If you spent any time with Cara, you'd think she was just an average 5 month old kitten. She loves to play with her sister, Polly and brother, Chester and her mama, Mazie. Sure, they had a rough go, sick for MONTHS starting just days after the little ones were born. They had a URI that just wouldn't go away. They were loaded up with antibiotics and expensive antivirals. Nothing made them better and KEPT them better. I started to believe they would be here, forever and be sick for the rest of their lives.
Fortunately, Chester is just about all better and Cara has no sign of the URI. Polly lags behind, but we will get her well! Sadly, having a Upper Respiratory Infection was the least of my concerns. As many of you know, Cara, has been vomiting at least once, almost every day for a few MONTHS. Her growth has been stunted and her weight is one half of her siblings. Even with that stress on her tiny body, she still has a great will to survive.
We've done many tests that got us no answers. I had a fight with my Vet about what to feed her. I won out and tried baby food with water. It worked, but it wasn't enough nutrition in the long run, so I added grain-free canned food and some water. Some times it worked, some times the same food made her start to lick her mouth furiously. Then I'd hear this awful gurgling sound as she'd violently twist and turn her head, as if she was trying to shake out whatever was causing her distress.
Then she'd start to buck backwards, her stomach would contract. I'd grab the paper plate she'd just eaten off of and put it in front of her. I'd catch the vomit on the plate-sounds funny, I know, but I HAD to get it AWAY from her or she'd hastily try to EAT whatever came out of her. Clearly she was HUNGRY. So VERY HUNGRY, but unable to keep her food down, she just looked at me so very desperately with those huge green eyes. Some times she'd start to gurgle again and vomit a second time, this time not much food, but a lot of foam. What could I do for her?
This has been an ongoing issue-MONEY. Cara MUST have endoscopy done. We've got to have an Internist sedate Cara, then take a TINY camera and insert it into her mouth, go down her throat, into her belly. Hopefully she will see SOMETHING that will tell us WHY Cara can't keep her food down. They'll take biospies of some of the tissue to see if they can learn anything from that.
The problem is-WHERE does this money come from? I'd happily pay the money and then some, but I've got nothing left. Between Cara's vet care and my own cat, Bob, who has cancer, I have maxed out my resources. I need a miracle. I need an uber sugar-mama or papa who believes that every life is sacred and who is financially able to make a difference for Cara, where I have failed her.
I've had quite a few of you write to me and offer me help with where we should have this procedure done and what clinic might give us a good discount. I'm not going to ask for help without trying to find any way we can to get the cost DOWN. Sadly, there are no coupons for endosocopy that I know of!
We called this brand new facility in Stamford, CT. On their website and in their fancy, die-cut, printed folder, it says they are not out to make a profit, but to provide the best care. They would NOT give us an estimate and would only give a 5%, yes FIVE PERCENT discount on their already sky high fees (they gave us their exam fee which was $25 more than everywhere else).
We haven't given up. We've called, begged favors and have done what we can. We tried locally and out of state. We finally found someone we feel is top notch who can do the procedure and give us 20% off. That means we need to raise at LEAST $1200.00 to $1600.00-and YES, that is the DISCOUNTED PRICE. We pay through-the-roof prices on the East Coast. We even considered traveling far out of state, but if you add the travel costs to the discount, it's not worth the effort.
Then there's the next hurdle.
What if they don't find anything?
Either way, we need to raise enough funds to pay for more tests and/or surgery-all for one, charming, adorable, sweet natured, kitten who is struggling and fighting to live a decent, normal life.
I know if we do nothing, Cara will not make it. Although she gained 9 ounces from last Tuesday to Saturday, from Saturday to today, her weight is unchanged. She vomited many times this past week. This is a bad sign.
Cara can limp onward, eating thin gruel, but the longer it takes us to cure her, the more potential we have for losing her.
If you can help Cara, just click on the “ChipIn!” button on the ChipIn widget, below. Give whatever you can COMFORTABLY give and if you've been so kind as to help us in the past, then don't feel you have to again.
We set the ChipIn widget goal HIGH because it's very likely that Cara will need surgery or more tests and we only want to do ONE more fundraiser for her. If we find out we don't need more tests or surgery, we'll drop the goal down ASAP! Should we have any money leftover, it will go to another Kitten Associates foster cat who needs medical care. Your donation is tax deductible.
Thank you again for your love and support and for sharing Cara's story with your friends.
If you'd prefer to mail a check, please make the check out to “Robin Olson” and use the following address:
Kitten Associates, Inc
P.O. Box 354
Newtown, CT 06470-0354
Please note on check: FOR CARA
Cara sits in a cage at Dr. Larry's clinic. She's been there most of the week. She hates being confined and alone. She stands on her hind legs and desperately reaches between the metal bars at the Vet Techs that pass by. From time to time, they take her out of the cage and give her some attention, some loving, some time to de-stress, but most of the day she is curled up on her cat bed, waiting.
Cara hasn't gone a day without vomiting up her food, at least once or twice. What's causing her to vomit, we still don't know. Dr. Larry performed the Barium Study, where they get Cara to eat some barium mixed into her cat food. As she swallows, they set a timer and begin taking x-rays of her, every so often. The timer shows up on the x-ray so they can follow the progression of food as it passes into her stomach, then into her intestines.
They look for abnormalities. At “Hour 2,” they saw something, but it wasn't very revealing. In Cara's stomach, there's a slight, rounded area. It can be seen on an xray prior to the study being done. During the study, you can see Cara's intestines, lit up, bright white, but near the red arrow is the pouch with some barium, that eventually passes, but has been held up in the digestion process for a short period of time.
When I visit Cara, each afternoon, Dr. Larry or his associate, Dr. Andrew, talk to me about what they think is wrong. Cara is TINY for her 16 weeks of age. They are describing her as “Failing to Thrive.” This can be a death knell for cats. I know when I hear this, it scares me to no end, but if you spend time with Cara, watch her play, be interested in the world around her, see her pretty green eyes sparkle, surely this is not a cat who's about to die?
Then Dr. Larry tells me Cara's intestines feel a bit soft, not quite right. In xray, they see her liver. It's at an odd angle-not quite right. We've discussed parasites and she's been dewormed a few times with a few different protocols, yet there is one we haven't done, so we'll run some Albon through her just so we can take parasites off the list of what could be wrong.
I ask weird, stupid questions...desparate to think of something that was overlooked. Is one of her organs failing? Does she have hyperthyroid? What makes a cat vomit, but not vomit EVERY time she eats?
We looked at environmental factors. Her siblings crowd the food bowls and she has to fight her way in to eat. I made sure she was eating out of her own bowl, away from the other cats. She jumped off the bed and ran to her sister and started to eagerly grab at food. Of course that would have to make her vomit-eating so fast.
But she's alone. No competition for food. Now I'm not even allowed to visit any more because me leaving stresses her out, too. When I was at the Clinic last night, I could hear her crying. It broke my heart not to be able to go to her.
We spoke of next steps. Endoscopy, would require sedation, which is always something you want to avoid, especially with a young animal. It would possibly give us a view of her stomach that might answer some question. The other choice is an ultrasound, which might show thickening of the intestines or lining of the stomach. No sedation required, but it's expensive.
Then Dr. Larry said my least favorite thing; “You're already spending a small fortune on the barium study. Look at all these xrays.” There must have been 10 or 12 in the manilla envelope. I started doing calculations and guessed that even with my discount it will be about $750.00. I was too scared to ask. The ultrasound will be a few hundred more.
I have to find some balance, but we're not getting any answers. Probably because of the fear of the Vet bill, did I think again and say to Dr. Larry...what about ALL the antibiotics this cat has been on for MOST of her life. I bet that could be making her sick. Maybe she just needs time to recover and not be messed with any more?
Dr. Larry thought I made a valid point-but this is during the time when Cara is still on a heavy dose of antibiotics to slay the darn URI she has had for months. The URI is resolving, but what were the lasting effects of ALL these meds?
Dr. Larry just called. He feels we would find out helpful information if we go ahead and do the ultrasound. It would either tell us clearly that Cara, internally, is fine or that we have a problem. We've been trying to find out why she vomits for over a month and I had to decide if I could find the funds to pay another few hundred dollars for the bill. I asked for a rescue discount. Hopefully the Vet who does the ultrasound will be kind enough to do that for us. Even if he doesn't, I have to push, yet again for funding for Cara.
I really hate to ask for help, but Cara needs it now, more than ever. If you can help, your donation will go straight to our Boo-Boo and Sniffles Fund, which will pay Cara's vet bill.
I can't say, “no” to doing this test, so the ultrasound will be done in an hour. I can't just watch Cara continue to be sick and hope she grows out of it. She hasn't so far and if she continues down this road...well...she may have a very short road ahead of her.
Last night we got Bob home from his #6 chemo treatment. We barely got in the door, when I saw it was already 7pm and time for the foster kittens to get their meds.
I have to get a photo of this for you...each cat has a paper plate with their name written on it so I can keep track of which cat is getting the meds. Then I take some yummy raw food and mix the Panacur into it. Each kitten has a different dose. Then I take some play dough like cat treat stuff and cover up their tiny Baytril, then hide that into the small mound of food. Last night everyone got a B12 shot, so I have the syringes on each plate. That was only SOME of what they got.
I put mama-Mazie into a cat carrier, then gave the plates to Chester and Polly. Sam watched them to make sure they ate it all. I took Cara into the bathroom so I could feed her separately. I gave her a tiny and I mean, TINY dot of food. She was clearly starving and attacked the spoon, gobbling the tiny morsal. Then I turned on my stopwatch app on my iPhone, watching a minute pass while Cara frantically ran around the room, looking for more food. I gave her another nibble.
It took about 6 minutes to go through 1/2 of the food, which was only about 1 teaspoon, total. I made sure she ate her baytril first. I waited, she started the familiar gurgling sound in her belly. Then she licked at her mouth, clearly she was going to regurgitate this food. She started to back herself up. Within a few moments, out came the food, along with a lot of mucus. Only because Cara MUST get these meds in her, did I use a paper towel to tease out the mucus and let her eat the remains back up. She must have been starving. She licked her lips, gurgled, but managed to keep the food down.
I waited a few more minutes and gave her a tiny bit of food. I thought she was going to lose it again, but she didn't. She sounded terrible, though. After about 10 more minutes I let her finish up and she was all right.
This morning, I got up late, so I blame myself, but Cara just coldn't keep her food down. I think I let her go too long between eating and she builds up so much mucus that it prevents her from getting her food into her stomach. Even with very watered down food, she pushed it back up. Over the course of an hour, she spewed six times, each one with mucus, then more and more foam. She must be so hungry. It just kills me to see this. It completely makes sense as to why she is just barely 3 pounds and her brother, Chester is 4 pounds 10 ounces.
I put in a call to Dr Larry. Am waiting to hear back from him. I wish there was some way to get the mucus out of this poor kitten. She has such a sweet face and acts like a baby squirrel. If you sit still, out of the blue, she'll suddenly jump onto your shoulder. I don't know how she manages that distance. It's not from the floor, but from your lap..come to think of it, I was sitting on the edge of the tub and she got to my shoulder last night!
I just hate seeing her like this. I hate seeing all of them so sick. Chester snorts like a pig and Polly sounds like a duck with a cold. Her eyes are watery and she fusses like crazy every time I try to give her meds. Sam got a huge scratch on his hand from Chester, just last night. If they only knew we were trying to help them.
Speaking of help...
Thank you very much to all the kind people who jumped in to donate towards the kittens ever growing Vet bill! You're all sweethearts! We got a donation from someone in Norway and someone in the UK! It's an amazing feeling to know that so many of you cared enough to share what you could to help get these babies back to health.
If you didn't get a chance to donate to their fund, I'll re-run the ChipIn widget here. If you already donated, then I Thank You and the kittens thank you, too!
I really hope I have good news about these babies, soon!
THIS JUST IN FROM MARIA. NEWS ABOUT HER CAT, CHOCO:
I have really good news! He had no signs of keytones when they checked him at 3:00. He was very happy to see me and was all over me. Potassium is back to normal and I brought him some food to eat. Boy o boy was he hungry. We only gave him a half a can to start and he was definitely wanting the whole can. I also brought his insulin and gave him a shot after he ate. He still needs to go to my regular vet in the morning but it looks like he will be coming home tomorrow!!!
©2011 Maria S. Choco with food on his face! A good sign after what he went through yesterday.
Of course, this is SUPER AWESOME NEWS and it's SUPER AWESOME that MANY OF YOU JUMPED RIGHT IN TO HELP MARIA WITH HER SUPER-LOUSY VET BILL! We're still trying to raise another $700.00 or so, so if you can help out, we would VERY MUCH APPRECIATE IT!
©2011 Maria S. Choco. Glad to see his MAMA!
It's tough to put into words just how much Maria does for at-risk cats. She is one of the best-she LOVES all cats and will do anything to help them. It's OUR TURN to help her!
©2011 Maria S. The ever-too familiar steel cage, but at least this time we KNOW this kitty HAS a loving home. Hs'e not in a kill shelter, thanks to Maria!.
Normally, writing is something I need and want to do. When I write, my body falls away and my thoughts come to life through my fingertips as I tap away at the keyboard. I always seem to have something I need to say and the words come tumbling out. Lately, I haven't felt that way about blogging and I think I know why.
I think I'm tired of writing about the difficulties in my life. I don't want to be a whiner but the truth about what's going on here, is that things suck. It's a rough road. There is little joy. There is a lot of worry and tension.
Everyone has their worries and tough times, too, so what should I write about? Then, I get stuck.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. You know it's snowed too much when...
This winter has been the worst I can ever remember. Stats put us at over 70" of snow so far. Our typical SEASON of snow is about 50" and not all of it within a few week span. There is more snow due tomorrow and again, the possibility of another big storm later next week.
I've shoveled so much snow, so many times, beaten at the ice dams on the gutters and hung out of windows to break icicles that my arms were too sore to even type out a few words. The injury I had from the car accident in December reared its ugly head. Of course it would! I'm covered in black and blue marks and almost broke a few fingers from all of this. I'm stuffing prescription pain killers and muscle relaxants daily and the side effect of one of them is nightmares-so I'm having those, too.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. ...you need heavy equipment to clear your driveway.
It's been a complete scramble, trying to find out how to keep the house from falling down and running out to re-stock up on supplies the second we have a long enough break in the weather to get out. I've only been able to drive my car once in the past few weeks. I'm stuck relying on Sam's 4wd car. There never seems to be time to tend to my dear blog.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Mac and Bob.
Lastly, there is the sad fact that I can't help any cats for awhile. With the costs for Bob's care ($2000 last month, alone), I can't rescue any cats and pay for it out of pocket-as I so often have done. Now I have to wait until Kitten Associates starts doing fundraisers. I've been working on that web site and waiting for our non profit "green light" from the IRS-which is due ANY day now. I think we'll be starting to plan some fundraisers, but I'm also torn in other directions. I need paying work, I need to sell off some things and I need to get the foster cats that are here, well enough to be adopted out.
Mazie is clear to go, but the kittens are not. As far as Mac goes, he really should be adopted out, but he and Blitzen are buddies so it's a tough choice to make. Mac can also be very fresh with Bob, slapping in him the face and hissing at him every time dinner time comes around. I think as Mac ages, he will make more and more plays to be a more dominant cat. It's already causing problems here-Petunia screams at him from time to time and Nicky has pooped out of the litter pan, onto the floor. I feel stuck, though. I don't know why, but I can guess depression is the core issue for me. I function well enough, but go through periods where I just am a lump and don't get much done. I feel very guilty about it. Maybe some of you have those problems, too? I feel like I don't get enough done and I'm too scattered. I make lists or try to do small tasks, but then I end up losing most of the day to doing Vet runs or pre-storm shopping that MUST be done before the storm arrives-and that usually cuts my day down to the nub, too. I keep trying to find a block of time to just sit down and work, but it's always a rush. Even now I have to leave in an hour to get Bob up to NY for his chemo. I won't be home until 6:30pm. Another day shot.
I'm sorry to be such a whiner. I'm really tired of my life sucking. I have given up on things getting better. I'll still try to make them better, but in my heart it seems fruitless to bother.
24 Hours Later...
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Polly and Cara passed out on my chest.
How could it be in less than a day, things could completely fall apart? Whatever I was whining about seems trivial now. Last night I found something “wrong” with one MacGruber's toes. First, I thought it was clumping cat litter stuck between two toes, but I couldn't get it out and scratching at it made his toe bleed a bit. Knowing that could lead to an infection, I stopped messing with it and made an appointment for Mac to meet Dr. Larry. I was going there anyway, the second time this week, with Cara and Polly. Why? Polly has become very ill, suddenly and Chester is sick, too. Cara is vomiting up large puddles of mucus, but seems otherwise in good shape. I figured it would be another run-of-the-mill Vet visit, but I was wrong.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. With all the rotten weather, there's still something beautiful that comes of it.
I'll fill you in on the details as best I can, but there is a chance the unthinkable has happened. The kittens may have a disease that cannot be cured. I don't want to say what it is. I'm not ready to face it. Tomorrow we will start getting test results back, but I won't really know much until next week. I promise I won't make you wait that long, but I need some time to sort this out on my own, do some reading, maybe do some praying, too. I realize that when you do animal rescue of any kind, there are those animals that come to your door and no matter how hard you try to help them, they can't be helped. It's out of your hands and all you can do is love them until their time comes and you have to find a way to be okay with that.
Right now I'm trying to find my way, but I admit to feeling quite lost.
The day before Halloween 2010, we rescued Mazie and her babies, Polly, Cara and Chester. They were tiny and already incubating a URI the day they were picked up. Within a few days, all the kittens were sick.
If we hadn't rescued them when we did, they would have been put to sleep for getting sick. Shelter rules, as many of you know, do not allow for sick cats to be in the shelter. There's no quarantine. To prevent the spread of disease (but it doesn't), they kill the sick animals. It's heartbreaking that they have to do this.
For the first month, Polly and Cara were hit hardest. I don't know how our foster Mama kept her sanity. I wasn't sure Polly would survive she was so congested, her eyes were sealed shut. She and her siblings had to be syringe fed, too.
I didn't know if they'd ever be well enough to make it to Connecticut.
And here we are. The family has been with me for a month. I'm still doing, at least a weekly Vet run. These cats have been chronically ill, to the point of which I wonder if they will ever shed their illness.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Mazie and Polly have a nappy on the electric blanket.
Through all of this, Mama Mazie has been almost completely unaffected. She's spayed, has her shots and is ready to be adopted. I've been moving at a snail's pace to make this happen-partly because I hate separating Mamas from their babies and partly because I thought her being there would comfort the kittens.
It's not really fair to her. She's put on a nice chunk and I do mean, chunk, of weight. She's bored. She isn't very invested in the kittens, but when I take them to the Vet she cries and cries. I know I need to find her a great home. The kittens are 15 weeks old now-ready to be on their own.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Cara warms up on her sister, Polly.
With all that's been going on with my own cat, Bob, it's hard to focus on any one thing. A further complication is that about six weeks ago I was in a car accident with Sam. We were rear-ended by a moron, while we were stopped at a traffic light. Sam is okay, but I don't know what is going on with me. The Dr. said “sprained back and sprained neck.” That it would get better over time and to do some light exercises to stretch out the muscles.
My back is basically fine, but my neck is not. I've had a very bad headache every day since the accident. We just lost our health insurance right before the accident happened, so I've been trying to deal with the pain on my own. I haven't been able to think clearly, my head hurts so badly. I also thought I might have a sinus infection, so I waited until I couldn't take it any more and I dragged myself to my GP last week.
I'm on heavy duty pain killers and a muscle relaxant. My head is finally starting to feel better and I can focus on tasks, instead of sit here like a zombie. Once I'm off the meds, hopefully I won't get the headaches again. There is so much to be done. I need to get these kittens ready to be adopted, but if they won't get better, I'm in a holding pattern that could last another few months.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Chester, lookin' fine!
As far as Chester is concerned, he's just about ready to go now. He weighs a whopping 4 lbs.,.1 oz.! One of his eyes is a bit runny and once in awhile I hear a sneeze, but that's about it. He was never seriously effected-not the way his sisters were.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Back at Dr. Larry's office, Chester now bored with the wadded up napkin for a toy, waits for a chance to chase Polly around the exam room.
Then there's Polly. She's finally gaining weight and is at 3 lbs, 6 oz.-quite a bit smaller than Chester, but not too bad. She's still got a visible third eyelid, but it's not serious. She's still sneezing. Her left eye, the one we thought she would lose the vision in, still has some cloudiness to the pupil. She doesn't have any uclers, but we're not 100% sure she will have perfect vision in that eye. I may have to take her to an ophthalmologist if she doesn't improve in the next few weeks. What's nice to see about her is that she's growing. Her coat is like satin (yes, from the grain-free food). The pattern is more defined now. She has the same mackerel pattern on her back as her mother. She likes to snuggle, but she's still a bit too mouthy as I learned last night when she climbed on my chest, purring away, then turned and BIT my cheek, then ran off! Guess she's not feeling too badly.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Still waiting to pounce.
The most fragile of the bunch, is Cara. She only weighs 2 lbs 8 oz. She is just TINY. She has tons of spunk, for such a small and sickly cat. She's been vomiting and/or retching every day. We're tying to figure out why-some of it has to do with the amount of mucus in her sinuses that drains down her throat, into her stomach, but we're not clear on if the underlying problem is that she has a stricture of her esophagus.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. It's a bird! It's a plane! It's super-cat!
I'm going to water down her food, so it's easier to digest and so she gets some fluids back in her system. She's had 2 rounds of sub-q fluids at Dr. Larry's office to make sure she doesn't dehydrate. She always has this “owly” look about her green eyes. Her coat is crazy. She is BROWN, chocolate brown. I have never seen this color on a cat that wasn't a purebred Burmese. Her coat pattern is classic tabby, a bit fluffy, but her tail is almost black and skinny with short fur. She is truly a mixed bag.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Givin' some sass to his sis.
Cara's always cold. I have a space heater running in her room 24/7. She still likes to sit on the top of it as it rotates back and forth. She prefers it to the electric blanket on the bed, but that's there for her, too. I've done everything I can think of to help them get better. The rest is up to them.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Polly and Chester preparing for their next “Battle Royale.”
I'm not happy that I haven't been able to rescue any other cats. I have to slow down-partly due to Bob being sick, partly due to the kittens being sick and partly due to the fact that we need to get our basic operating expenses worked out for Kitten Associates. I can't foot the bill for it any longer. Until things get straightened out, I'm going to do my best to help get the word out on cats in need, but I won't be able to take any into my rescue for awhile. I really hate it. I have faith that we will sort this out and ramp up our rescue efforts as soon as we can (and as soon as we lock down some additional foster homes, too!).
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Meanwhile, Cara goes to sleep after making Dr. Larry clean up her vomit. Poor sweetie (Cara, not Dr. Larry!) (Okay, Dr. Larry, too!).
I also have to have faith that all of this will work out. Bob's on his path. We'll do what we can for him. The kittens will either get better and get into homes or stay here awhile longer. I never thought “Santa's Team” would leave (okay, technically, ONE of them, Blitzen stayed behind), but they did. I just need to focus-get some work done-get Kitten Associates ramped up and keep on savin' more kitties!
Yesterday Sam and I took Bob up to Wappingers Falls to see Dr. I. Bob was due for his second round of Chemo. Before we could do that, we had to shovel a bit more of the bajillion inches of snow we got on Wednesday out of the way. I used to live in Minneapolis and I've seen a lot of snow, but this was crazy. We have snow piled up alongside the driveway that is as tall as Sam's subaru. I've never seen anything like it. It reminds me of the story my Mother told me about living in Oswego, NY. I was just a baby at the time and they were hit with over 100" of snow-lake effect snow-from Lake Erie.
She told me about people using their second floor window to get out of their home, about how they tied flags to the antenna on their car (remember those?) so they could see other cars on the road. My Mother recalled driving behind another car, it swerved on some ice, turned into one of the big snow drifts and disappeared into it!
It's not that bad here, but whew...we don't need much more snow to get to that point.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. The view of our deck after the storm.
Sam drove, while I sat in the back seat next to Bob. I had his cat carrier door open so I could pet him. He was calm, ate a few chicken snacks, then rested his head on my hand. He was nice and warm. His fur is very soft. I could have sat like that for hours.
Once we arrived our mood soured. We both prepared for a battle-the battle to get the estimate DOWN so we could afford to pay the bill and get Bob the treatment without paying for extras that weren't absolutely necessary. The estimate came to $812.00! I questioned EVERY item on the estimate. They went back to talk to the Dr. They said the Dr. would talk to me about everything, so we waited, fuming...knowing that Bob is supposed to have 27 WEEKS of chemo and the costs? We didn't want to know.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. At Dr.I's.
Dr. I came out and we went over everything. Bob's bisopsy report, the second opinion, came in. Bob has small T-cell lymphoma. Small is better than large, but T-cell is worse than B-cell-why, I'm still not clear on. We discussed treatment. It was very confusing. We can stay on the Elspar or shift to something else. There is a less expensive treatment, but it effects Bob's white blood cells. Since Bob may have ringworm and does have FIV, this is not the best course. If we stay on Elspar, I'm guessing the Bank will take our home sooner or later.
What we decided was to stay the course for 3 more weeks, then possibly go to the monthly chemo of different drugs. You can switch treatments around, but since we didn't have a track record of elspar working or not, it didn't make sense to just stop using it right off the bat-also because Bob will become immune to it's effects over a few weeks time, so better to use it now and see how we do.
There was also one other issue-the mass in Bob's chest. IS IT CANCER? Is it lymphoma? Not likely. Is it the cancer that was in his liver-metastasized? We needed to repeat radiographs to see if it had changed, reacted to the chemo. So we said yes to doing more radiographs.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Bob, sitting on the top of my Mom's old recliner!
They sent us on our way while they worked on Bob. I worried about a repeat of last week. His lack of appetite, hiding, depression. So scary I thought we were going to lose him. He bounced back. They said he should not have that problem again and if so, we'd have to do MORE TESTS to find out WHY he was having a bad reaction.
Sam and I hung out at Panera where I got a smoothie for free. It seemed ironic that I'd just been told my car had to have the steering pump replaced: $814.00 and my cat's Vet bill was now up to $920.00 for the day...and here I get something for free. It wasn't much, but it was enough to keep me from going over the edge. This money drain is really getting scary.
We returned to pick up Bob. He looked fine. They didn't tell me anything, the Dr. was in a meeting. They final bill was up to $950.00 because they added some pills to Bob's protocol. Great. No problem. Wah.
We got Bob home. He ate well. His "ringworm" or whatever is on his head seems to be going away so quickly that I can't believe it IS ringworm!
Around 9pm the phone rang. It was Dr. I. He told me that the mass in Bob's chest had NOT reacted to the chemo. It was still there. Still the same size. My heart sank. So what did that mean?
We still need to keep an eye on it, but for now we're OK. No worries. We just keep on treating Bob and see how he does. That night Bob ate well and I went to bed thinking he'd be ok.
Around 1:30am I heard him cough and vomit. I ran downstairs, thinking I'd find a huge mess, but I only saw a small puddle. Bob seemed all right so I went back to bed after I cleaned up. This morning I went downstairs and couldn't find Bob. I got worried. Then, I saw him. He was sitting on top of the back of my Mother's old recliner! He hasn't sat there in well over a YEAR. He used to love to sit up there! He greeted me with a purr. His forehead looked better. I gave him a little chicken treat and he ate. Was this my cat?
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Bob's skin is definitely getting better.
A few minutes later, I found a LARGE pile of undigested cooked chicken vomit. I gave some chicken to Bob and some to the other cats the night before. I couldn't know if it was Bob's or not. I'd have to see how he does to make sure he's not having a bad reaction.
Then, MacGruber threw up...a small bit of chicken. Perhaps he was the culprit? I guess I'll never really know for sure. What I do know is that Bob seems to be doing very well. He continues to amaze me at every turn.
Way to go, Bob! Way to go!
I thought Wednesday was bad. Okay, and I was right, it was. Yesterday morning was worse, around 6AM, Petunia attacked Blitzen who was SLEEPING on the bed with us. She has gone berserk-a jealous rage about MacGruber being here. She's taking it out on Mac and Blitzen, but mostly Blitz. The poor cat walks around looking miserable. It's got to change. I want peace and quiet in the house for Bob's sake, as well as my own.
Since I was already up with my heart was beating out of my chest from being startled awake, I thought I'd go check on Bob. He was sitting in “his spot,” on a fleece cat bed that's covering a heated cat mat that's on three fluffy cat beds. A Princess & the Pea set up if ever there was.
Bob looked glum, but he got up and ate a little bit for me. He looked particularly dreadful, but I had to take Polly and her siblings back to visit Dr Larry. I need to update you on them and will do that soon.
Around 10am, I gave Bob his antibiotic and an antihistimine pill that's supposed to make him hungry. I syringe-fed him some water to wash it down. He gagged. I realized he had gagged right after he ate his breakfast, too. He didn't want a snack. He got up and seemed weak on his feet. He went over to the table and sat under it, to get away from me. My heart sank. Something was wrong.
While at the Vet, I almost had a nervous breakdown. I didn't even want to talk to them about Bob. I just wanted to get the kittens looked at and go home. Dr Larry pulled me aside and we talked...about Bob. He was very concerned that I've already tapped my limit to what I should spend on Bob's care, that I will lose my home, what happens if another cat gets sick, too? What then? I could only answer that I hoped it was a cat I didn't like too much, then started to cry.
Dr Larry kept saying what a great person I am and how I love Bob and give him the best, but there's a point where I have to stop from going broke. He figured I was long past that and I had to agree. Where we differ is where things end. Where do I stop tapping every resource I have? Plus, I don't care about what anyone thinks. I have to go to bed at night and be confident that I did what I felt was appropriate for Bob's quality of life, even if it means it's expensive.
©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Bob, a week ago.
I went home. Bob looked bad. I offered him some food. He turned away. Bob ALWAYS PURRS almost ALL the time. No purr. He was clearly depressed. He licked his mouth-nausea. He gagged a bit. He was supposed to be HUNGRY, feeling GOOD, not this...no.
I called Dr. I. and voiced my concerns. I didn't know what to expect and maybe I was just seeing something normal or was there a problem? He told me to bring Bob back to New York and he would do another ultrasound on Bob's abdomen. Perhaps he has cancer in his stomach or intestines. Time to take a look. He could give another kind of chemo today, too! What? That was not part of the plan yesterday! I told him I had to think about it. I couldn't do that to Bob-not another car ride. I couldn't do that to ME. Those tests were gonna COST.
I went online and looked up Elspar. Just about shit a brick. Over and over I saw “not recommended for cats with LIVER disease or who have had PANCREATITIS!” Bob HAD a horrendous pancreatitis flare up two years ago! Bob has 1/2 of a LIVER? WHO would give this stuff to BOB? It was probably making him SICK and possibly hurting him a lot worse than it was helping him.
So I called Dr. I again. I needed some explanation. I talked to the Vet Tech. She tried to gloss it over. I was not having it. She said to come up and they would run tests. I said how much will that cost? He should be on an IV, that means an overnight stay. There's a snowstorm coming. I would be trapped in New York or not able to go back and get Bob for who knows how long? How much is THAT going to cost? I asked if Dr. Larry could help Bob locally (and less expensively) and he's not open 24/7 so that would be a problem. I was truly panicking. Do I wait it out? Does Bob need to be at the Vet, on an IV NOW?
It's one thing when you have a cat with upper respiratory. The first few times it may be daunting, but after awhile you KNOW when the cat needs vet care and you KNOW when to let them ride it out. With this-who KNEW WHAT to do?! If I couldn't get Bob to eat, I'd have to force feed him. I could do that, but he was gagging and very uncomfortable. Even I thought he might need some fluids, at least. They said I could come to the clinic before 5pm or at 10:30AM on Friday they would have an appointment for Bob if I thought I could get him through the night.
I didn't know what to do. It was about 2pm-last time Bob ate (according to my notes-and yes I take notes about when Bob does just about everything) was at 7am. It was make or break. He had to eat.
I opened a can of Evo, Beef. Bob seems to have a craving for this for some reason. I put a tiny bit on a plate, warmed it and brought it over to him. I put some on my finger. He sniffed, but did not turn away, as I expected he would. His old man, softened pink tongue slipped out of his mouth a little way and licked at my finger. Then Bob sat up! I put the plate in front of him, being careful not to push to much to get him to eat. I didn't want him to run back under the table and hide. He began to eat! He stopped after a few bites and stood up. He's used to eating in "his place" by the kitchen so I walked him over to the spot and put the food back down. He kept eating. I could NOT believe my eyes.
He even did his "thing" in the litter pan, then I gave him a few chicken treats, which he ate right up. I didn't want him to get sick from eating too much and he seemed satisfied. He found his way into my office and headed to one of the beds under my desk. He sat right next to Petunia-who he hates and Spencer, who is his co-Boss-of-the-house.
©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Bob, with his buds. (I'm going to put a better cat bed in "his" spot today!)
I have a space heater running so it's nice and toasty and the area under the desk gets lots of sun, too. The cats settled down and Bob went back to resting. I didn't want to be too hopeful, but I knew I could hold off on taking him to ANY Vet for awhile.
The trend continued. Bob ate some dinner, not a lot, but some. The Vet called me from NY. They were wondering how Bob was doing and if I was coming in that afternoon. I told them no. I wanted to say, you're not getting any more money from me today, OK?!
Since there's a storm coming, Sam and I realized we HAD to run to the store and stock up on a few things or we'd be eating Bob's cat food, too. We were gone for an hour or so. When we got home, I unlocked the front door, but before I stepped inside, I thought about Bob. I thought that I could open the door and he could have passed away while we were gone. Then I chastised myself for thinking that, but I couldn't help it! I took a deep breath and opened the door.
There was Bob. Standing up, clearly waiting for us to come in the door. He was obviously HUNGRY again! I was overjoyed!
I couldn't wait to get the groceries put away so I could give Bob one of the treats I bought him. Bob LOVES raw chicken liver. Yes, RAW. He is a FREAK about it. So I cut up two big hunks of liver. The entire time Bob was getting under my feet, blocking my way, almost tripping me-as he USUALLY DOES when he WANTS FOOD. He can be SO ANNOYING and I JUST LOVED IT! This was a Bob I had not seen since before his surgery!
I put down the plate of liver. I had to give some to Blitzen, too. He shares Bob's passion for the stuff. Blitzen dug in, but Bob gave him a run for his money. Bob ate with gusto and cleaned his plate! Then he walked over to his heated "Princess" bed and relaxed. Whatever is in that pill was working wonders.
I can't adequately describe what a shocking difference in Bob I've seen. He's more social again, climbs the stairs, is starting to meow a bit, though it's more of an “air-meow.” He's a lot less fussy about his food, too. As for the effect those pills had on me...well, I feel like I can breathe again and my heart isn't racing.
Crossing Fingers, but...I think that maybe, just maybe I will be canceling that 10:30am vet appointment for tomorrow.
Update: I DID CANCEL THE APPOINTMENT. No Vet for Bob TODAY!
I'm drained-emotionally, physically and financially. We just got home at 8pm, after leaving for New York at 1pm. It's been a really long day and everything aches. I think my head is going to crack in half.
I'll quit complaining and get back to the important stuff: Bob.
Today we travelled to Wappingers Falls, NY to meet Dr. I., the Board Certified Oncologist. I was expecting just a consultation and that it would cost about $165.00. He'd look over the blood test results and the biopsy report. He'd talk about next steps and he'd sketch out the costs and we'd schedule some treatment or he'd say Bob cannot be treated for whatever reason.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Nice office and staff, but I KNEW this was gonna cost just by looking at the signage!
But nothing went according to plan.
Bob has many complications: 1. He is FIV+, 2. He's a Senior, 3. He has an upper respiratory infection, 4. He has the remnants of a fungal infection on his head (which MUST be GONE or no chemo). 5. Bob has lost almost two pounds now, since September. He used to be a robust 14-15 pound cat. Now he's just a slip over 13 pounds. He's GOT to stabilize his weight. He's GOT to get rid of this damn URI that he's had for 11 days.
So the Dr. suggests taking x-rays. They have a digital x-ray machine. Very awesome and of course, expensive. I feel a tug at my purse strings, but I let it go. Then he wants to repeat Bob's month old blood work in their own lab AND send another full CBC out to another lab! No! They can wait a day and get the full CBC and not charge me twice for doing the same bloodwork for the most part! Sheesh. I saved $89.00. Oh wait...then he said that the pathology, though done well, should be looked at again by another specialist. He felt that we could get MUCH more information from this other person and we'd get more of an idea of this is “large cell” or “small cell” lymphoma. [we're hoping for small cell]. The problem is that it takes TWO WEEKS to get results and in the meantime, Bob is losing weight and the cancer will have two more weeks to misbehave. Oh, and he will have a radiologist/internist look at Bob's x-rays (ka-ching). I started to guess how much this was going to cost. I thought $850.00. WRONG! $1200+.! I tried not to panic. This is on top of the $5000.00 I already had to “find” to cover Bob's surgery and tests before the surgery. It's probably more than that, but I really don't want to know right now...And the first person who rakes me over the coals for spending this money is going to be kicked in the teeth. For one thing, this didn't come to me as a bill for $5000+. It started with a few x-rays. Then it was an ultrasound. Then it was blood tests. Then, a surgery, etc...Would I have done this differently if I knew up front what this would cost?
NO I WOULD NOT. I've got Bob's back. I'm not going to just toss him aside for MONEY!!! He's a living, breathing creature. He gives me his love and asks for nothing back. He does not deserve to be left to die slowly or be euthanized because of cash. I find that repulsive! Would you cut care to your MOM? Your kid? A stranger, even? A person you passed on the street? You wouldn't deny anyone who had a fair chance to recover and live comfortably, a chance to do so. [stepping off soapbox now]
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Not sure if he wants to get out of his cat carrier, after all
I tried to decide if we could get away with not doing what he suggested, but it DID make sense. We needed to compare his bloodwork and x-rays to what we had before his surgery, so I said yes. They took Bob away and asked us to go get a coffee and come back in a hour.
We went to the front desk, of course, because we have to pay 75% of the bill right NOW, before they do a thing. God forbid they wait an hour to get paid in full. So I whip out my good old Care Credit card and they say "they can't access our limit information" so we have to call them. We call them and they say there is something wrong, but won't say what it IS! So we're standing there trying to think of how to come up with the money when we weren't prepared to blow a huge hunk of cash. I did not want to use the old, beaten AmEx, but I had no other choice. Fortunately, it worked fine and they smiled and said thank you and I grumbled under my breath, freaking out about CareCredit's rejection. I was so embarrassed and I had NO IDEA WHY there was a problem. I KNOW we have plenty of room on that card and we pay the bill on time. Sam tried to comfort me by offering to deal with them-which I gratefully accepted.
I'd noticed a Panera Bread cafe on the way to the Vet, so we drove over there to kill some time. We were both ashen, miserable, and glum (which could be a good name for a law firm) as we sat with our caffeine (mine a tea, of course, Sam's a coffee, of course). I said it was a pretty day, with sparkling blue skies. That we were lucky to enjoy a nice day. We were together, neither of US had lymphoma (which without health insurance, I'm guessing we'd have to just crawl into a hole and die). I tried to get Sam to look on the bright side, but I couldn't convince myself-how could I convince him?
We've had the WORST few years of our lives. Work is just not happening and the work we DO get, well the clients just can't pay very fast. I'm on month three of waiting on an invoice for one project. We keep thinking, as so many people do, it's GOT to change for the BETTER SOON. I can't remember a time when the economy was so awful for SO LONG. It makes us feel terrified and desperate. We're trying to smile through the fear. Trying to enjoy our life day to day, but it's getting tougher and tougher. I said we should just kill ourselves and be done with it, but Sam reminded me...who would care for our cats? What about Bob?
I couldn't argue with that.
So we picked ourselves up and went back to the Vet. Dr. I is very good at telling people bad news. He must have a lot of practice. He motioned for us to come over to his computer screen. There was the x-ray of Bob's chest, from the side (lateral view, if you want to be fancy). Dr. I remarked at how GOOD Bob's lungs looked. There was NO apparent cancer and NO apparent disease. He didn't say “BUT,” though I KNEW it was coming.
What concerned him was...then he zoomed in on an area between Bob's 3rd and 4th ribs...it was a small mass. I could not TELL it was a mass. It didn't look significant at all. Dr. I said that Bob's liver cancer, they type of liver cancer, does not normally EVER spread. Once it's removed, it's gone, so he would not expect that mass to be "that" type of cancer.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Bob is not so happy to hear the news that he has another cancerous mass. This one in his chest.
If it WAS lymphoma, Bob has lymphoma based in his abdomen. Usually if it's in the abdomen it STAYS there and it's easy to treat and it often is a “small cell” cancer. Seeing a mass in his chest could mean it's NOT small cell and it needs to be treated right NOW.
Dr. I felt that we needed to change things around. We'd start Bob on chemo tonight, treat his URI with antibiotics and antihistamine, re-check x-ray (ka-ching) in a week and see if we're getting rid of that chest mass and if Bob is starting to gain some weight. They we may continue on the chemo, weekly (so a 100 mile trip each week), for about six weeks, BUT we may have to change course and use something else depending on what the new pathologist finds out.
I wasn't pressured at all. Dr. I. knows his stuff. Lymphoma is very common in cats and dogs. He treats it ALL the time. He loves giving chemo to cats. He says they do great on it. I realized, though, that he barely even looked at Bob. He just went by the x-rays and test results. He was very precise and informative. He told me the bad news and I didn't cry until after I left his office.
They asked us to get lost for another hour and a half while they gave Bob the shot and kept him under observation. We drove around and found a bookstore and a cutely named coffee shop. We broke our cardinal rule and had a small meal at McDonalds, which I think may have been the first time in 16 years we ate at one. We were too tired and too broke to care about where we ate. We sat in a booth. There was a flat screen tv and a fireplace in this McDonalds. The audio for the TV was playing out of two different speakers, slightly off sync so it sounded like we were really really stoned and listening to the news. It was loud, too. We both were irritated and uncomfortable. We looked at the food we ate and made faces at each other. This was setting up to be a really awful day. I could not stop thinking about Bob. I just wanted to go HOME. I wanted to be home so I could hold Bob and CRY, but I was sitting in a weird McDonalds with out-of- phase speakers and a prehistoric guy in a plaid shirt sitting nearby watching the TV in rapt silence, as though everything always sounded just like that awful TV and everything was completely NORMAL when it was FAR from it.
We got out of there as soon as we stopped chewing. We returned to the Vet and paid the remaining 25% of the bill, got the discharge instructions and waited for Bob. One of the Vet Techs brought Bob out. I opened the top on the carrier and he sat up. I petted him and he purred, his Bob-purr. He was still Bob. He wasn't glowing or limp. Like, me, he just wanted to go home.
I loaded him in to the back seat, then took the seat next to him. Sam started the car and drove us toward home. I opened the door to the cat carrier. It was dark, too dark to see into the cage, but I put my hand inside it and felt Bob's silky head. I petted him alongside his face and felt his ear. It was cool. I petted him a bit more and I could feel his purr through my hand. It was a comforting feeling, pretty much the only one I'd had all day.
Considering what's on his plate, having half a liver, lymphoma and a URI, Bob's doing well. He's no longer confined to a pen and last week he got his staples removed. A soft, downy fuzz is already growing on his belly. With winter here, I hate that his belly is so bare. I have heated cat beds for him to rest on all over the living room to keep him warm. Through all of the discomfort and pain I've put him through, it's tough to ask him to bear more. My goal is to keep him as content as possible.
©2010 Robin A.F. Olson. Dr. Weisman removes the staples. YIKES!
I'm so proud of Bob. I wish I could tell him that. I'm proud of him being a good sport about riding in the car for the long trip to the surgeon and I'm so amazed that he's been climbing two flights of stairs to come to bed at night. This morning he was ON the bed, which is a tough climb for him, yet somehow he did it. He even picks on Petunia-STILL...which for now, I'll let him be a bad boy since he only scares Petunia and that's about it. It's a sign of him being normal and I know that won't last forever.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Bob just LOVES riding in the car. Okay, maybe not so much.
Tomorrow afternoon I'm driving Bob to Wappingers Falls, NY to meet Dr Impellizeri, a Board Certified Oncologist. There we will discuss treatment options for Bob. Are there any? I've been lead to believe there are, they are well tolerated by cats and that if Bob does well we can, at least, hope for a remission for some duration.
In a way, I can't wait to get Bob on chemo. I truly believe it will help him. Although he's eating and resting a lot, he's still losing weight and I know every day we wait, the cancer has more time to grow. I want to kick that stuff in the ass and make it leave my boy alone!
As with this entire journey, there are lots more unknowns ahead. I find myself deeply appreciating every little thing, being so gentle with Bob and so loving to him. I want every day to be as good for him as I can. I know I'll have to say good bye to him one day and it could be soon or we may get six weeks or six months.
©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Nora (left) and Bob (right) enjoy nap time. By the way, Nora weighs 23 pounds so Bob isn't a tiny cat!
We'll see. In the meantime, Bob will go on, not knowing what's wrong with him and probably not too worried about it, either. How does an animal feel as it ages? Do they know their time is drawing to a close? For some reason, I don't think they fear that at all. I think they just take it day by day and if they live, that's great and if not, then that's okay, too.
Maybe they're more evolved than we are about such things?