The Exciting Adventures of Chemo Kitty

So, for all of you who are wondering how my Zoe is doing, here’s the latest. After starting her on chemo about a month ago, my vet and I decided to take her off the treatment after a week; she was throwing up every day, her appetite had really decreased, and she’d gotten really dehydrated. For the next couple of weeks we worked on settling her stomach down, getting her appetite up, and making sure she stayed hydrated. Before I knew it, my old Zoe was back – she’s put on a little weight (I think the prednisone is really helping with that), and is drinking plenty of water. I discovered that if I pretend that I’m getting myself a glass of water, she can’t help but drink from “my” glass. She also likes to eat her dry food from these little desert dishes that I have – kind of like those on the “Fancy Feast” commercials. Anyway, my vet wanted to try the chemo again, but at a reduced dose and frequency. We had to get the chemo specially formulated because it’s such a low dose, but after one week of treatment, Zoe seems to be doing ok. She has thrown up a few times, but not like before, and she’s still eating, drinking, and running around looking cute. We’re taking it week by week, and this week was good – hopefully, they will continue to get better!

On another note, Teddy Bear has a really bad snaggle-tooth that must come out. And apparently, I have $500 that must be spent on that. He goes in for that this Friday, so wish him luck! Poor bear – I think he’ll feel better, though, and his breath will definitely smell better!

Zoe Update

Well, today I gave Zoe her first does of chemotherapy. It turns out that, based on the biopsies taken from her stomach and small intenstines, she has small-cell lymphoma, which is a low-grade (as opposed to high-grade) lymphoma. Zoe’s oncologist is really nice – he’s located at the California Veterinary Specialst Oncology Center located really close to where I work. I started her on prednisone pills a couple of days ago, and then picked up her Leukeran from Costco today. Fortunately, these medications will only cost me about $60 a month; unfortunately, they are both pills which Zoe must swallow – the prednisone every day, and the Leukeran three times a week. I’m going to think seriously about investing in a full-body suit of armor.

Actually though, the last few days, Zoe’s appetite has been very good and I think she’s put on a little weight in the last week (I’ve been spoiling her with some veeeeery good cat food – I think Jesse has been packing on the pounds as well). Dr. Proulx said that if a cat had to choose a cancer to have, most smart cats would choose small-cell lymphoma. The rate of cell-growth is very slow, and most cats, given treatment, just continue to live with the disease. Zoe is average age for getting this disease, and apparently, if treatment goes well, she still should have several good years left in her. About 90% of cats taking this chemo treatment do very well – no vomiting or diarrhea or anything. But, I’ll need to keep a close eye on her the next couple of months. Zoe has a follow-up visit with Dr. Proulx in two weeks, at which time she’ll have a blood count done and a check up to make sure she’s doing ok.

So, it’s a relief to know what is going on with Zoe, but I’m not too excited about the diagnosis. But, as each of Zoe’s three doctors have said, it could have been a lot worse. All the vets have been very nice and caring – my regular vet even called me after she found out what the diagnosis was, just to see how we were doing. Anyway, wish us luck –

Yeah, I’ve been busy (and tired)

I know, it has been a long time since I’ve updated my blog. But really, it was pretty much just pictures from Jes’ wedding and my trip to San Francisco that I wanted to post. Work has been very busy the last couple of months now that David is back as my supervisor, and when I get home I pretty much just want to chill. But there’s still a couple things going on – the first thing would be my cat, Zoe. She’s 13, and people tell me that’s old for a cat, but I disagree that it’s old for Zoe. But, over the past year I’ve been noticing that she’s been losing some weight – getting very bony and skinny. So last weekend I brought her to the vet – she lost 2 lbs over the past year (which is a lot, considering how tiny she is), so they took some blood to run a full panel, and also took some urine for a urinalysis. Zoe was not happy about it, and enjoyed even less the vet force-feeding her a deworming pill (it took 2 vets about 10 minutes of fighting to get a 6.9 lb cat to eat one pill). The urinalysis showed some blood in her urine, so I have to give her antibiotics twice a day for about two weeks (ask me how much Zoe likes that). The blood could just be an infection, but it could also indicate other problems with the kidneys or bladder. But, her blood panel turned out good, except for her thyroid, which looked borderline high. So, they sent for another test – negative for hyperthyroid. So, last weekend cost me about $350. I went back yesterday with Zoe – they took x-rays and didn’t see anything wrong, except that she has no body fat, which makes her organs difficult to see. But no kidney or bladder stones, or major tumors were evident. The vet suggested another specialized blood test to check for pancreatic function and malabsorption – I’ll get the results back on that this week. It was still too soon to see if she still has blood in her urine because she’s only been on the antibiotics for a week. The bottom line is that I’ve spent almost $600 and I still don’t know what’s wrong with my kitty. She’s acting normal and everything – she may just be getting old. I don’t know, but she’s my buddy and I’m not quite ready to accept that she’s at the age where stuff starts to go wrong.

Speaking of going wrong, oh, Teddy Bear. He really is getting old. A couple of times in the past month, as we’ve been out walking, he’s pulled himself so hard on his leash that he starts choking, falls over, and then has a hard time using his back legs. I don’t know if it’s a seizure or what, but he’s still his normal annoying self, so it’s hard to say. Today I noticed that one of his yucky back teeth is loose – I hope it falls out so that I don’t have to take *him* to the vet again! Last time we went it was also very expensive.

And speaking of expensive, let’s talk about my car. Last Friday I was on my way to work and I decided to stop and grab a sandwich for later. I was gone two minutes, came back to my car, and it wouldn’t start! I called AAA, who came out to tow me to my mechanic, and the car started right up. What’s up with that??? So, I drove it to my mechanic – turns out some dumb sensor in the starter was broken. That set me back about $150, but I guess it could’ve been worse.

Man, at the rate things are going, I’ll never have enough cash for a vacation!

Good things though – I finished the wrap top that I started sewing a few months ago, and made good progress on a skirt. So far, it’s awesome. I’ll probably finish it next year some time. Also, I’m getting back into my digital scrapbooking – I’m a little overwhelmed with Photoshop Elements, but I purchased an instructional CD that focuses on scrapbooking with Elements. It should be very helpful.

That’s it for now – I hope that’s enough. I’ll be in touch!

Inevitability

Grandpa was brought home to Mom’s house Sunday afternoon, and peacefully passed away yesterday morning around 6 am. I took Monday off of work to be with him and Mom, and we spent all day just waiting for the inevitable. Grandpa was pretty much unconscious the entire time he was home; hospice workers were there the entire time and kept him comfortable with medication. Monday night I slept on the sofa, listening to his breath all night. Early that morning, Mom came out from her bedroom to check on things; we were joking around on the couch, were laughing about how tough Grandpa was in the fact that he just kept hanging on. I’d noticed that since Mom entered the room his breathing slowed down quite a bit, and all of a sudden, he was gone. He didn’t move, gasp, or struggle. He just didn’t take another breath. I’m glad that he waited for Mom that morning – two minutes after she came out to the living room he finally let go, and I can only imagine that he was cheered by us laughing and playing with the dogs in his final moments.

It was Mom’s birthday yesterday, and she saw his hanging on until her birthday as a final gift.

Today Mom and I went to pick out his urn; we were originally going to get a simple wooden box, but I spotted a beautiful porcelain-like urn that Mom connected with right away. It was bright red and orange, and had autumn leaves on it outlined in gold. Grandpa’s favorite color was red, and he especially liked autumn. Mom has fond memories of taking family car trips in the fall, going up to Vermont to see the leaves change color. And, I found an urn for me, too! It’s really cool – mountains, trees, hills, and a waterfall in all the colors I like. So keep that in mind for my wish list, ok? Just kidding about that last part!

What a relief though – not only for us, but I’m sure for Grandpa, who had suffered these last years with back pain, sickness, and a deteriorating mental state. I’m so glad I had this past year to get to know him, and am happy that we were in each others’ lives even for a short time.

I’m so very tired!

This week has been a blur. But for those of you who are interested, here’s where I’m at:

The “Check Engine” light came on in my car.
Teddy Bear threw up and diarrhea’d in my living room and the smell won’t go away.
I worked 15 hours yesterday (I started a 10-week full-time temp job, and then I had to guide for Roar and Snore).
No one came to my little get-together on Thursday due to traffic accidents and hospitalized people and sickness.
I have no food in the house, and neither do my pets.
Zoe keeps licking my hands until they bleed, and I can’t stop her because she’s too damn cute.
Grandpa’s condition continues to worsen.

So let’s update you on that last part. I haven’t gotten to the hospital for the past couple of days because I’ve been so exhausted, so I’m getting all this info through Mom, who struggles through each day (and with a nasty head cold at that). Apparently two days ago Grandpa lost his ability to swallow liquid and food, so he’s now getting nothing but hydration through an IV. Mom had to make the very difficult decision to not give him a feeding tube, and came to that decision because he would a) just try to pull it out, worsening his condition and b) continue to linger on in this horrible state he is in for who knows how long. Recovery doesn’t seem like an option right now, really, and it’s just so hard to watch Grandpa go through this. His dementia is very bad, and when he’s awake he’s hallucinating, yelling, and trying to rip out his tubes and his gown. So they’ve had to sedate him not only with morphine and valium, but now with thorizine, which is used to calm people with hallucinations and the general crazies. I imagine that today he’ll go to a skilled nursing facility, but if he’s not eating or drinking, I’m not sure how long he’ll linger there. I’ll write more when I know more; in the meantime, thanks for your support and thoughts.

Update on Grandpa’s Condition

After four days at the hospital I needed some time to myself, so I’m sitting here this morning and updating my blog. After the doctor’s grim report on Sunday, we had Grandpa moved to an intermediate care unit and put on comfort care. Amazingly, his bleeding has stopped, and as of this morning, his blood count is up, his blood pressure is good, and his pulse is back to normal. Last night I suggested we put him back on an IV (because we knew the bleeding had stopped at this point), and I think that helped. So, the doctor said she’d like to keep him at the hospital for another 24-48 hours to really get hydrated, then they’d move him to a nursing home facility for recovery. Now don’t get me wrong, I really don’t know what’s going to happen with him – I think his condition could go either way. His dementia is really bad right now, and we’ve had to restrain his arms because he keeps trying to rip out his IV, air tube, and yank his hospital robe (yeah, I saw that once and didn’t want to see it again!). Everything’s kind of up in the air.

But thank you all SO MUCH for your kind words and thoughts – Mom and I both really appreciate your support right now. It’s been a really tough time, and we don’t know how this will turn out yet. But you know me – I’ll keep you posted!

Long day at the hospital

Whew! It’s hard spending time at the hospital. They’re kind of like airports, where there’s this strange smell in the air and everything is decorated in a “designer-generic” kind of way. Today Mom and I spent almost 12 hours in the hospital with grandpa, but by the time we left this evening he was finally asleep.

Grandpa was brought in by ambulance on Saturday morning and was diagnosed with a GI bleed. We were told he would probably be ok, but they took him to the Critical Care Unit so that he could get scoped the following day. So yesterday, the doctor told us that they had tried to repair the large ulcer in his stomach but that he would probably continue bleeding unless he underwent surgery. Unfortunately, his chances of surviving surgery would be very low, and even if he did survive, he would probably be put on a ventillator, and the recovery time would be very long, very painful, and very frightening for him. Due to his dementia and the pain he was in, he had been yelling his head off for about 48 hours in the CCU. He’d yell out that he needed water (which we couldn’t give him), that he was tired, that he wanted to go home, and “George Pataki” among other things.

We needed to make a hard decision. We decided that his chances of surviving surgery and the recovery were really low, and that it would just prolong his suffering. So, we had him taken off his treatment (blood transfusions, because he was losing so much blood through the ulcer) and opted for comfort care. We were finally able to unhook all the monitoring equipment and tubes, give him what he wanted to eat and drink, and make him comfortable with morphine. He stopped yelling, took a couple naps, did a lot of smiling, made much more sense when he talked, and now has no pain and is comfortable. We moved him to an intermediate care room, where hospice is overseeing his treatment. Everyone we’ve met has been so attentive and compassionate, has given us much-needed support, and we feel like we made the right decision.

Grandpa will continue to receive morphine and valium (to help with his anxiety and to relax him) as needed. Because he is losing blood at a rate of about a pint per 6 hours, he will probably pass away sometime tomorrow afternoon or evening. There’s always a chance he could stop bleeding, but I’m not expecting that to happen. I’m just glad that I can spend some time with him so that he’s not so afraid, and that I can be there for Mom. This has been tough on her, but I think we’ve done the best we can do. Think good thoughts for all of us – it will be another long day at the hospital tomorrow!