Monday, October 13, 2008

Raining and Pouring

I'm really starting to think that either I'm cursed, or the universe is laughing hysterically at the fucked-up-ness which has been my life as of late.

But, I'm not laughing. Really.

We things were starting to settle down-got my repeat mammo (nothing suspicious, and I get to go back in 6 months for an update-yay!), I actually have a prospect of a new job in a great, blue-ribbon district (although I'd be adding a commute, I'd be a fool not to take the job if it's offered to me), I'm doing another show (Beauty and the Beast), we're gearing up for another cycle, probably within the next few months. We thought that finally things were stabilizing.

But something wasn't right. And it wasn't with me, or with Sean, but with Buddy.

We noticed, after we returned home from vacation in July, that he was going through his pee-antics again. We actually had to rip out the carpet in the house because it was just out of control (which really wasn't a bad thing, now that I'm looking at the finished floor), but we also noticed that he was vomiting more frequently. He also looked as if he'd lost a bit of weight, so off we went to our regular vet, where it turned out that he actually lost two pounds. He did a slew of bloodwork, found nothing, so we thought perhaps he had some bug. But, to me, something wasn't right.

About three weeks ago, Buddy started having diarrhea-at first it was the typical kind, but then it quickly became watery and bloody. He was up and down constantly to the litter box, and looked even skinnier, so we went to the emergency clinic. They diagnosed him with colitis, gave us some antibiotics and told us to follow up with our vet. Our vet x-rayed him and found nothing, but he wasn't getting better, so he referred us here for additional testing. At this point, Buddy was listless and not eating, drinking water but just going from the litterbox to the bed, and whimpering, so two days after our vet visit we went to the animal hospital as an emergency. We were there for five hours (it turned out that he lost another two pounds-not good), but the staff was awesome. They did tons of tests on him (and had to keep him overnight) and found, though ultrasound, enlarged lymph nodes in his colon, which they took samples of and tested them.

And found out that he has lymphoma. Our options were: meet with an oncologist, take him home, where he'd pass on, or euthanasia. So, we met with the oncologist, but we had the feeling that we were going to hear that we should put him down.

Needless to say, we were both a mess. Couldn't eat, didn't sleep, cried constantly. He's our baby-we got him three months after we were married, so he's our first, and so sweet. We weren't sure that we could make the decision to euthanize him, but we didn't want him to suffer.

The oncologist we met with was wonderful. She examined Buddy (who put on a little show for her, flirting and being cute....the most active he'd been in two weeks), and recommended a 25 week course of chemotherapy for him. Although lymphoma insn't "curable" like other cancers are, it seems to be the easiest type of cancer to treat in cats, and they respond pretty well to the therapy. The doc gave us a 50-75% remission rate, and said that she felt that if he responded to treatment we could have up to another two years with him. She said that we don't have to make a decision that day, and she'd send us home with some prednisone, but we had to make a decision within a week of starting the pills. She left us alone, and we talked about it. We had to give him a chance, especially since he seemed more alert that day than he'd been in weeks.

Ultimately, we weren't ready to let him go. Perhaps that's selfish, but there it is. We had to give him the chance to fight it, to live. So, we started the chemo that day.

The doctor recommended four weeks of treatment to start, and an ultrasound on the 5th week, which will check the lymph nodes in the colon. If the nodes are shrinking, then the treatment is working and he's going into remission. If not.....well, then we have to discuss this and make decisions.

We're already seeing a difference in him. Luckily, cats seem to tolerate chemo much better than humans-they don't lose their hair (most often, just their whiskers, which grow back after chemo is done), or suffer from sores. We've noticed that he's a little tired and out of it after a treatment (all injectible, btw-the last week is an IV infusion, but he's usually done within 30 minutes), and not as hungry, but he's doing really well. He's back to his old tricks, and his appetite has rebounded (helped by the prednisone and an appetite stimulant) to where he's eating a 3oz can within 24 hours. The only problem we've seen is that, although the diarrhea has stopped, he seems constipated (poor guy), so I called the hospital and they recommended adding pumpkin to his food to help things along. When we went for his treatment yesterday we mentioned it to the doc. He examined Buddy and let us know that his intestines seem okay, what's in there is soft and nothing is blocked. He said that the straining he's doing is due to the lymph node enlargment, but to continue the pumpkin until he starts to go normally. He let us know that because he basically didn't eat for two weeks it's more than likely that he's absorbing most of the food and not producing enough waste for him to go yet, but he will.

And how are we? I feel better making the decision to go through with it (although people I know have told me that we're crazy to do this)-it's not as outrageously expensive as we thought (less than $100 a treatment), and if we have to give up going out to dinner and spending money on fripperies for a while, it's worth it to have this cute kitty, who is curled up next to me as I type, around for a few more years. It's a committment on our part, with giving him meds at home (which is a joy, let me tell you) and taking him to appointments every week, but I look at it this way. If people make a committment to have an animal share their home and become part of their family, then you have to follow through with that responsibility-whether it's cleaning up poop or vomit, or take care of a sick animal. You can't have all the good and none of the bad. That's not to say that people who make the decision to put their animals down are not good people-everyone's decision to do that is a personal one, and I can't judge someone for that. We made the best decision for us right now, and we're hoping for the best.

It was also interesting to note that he started treatment the day of the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, who is the patron saint of animals. Hopefully that's a sign that we made the right choice, and that he will go into remission.