Saturday, May 3, 2008

The biggest kitty heartache ever (conclusion)

We sped to the veterinarian's office as quickly as we could. Before we left, we gave Seamus some Bach flower essences, which did seem to calm him. We expected to wait, but were dissuaded.

"It will be a while," the tech said. "Go home and relax, we'll call you when you need to come get him."

I wanted to wait, but Marcie convinced me to get out of the office and to the car. We went home and worried for a while, made love to comfort each other and fell asleep for an hour or so.

When the phone rang, it jarred us both awake. Marcie grabbed it from her side of the bed.

"Hello?" she asked, very tentatively.

"Yes, hold on, Dr. Mason," she said as she then hit the speaker button.

"Well, it does not appear to be a tumor, it appears that he simply has a collapsed lung," Mason said. "So, it could be asthma, but I would like to do a biopsy before I start giving him any medicine."

"I think I want him to have medicine and then you can biopsy him if it doesn't help," I said, holding Marcie's hand tightly as she rubbed my arm.

I had decided that I did not want him to go through anything else, and he would be treated however it was possible. All I heard was "not cancer."

"Well, I am not sure that he is really going to respond to asthma medication, so we should just eliminate even the chance of..." Mason's voice disappeared as I kissed Marcie.

I heard her giving points to consider as the kiss broke, more reasons to wait and see him suffer. I cut her off.

"Thirty years ago, would a vet give a cat an ultrasound to diagnose a breathing problem?" I asked.

She was silent.

"Would a veterinarian 30 years ago hold off on trying a treatment just to be so sure that the cat wasn't dying?" I asked, now angry, as my first belief had been he was suffering asthma, but we had to pay to be allowed that relief. 5 weeks later, no less.

"I understand. He'll be ready when you get here, he's resting in his cage and there is a little bit of fur missing from his belly where we did the ultrasound. I'll send him home with Theodur and start him now."

I felt scammed, I felt relief, and I felt great grief welling up within me, all relieved for the moment. Marcie and I held each other.

We brought him home. That night, we fed him teriyaki salmon. We amusedly noted that Marcie's father and Seamus were now on the same medication, and we wondered which of the two was better behaved.

We had no idea that, just a few months later, we would be given far worse news and Seamus would be the least of our worries.

Friday, May 2, 2008

The biggest kitty heartache ever (pt 2)

We were tense for weeks. We did everything to try and keep Seamus' coughing to a minimum. But as we tried to save up the $600, Marcie became more and more distraught, and I became less convinced that it would all work out.

"He's getting worse," she said. "Honey, he's punky all day now, and he even coughs when he's try to eat."

I nodded and stroked him as his wheezes cycled in again and his limp, ever thinner body shook with each breath. He was down a lot of weight. But there was life and love in his eyes, and he could manage a purr until the built-up liquid went down the wrong tube.

"I know, honey," I said. "He's fighting, though."

She slid onto the couch next to me and cupped and rubbed my hands on him. A talk was coming. Marcie knew that, whenever she told me anything, she needed only rub and hold my hands to express how hard it was to say. She was rubbing very hard.

It meant she was going to upset me. It also meant she needed me to console her when the shock had passed.

"We can't give him chemo if it's cancer, honey," she said, her voice trembling. She squeezed my hand earnestly. "He hates the doctor, and his poor little body just won't take it. I don't want him to be miserable."

I looked up and felt hot tears as I nodded. She needed to know I was with her, but I couldn't say it. I could express only my pain and grief, so I did.

"He is my little gift from you," I said. "He used to sleep in the palm of one of my hands, or in my shoes when I went to school."

I had more to say, but my voice cracked and I couldn't. Seamus stirred. I pulled him in close to me and began to rock him, and Marcie stroked my back as I bit my lip and gulped. I turned away.

Marcie stroked my arms and back as she slid close. "You have to promise that if it's cancer, we'll take him and put him to sleep, no arguments."

I considered my little buddy's state as he coughed into my chest and mewed pathetically at me, his eyes a little dull at the moment. I could in no way let him suffer even worse, on one lung, just to prolong his time with me.

"Of course we will," I whispered, kissing his head as he complained at the sudden hugging. "The last thing he'll hear will be us, and the last thing he'll feel will be us holding him in his blanket, okay?"

She couldn't handle it and broke down completely, her forehead in one hand, her other hand squeezing mine tightly as she sobbed. "He never did anything wrong," she wailed. "This is so horrible."

I consoled her as best I could as Seamus squirmed free and tried to lead us into the kitchen for food, stopping to wheeze as he did. We went for a long walk at Cabrillo National Monument that evening and just held hands.

As the weeks passed, we endeavored to make him more comfortable and to bring him things to enjoy. He had jerky, catnip of all kinds, his own patch of wheat grass in every room and ate whenever he wanted. He sill lost weight.

I had stopped smoking the year prior. Marcie finally joined me, saying, "If we gave it to him with our cigarettes, I'll just fucking kill myself, I swear to God."

Her light habit and the sad circumstances made the quitting easier for her. She walked more often and I went with her. We became closer still.

Every day, I would get home and see him outside onto the patio, where he would loll and roll between hacking fits. When Marcie was not home, I took him downstairs to walk around in the complex.

When the week came in which we would have enough to get his ultrasound done, I quietly searched and found an in-home euthanasia service. I printed the page, with its comforting but solemn graphic of a sun-drenched room and an empty cat bed.

Marcie hugged me and shook. I stroked her back, something my hands remember doing so often, and massaged her gently as I kissed her neck and tucked her into my chest.

The morning arrived. Seamus had coughed all night the night before. When he quietly walked into and he plopped his body heavily into his cage and on the blanket inside, we looked at each other.

He never wanted to see the doctor. But he was so scared he wanted to, or he wanted to hide.

"I'm ready," she said. "Let's go."

We kissed first and our solemn parade took a long walk to either certainty or relief. We did not expect the latter.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Sorry for the delay...

But I have to process some stuff and I will return to both Seamus and the poem later on. I have a lot of work to do. I'll break everything down later... Stay tuned for a post tomorrow...

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The biggest kitty heartache ever (pt 1)

There was little on the Seamus front after his urinary tract infection. Certainly, Marcie had her arguments with him and his wild streak shot out whenever he was allowe outside, fixed or not. But one day, that all changed.

"Mao hooooff!" Seamus coughed.

He was barely able to breathe.

"Mu HOFF!" he coughed again, his head sagging to the floor pitifully as his eyes closed a bit. He coughed hard and his tongue came out.

"Spit it up, Seamus," I said, half expecting a gigantic mouth-turd of fur to issue forth like some ungodly spawn of feline spite and hell. I was happily disappointed at first when one did not.

My relief would be short-lived. Seamus began coughing again later in the day. It was the off-season for my day job, renting and manning inflatables, but I left a note for Marcie as I went off to my job with Pavia-Volpe, a finance company.

"Look out for hairballs. Seamus is coughing," I wrote. "Probably will be huge, so watch your feet"

When I got home, I opened the door to Seamus's coughing and Marcie holding him, rocking him in our couch and holding him close.

"Honey, he hasn't stopped coughin all night," She said. "I don't know what to do."

"Oh, honey, it's just stuck is all," I said.

She nodded and set him gently on the couch. His eyes looked a little glazed, I noted. But he recognized me and let out a rather pathetic "mrrrr."

I spent the night petting him and calming him when he coughed. He coughed all night and through friday. By Saturday morning, we had to take him into the vet. There was one sure sign of a problem.

"Honey, he didn't eat all his food," Marcie said, in tears. "What's wrong with him, why is he so sick?"

"The hairball probably is filling up his stomach," I said, beginning not to believe myself one bit. "But let's take him in, okay?"

He did not fight as we put him in his cage. That was bad. He did not yowl as we went to the vet's. That was worse. When he did not hiss at the vet tech, we feared the worst.

We were told to leave him there, they would call us. When they did, the vet tech asked us to come get him, the doctor was done with him.

We rushed over and waited, holding hands and nervous that they had said so little.

Dr. Mason, our new Normal Heights vet, sat down. "I am not sure how to tell you this, so I will just say it. Seamus has a collapsed lung with a mass on it, according to his X-rays. I think he may have cancer."

We were devastated.

"What can we do?" I asked.

"Well, I am not sure what you can do," she said, looking at us. "But if you want a better look at him and a diagnosis for certain, we can bipsy him or we can get an ultrasound of his lung done.

We nodded, but the doctor shook her head. "You may want to put him down, it's not cheap to get an ultrasound for an animal at all. Chemotherapy for him would be hell, and may not be possible. Once he got his wind today, he started lunging in his cage at us. He would have to be sedated for it, which he is a little old for..."

Marcie squeezed my hand and looked at me, about to fall apart. I tucked her head into my chest softly and kissed her hair as tears flowed, then croaked out, "Please make sure he can't be helped. He is the best friend we have, and we need to be sure."

She nodded. "You'll need to have $600."

I nodded back, then asked, "What is the chance he has something else?"

She shrugged. "It's hard to tell, because his lung is collapsed. If it's asthma, we may get the lung back. If it's cancer, then it's almost all cancerous now."

Marcie was wracked with a sob and curled into me, clutching my shirt. I stroked her back and breathed her hair in, her scent. Dr. Mason mumbled about getting Seamus back to us now and left, uncomfortable. I noted it.

I took him out of his cage and he crawled into my lap and went limp. He was almost damp from stress. I kept him in my lap all the way home.

We slept together on the couch and we fell asleep, exhausted with grief and fear, in the middle of the cold and clutching his soft fur and each others' hands in it.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Seamus post delayed

Rough night, and I couldn't mask the anniversary with a cat post, try as I might.

Looking for you

Looking For You

Just half a year ago today,
You broke your bonds and slipped away.
I nearly went with you that night,
Sometimes I hope that I still might.

Five months ago I was alone,
Left here without you, on my own.
You'd come to see when I'd dream,
To comfort me, or so it'd seem.

Four months ago I traveled North
to see two friends your life brought forth.
Among your angels, I did start
to see a future for my heart.

Three months ago I knew despair.
I dreamed but did not feel you there.
Then back you came to see me through,
and give my soul a taste of you.

Two months ago I looked for light,
But you had gone beyond my sight.
And so, with heart and dreams bereft,
I wondered if your spirit left.

One month ago you came to me.
You said you were not sad, but free.
Insisting that you felt my love,
but soon would be too far above.

This month I waited for your voice,
your touch, your taste, your scent so choice.
I caught them in the morning's mist
A fog around me, coolness kissed.

Today I look around and live,
and try to share what I can give.
Sometimes I do and feel your soul,
and for a moment, I am whole.

But half a year ago today,
You broke your bonds and slipped away.
And one of those was in my heart,
It's simply called "the missing part."

The biggest kitty heartache ever

Seamus's ailments and mishaps continued over the years. There was, of course, his vacation/anniversary-ending urinary tract infection. There was also a problem with his weight, which was solved with a change to soft food.

There was the development of his magic ear (his left ear in the pictures below), which was the result of a hematoma from scratching himself. Marcie was convinced that it was cancer, but it turned out to be a flood of blood into his ear that "cauliflowered" it afterward.

But the worst of all was the series of dark weeks in which we believed him to be a doomed kitty. I have never seen Marcie cry so much and so often.

I'll post the whole of the story later. For now, enjoy these pictures of Seamus illicitly enjoying a pot of pasta, and showing off his magic ear for me from last night... As usual, click to enlarge them if you want to see them in detail.

The Feasting Cat of The Magic Ear

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Marcie's kitty heartaches

Seamus is not in the best of health, but he is doing well enough. It was not always so, and Marcie and I both had serious scares over his condition. The first once came early on.

"Frank! FRANK!" she screamed from the passage between the buildings. "Frank, please come help me! Seamus is under the main house and his paw is huge. I think he's hurt!"

Seamus was just out of reach under the house, avoiding us because he knew it was a no-no. He walked, limping on his left front paw, then holding it up.

It looked like he was wearing a big pink catcher's mitt with claws. He wandered just close enough that I was able to catch him and drag him out, complaining in low growls. Marcie snatched him away immediately.

"Oh, my god, he got bitten by something," she said. "Look at how red his little paw is. I can see his skin it's so swollen."

I had seen this before, at the egg ranch my grandfather owned in Campo. Cats would get bitten by spiders, stung by bees, even bitten by rattlesnakes. Whatever part was hit, if they lived, would swell up.

But this looked bad, and I knew we had everything from wasps to widows under the rickety old house in front of us. We also had no idea what his allergies were yet.

"God, this is why you should have let me buy a car," I said. "How are we going to get him to a vet, honey?"

Marcie looked up at me and handed Seamus, who was either enjoying the attention and had begun to relax, or was falling more ill as we spoke. He was almost limp and only murmured as I took him.

"I'll call my mom, she can come pick me up," she said. "You'll have to help me get him in his little cardboard carrier then hide until we leave."

I was still hiding my presence from Marcie's parents. I nodded. I put Seamus in the house while she made the call. It was Saturday. The ritual day-long shopping had already begun.

"Honey, what are we going to do?" she asked.

I looked at Seamus closely, searching for a stinger or bite mark."He seems fine," I said.

Just then, he chose to retch and vomit his entire breakfast onto my arm. Marcie covered her mouth as i went to get a towel. Seamus sat, his eyes looking a little glazed.

"Oh my god, he's going to die," she said. "Honey, should we ask the neighbors?"

I nodded, more worried about her than the cat. I knocked on doors, checking with the neighbors one by one. No one was home.

I was about to give up and call cab we could ill afford when an unlikely savior arrived. Andy, a cheerful gay man whose late-night romps in the apartment above us sounded more like fights than anything else, was walking down the stairs.

"Oh, god, pleeease," he said. "I'll give you two a ride, just stop pounding on everyone's doors and making such a fuss!"

And he did. Marcie clutched Seamus in her arms the whole way, I later learned, refusing to let me take him in the carrier and piling into the little Miata before I could offer to go.

She came home an hour later, having been dismissed from the veterinary hospital with a cursory exam, a shot of benadryl and a $50 bill from Dr. Dixon, which included a cardboard carrier.

"Oh, my god, what a production," Andy said. "It's a bee sting or a spider bite, and he'll be fine, the doctor said. Stop already, Marcie."

"I know, I know, I know," she said, carrying Seamus in her arms, squeezed against her until his little cries were muffled by her envelopment.

Andy followed behind, and I thanked him.

"Oh, you're welcome, but next time let's call the vet first so we can be calm and let our neighbor's guests sleep in peace, okay?" he said.

I nodded and Marcie brushed past wordlessly. Marcie was still upset and fawned over Seamus the whole night.

When the next day came and the swelling was gone, she alternated between castigating him and scooping him up in her arms near tears.

It was to be the mildest scare and only the first of a few heartaches for both of us.