Sunday, February 25, 2018
A Trillion Pieces
A trillion pieces is what my heart was shattered into last Tuesday.
About two months ago our beloved Manny Lion was diagnosed with Small Cell Lymphoma, which is typically very treatable and manageable in cats. I couldn't believe it from the first time the word Lymphoma was mentioned at the vet. His appetite had been on the decline and he just wasn't himself, so we took him to the vet where it was initially thought maybe he had a food allergy. He got better with some medication but over the following two weeks we went back to where we began so we took him back in.
They did blood work and while there was nothing crazy, there was an elevated white blood cell count so the sample was sent off to a pathologist for further examination. The pathologist said it looked like an inflammatory response, and while there was a slight chance it was the start of Lymphoma, he suspected that was not it.
Next step was an ultrasound to see if anything abnormalities were present, and, there were. There were a few spots of thickened intestine which could be Lymphoma or Irritable Bowel Disease. The only way to find out was surgical biopsy. The vet said he was a good candidate for the biopsy surgery and so we did it to find the answers we needed in order to get him on the correct treatment for whatever it was.
The biopsy surgery was successful, but it was horrible when we picked him up afterward. He was still so out of it from the anathesia wearing off that his eyes were glassed over and he could barely sit up. By morning he was back to normal, so that was a huge relief. We spent the next two weeks taking turns sleeping in the spare bedroom with him, on the floor because anything he could jump on had to be out of the room. He wasn't allowed to jump on anything for two weeks. We made it through that uneventfully and solved the problem during the day by getting him a big dog crate so he could go into that in the living room in his favorite spot. That way he didn't have to stay in a spare bedroom the whole two weeks.
Our biopsy results came back and confirmed we were dealing with Lymphoma and we were referred to an oncologist. I called immediately and got the first available appointment three days later. When we went to that appointment we found out it was Small Cell Lymphoma, and not Large Cell which requires a much more aggressive treatment. The treatment was pretty easy, daily prednisone and a chemo pill every other day. I was worried about chemo until I learned it is much, much different for animals than people. Animals don't go through the same hell that people do. The only side effect was really that is appetite came back in full force, which was great.
The treatment we were doing can put cats into remission for years. There were no side effects except his return/increase in appetite. Three weeks went by and we were so happy and relieved because he did a complete 180 in a matter of three days after starting treatment. For three weeks he was feeling great and back to normal, until last Monday.
Last Monday he was withdrawn, which is not normal for him. I thought maybe his medications made him feel a little crappy and he was having a bad day. He had some withdrawn days prior to treatment but within a day he'd bounce back to normal. The next day he still seemed out of it but he did eat some treats and was upstairs with me and jumped up on the couch in his normal spot to nap. I thought he was starting to feel better.
I was gone all day and when I came home, his food was still untouched. He was in the same spot, which was odd because normally he meets us at the door when he hears the garage door. I started to pet him and he felt HOT. I decided it was time to go to the ER and off we went.
He had a high fever but the vet wasn't sure what was causing it. Blood work was pulled and nothing crazy was showing up. They decided to admit him and get him on some fluids and antibiotics. I said good night and went home to get a phone call at 4am from the vet. In his diagnostics he took a chest x-ray and caught part of his stomach where he noticed what looked like fluid. He took an x-ray of the area and it showed his abdominal cavity had a lot of fluid. He pulled sample and put it under the microscope only to find it flooded with bacteria. Something ruptured and he was septic.
This was the first big financial committment point where the vet tries to phrase "how much are you willing to spend?" as nicely as they can. Doesn't matter to us, we needed our boy to get better and I said we don't care what the cost is..do it, unless it means horrible suffering. That meant emergency surgery to find out what had ruptured and repair it.
The surgeon was called in early and everything was prepped at the main office and I took him straight there where they were waiting for him. As we were waiting in the lobby I was petting his head and he was still purring. They took him back and started the surgery.
About an hour and a half later we (and we being myself and an amazing, selfless friend that was there through the entire nightmare, because The Other Half is out of the country right now) were called back for an update. They put us in one of those nice rooms and I knew what that meant.
The surgeon came in and explained that a tumor had ruptured and that was the cause of the fluid. Then she said the worst thing possible. The tumor was in the worst place possible and to remove the damaged intestine would mean rerouting a lot of things. The tissue was also so damaged from the cancer it was "crumbly" and wouldn't hold sutures well. She said that if we wanted to go ahead she would complete the surgery but the issue was recovery would be extremely painful and she said every patient they have completed the surgery on never made it out of recovery, never made it home.
And there it went, my heart shattering into a trillion pieces. I really don't want to go into the rest of the details, but the summary is that I let him go on the operating table with my cheek pressed to his head while I was petting his side. This is the part where you have to not be selfish despite it being the hardest decision in the world. I signed the papers to pay the $6,000 for the surgery/recovery but we draw the line at his quality of life including suffering and extreme pain with no chance of ever leaving the hospital by making it out of recovery. That is where it crosses the line of doing it for yourself and not for them.
He was the best cat we have ever had, with a huge personality, and his own Instagram (the_manny_lion). This wasn't supposed to happen. This came out of nowhere. He was supposed to have years left with a tried and true treatment. A part of my heart left with him and it will never come back. The surgeon said that this is something that was only a matter of time before it happened and that nothing would have stopped this.
I really don't know what else to say except that we lost our son this week and it will hurt forever. The only thing that will help the pain is time. I have daily sobbing fits, a couple days were crying for hours and if I don't make a conscious effort to control my mind from wandering back to the hospital that morning I will break down no matter where I am.
I always try to find the good in every situation, or learn something so I can do better next time. The only good I can find in this is the chance to spring a kitty or two from a shelter so they can know what it is like to have a forever family.
Manny will be home early this week. Please don't ask me any other details about this, I won't answer, that was easily one of the worst days of my entire life. I'd like to post a bunch of pictures showing what an amazing Cat Child he was but going through pictures is too painful right now. The shock is started to wear off and reality is starting to hit me like a ton of bricks.
To my amazing friend, I know you don't want to hear any more thank yous because that is what friends do, but I am so thankful for you. Cue more sobbing, I'm done with this post.