Sophie (2001-2016)

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Sophie, aged 14 and a half, died last month after a long battle with feline GI lymphoma, having lived far beyond the vets’ best outside predictions because she never did anything anyone told her. Her beloved human companion was holding her as she passed.

When Sophie was a kitten, she came dangerously close to being renamed Calamity Jane. Thanks to the tender-heartedness of the 7-year-old (human) relative who named her, the appellation and ensuing embarrassment were avoided. The calamities, however, continued.

From a young age, Sophie was an adventurer, and though she was an indoor cat her entire life, she never lost her taste for exploring. Born in parts of Nashville unknown, Sophie and her five brothers found themselves at the Nashville Humane Association one day. The boys were snapped up immediately, but Sophie’s human stewed for a day before adopting her, on a Sunday, with her 7-year-old niece Kaiti in tow. That very night, Sophie’s human panicked and tried to foist her off on an unsuspecting colleague, but the would-be foistee, who suspected something, advised the panicky human to give it 24 hours (which she did, give or take 15 years).

Two weeks and $750 in emergency vet bills later, Sophie had leapt into the hearts of her human and her feline mentor Gertrude (a.k.a. Baby Gert, a.k.a. BeeWee), who preceded her in death. As a kitten, Sophie lived in West Nashville on prestigious Bowling Avenue across from what is now an ex-politician’s McMansion, and was regularly smuggled into The Tennessean newsroom, cleverly hidden in her human’s winter coat. Although she tolerated car trips early on, she soon developed an intense and enduring hatred for all things car-related. In her Bowling Avenue home, Sophie was known for tilting her head to the side curiously until she knocked herself over, helping plumbers and repairmen, showing area dogs who was boss, eating a lightning bug that one time, and getting herself stuck in refrigerator for 4 hours.

Around the age of 1, Sophie and her family moved to a permanent residence in East Nashville, beating the hipsters by nearly a decade. She was proficient in helping to foster rescue kittens and secretly developed friendships with many of them, though few escaped without ear bites and paw swats. Sophie was known for swishing her tail to indicate: happiness, her wish for immediate and focused attention, occasional fits of anger, and showing how good she was at swishing her tail. She came when called, unless she just didn’t feel like it; always slept with her human; and enjoyed licking the condensation off cold drinks, as well as recreational ham eating. She also enjoyed head-butts and playfully biting her human’s elbows while purring, whenever said elbows were proffered.

Sophie was joined by what would become her final two feline companions, Stella and Suki, in 2009, and immediately established herself as She Who Must Be Obeyed. Any disobedience or even random moments of irritation prompted Sophie to smack a feline or bite her ears. This did not stop the other house cats from adoring her completely and entirely for the duration of her life, especially Stella, who kissed Sophie’s butt whenever she could manage to work her nose under there.

Sophie ate the most expensive cat food brand ever manufactured, although she retained her love for the cheap stuff whenever she could get her teeth into it, episodes inevitably followed by prodigious vomiting. She adored going outside on the front porch and would stay outside for hours if allowed. She learned to stay within bounds of the front yard thanks in part to sometime (human) housemate Chong, who thought he trained her by nudging her with a broom, although this was rarely witnessed as an effective means of getting Sophie to do anything. She frequently walked to the end of the sidewalk in autumn and plopped down in a pile of crunchy leaves particularly well-situated in a patch of sunshine. Once or twice, she squeezed her considerable heft out of the gate and strolled down the sidewalk.

Throughout her life, Sophie enjoyed ham treats (fresh-sliced deli only, preferably Black Forrest) and strawberry yogurt (mostly Yoplait). The U.S. Ham Association is forever indebted, although the pigs themselves probably weren’t too happy about that.

She is survived by her (human) companion, Ellen, and sometime companion Chong; her (feline) companions Stella and Suki; her (human) aunties Karen, Jan & Kaiti; her (human) cat-sitter, Sheila; her devoted (human) friends Laura, Joe & Corky; her (canine) neighbor, Cupcake; and scores of other admirers, IRL and online.

Sophie loved fiercely and completely, and was herself fiercely and completely loved. She is terribly missed.

Private funeral services were held at home, with Laura & Barry acting as pallbearers. Interment was adjacent to the front porch, in front of the big hydrangea bush.

Donations can be made in Sophie’s memory to the Nashville Humane Association.

 

 

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This cat needed her teeth cleaned and the vet’s estimate will blow your mind!

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Or: They’re kidding me with this, right?

Status: Very good. After two antibiotic shots, another ultrasound and a vet and oncologist-vet visit, the report is that the lymphoma has not only not spread, but the steroids seem to have shrunk the lining in Sophie’s intestines. The oncologist said if he hadn’t done the first ultrasound himself last fall, he would not know this cat had GI lymphoma. Steroid dosage cut by 50% to mitigate terrible side effects such as decreased vision and stretched ligaments.

So. The kitty is well, for a terminally ill kitty. She limps, but she has a decent appetite. Her anemia is severe. She can’t eat a lot of solids yet, which seems to be due to a dental issue. We had to have the ultrasound in order to determine whether she was even a candidate for potential oral surgery and the sedation needed just to clean her teeth. Which brings us to today’s AYFKM (Are You F’ing KIDDING ME?!?)

Today’s rant brought to you by Unscrupulous Veterinarians Who Apparently Want to Give the Pool Boy a Nice Bonus.

First of all, let me acknowledge the unbelievable blessing of Sophie’s apparently improved health. I can scarcely comprehend it. I’m so incredibly grateful to God for this gift of extra life. Secondly, let me acknowledge that I’ve had a big chip on my shoulder for most of my life about rich people. But I’ve been working on that, because let’s face it: I’d like to be one of them someday. Someday soon.

Which I will need to be in order to patronize some of the veterinary specialists in this town.

It’s true we shouldn’t hate rich people any more than we should hate poor people. But I think we get a pass when the aforementioned rich are trying to squeeze every last dime out of people who are already emotionally compromised (e.g., someone with a terminally ill animal).

Sophie, one of about 4 individuals who actually love the searing heat of a Nashville summer.

Sophie, one of about 4 individuals who actually love the searing heat of a Nashville summer.

My wonderful, awesome, caring, kind, considerate and amazing vet Dr. Regan at 5 Points Animal Hospital referred us to someone they work with often, Dr. Stein at Tennessee Veterinary Dentistry & Oral Surgery in Brentwood. I called. They said it would be $85 for a consult. I already know I just need her teeth cleaned, I told them. I just need to bring her in for that, and if he sees she needs a tooth extracted while he’s in there, we’ll get an estimate. How much would that be, I asked.

We have different prices so we really can’t say, the woman said sweetly.

Can you give me a base price, I asked.

Let me check, she said.

She came back a minute later. We can’t tell you, the receptionist said. You have to come in for the estimate.

I am on an extremely limited income, I told her. I cannot put my sick, elderly cat into a car, drive her 30 minutes across town and pay $85 to someone just to find out how much you charge for a teeth cleaning. That’s not going to happen, I said.

Let me check again, she said, clearly stressed at this point.

She came back a minute later. It would be $600 to $1,500, she said, depending on whether she needs to have a tooth extracted.

And although she didn’t say, I assume they’re paying one person per tooth. I hope their exam room is really, really large because cats have 30 teeth. That’s $20 per tooth, in case you don’t feel like doing the math.

I refrained from telling her she was out of her cuss-word ever-loving mind. I thanked her, told her that wasn’t possible, and hung up.

Just for context, my next call was to Nashville Cat Clinic, where they also have wonderful, kind, caring, compassionate and amazing vets. (The only reason I stopped going there was because I live all the way across town now, and 5 Points is less than a mile from my house. You do the car-cat math. Yeah.) Their charge for a teeth cleaning? $178.16, without a consultation. Because I don’t need a third vet to tell me what I already know. An extraction could be an additional $200. And, granted, if we haven’t had the proper blood work within the past month, they will tack on an extra $90 to check her liver, kidney, thyroid and CBC.

A quick recap:

Gucci Horsebit loafers and Louboutin over-the-knee boots, for the veterinarians who really know the value of a pet owner's love.

Gucci Horsebit loafers and Louboutin over-the-knee boots, for the veterinarians who really know the value of a pet owner’s love.

Option 1: $85 to walk through your door and breathe your rarefied air for 30 minutes to find out what I already know from TWO OTHER VETERINARIANS. Plus $600-$1,500, depending on whether you’re going to get a new pair of Gucci loafers or the Louboutin thigh-high boots this fall, I suppose.

Option 2: $178.16. No consult fee. Dr. Mark Waldrop, who founded the Nashville Cat Clinic, has given me advice — some folks might call that a consultation — over the phone, for free, countless times in the past 20 years. Just, you know, throwing that out there.

So, yeah, I’m going with Option 2. If you’re a millionaire with a lot of disposable income and you can afford the outrageous prices charged by the Tennessee Veterinary Dentistry & Oral Surgery in Brentwood, then I’m not mad atcha. More power to you. As I said, I hope to be one of you some day.

But for those of us not up in that income stratosphere, let me just express my gratitude to people like Dr. Waldrop and his clinic, for at least being accessible. And yes, I’m aware many, many people couldn’t afford his prices either. I am blessed to have a benefactor for Sophie’s health, because I would otherwise be in that group myself.

Thanks for listening to my rant. Thanks for being on Sophie’s side. She’s gonna be pissed about that long car ride, but it won’t be her first. I’m just glad she’s still around for it.

This little cat of mine

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Status: Appetite remains underwhelming. I tried tuna, deviled ham, good quality chicken stock from a local butcher. She’s still drinking, using the litter box, and purring when I pick her up or pet her. She enjoys sitting out in the warm sun. But I can’t coax more than a few tablespoons of food into her a day. Added Cerenia for anti-nausea, seems to make little difference.

Sophie still loves soaking up the heat of the day.

Sophie still loves soaking up the heat of the day.

No energy or heart for a longer post today. Just so worried about Sophie. We’re on that awful roller coaster now, the highs coming when I get her to eat a tablespoon of deviled ham, the lows when she won’t touch it the next day.

The vet doesn’t think she’s a candidate for oral surgery (she has a bad tooth) because of her other problems. I just want my baby to eat. She wouldn’t touch the tuna or the chicken stock. But she purrs and is back to meeting me at the door again, asking to go out and jumping on the bed at night and in the a.m. Very slow, limping in both front legs now, vision is bad, but her energy is weirdly up.

I don’t feel she’s ready to go, and God knows I’m not ready to let her go, but if I can’t feed her… I’m so discouraged. Don’t know what to do.

Fluids, lots and lots of fluids

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Status: Bad day yesterday, followed by a visit to the vet today. Nothing invasive, just something to hopefully help with appetite. Will be checking back in tomorrow morning to see if there’s improvement. So far, Sophie still isn’t eating any ham, and the other cats have boycotted it in solidarity.

I love, love, love my vets at 5 Points Animal Hospital. Dr. Regan in particular has been so wonderful to us. I called today to tell them Sophie hadn’t eaten in a few days, and he worked us in immediately.

Not super-thrilled to be here, but we weighed in at a hefty 12.7 pounds.

Not super-thrilled to be here, but we weighed in at a hefty 12.7 pounds.

The upshot is, he gave her some fluids because she was a tiny bit dehydrated (although she continues to show interest in fresh water and drinking from her bowl in general). He noticed her licking the condensation off my water bottle and thought she might be thirsty, but I explained she’s been doing that since she was a kitten. He thought it was adorable, and of course he’s absolutely right. He also gave her a B12 shot and an antiemetic (which I thought was an anti-medic until I Googled it) for nausea, which is a problem in GI lymphoma patients. I’ll be checking back in with him in the a.m. to let him know whether there’s been any improvement.

I rejected out of hand any more ultrasounds, scans or Xrays. There’s simply no point, and her fur still hasn’t grown back from last summer’s tests. I won’t do chemo again, so I’m hoping some of these measures help. She started getting a bit feistier when they were handling her at the vet, and even swished her tail around when she got home. I thought she might feel well enough for a bite, but nothing so far.

It’s funny how the other ham-loving cats are now eschewing the ham because Sophie can’t or won’t eat. Stella and Suki — Suki in particular — are always chomping at the bit to get ham treats. They haven’t touched them since Sophie stopped eating. And no, there’s nothing wrong with the ham; I’ve been eating it. I’ve seen this before, when my cat Horty was dying in 2001 and her sister, normally a voracious eater of any kind of food, refused to take a bite of anything unless Horty ate something first. I know there are a lot of cat-haters and cat-doubters out there, but these little beasts are very intuitive, sensitive animals. When they’re not eating toilet paper like it’s cotton candy or scratching up your couch.

Those rare moments when they WANT to be in the cat carrier...

Those rare moments when they WANT to be in the cat carrier…

Dr. Regan says Sophie may be experiencing some mouth pain (it’s too risky to do any dental work at this point), or she may simply be nauseated because of the cancer. As for her weakened front legs and cataracts, those may very well be side effects from the prolonged use of steroids. He gave me an opioid to try on her after we see how this first round of treatment goes. If she’s experiencing mouth pain or her paw problems are caused by arthritis, for instance, that might help.

Keeping all my fingers and toes crossed and hoping for the best. Will keep everyone posted. Thanks for hanging in there with us.

A rough road ahead

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Status: Sophie’s right eye started going cloudy and wandering. A couple of weeks ago, her left eye began clouding over, too. Cataracts likely, possibly going blind. Her front left leg is giving her trouble; a limp is permanent. She doesn’t always greet me at the door and at night she doesn’t always go to bed with me anymore, but she’s always there when I wake up until this a.m. Appetite still good.

I am getting ready for a big party this afternoon that I’m co-hosting at my friend Anne’s house, celebrating big milestones for two of our favorite people. It’s a really happy occasion and I’m so looking forward to being with old friends I haven’t seen in a really long time.

At home, though, my dear old friend Sophie is struggling a little more each day. It hurts my heart to even type this, but after a much longer hiatus than we’ve had a right to, the end is coming. I didn’t want to start logging the bad days at first, because I was hoping they were just one-offs. They are starting to come closer together now, though, so I’m going to have to start noting them.

I’ve always had in the back of my mind what her oncologist told me last fall when she was diagnosed with GI lymphoma: When the bad days start to outweigh the good, then you’ll know it’s time. People always say things like, “They’ll tell you when it’s time.” But I never seem to be able to make that decision with any peace in my heart. So I really liked Dr. Vancil’s advice. Although I liked it a lot more when that decision was in the murky future.

roughroadAt the time of her diagnosis, we were given three months to 18 months at the outside. But after a brief misfire with chemo (never again, not with any of my animals and probably not for myself, either), we put her on steroids only and she has had many, many good months. The girl loves her deli ham, and even last night, after a bad morning, she came limp-trotting to the kitchen when I pulled out the baggie of ham. I’m hoping she’ll have the same reaction tonight when I get home, too, although our morning started badly.

Although she goes to bed with me almost every night, on those nights she doesn’t, she’s at least there when I wake up. Last night, she didn’t go to bed with me and she wasn’t there this morning. I didn’t see her for a few hours, but finally found her on her (not turned on) heating pad next to the AC vent. Guess she was hoping it would put out heat, like in the wintertime. I turned on the heating pad, but she got off it within 5 minutes, although she stayed near. It’s brutally hot outside right now, so I’ve put her out on the front mat, which she seems to enjoy. I check on her about every 15 minutes.

(Just checked on her after writing that last graf. Stella had snuck outside and was inadvertently stuck without adult supervision. Suki tipped me off by acting all freaked out while pacing around the front door. When I opened it, Sophie was fine but Stella streaked in like her tail was on fire. I love my little scaredy cats!)

She stopped being able to jump up to the faucet for a drink a month or so ago when she started limping. Then I noticed something was wrong with one of her eyes, and that seemed to be affecting her depth perception. She still manages to jump up on the couch, the chair and the bed, but her eyesight has been failing a little each day with what I believe are cataracts. I googled that, of course, and unlike with humans, cataracts are not a normal part of aging for cats. They are usually indicative of disease. The treatments are surgical and topical, but at this point in Sophie’s life I don’t think there would be a good enough reason to pursue. The recovery time for surgery (for which she probably wouldn’t even be a candidate due to her anemia) is a couple of weeks. If she were younger or even healthier, I might consider it. For now, I think we just have to ride it out.

Truthfully, I’m not too hopeful about what lies ahead for the next few weeks. I am trying, still, to just live in the moment, but that gets harder as her moments become more difficult. I really wanted that miracle, but maybe this almost-year was the miracle. Going to keep praying, and loving on her, and logging her days.

And if any of my fabulous party-going friends should happen to read this blog post before I see you at Anne’s house, please please please don’t ask me about Sophie today. I want to keep the party light and happy. Lots of you have been asking about her, and I love you for it more than I can say. I’ll know you’re thinking of her; I just want to keep all tears AWAY from the party.

We’ll keep you posted on Sophie’s days. Most of her last 4,955 or so have been really good ones (she was born around Christmastime 2001). We’re going to try to squeeze as many more good days out of her remaining time as we can. Thanks to all for your love and support.

A slow unwinding

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Status: Everything is status quo. Her weight is up, her appetite is healthy and she is drinking tons of water. She remains on her daily dose of Prednisolone. No signs of nausea, occasional days of low energy and weakness.

It’s been months since I’ve posted, for the second-best reason of all: There’s been no change. The best reason, of course, would have been a miracle cure, one of those “We don’t know how it happened but there’s no sign of cancer anymore” moments every person whose loved ones, two- or four-legged, have ever been touched by this awful disease.

Wee baby Sophie, 2002; larger meatloaf Sophie, 2014

Wee baby Sophie, 2002; larger meatloaf Sophie, 2014

I’m out on any more testing, because I just don’t see the point. Her swathes of still-sparse fur from where they shaved her last August and September to do ultrasounds refuse to grow back. I reckon that’s just so I don’t go getting any magical-thinking ideas like miracle cancer cures for no apparent reason. It’s not that I don’t believe in such things — a longtime friend was diagnosed with incurable brain cancer, lived out her bucket list and spent most of her money on her kids, then found out the cancer was gone. She’s living a healthy life now, laughing at the irony. It’s just that I would imagine God has better things to do than bestow an extra few years of life on my geriatric cat.

Most days it feels like she’s just slowly winding down. It’s harder for her to jump up on the new, slightly taller bed. She resists aid, like boxes that would be a halfway point between floor and mattress. Stubborn. She doesn’t always greet me at the door now, and she doesn’t automatically run every time I open the door on a sunny day. On a warm but cloudy day, I sometimes carry her outside if she won’t come on her own steam.

After living together for over 13 years, Sophie and I have our own language. She definitely knows her name, and “ham” and “no.” She also understands when I say, “You can do it!” encouraging her to make the leap into the tub. I know her meows for pet me, her meows for feed me, her meows for “no.” I know she’s looking for comfort when she seeks me out in the living room now, and that if I’m pouring out some leftover bottled water into her dish, I am to wait until she can get there so she can drink from the running stream as it splashes into the bowl. I know that when I open the door on a warm day and she just looks at me when I call her to come outside, she’s just not feeling up to the happy trot down the long hallway.

All in all, Sophie is still living the good life, putting a fair dent in the unfortunate porcine population and teaching her human new tricks. Case in point: Whenever I’m in the bathroom — putting on makeup, taking off makeup, brushing my teeth and doing what one does in there — Sophie comes in, leaps into the (empty) clawfoot tub and jumps up on the rim to reach the sink. That’s my cue to turn on the cold water so she can drink as much as she wants. If you’ve never shared your pedestal sink with a cat while trying to brush your teeth, well, I just don’t know how fully you’ve experienced life. (But this is why I never wanted to teach my felines how to use a human toilet. You may have to move your paw so I can spit out my toothpaste, but I’ll be damned if I’m waiting in line to use the bathroom at my own house.)

"You know your facial scrub is in the way, right?"

“You know your facial scrub is in the way, right?”

On a couple of days when she’s had some weakness, she’s jumped for the tub and missed, landing in an ungainly heap (imagine a 13-pound meatloaf trying to do gymnastics), fur ruffled and pride damaged. She lost her confidence for about a week. Then she tried it again and all was well.

I hope I can go another three months without posting. If I do, rest assured we’ll be here, soaking up sunbeams, drinking out of the faucet and eating as much ham as is decent in polite society.

A happy 2015 for Sophie

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Status: Blood work results last week showed no change. Her regimen of Prednisolone daily, however, is currently keeping her in a place of reduced nausea, no vomiting in weeks, increased appetite, decent energy and good mood. If you didn’t know she had cancer, you wouldn’t know she had cancer.

Not everyone hopes to gain weight in the new year, but that’s just what Sophie did, and I’m thrilled. She’s up to a hefty 12 pounds and some change and is visibly chunky. This is remarkable for a cat with GI lymphoma. Given that one of her parameters was 6 months, with 18 months at the very outside, when she was diagnosed in September, I admit I’m thrilled to be here four months later with a very good quality of life.

Winter greens

Winter greens

The reason I stopped posting here, in fact, was because every day was boringly good. Embarrassingly, wonderfully boring. There are antics and ham and steroids, outside sunshine on days when it isn’t too cold and the sun actually shows up, not too much nausea and the ever-constant and all-consuming passion for ham.

In short, I’ve had no bad days to post. What a blessing.

Of course, I have to try very hard not to fall into magical thinking: Maybe the cancer went away. Maybe it isn’t really cancer. Maybe she’ll defy all the odds and live another 5 or 10 years. 

The still-sparse hair on her sides and belly, which they shaved off in September to do ultrasounds, and the nights where she licks her lips over and over and I know she feels nauseated, and the times when I can see pain in her eyes all remind me that she hasn’t been miraculously cured, much as I would love that.

A rare moment of Sophie not making Suki feel inferior.

A rare moment of Sophie not making Suki feel inferior.

So I try very hard to stay in the now. That doesn’t mean I succeed all the time, of course, but it’s easier when Sophie’s health is this consistently stable. Then there are weeks where my own circumstances make it difficult not to see the dark side of things. I lost a very dear friend this week, someone I’d known and loved for 30 years. I gave the eulogy at her service. It was cathartic in some ways but still so painful. Her sister concluded the service with one of my friend’s favorite poems, High Flight by John Magee. It’s a favorite of pilots and astronauts, but it has always had a spiritual feel to me. In the context of someone’s death, it is both uplifting and achingly sad. I want to share it today for anyone who’s struggling with their own grief.

High Flight by John Magee

Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,

And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;

Sunwards I’ve climbed and joined the tumbling mirth

Of sun-split clouds – and done a thousand things

You have not dreamed of – wheeled and soared and swung

High in the sunlit silence. Hovering there,

I’ve chased the shouting wind along and flung

My eager craft through footless halls of air,

Up, up the long delirious burning blue

I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace,

Where never lark, or even eagle, flew;

And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod

The high untrespassed sanctity of space,

Put out my hand, and touched the face of god.

Two more weeks of no chemo

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Status: Five more good days. CBC panel showed her iron is down to 19. It was at 23 two weeks ago but should be a minimum of 28. Her energy is actually pretty good in spite of it, and her ham appetite remains unflagging. We are keeping her off the chlorambucil for two more weeks at least to re-test her blood.

I woke up this morning to three purring kitties, which immediately put a smile on my face. Sophie’s run of good days has also put a smile on my face. She’s still energetic enough to run down the hallway if I open the door and the sun in shining [that doesn’t happen to be the case today, but the forecast calls for it tomorrow].

Sophie posits that today's rain is Mother Nature's response to yesterday's midterm election outcomes. I concur.

Sophie posits that today’s rain is Mother Nature’s response to yesterday’s midterm election outcomes. I concur.

I talked to Dr. Regan at 5 Points Animal Hospital, and after he consulted with Dr. Vancil at Nashville Veterinary Specialists, the consensus is to keep her off the chemo for two more weeks and re-do her blood work to see what her anemia situation is. The last panel showed it down again [see status update above], but she was only off the chemo for two weeks, and both vets agreed it wasn’t enough time to reach a conclusion about cause-and-effect.

I’m glad of it. I’ve been very conflicted about the chemo, and she is doing pretty well without it. Granted, I don’t know what her insides look like. She does still have some nausea, but there hasn’t been any vomiting in several days. She seems to have a congested nose, but it’s hard to tell. She’s always had what I consider to be small nostrils for a cat. And ever since she was a kitten, she’s always been a bit of a wheezy breather. It seems a bit more pronounced now. I’m also seeing that rapid heartbeat thing again today, where I can see her fur on her chest moving with her pulse, but I just cannot get an accurate reading. Let me try again now, since she’s snoozing next to me on the desk.

Telltale tiny nostrils

Telltale tiny nostrils

Ok, it’s still on trend with regulation feline pulse rates, but I’m not remotely sure I’m doing this correctly.

On a side note, I’ve found two pills on the floor. Pretty sure one of them is chlorambucil. I have now changed the way I dose the steroids so that she eats ham before and after the pill — you know, like you do — and that way I’m assured the thing is getting swallowed.

I was supposed to have put her on B12 drops a couple of weeks ago, but I delayed it because I didn’t want my house-sitter to have to deal with that on top of the pills, and then when I got back from my trip I forgot about them, and then when Dr. Regan brought them up I totally lied and said I was giving them to her, and now I can’t find them. They’re lost. In my house. And I paid $27 for them. Sucks for everybody, although she’s going to HATE it if I find them.

We’re going to keep doing our one day at a time thing, punctuated by frequent hammings, and see what happens. I pray this run of good days continues.

 

A good run of good days

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Status: I was away for almost five days last week. A good friend agreed to house-sit and take care of Sophie and the girls. The first day was probably Sophie’s most difficult, but my friend’s cat-whisperer sister came on subsequent days and all steroids were taken. Since I’ve been home, we’ve had all good days.

There’s been much ham and rejoicing in the land. I’m still waiting for blood work, but since she’s been on steroids-only — no chemo — Sophie’s been energetic, eating well and, for the most part, not throwing up. She still tends to be cold and a bit lethargic at night and in the mornings, but is mostly doing well.

Her Magellan trend continues. Tuesday, she made it down the front walk and was at the gate, faithful acolyte Stella in tow, and was prepared to make a squeeze for it onto the walk by the street. It wouldn’t have been that big a deal, since she’s easy to catch these days, but if Stella had gone with her I might never have gotten them back. So I headed them off at the pass, which resulted in Stella flying low to the ground all the way back into the open front door while I tailgated Sophie as she sauntered back up the walk and into the house.

Plotting her next unauthorized adventure.

Plotting her next unauthorized adventure.

We went for her blood work Tuesday afternoon, which couldn’t have been more than a 20-minute trip (in a new soft-sided, top-loading carrier, which Stella enjoys as a bed but Sophie seems quite unimpressed by), but the Queen of Everything was NOT happy. When we got home and I unzipped the carrier to let her out, she was a bit agitated. She was sitting by the kitchen door when I walked up to her and stopped a few inches away. She actually HISSED at me, which she’s never done. Of course, I went all, “Oh, you don’t hiss at ME, Miss Thang” and whatnot, and after I walked away she came after me an we made up. I’m chalking that up to a new carrier + a needle stick at the vet + feeling her old self enough to be that indignant.

Yesterday when I let the kitties out for a while — this is ALWAYS supervised, and they know what their boundary lines are — Sophie went off-script again and wandered around to the back of the house. Not only did Stella not follow her, she kind of ratted her out, running up to me and meowing in a worried way until I got up to follow Sophie. I met up with her around the basement door, chided her for going so far afield and swooped her up to carry her back to the house.

She didn’t hiss, but she did do one of those low growl-moans. The Emperor of All She Surveys was again thwarted, and again unhappy. We made up later. She’s pretty easy to placate, if you have ham and give her pettings.

Indoor exploration = also good

Indoor exploration = also good

I did find an unswallowed steroid pill on the floor yesterday, so I’m being extra careful about that from now on. The vet says she’s up to 10 pounds, and that this is a good thing. I hope she keeps up with the energy, as long as she doesn’t start outfitting ships for her next exploration.

One day we’ll look back and shake our heads

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Status: We’ve had a run of four pretty good days. Sun baths and a couple of jumps in the tub and many successful hammings. Still off the chlorambucil; taking steroids only for another week. Some congestion; sounds like she has a runny nose. All in all 3-4 hams out of 5 on the hamometer. 

Part of me has been relieved since we took Sophie off the chemo. I don’t like knowing that I have to give my cat a pill that the other cats can’t come into contact with and that I have to wear rubber gloves to administer.  My biggest worry now is that I’ve given her just enough of these toxic meds to poison her system but not enough to kill off any cancer cells.

Why is it that the most prevalent cure for cancer is poison? Isn’t this just completely barbaric? Won’t this be one of those things we look back at in 50 years shaking our heads in wonder that we thought poison was somehow an appropriate cure for a terminal disease that wrecks your system? It’s like using leeches or blood-lettings in terms of medical sophistication.

Con-den-SA-tion: Still a favorite treat, especially when walking behind the monitor and knocking every damn thing off the desk.

Con-den-SA-tion: Still a favorite treat, especially when walking behind the monitor and knocking every damn thing off the desk.

I know it sometimes works. I also know it isn’t ultimately going to work for Sophie. So should I really be putting her through this? Our goal is merely palliative — to make my girl feel better and buy her a little more time. But there’s no way chemo makes you feel better, at least not in the short run. And that’s really all she has.

I watched my dad, who has leukemia [in remission now, thank God], waste away during his chemo treatments. He lost tons of weight and couldn’t even stand the taste of water. This is a man who loves his food ordinarily; he even has a little sausage dance he does whenever that meat is in the offing [I guess a love of all things porcine runs in the family, since his grandcat inherited the same passion]. But things got so bad that my sister and I were discussing some desperate measures, in states outside of Colorado, to get him to eat again. Thankfully, we didn’t have to, and he’s back to his fighting weight now. And although I haven’t seen him do the sausage dance in a while, he certainly still loves it.

I feel like the therapy is bad enough in humans, who at least have a choice. My dad used to get blood transfusions in between the chemo treatments, and those were the only thing that made him feel great. That’s not really an option for Sophie.

I have a difficult time having made this decision for my cat. The oncologist at Nashville Veterinary Specialists has been great. I’ve had several phone conversations with him, and he always makes himself available. I’m trying to hang in there in the zen bubble, but it’s hard. I know I have a tendency to anthropomorphize my cats, but I know that Sophie knows. She has a look about her, and she has exhibited behaviors she’s never shown before.

For instance, her time out in the yard. I’ve walked a few steps behind her as she’s gone to explore the back yard and walk the fence perimeter and even walk outside onto the sidewalk — things she’s never done before. It’s like she’s doing her own version of a bucket list, like she wants to satisfy her curiosity about a few things while there’s still time.

Suki gets a head-licking from Stella in an uncharacteristically peaceful moment brokered by Sophie.

Suki gets a head-licking from Stella in an uncharacteristically peaceful moment brokered by Sophie.

She’s showing a kinder side, too, cuddling up more with Suki than usual, which has engendered a little more peace in the household overall. Her favorite thing, though, is to be in my lap or by my side, sometimes purring, sometimes not.

I guess I’m running a little anxious because I’m heading on a road trip for a few days, leaving the kitties with a friend of mine who is house-sitting [snaps and props to Sheila the Awesome]. I know she’ll be in great hands; I just naturally worry because they’re not MY hands. Not healthy, this worry. I always get anxious before trips, even when everyone’s health is optimal. Going to have to snap out of it. Might be time to give myself a ham treat.