Wednesday, August 3, 2016

And the long goodbye begins...

My world suddenly went turvy last week when my beloved cow-cat Grendel was diagnosed with cancer.

He caught a sudden, severe cold on Sunday afternoon and by Monday he was listless, withdrawn, and had lost all interest in eating.

A few vet trips later, the results of an ultrasound last Thursday confirmed that he had cancer. It's inoperable and untreatable with chemo. The vet said he had maybe a few weeks or few months to live.

I've been devastated since then. I can't imagine losing him. His outsized personality and beguiling charm simply can't disappear forever. I'm not prepared for this and I've had more than a few good cries over it.

Since the diagnosis, he's rallied back. The cold affected him badly; as he recovers from it, he seems as much himself as ever. If I didn't know otherwise, I'd swear he was the vision of health. The old behaviors that vanished last week have slowly come back: He's back on my bed before dawn tormenting me to get up and feed him, he's back to snuggling with me on the couch, he was down at the door greeting the pizza man with me this afternoon, he's pestering Rhiannon, mewling loudly to be let into the garage, etc.

But a lot of anxiety remains. I notice things that aren't quite the same, or maybe just seem not quite the same. I wonder if he always slept so much or that I never considered it before. Is he less playful? Is he less troublesome and insufferable? I don't know, but every perceived change worries me that he's winding down. I expect more of these observations and worries as time goes on.

The vet put him on prednisolone, which is basically a steroid. I have friends who swear it's a miracle drug. One friend's cat was at the vet to be put down because it showed no signs of quality of life. They put her on prednisolone and six months later she's going strong. My vet told me that her childhood dog was diagnosed with cancer and given just a few weeks to live. The dog lived another five years on prednisolone. There's hope.

I took him to the vet this morning for a follow up. She was amazed to see how much he'd recovered from his sorry state last week. We talked about supplements and what I can do to keep up his quality of life. I'll have a plan in place soon.

With Grendel back to normal, more or less, I'm optimistic that he can go on for a long time despite the cancer. I want him to live on with the same quality of life he's always had. But I know the clock is ticking now. I've had to face losing him, which is something I never wanted to face before.

And Grendel isn't my only cat. He's 12 now. Maebh is almost 13. Rhiannon is 15. They're all getting on in years. The girls seem to be in great shape, but so did Grendel. My world can unexpectedly go turvy all over again for them. It seems like only yesterday that I brought the cats into my life, but it's been 10 years. I hope that they'll all live to be 20 or older. I can't imagine my home being home without them. But I know that I have to start preparing myself for losing them.

I don't know if it's possible to love my cats more than I already do. But in the years to come, I will take them less for granted. I'll savor every moment with them and store them in my heart for the years after they're gone. It's a long goodbye that will outlast them and never end until I do.

The days that will never end