The Enumerated Suck of the First Week: Lymphoma Suckhole Pt. 2

This is Part 2 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 and here.

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.

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Shit Begins: Lymphoma Suckhole Pt. 1

poop

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.

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*unintelligible swear words*

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.

Fuck cancer.

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:

Mortimer:
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.

Diagnosis:
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.

Options:
Chemo, or imminent death from liver failure.

Decision:
Chemo. Madison protocol. That’s 2 months of weekly treatments as an outpatient, followed by 4 months of treatments every other week.

Prognosis:
Since liver failure is a pretty significant complicating factor, prognosis is uncertain and depends entirely on:

  • Mort’s ability to tolerate the chemo
  • The responsiveness of the cancer to the treatments
  • The ability to return the liver to somewhat normal functionality.

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.

Fuck Cancer.

Read Part 1.

Times When I Cannot.

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Fluffy kitten all clean and snuggly and . . . clean. Really clean. So clean–Oh gods those were happier times.

Mortimer Kitten woke me at 6:15 this fine (or so I thought) Sunday morning. That’s practically late, and so I was not particularly perturbed as I threw on a sweater and headed downstairs to breakfast the cats.

As I made the switchback on the stairs, my peace was–well, we’ll just say it was wobbled, but not broken. I smelled cat poop. If you’ve read this blog more than twice, you’ll know that poop whiff is a thing that happens with alarming frequency and so is not, in and of itself, cause for much more than a groan and the unpleasant anticipation of having to clean something. And that’s exactly what I did: I groaned, and felt momentarily irritated.

And then I hit the first floor.

It dawned on me then that the poop whiff was strong. Much stronger than usual. And my irritation turned into trepidation which then quickly gave way to absolute dumbstruck horror as I made the corner into the dining room to discover the floors absolutely painted (in an unexpectedly symmetrical–dare I say rhythmic–pattern) with cat diarrhea.

And then Nigel walked past, his llama pants caked from asshole to . . . knees? . . . in said cat diarrhea.

And he led me into the kitchen, which had also been turned into a midnight poop canvas.

And more poop in the living room.

And everywhere I walked, Nigel followed, looking like a semi-melted Hershey Kiss that had been rolled in orange fur. And he kept sitting. Everywhere, poop and sitting and deposition of more poop and poop and poop and poop.

I had two immediate thoughts:

1. Call Tim, the real estate agent and tell him to list the house because there is nothing to be done and moving is the only viable option.

2. This is not a thing I deal with alone.

I quickly dismissed option 1 because we’d obviously have to burn the house down, which seemed imprudent, and hiked the stairs to fetch Schmoop, whom I roused from slumber by flicking on the lights and announcing that Nigel had painted the house in cat shit and the B team was required.

I told him what had happened. It wasn’t enough–words aren’t enough. He wasn’t prepared when he finally saw. You can’t prepare for something like that. You just can’t.

After a pregnant pause for hand-wringing and gaping and me wandering around with antibacterial spray and paper towels trying to figure out a starting point that didn’t involve arson, we decided to tackle Nigel first.

Literally. We tackled him. Schmoop held him down and I soaked his ass end as he angrily flopped his tail around in a puddle of poop water, flinging it everywhere. Once he was reasonably clean, we moved on to the rest of the house, hitting it first with antibac, and then going over it with the Swiffer.

As I was putting away the cleaning supplies, I heard a series of thumps from the second floor, followed soon after by the telltale whine of the steam cleaner that I purchased at 7am several years ago after Nigel turned the living room into a vomitorium.

There was stair poop.

And also puke. You know. For good measure.

At this point, dear reader, I am sure you are concerned for the welfare of the kitten that produced such copious and creatively-delivered emesis.

Nigel, grumpy and very soggy and still sitting all over the place was in the kitchen. Begging for breakfast. Which is to say, he’s totally fine and probably feeling a hell of a lot better than he was about 30 seconds before all the carnage started.

And so, merry fracking Christmas: the lovely smell of our tree has been displaced by the reek of cat poo, and in addition to the immediate trauma of discovering and then cleaning up after The Incident I have what I can only assume to be a permanent paranoia about hidden poop streaks on furniture, presents, unspotted floor areas, dog beds, cat beds–ALL THE THINGS COULD HAVE POOP ON THEM. NOTHING IS SAFE.

Cards and well wishes can be sent to me, care of whatever sanitarium this lands me in. I’ll update as I can.

Tis the Season!

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Swatting ornaments is tiring work

Time to get a tree from the outside, with outdoor (and possibly squirrel) smells still clinging to it, bring it into the house, make a loud production of getting it into a stand and moving the stand into place, festoon it with lights and dangling things–many of which are fragile, old, of extreme sentimental value, and/or glass–held in place by sharp, bite-sized pieces of pointy metal.

Time to drape the mantle in curiously-scented faux-pine garland of unknown substance, wrap it with lights and hang sparkly balls from it.

Time to suspend knit, human foot-shaped objects above the fireplace so that they can gently sway in the breeze created as you run past them to prevent a dog from eating one of the ornaments you naively handmade out of cinnamon and applesauce many years ago and which retain no discernible fragrance for human noses, but apparently still smell like snack time to canines.

Time for critterless friends and family to absently wonder why you’ve only hung ornaments on the top 2/3 of your tree before they are bowled over by Karmann on her way to employ her Tail of Doom as a tree clearing cudgel.

You know. Tis the season for the longest chapter in The House Critter’s Guide to Total Anarchy.

Tis the Holidays!

Since we celebrate secular Christmas, this season continues through the Ceremonial Attacking of Paper and All Things on December 25th, past the Symbolic Burial of the Kittens’ Numerous Indignities under mountains of wrapping paper, and right on through the Hoarding of All New Things by Karmann. Speaking of, she got an early start this year, having spent last evening lying on Calvin’s antler while she chewed happily on her own, much larger, antler. Calvin was too busy looking fearfully at the tree to much care.

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teetering precariously on the verge of another Anarchical Season, centering his strength through nap

These are hard times for critters. Sandwiched between the cheer and goodwill of festive, treat-dispensing humans, and the tiring work of putting up trees and lights and garlands are many, many naps. Why, the critters were so exhausted from watching Schmoopie and I wrestle with indoor nature, swear, thrash about on the floor in puddles of sap and needles, and dash from the house on an emergency trip to spend $80 on a new marriage-saving tree stand, that they have barely moved since Saturday. Poor dears.

The promise of new treats and toys to gobble, steal, and fight over looms large and oppressive over their innocent, slumbering heads.

***

Ed. Note: There have been no running for critters updates because there has been no running. Not for critters or otherwise. I tweaked (not to be confused with twerked) my knee while running the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving and have been banned from running until I have an MRI this week or next. Hopefully I will have an update that consists of, “I am back to running and it still sucks! Yay!” by the end of the month. As of now, Running for Critters is still on, and will remain A Thing, though I may have to ratchet my goals back down to the half, depending on the outcome of the MRI.

No, Seriously, I Really Mean it This Time.

Teetering precariously on the edge of the step. Just like me. Except replace "step" with "sanity."

Tiger teetering precariously on the edge of the step. Just like me. Except replace “step” with “sanity.”

It’s been almost two months. My goodness. I actually feel slightly awkward about this because if you did get any kind of kick out of my blog then you know that two months could not possibly have elapsed without incident.

Nay.

The past two months have included the following (just to catch you up):

  • A Calvin/Karmann near escape on Halloween, which resulted in me unleashing a torrent of questionable language while trying to shove bouncing puppies back into the house as legions of six year olds and their horrified parents gawped. I gave them extra candy.
  • A Karmann poopstrike.
  • Suggestions that Karmann may be developing Canine Cognitive Dysfunction.
  • Denial.
  • Barking. A lot of barking.
  • Running for Critters hustle.
  • Extreme Nighttime Naughtiness.
  • PLAGUE OH MY GOD.
  • Knee injury.
  • Mort parachuting from the kitchen counter onto Karmann’s back, in the middle of a dog snit that started because Calvin had the gumption to smell a smell that should have been her smell ENTIRELY.
  • Nigel being pretty benign.

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Shhhhhhhhhhh! I’m Hunting Kitten!

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Observe. Small pile of kibble to the right of bright and enticing kitten toy. I cannot fail!

Tuesday night, Karmann woke me up at 3:40am. So we went outside and she dutifully peed, but as soon as we got out there I heard the unmistakable peeping of a Very Tiny Kitten. I think the pee was a diversion. Karmann, lover of cats, must have heard the peeping. And she was ready to hunt herself a new friend–a fluffy baby kitten friend who could be taught to snuggle with her enjoy her snoofling, who would not swat at her or resent her in any way. Karmann is basically like the Warner Brothers Abominable Snowman and her George was so close she could just about taste him (but gently, and without any eating.)

Of course, the reason that Karmann and I get along so well is that I, too, am functionally the Abominable Snowman, so it took a not insignificant amount of effort to herd my little puppy back into the house without inspecting, locating, and adopting on site.

I looked for the kitten Wednesday morning, and again in the afternoon. No kitten.

Until Schmoop and I sat down in the evening to catch up on The Leftovers. And I heard the peeping. And I asked Schmoop if he heard the peeping. And he muted the TV and said the peeping was avian in origin and I knew that to be lies, damn lies, and Schmoop went to investigate and, lo, there was a peeper.

Because of course there was. I’m blind as a bat and I can’t hear someone standing right next to me, softly speaking my name, but I can see/hear critter in distress from 50 yards. If I ever tell you there is a critter, and you don’t see the critter, shut up and listen to me BECAUSE THERE IS A CRITTER. I once stopped my car in Savannah to let an anole cross the street. True story. Never doubt my superpower.

Anyway, the peeper looks EXACTLY like The Woob did when she was as big as an outsized sweet potato.

My reaction to a lone, peeping, Very Tiny Kitten is roughly 10,000,000 times stronger than Michelle Duggar’s reaction to an abandoned baby sitting on a bible. So I immediately created an internal montage of kitten scenes wherein he was named Rupert and became the dogs’ confidant and snugglepuss and generally outraged Mort in adorable fashion.

We were unable to snag him before he ran off to wherever adorable tiny kittens go at night, but he ate some jerky and kitten treats, so at least he has a full belly. I left some food under my car, where Rupert was decamped because he actually wants me to drive him across the river to my mother, but as of this morning it was untouched.

So I’ve set up a Very Tiny Kitten lure, with the food and the waggly fleece thing, in the hopes that he returns so that I can snag him and hide him under my bed take him to a shelter, where he will be quickly snagged by somebody wonderful who has some spare sanity to offer him (none of that here) because he is so stinking adorable I just want to grab him and stuff him in my ponytail forever.

Things I Dislike

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1) Sad puppies. I dislike when puppies are sad, rather; I still like the puppies themselves. And really, I dislike when any critter is sad, species notwithstanding.

2) Fleas. This is self explanatory.

3) Ticks. Also self-explanatory.

4) Toxic chemicals. Although I feel this one should be self explanatory, it’s a bit more nuanced, isn’t it? Because (4a) I REALLY dislike bugs, and I therefore love my Epically Concentrated, do-not-apply-to-synthetic-fabrics-or-face-skin-because-both-will-melt-off DEET Max when I have to be out in the nature. So one thing I dislike trumps another thing, and not necessarily in the most logical, or even reasonable, way.

4) Being a generally paranoid person as regards the health of my critters. This is where my other dislikes come home to roost.

I dislike fleas. Fleas make critters sad. Sad critters are sad and I also dislike that. Fleas are killed by toxic chemicals which I generally dislike UNLESS they somehow improve my life. But the toxic chemicals in topical flea and tick prevention also make critters sad and also, possibly, negatively affect their health.

But do toxic chemicals make critters sadder than fleas make them? And are the potential health ramifications of the toxic chemicals mitigated by the very real threats presented by fleas and, especially, ticks? For me, all things being equal, the toxic chemicals are preferable to flea infestation, which we’ve had and which I hope never to have again because have you ever tried to flea dip a cat?

Not pretty. It’s all blood and grudge holding.

Flea infestations–really the least damaging possible outcome of untreated dogs–make all living things miserable. Seriously. And they require additional, atomized toxic chemicals to be rid of them before minds are lost. So aren’t topical flea products better than evacuating all living creatures for 48 hours? Usually.

Unless you happen to be me, a generally paranoid about the health of my critters person, awake at midnight and obsessively watching Karmann who, upon being administered her (very much undesired) monthly dose of topical flea and tick preventative, began to breathe funny. Not quite panting, really, but quicker than normal respiration. Extra quicker than normal respiration considering she should currently be sleeping peacefully and thus respiring even more slowly than normal.

Midnight on doggie breath watch is exactly where all my aforementioned dislikes become riotously conflicting and misery-inducing. For all living things.

Kind of like fleas.

The Puke Moon

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It happens every so often. I’ve posted about it before. There are times–mysterious, sacred, spiritual times–when all the house critters are united by a common thread . . . And they all start puking.

The Puke Moon.

We are currently under the influence of The Puke Moon.

We had a disastrous weekend. I will spare you the details but highlights include me getting stung in the neck by a bumblebee, Cal spontaneously freaking out while alone and scratching the crap out of our bedroom door while we were away, and Schmoop gesticulating in such a manner that he dislodged his favorite sunglasses from the top of his head, sending them flying out the window of the car, on the parkway, where they were immediately run over.

So, as a kind gesture to erase the negative juju, Schmoop bought the pups some all-natural cheese cookies yesterday. We feed raw, and the pupsnacks are generally liver or kidney jerky and something called a lamb puff, so the cheesey cookies, being grain-based, were the equivalent of doggie junk food. A little can’t kill them, right?

As it turns out, no, won’t kill them. It will make them turn their stomachs inside out, though.

Shortly after eating his 3 cookies, Cal started with the lip licking. It died down, though, and I charged brazenly ahead with critter dinner. That was a bad idea. Because during human dinner on the patio, Cal became frantic, trying to eat my dead plants, and the grill cover, and neurotically licking the concrete floor, and I knew what was coming as frantic consumption attempts only ever lead one place with him: the evacuation of more food than he could ever possibly have eaten–in his entire life, let alone for dinner–by volume.

Calvin is magical, he creates matter. Being the source of All Things in the universe may explain his mental state. We may be star dust, but star dust is actually Calvin poop.

After puking all over the place the boy pup settled . . . Until 10:30. When the frantic need to consume returned. Except there was nothing left in him to evacuate, so I hauled myself out of bed and we came downstairs where I could keep an eye on him as he rode out the nausea. By happenstance, he finally settled around 1:30, about 30 minutes after I finally gave him a Gas-X, and a little later we tottered back upstairs.

And then Karmann woke me at 6. Puking.

And then at 11, Mort puked twice.

So I’m calling it: Puke Moon. Nigel hasn’t started yet, but he can’t possibly be far behind.

So excited for the next 12 hours!

Just Like a St. Bernard Only Tiny

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“Why does everybody keep asking me if there’s brandy in this stupid thing?”

Let’s just get this out of the way: I’m a terrible person who makes their very innocent little kitteh wear a tiny backpack. And I laugh about it. In fact, looking at this picture now, I am still wont to giggle.

I am giggling.

When I’m not busy abusing and disrespecting my animals, I occasionally run a road race and by “run” I mean “plod”, and by “race” I mean that’s what all the people in front of me are doing while I swear and plod. This past Saturday, I suckered Schmoop into joining me for a 5K, because I really like to spread the abuse around rather than limit it to only the species over which I have total, fearsome dominion. So, we picked up our race packets Saturday morning at WHY-DOES-THIS-TIME-EVEN-EXIST??!!?!??-o’clock, and immediately dumped them out in the back of the car.

They contained . . . a tiny backpack.

A tiny backpack laden with band-aids of all the shapes and sizes that nobody could ever possibly need. Little itty bitty band-aids unfit to cover a splinter hole, all the way up to standard sized bandages, all of an off-brand. You know the super plasticky ones that wouldn’t reliably stick to a a recently steam cleaned pane of glass, let alone human skin? I have a tiny back pack full of those. Actually, our household technically has two.

Two tiny backpacks full of totally useless first aid devices.

Oh, plus two antiseptic wipes–two per wee rucksack, bringing our total, of course, to four–which will actually come in handy in the middle of the night when Mort exacts his revenge by gouging at our faces. Mental note to remove wipeys from tiny backpacks and divide amongst our nightstands.

So after much perplexion (should totally be a word) we did what any self-respecting cat lovers would do. We made the cat wear the tiny backpack, effectively turning him into an off-brand version of a St. Bernard.

He was not amused. His stupid humans, however, were sorely entertained and snapped many pictures and did all manner of truly awful things like picking him up off his window perch and setting him on the ground so that we could watch him melt into the floor because cat bones immediately decalcify when presented with unpleasant situations. It lasted maybe five minutes (probably an eternity in kitten years) and then we lovingly removed the backpack and gave him snuggles and gently put him back up on the window, all while fending off two puppies who can smell cat humiliation as if it were brisket.

But here’s the thing: this is not my fault. I cannot, in any way, be held accountable for my monstrous actions because what else was I supposed to do? Race organizers gave me a tiny backpack of useless treasures and literally the ONLY being IN THE ENTIRE WORLD that could EVER wear the tiny backpack is a cat. And I have two cats, and I found myself–entirely unintentionally–with two tiny backpacks and WHAT WAS I SUPPOSED TO DO?

So I did the only thing I could and I took photos and I’m not proud but cats in tiny backpacks are hilarious and you know it. YOU KNOW IT. So you can’t judge me.