When I initially received Mort’s diagnosis I did what I do: research. And I didn’t understand the dearth of significant first hand accounts.
Ah, those halcyon days.
When I initially received Mort’s diagnosis I did what I do: research. And I didn’t understand the dearth of significant first hand accounts.
Ah, those halcyon days.
The first week sucks so bad.
I’m technically only on Day 5 of the first week, and it’s already been the longest and crappiest that I can remember in recent times. And that stands to reason: my cat is a walking time bomb. Of course that sucks. What’s surprising is the numerous, often excessively banal, ways in which the first week of a lymphoma diagnosis is a horror. So, without further ado, let’s just jump straight into this flaming shitpile with both feet.
This is Part 1 in an ongoing series about Mortimer, Original Critter, who has been diagnosed with feline hepatic lymphoma. Read more about that whole pile of shit here.
That’s how all this started: With poop. How else would it start in my house?
Technically, that’s not true. It was the absence of poop that got this ball of suck rolling downhill in highly uncontrolled fashion.
The following is as condensed a timeline as I can give, from weirdness that I now understand to be relevant to diagnosis. It’s probably very dull–it’s a goddamn timeline of my life over the past couple weeks. But if there is one thing I hope it can illustrate, it’s that the symptoms of this horseshit can be extremely subtle. I pay such close attention to my critters that you could reasonably accuse me of helicopter pet parenting and not a single (probable) early symptom couldn’t be easily explained by normal circumstance of life. So if you have a cat with lymphoma and you feel like the biggest asshole of all time for not picking up on it earlier, I am here to tell you that this shit does not play fair.
This is a terrible picture because this has been a terrible week.
Mortimer, Original Critter, has lymphoma.
That’s why he looks very angry above: he was, at the time, 12 hours out from his first chemo, had significantly diminished liver function, hadn’t eaten in 3.5 days, and was suffering mild encephalopathy.
I’ve decided I’m going to chronicle whatever the hell happens from here on out mainly for people who, like me, take their cat to the vet for some vague weirdness only to be told, after several hours and multiple bags of chips that, actually: lymphoma. And especially for people who then frantically wipe the grease and crumbs off their fingers to google “cat lymphoma prognosis” and wind up with far more depression and confusion than they had while trying to wrap grey matter around the understanding that time with their kitteh is now finite in a painfully specific way.
I’ll do a couple background posts and then, hopefully, post many updates over the next few years.
If you’ve come across this in your Googlage and are wondering how to proceed, let me state right up front that I have no idea or recommendations beyond strongly suggesting that you consult a veterinary oncologist. I can only share what we’ve decided, why we decided it, and how everything plays out.
So, the following are relevant to our specific situation, based on discussions with our veterinary oncologist:
12yo neutered male domestic shorthair. Former barn kitten. Has lived the spoiled life since 8 weeks of age. Indoor only. Fed only the fancypants-est food. Grain free for the past 10 years, raw-fed (prey model home, prepared frozen, and prepared dehydrated) for the past 3 years. Sees a holistic vet for yearly checkups. Gets only rabies vax. Has been the picture of health, if a bit on the portly side, his entire life.
Hepatic Lymphoma with super giant intestinal lymph nodes and a shitty liver. I believe that is the highly technical terminology. Will also accept: Fucking shit. That’s what we have.
Chemo, or imminent death from liver failure.
Chemo. Madison protocol. That’s 2 months of weekly treatments as an outpatient, followed by 4 months of treatments every other week.
Since liver failure is a pretty significant complicating factor, prognosis is uncertain and depends entirely on:
In general, cats tolerate chemo in this application quite well. Lymphoma in cats cannot be cured, therefore treatment aims to improve quality of life and, ideally, achieve remission. This means that side effects are kept to a relative minimum and this treatment protocol cannot, in any regard, be compared to the level of sickness commonly induced by chemo in humans. If remission can be achieved, then Mort could get a couple quality years. Median survival rate is 1.5 years.
I cannot stress this enough: The goal of treatment is to use the chemo to make Mort feel better. Not to make Mort violently ill in the short term, with long term hopes of beating the disease. Since the disease cannot be beaten, there is no point in causing suffering.
I do not intend to present as any sort of authority on the subject. I am just a seriously freaked out person with a very sick kitty and if anything that we (Schmoop, Mort, Other Critters, and I) go through in the course of whatever is to come can provide any sort of comfort then I might as well share it.
Blog will remain blue for the forseeable future, mainly because making it all black (LIKE MY SOUL) would be super hard to read.
You will note two things in this photo: a (completely adorable) wimpy dog, and a dog bed that, despite being laundered just one week ago, is comprised mostly of dog fur and stink.
Karmann had a 6 month checkup today, and I was glad because her presumed arthritis has notably worsened in the interim months. She often picks up her right front leg, and her rear legs occasionally shake after a long walk, or going up steps.
Right off the bat, she was a complete weirdo: hiding behind my legs, plopping herself down into tiny, shy bean and refusing to get up, generally behaving like a dog at the vet and not at all like Karmann at the vet. Most dogs realize, “Vet. Crap.” Karmann thinks it’s an afternoon social hour thrown in her honor by those minions she seldom sees. Or, at least, she did. Until today. Even the vet was confused.
So I immediately began explaining her leg anomalies, assuming that chronic discomfort was to blame for her bizarro behavior, and a check revealed pretty severely restricted range of motion in both back legs. The vet assumed arthritis, but suggested getting films “to rule out any other bad stuff.” When I asked her what other bad stuff, she lowered her voice and said, “bad stuff that we don’t want to talk about if we don’t have to.”
Take ALL THE FILMS, doc. All of them.
Vet soon returned and immediately said there was no bad stuff. She wanted to show me the pictures, so she pulled them up on the screen and said, reaffirming my very great affinity for her, “The first thing we notice, is that she really, REALLY has to poop. *points to poop* That’s a lot of poop. I’d take two bags. Beyond that, we see some arthritis but not as much as I expected, given her discomfort and range of motion sooooooo . . . she might be a wimp.”
That is her official diagnosis: midly arthritic wimp.
I immediately recalled the time she (also mildly) strained her ACL, as a bombastic 2 year old, and limp-ran as though her leg was partially detached. So there is precedent for this diagnosis, in hindsight.
The leg shaking could be a result of her discomfort, thought it is mostly likely some nerve/muscular degeneration as a result of her age. When I asked if it was the little old lady dog version of what happens to little old lady people, I was told yes, basically.
So we are getting back on the acupuncture train for the, er, palsy, as well as the arthritis. Medicating for the arthritis is tricky, given her Addison’s, as she can’t take NSAIDs. She’s been on a level 2 joint supplement, and we will increase to level 3, add Curcumin twice daily, and she has Tramadol for days that she seems particularly uncomfortable. Actually, we’re giving her Tramadol for a day or two, to see how she does, so that I can (hopefully) see a baseline of comfort that I’ll then aim for with supplements and acupuncture and, possibly, chiropractic.
In other news, I will be selling blood plasma to pay for my dog’s holistic therapies. I suppose it’s a good thing I’m not wimpy about needles.
There is no picture associated with this post because, try though I might, I could not get either of my dogs to stand still long enough for me to take a picture of their asshole. Also, I felt weird trying to take a picture of a dog’s asshole.
But speaking of dog anuses: Michael Vick is a Steeler!
I’ve dribbled out my opinions over the course of the past two weeks, but for posterity, I’m going to consolidate them all here, according to the argument they were formed to refute. If you’re looking for a well-reasoned think-piece on the nuances and subtleties of the human capacity for forgiveness, keep looking. This isn’t it.
Let’s begin with my favorite: “Why weren’t you complaining when Ben was accused of rape?!!???”
I mean, first of all, Random Internet Person, how do you know I wasn’t?
90% of people asking this are fans who justify their ongoing fandom with the fact that Vick didn’t hurt a human, he hurt dogs. And hurting dogs isn’t nearly as bad as hurting a human. The implication being that hurting a human–in this case, allegedly raping a woman–is really, super terrible. Which, of course, it is.
And yet, they are still fans. Of the team. With the alleged rapist. Nay, they are not only fans, they are Fans Who Have Taken Up the Mantle. They are carrying the “You’re in Steelers Country” banner proudly into an onslaught of people who think that attaching jumper cables to a dog and then throwing the dog into a pool is completely fucking reprehensible, effectively announcing that they are totally fine with both rape allegations and dog electrocution.
So, to you 90%, I ask in retort: Why are YOU still a fan? Have you absolutely no moral ground you aren’t willing to cede for a Sunday afternoon of watching men run into one another repeatedly? My god, what does this question say about you?
The remaining 10% of askers are very busy accusing the Vick haters of being racist. To those 10%, I say . . . actually, yeah, some of them probably are racist, because there are a lot of racist shits in the world who will latch onto anything to justify their complete horribleness. But I’m hazarding that most people opposed to Vick are really more like me, in that they are completely willing to scream swear words at people who admit to personally “dropping a dog” (as in: to hang said dog), regardless of race, color, or creed.
“They’re just dogs! Why isn’t anyone this worked up about [list of all the things they care about more than dogs]?
Here’s the thing. I care about shit. Other people care about other shit. If we would all just act more on behalf of the shit we each care about, I’m willing to bet that pretty much every major concern in the world would be addressed.
But then, the people asking this don’t actually give all that much of a shit about the thing(s) they would rather Vick detractors give a shit about. What they actually give a shit about is justifying their fandom, and pretty much the only way to justify cheering for a person who ripped out every single one of a dog’s teeth is to make the opposition look as bad as possible. And what’s the easiest way for a pedant to make someone look like a monster?
Accuse them of not caring about starving children.
Starving kids. That’s the thing I’ve seen tossed around most frequently as being more shit-worthy than dogs.
Here is a list of some things that suck: starving kids, pedophilia, starving grown-ups, sexual assault, domestic violence, misogyny, racism, bigotry, rainforest depletion, human trafficking, homophobia, human-driven extinction, climate change, cancer, terrorism, incurable disease, mental illness, homeless animals, homeless people, factory farming, war, vivisection, the refugee situation in Syria, underfunded schools, Nickelback, drought, Alzheimer’s, forgotten veterans, sexism, lack of clean drinking water, AIDS, blood diamonds, murder, black market arts trade, genocide, female genital mutilation, torture . . . etc.
Attempting to care equally about every single thing on that list–let alone every single thing in the world that sucks– is ENTIRELY FUCKING IMPOSSIBLE. We are humans, and we work with a limited set of resources, whether it be money, time, or mental stamina. It is impossible to give equal shits about all of the shit-worthy things in life. And so what we do–let me stress this: WHAT WE ALL DO–is we pick the things that resonate with us, often for reasons that defy logic, and, assuming we are good people, we do what we can for the things that we can.
If we’re assholes, we just sit around asking other people why they aren’t doing more.
“He served his time!”
No. He didn’t. He dealt down to a charge of Conspiracy to Travel in Interstate Commerce in Aid of Unlawful Activities and to Sponsor a Dog in an Animal Fighting Venture and served nary one day in jail for picking a dog up by its back legs and beating it on the ground until it was dead.
“You should forgive him.”
Setting aside the fact that I couldn’t forgive him, even if I wanted to (I don’t want to), because he did nothing to me, isn’t that missing the point of forgiveness? Can the terms of forgiveness be dictated by a third party? If I “forgive” someone because someone else tells me to, is that even forgiveness? Doesn’t forgiveness have to be freely given? You keep using this word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
I suppose I could forgive him for offending every single moral fiber of my being . . . but I choose not to. It offends me. He offends me. I choose not to forgive that offense to my sensibilities and, inasmuch as it sounds like the taunt of a second grader, it remains true that you can’t make me.
“It was 8 years ago. Get over it already.”
I am on my way over to your house with a well-seasoned fighting dog. I’m going to make it fight your puggle, despite the fact that your puggle will, most likely, have no idea what is even going on. I will find this funny, and I will laugh as my dog mauls your puggle.
Once your puggle has been mortally wounded and can no longer entertain me with his pain, I will have no use for him. I will need to get rid of him. I will do this by driving my car around back, next to your above ground pool with the Steelers floatie in it, whereupon I will connect jumper cables–to my car battery and to your nearly-dead puggle’s ears. I will throw your puggle into the pool and laugh as I watch his last salvo, scratching and biting at the pool wall as he is slowly electrocuted.
Then I will tell you I’m sorry, calmly collect my jumper cables, and drive away.
I expect, in eight years time, to receive an invitation to Thanksgiving dinner. If I do not receive said invitation, I’m going to be very upset. Because your puggle was just a dog and it’s been eight years, for christ’s sake, and I said I’m sorry. It’s not like I allegedly raped anyone, so get over it already. You should put this much effort into things that really matter.
Like starving children.
I interpret it variously as:
“Actually, no. I don’t want to go out. And, frankly, I don’t understand why she (*studiously ignores Karmann, who really wants to go out*) does, either. It’s very hot, and there are people out there. At this time of day traffic will be bad, making it difficult to cross the street, not to mention the cat that’s been tormenting us, invisibly, for the past several days. So no. No I will not be going out there until bedtime pee break, and even then, I’d prefer you instruct dad to make it quick.”
“Lalalala I can’t hear you lalalalalalalalala”
But also, possibly,
“I guess this means you’re going to start writing that blog thing again? Great. I’m enthused. Tell me more about the impending trip to puppycamp.”
Karmann: Mom. Mom we have to talk.
Karmann: You know I have Addison’s, right?
Me: I am aware.
Karmann: Right. Yeah. I know cause I was there when the vet told you.
Me: Indeed you were.
Karmann: I was also there when she told you that any kind of stress–happy exciting stress or bad scary stress–would likely require a bolus of Prednisone SO WHY DO YOU HATE ME?!???
Karmann: You took me to the vet on Thursday and I was both excited and nervous so I became a total spaz over the weekend and where was my bolus? Mom! Where was my bolus?
Me: But you’ve been doing so well managing stress that I didn’t even–
Karmann: Out! Take me out! My intestines have yet more mucuos I need to evacuate! YOU DID THIS.
(Take Karmann outside, wander futilely as she sniffs around, uncomfortable. After 10 minutes, return to the house.)
Me: Awwwwww, Nut. I’m sorry.
Karmann: You did this. Shape up.
Karmann: Oh hey, and before you go back downstairs, I just want you to know–when you accidentally gave me Cal’s Trazadone? And I was stoned all day? And you laughed?
Me: Yeah, I am REALLY sorr–
Karmann: I remember. Just know that. I remember.
From this Healthy Pets article, 10 Beagle Fun Facts (as they pertain to Calvin the beagle-ish):
1. They’re thousands of years old
They mean the breed, of course, which is interesting from the perspective that humans, in thousands of years, have not been driven absolutely batshit insane by their vocal proclivities and neuroses. Cal would have us all believe that he is a mere 5 years old, but I will also accept the possibility that he is timeless and will somehow be involved in calling forth the apocalypse.
2. The first beagles were miniature
At 21″ tall, Cal is–by beagle standards–immense. By Cal’s sleeping preferences and apparent level of self esteem, Cal is also a pocket beagle. Teeny tiny.
3. Beagles have white-tipped tails
4. Beagle means “loudmouth” in French
Check check CHECK CHECK CHECK OHMYDOG CHECK.
5. They’re very popular in the US
Cal thinks this is terrible and cheap and he’d like to see this change. He is a very lovable fellow, but only after a protracted getting-to-know-you period in which, preferably, no eye contact is made. He once maintained absolute stoic silence and noble comportment as a very charming 7 year old girl pet him and attempted to wheedle her mother into adopting him. The mother was not taken with Cal’s chilly exterior and they were thus proven unworthy. This, he feels, is the direction in which beagles, as a breed, should be heading.
6. Snoopy is a beagle
Cal does not think it would be very fun to strap on goggles and fly an airplane. In fact, he thinks that sounds dreadful.
7. Queen Elizabeth I loved beagles
Cal is deeply suspicious of the monarchy, stopping just short of describing himself as an anti-monarchist. While he does appreciate its historical and romantic aspects, he fears it might be a bit superfluous and overly ostentatious in this day and age. That does not mean that he won’t accept a Prince Charles and Princess Di commemorative plate as a 6th birthday gift. He’s not some troglodyte, after all. And he’s sure the Queen took wonderful care of her tiny beagles.
8. Beagles in the White House (LBJ had 2–Him and Her)
Cal is appalled by LBJ’s lack of creativity in naming. He’s also appalled by the lack of beagles in the White House currently, as such residence would be a disposition befitting the breed as he conceives it. Thanks, Obama!
9. Barry Manilow loves beagles
Calvin likes Copa Cabana. Win-win.
10. The US Department of Homeland Security has a Beagle Brigade to find smuggled contraband agricultural products
Cal believes he should have a Homeland Security Brigade to keep people, unknown dogs, and the occasional wind-blown leaf away from him.
Living room, just after sunrise on a Wednesday. Kelley drinks tea on the couch beside Schmoopie, who is eating oatmeal. Squirrels frolic in the trees just outside the back windows.
KARMANN: I see tree kittens. I see tree kittens. I see tree kittens! I see TREE KITTENS!!! I SEE TREE KITTENS OH MY DOG I SEE THEM THEY ARE THERE AND THEY ARE FROLICSOME!!!
CALVIN: I guess she sees tree kittens.
KARMANN: (to Cal) I DO I SEE THEM GET OVER HERE!!!
MORTIMER: (ninja moves)
KARMANN: (incomprehensible shouting)
Panic ensues as the household is overtaken by shouty dogs and swatting cats. Humans emerge victorious after several minutes of chase, and Schmoopie returns to couch, holding puffy and irritated Mortimer
MORTIMER: That’s right. I control this shit.
KELLEY: You destabilize this shit, is what you do.
MORTIMER: Exactly, mom. Exactly.
KELLEY: Who are you? Shiva?
MORTIMER: (looks away) This conversation has gone too far.