Archive for the ‘The Backstory’ Category

Petey spent about a day and a half in the hospital, and got to come home much sooner than even Dr. Gil expected. He was a little skittish, but otherwise his regular charming (or annoying, if you’re his sister Lilikoi) self.

He was alternately sweet/silly/dopey/nosey/busy/and a few other dwarves. I remembered all over again why I love him.

And then Dr. Gil called with the news I had been expecting, but dreading. The fluid analysis and bloodwork were consistent with a diagnosis of lymphoma.

All I could think of was: How does a young, strong cat who’s never been sick a day in his life get¬†cancer? Yeah, it’s not an original question, but grief and shock don’t usually inspire me.

But, there was some good (ish) news. According to Dr. Gil, if a cat’s going to get cancer, lymphoma is the cancer to get. It’s the most treatable, many cats can go into long remissions, and cats tolerate chemo better than pretty much any other creatures (especially human ones). The type of lymphoma Petey has (mediastinal lymphoma) is the bestest of the lymphomas.

Woo Hoo! We hit the cancer jackpot ūüė¶

 Now all we had to do was decide what we were going to do about this. We could:

  • Do nothing but keep the poor boy comfortable, giving him a matter of days or weeks
  • Opt for a very mild chemo protocol, which would keep the boy comfortable, possibly knock back the cancer, and probably not cause very many side effects
  • Go all in and hit this mofo lymphoma with the strongest, most powerful chemo protocol known to felines — and hope that the cure wasn’t harder on the boy than the disease

I looked over and saw that happy little cat tangled up in a pile of fleece he stole from my scrap bag, and really, what choice was there?

We’re going all in. Putting all our money (and whooo-ey, it’s a first-class trip to Hawaii’s worth) on the Big MamaJama of the chemo protocols, The University of Wisconsin-Madison protocol.

Wish us luck!


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You wouldn’t think it possible to cry as much as I cried after leaving Petey, and throughout that day and night. You’d think at a certain point that there just wouldn’t be any more tears. You’d be wrong.

We waited all through that day to hear from Dr. Gil. I left message upon message, but nothing. We kept telling ourselves that he’d have called if the news was bad. Finally, we were right about something.

Dr. Gil called us early the next morning (Sunday) to say that Petey was doing much better. He aspirated 6 oz of fluid from Petey’s chest, and a small sample from a lump growing in his right armpit. How could I not have known about that lump? How could I not have felt it?

The boy was alert, eating, and resting well. He was out of danger, no longer critical. One life down. Eight to go.

One of the vet techs was nice enough to let us come visit Petey, even though the office was closed that day.

I was warned that he would look a little worse for wear. I didn’t know he’d look like an old fur coat that the moths had chowed down on. So much pretty fur gone!

He looked pretty sleepy when we got there, until he heard my voice. Then my boy perked right up and shuffled his little bandaged up leg to the front of the cage so he could rub his head against my hand. I took him out of the cage, cuddled him as best as I could, since he had an IV, and whispered fighting words into his pointy little ear. I’d tell you what I said, but then I’d have to kill you. It’s a secret between me and Petey.

It did us both good to have those few minutes together. And I knew that, for now, he was still fighting.

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The Plot Thickens

So, off we go, armed with meds and the vet’s best guess of what’s going on with Petey, based upon what he’s seeing.

We have a rough, rough week. Petey spends most of his time hiding under the guestroom bed. Wait, make that in the guestroom bed¬† — he’s torn a hole in the boxspring and somehow finds this a good place to hole up.

Anyway, it’s virtually impossible to medicate him, since he won’t let me near him. It breaks my heart that this boy, whom I’ve loved since I held him when he was just a week old, hates me. Still, nothing seems outwardly wrong with him, other than his whacked out attitude.

Fast forward a few days: My beloved wakes up earlier than me and sees Petey hunkered down under the coffee table. He lures the cat out with a wiggling finger (told you Petey wasn’t very smart), and notices that the boy’s neck and jaw are swollen up like Marlon Brando in the Godfather.

I come down, take one look at this, and stuff the boy into his carrier. One frantic call to the vet, and we’re on our way in to the office.

(Aside: The boy cat is turning somersaults in his carrier. I think “He can’t be that sick, if he’s so fussy.” I’m wrong, of course.)

Dr. Gil gets one look at Petey, listens to him sort of, almost, kind of breathe, and says “This is not good.” And then, with a kiss on the head, my boy is carted off to the hospital in the back for Xrays.¬† This is very not good.

We wait, and wait. Beloved tries to convince me it’s pneumonia, a worsening of the upper respiratory thing, some kind of oddball nothing. I know he’s wrong.

And then, Dr. Gil shows me the chest Xray. Where there should be lungs, a heart, open, airy spaces, there’s just fluid. Lots and lots of fluid. This is so much worse than not good.

One more hug, one more kiss, a lot of tears, and we leave Petey, in critical condition. We’re not sure we’ll ever see those big blue eyes again.

My heart is breaking, as I will that boy to keep fighting.

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‘Where shall I begin, please your Majesty?’ he asked. ‘Begin at the beginning,’ the King said, gravely, ‘and go on till you come to the end: then stop.'” –Lewis Carroll

¬†The first thing you need to understand about Petey is that he’s not your average 5 year old cat. I don’t know whether something went wrong at birth, or whether somewhere in his lineage you can find a box of rocks masquerading as a cat, but the fact is: Petey just isn’t very smart. He’s beautiful. He’s sweet. He’s exuberant. He’s essentially a 6 month old kitten in a grown cat’s body. And I love him for it.

That’s important because Petey acting like your average lethargic, all-sleep-all-the-time cat was my first clue that something was wrong. If Petey isn’t following me everywhere, it usually means he’s up to no good. Absent the sound of things crashing to the floor, his big sister Lilikoi shrieking, or a blur of white fur flying up the stairs, I knew there was something wrong. Something majorly wrong.

So, I put on the giant fireplace gloves, corralled the boy and loaded him thrashing and crying into the carrier and hauled him off to the vet.¬† I had no real symptoms to describe other than some runny eyes and a sense that the boy just wasn’t quite right.

We left with a bottle of oral antibiotics and a tube of eye ointment. It all went downhill fast from there.

(Fortunately, we’re far from the end.)

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