I hate waiting.
I hate it probably more than anything other than vomiting. I think I hate that a smidge more than waiting. Waiting makes me feel helpless as, by definition, all I can do is wait. I’ve talked a bit about Malley, one of our kitties, on social media, but I haven’t really typed up the entire saga until now.
It’s 17° F outside with a dash of frozen snow on the ground, which makes me crave hot cocoa, a good book, and a fireplace. I have all of these things, but my mind spins as I wait and thus, I write as that’s what I do when I find myself impatient with the world. Malley’s curled up in front of the fireplace, completely oblivious to my emotional turmoil. Kitties, eh?
Last fall, it was time for Malley to have his annual exam and echocardiogram with his cardiologist. Both he and his brother (Riley) have a hole in their hearts and heart disease, so they both get an expensive procedure once a year. Luckily, Malley’s heart is doing fine. The murmur is audible but otherwise, his heart is doing fine. The cardiologist did note that Malley had lost weight, but didn’t mention how much at the appointment. A week later, he went to his normal veterinarian for his arthritis shot where it was noted in all caps that he had lost over a pound in a very short amount of time. The veterinarian was concerned and wanted his specialists look into it. Coupled with the fact that his appetite had greatly decreased, we were concerned too.
See, Malley also has an internal medicine specialist who has been watching and treating his IBD–mostly because it caused Malley to have a lot of vomiting in the past and because the disease itself can develop into small cell lymphoma aka cancer (which is what it did in DiNozzo). Malley’s normal vet worried that perhaps his IBD had progressed, so we were off to the specialist.
Your typical CBC blood panel was done as well as a few other tests to look at his inflammatory markers and such. It was during these tests that we discovered that Malley’s kidney values weren’t normal. In fact, he has Stage II Kidney Disease. It’s not unusual for a cat who’ll be 17 in a few months, but Stage II was a surprise as his brother is only in Stage I. Still, it didn’t explain the weight loss, so we scheduled him for an ultrasound of his GI tract, which did not show any tumors or anything unusual.
Now, that doesn’t mean much. DiNozzo’s ultrasound was completely normal, but when they went in endoscopically to biopsy a month later, they found cancer. Sometimes ultrasounds don’t catch everything. Malley’s specialist decided to try some medications to see if anything helped.
We decided to an endoscopy and biopsy of his GI tract to check for cancer and other issues the ultrasound might have missed. This was an expensive yet easy decision as we had the money. The idea of him slowly starving to death was cruel, and we weren’t going to let that happen.
As we were about to schedule the biopsy, Malley did the equivalent of severing his ACL. We’re not talking about tearing it but severing it. He couldn’t walk. We found ourselves needing a $10K knee replacement surgery the same week my partner lost her job. (Thank goodness for Care Credit!) A few friends tossed a bit of money our way, and a few more bought some art, which helped a bit, but it was still a very expensive and stressful surgery, during which Malley’s blood pressure bottomed out once. Surgery is ALWAYS risky with at cat this old, especially with heart and kidney disease.
Malley made it through but post-op, we began to notice Malley had this weird twitching movement going on. He wasn’t cold as he did this in front of the fireplace while wearing a sweater. He wasn’t in pain as he was hopped up on serious pain meds. So what is it?
We felt that it was neurological in nature as it sort of resembled a seizure, but not quite. Malley ended up seeing a neurologist as his knee healed. During their tests, he failed one portion of the neuro test on his left side, but not by much. They weren’t sure if he was just being a cat and ignoring them (which is a thing apparently), or if he truly failed. We’d need more tests. More waiting.
Once the knee healed, he went back under anesthesia in January to have both the endoscopy/GI biopsy done as well as an MRI taken of his brain. They were looking for a brain tumor. Another $8K on the card, and this time, we had to pause and think. With my partner unemployed and considering a career change, could we afford this? We decided we could. We would. We’d figure it out.
The waiting… The waiting that day was unreal.
He made it through the scope & biopsy. He made it through the MRI. The first call was to let us know that as well as to say that they saw no tumors or anything disturbing in his brain. Big relief there. There was some unusual tissue in his upper intestines that sometimes is consistent with cancer, so now, we wait again for the labs to come back.
If Malley has cancer, like DiNozzo, he’ll probably undergo chemo as well, which will hopefully buy us a few more years with our boy. It’ll depend on what kind though. Small cell lymphoma in cats is very treatable, but other types… not necessarily.
We’ve always done whatever we had to for our three boys. Thinking back over the past 16.8 years, we’ve spent enough to buy several cars by now. We’re lucky. Had they been adopted by anyone else, they probably would have been put to sleep long ago due to being hella-pricey cats, but we had the ability to take care of them and so we have. But these past few months have been rough. It’s been a long while since money was tight like this and had the potential to impact someone we love.
What happens if it takes much longer for my partner to find work? What happens if we can’t afford treatment? Will we find ourselves one of millions on go-fund-me asking for help? (I have nothing against people doing so, but I honestly abhor that they have to do so at all. No one should have to beg for help to pay medical bills, etc., but that’s a whole ‘nother discussion.)
As cold as it is outside, it feels chilly inside too. Malley continues to lose weight as we’re waiting.