it forward. Help me thank all the researchers, the pet owners, the rescues, the veterinarians, the FIP Warriors Administrators and Moderators, and all of the other wonderful people that make up our FIP family – our family of choice – even when we didn’t know we needed them. Thank you for accepting me into your family. I wouldn’t be here without you…and neither would Tawny and the 50,000 other cats that have been cured so far.
Wendy Novicoff, Ph.D., Professor, School of Medicine, University of Virginia
Proud Pet Parent of Tawny (FIP Warrior) and Peppermint
In Loving Memory of Digby, Misty, and Indigo, FIP Angels
Dr. Novicoff is a Professor in Public Health Sciences and Orthopaedic Surgery in the School of Medicine at the University of Virginia. She is the head of the Novicoff Program in Research in Quality and Patient Safety, and is the program director for both the Master of Science in Clinical Research and the Certificate Program in Public Health Sciences. Dr. Novicoff is also the Director of Clinical Research for the UVA Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. She has published more than 100 peer-reviewed publications, and she has presented more than 150 abstracts at national and international conferences.
Dr. Novicoff became involved in FIP research in 2020 after all four of her kittens became ill with the disease. Her first FIP journal article that was published in late 2021 and her most recent was published in October 2022.
Find both FIP articles at https://everycat.org/new-study-molnupiravir-as-new-therapeutic-option-for-relapsed-fip-cats/