On May 1, I was having a quiet morning when one of my cats vomited a pinkish liquid. He walked away and started sniffing a catnip toy like it was no big deal, but I was concerned. I grabbed a white paper towel, soaked up the liquid, and sniffed it. It smelled like blood. It was a Sunday, so I Googled "emergency vet" and told them what happened. They wanted me to come right in. I brought the paper towel and they agreed. Blood.
From that moment my life has been a little upside-down. The vet listed all kinds of causes for the blood. It could be cancer, which because he is 14 years old, was probably the most likely cause. It could be an ulcer, it could be blood parasites. It could be that he swallowed something he shouldn't and that caused distress. He had anemia and a low red count. The vet wanted to hospitalize him immediately but since she didn't seem to really know what was wrong with him, I declined. I could watch him at home. I went home with medicines and was asked to bring him in later that day for another blood count. Things seemed stable so after again being asked if I would leave him there, I took him home with me. Just as I was getting ready to leave, he vomited again, which led to more tests and more worry. I left with more medicines, a hefty vet bill, and orders to take him to a regular vet the next day.
After two weeks of vet visits, tests, medicines, and worry, the thing that strikes me the most from all of this is how little control I have felt over this situation. I have a PhD but the language of sickness and medicines is not my language. One of the vets uses language that is childishly simple, and I don't know whether to feel patronized or grateful that she is making an effort to speak plainly. Side effects from two of the drugs we tried had my cat so distressed that last weekend, I was convinced that we were going to have to put him down and a family member was trying to talk me into scheduling it. He has since recovered to an almost-normal state but is still vomiting about once a day and he is very thin.
I have been feeding my cat turkey, steak, chicken, fish, whatever he will eat in the hopes of putting some much-needed weight back on him. Sometimes by hand. I have learned to give subcutaneous fluids to deal with dehydration from vomiting. I have been giving one drug three times a day, two drugs two times a day. Recently we have added a probiotic three times a day, an iron supplement two times a day. The diagnosis we keep circling around is cancer, and even though I am waiting for the results of one more last-ditch test, that is the most likely diagnosis. I've already talked to the vet about the treatments available if that is the case.
For now I'm trying to stop myself from obsessively Googling everything related to his illness and trying to keep my life and his as normal as possible. I'm trying to keep him comfortable and happy and enjoy the time with him instead of just feeling grief and fear. My exercise and diet has fallen off a bit but I know that for the sake of my mental health, I can't let it go completely. I have been listening to The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, which may seem like a strange choice, but it satisfies my need for information but also reminds me that there is only so much I can control.
I know that to many people all of this trouble and expense might seem unreasonable to extend the life of a very ordinary tabby cat for a few weeks or months,or maybe if I'm lucky, a year or two. Love doesn't make a lot of sense. This seven-pound cat has a strong hold on my heart and I'm not quite ready to let him go as long as he seems happy with his little life.