One foot in front of the other
I'm kind of numb right now.
I need to go back and check the dates, but since about June 2008, we've been through the following feline emergencies:
- Isadora had her external ear (pinna or auricle) amputated, due to chronic infections.
- Cleo almost starved to death due to inability to eat; removing half her teeth gave her her life back.
- Simon (aka Caspian) got really skinny, which turned out to be due to kidney disease; we gained a few months by treating him, but lost him in November.
- Cleo lost her appetite again in January; this time, it turned out to be liver disease of some kind. Putting her through a liver biopsy to determine exactly what disease she had didn't seem indicated, given that she's such a poor surgical risk that we wouldn't operate anyway, so we treated her conservatively. I syringe-fed her, forced pills down her throat, and administered fluids subcutaneously through the skin on the back of her neck. That bought us a little time, but it ultimately wasn't enough; we lost her at the end of January.
- Isadora's had a cold for about a week now, but until yesterday, seemed pretty much herself, just sneezier. Yesterday morning, though, she was totally sacked out when we left in the morning, and when we returned in the afternoon, she hadn't moved. That's kind of odd for Isadora, who likes to strut around like she owns the place, and I picked her up to see if she's ok. While not skinny (and certainly no longer Isadora the Hutt of old), she definitely seems to have lost weight. We thought it might be due to our changing their kibble, so I got out some canned food as a treat to get her to eat. She was very interested in the food, but somehow couldn't or wouldn't manage to eat it, and as she walked away from it, she staggered. It looked very much like Cleo toward the end of her liver disease, so I got her into the vet first thing this morning.
We lost a human friend (a real mensch) very recently, too, but I don't feel ready to talk about that, and mixing it with a discussion of cat emergencies doesn't feel productive right now, so we can just stipulate that I've pretty much been mainlining cortisol for a few months now and leave it there.
Anyway, the vet called me, and I thought we were going to talk about the cold. It turns out Isadora is a lot sicker than I realized--it's her kidney disease, which has been kind of low-grade since March 2007, flaring up again with a vengeance. We don't know why--maybe the cold, or something else, got her to stop drinking water for a while, she got dehydrated, and then the other symptoms spiked up, hard and fast.
The good news is, she's not as sick as Simon was, and the doctor thinks she can be successfully treated for some time to come. What surprised me was that she asked me if I wanted to do so, having just gone through it with Simon (who, to be fair, HATED his treatment, and made it clear it was an ordeal to get fluids or pills).
I dread going through this routine again. But of course, I am going to do so; there is no question about it. The fact that Simon just went through it doesn't change anything; it's not like there's just one chance at life for a kidney cat in our household and it's Izzy's bad luck that Simon got there first.
I do appreciate her asking me that; it was considerate, and I know she loves Izzy and is an advocate for her. At the same time, I am sure that if Izzy had only a poor chance at some quality time, or were likely to suffer from treatment as much as Simon did, she would tell me so honestly. She's a good vet, and having access to her to care for our cats makes this, if not exactly good, way less sucky than it *could* be.
But at the same time, it is stressful as well. I was feeling like a real Angel of Death there for a while, and when Izzy got yesterday this morning, I was beating myself up about changing her food, about what in our house could, unbeknownst to us, be poisoning all our cats one by one, and so forth. As the vet and I talked, though, it became clear that this is just the statistical cluster from Hell, though--our cats are stratifying into two groups, the older/sick ones and the younger/robust ones.
None of the younger ones have been to the vet in at least two years, and none are showing any signs of any illness. We've just got two broad groups of cats, and the circle of life is being played out. The clustering, though, is stressing me out; I'm sure that if they did a CAT scan of my head right now, they'd see the outline of the skull, lined by a thin layer of gray and white matter, and most of the image would be one huge cortisol-induced ventricle right in the middle.
Of course I am going to give Isadora her chance, and treat her kidney disease. But as to how to carry it out, I think it's not going to be conscious thought so much as just keeping going: one foot after the other....