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FCJ: From Meh to Meow

My friend, Connie says that Cara reminds her of a little bird, with big, curious eyes and slender, delicate limbs. Cara IS a fragile creature. I'm afraid to pick her up. The endoscopy has taken quite a toll on her and I find my reaction to her is to be as gentle as possible.

©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Poor little baby. The morning after endoscopy.

Cara needs care around the clock. I had to take a step back from EVERYTHING in my life, other than cat care, to make it work. No blogging, no answering emails, other than very important ones, no working on getting MacGruber, Chester and Mazie adopted. I'm on my own most of this week, which makes it more difficult, but Sam needed to be at a Conference in Chicago, so he left not long after Cara returned from the Vet hospital. In a way, it's a good thing he's gone. I can get up at all hours of the night and not bother him and not having to worry about making dinner or shopping is a relief. In a twisted way, I'm getting a vacation.

©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. The nightmare shedule.

Some vacation! I've been in a daze. I absolutely must stick to the schedule of giving out medications. I want Cara to heal, feel better, be happy again. I do NOT want her to have to be rushed back to the Vet. She's been through so much already. I chose not to have the Vet implant a feeding tube, so I have to make this work. I can't make a mistake-the food can't be too thick. Cara cannot vomit. She just can't. If she does-she goes right back to the Vet for another $1000.00 procedure.

©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. They say cats are stoic about hiding their pain, but it's clear that some times the pain is too much, even for them to bear.

On Sunday, Cara looked like Hell. I realized she wasn't laying down, but rather, sitting up, trying to sleep while her siblings ran around the room, bouncing off the walls. It was not the best place for her, but I didn't want to move her into a crate somewhere else. Her room is nice and warm and there's a big brown electric blanket for her to warm herself on. Even with all that, I find her sitting on top of the space heater as it rotates back and forth-as if she's on a ride at Disneyland for very sick kittens. She's just cold. It must be due to her low body weight.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Polly is huge in comparison to little Cara.

The past few days have become a bit of a blur. My iPhone alarm goes off to remind me it's time to do something for Cara every few hours. I get up like a zombie and do whatever it is that needs to be done. I can't leave the house for very long, nor can I sleep for very long. I find myself grabbing naps whenever I can. I still have to provide care for Bob and make sure the other cats are fed and...just before Sam left, we found out Nora has an eye infection that must be medicated, too. It's only for two weeks! I know this will pass. I just need to get through it.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Cara is painfully thin.

Cara didn't move around very much. She didn't eat very well, either. I changed her food a little bit and found something she likes even if it's very watered down. She eats all her food, then burps and gurgles. I'm sure she's not used to having a full tummy so after she eats, she just sits quietly. I think it's too much for her to do much else. Meanwhile, I sit with her, take notes to track her progress and wait to see if something is going to happen. I whisper to her; “Please don't throw up...please.” So far, she hasn't vomited since Friday.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. At last, after a few days, Cara can lay down for more than a few moments.

Cara tried to lay down, but her tummy grumbled too much. She sat up with her eyes closed, teetering back and forth. Eventually she got so tired she had to lay down. She could only do it for brief periods of time. When she did lay down I could see how much thinner she had become. I felt a knot in my gut, too. Would Cara begin to bounce back and if so, how long would this take?

©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. A big moment-Cara reached out for a toy.

Connie stopped in to visit Cara last night after we took a break and went out for dinner. While she was there, Cara ate up a good deal of dinner, then looked up at us brightly, as if to show off that something was going on-something good. I teased a ribbon toy in front of her. She reached out and touched it. She just sat there, not moving, but that she would try to play at all, was a great sign. Clearly she was exhausted just from eating, so we let her rest.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Look who's feeling better!

This morning, my alarm went off at 6am. I dragged myself out of bed. All I had to do was give Cara one medication, then I could go back to bed for an hour before I had to feed her. Every time I open the door to the foster room, I wonder what she'll be doing. Will she be resting and be comfortable? Will she still be hunched over in pain?

I opened the door and I didn't see Cara. All I saw was a blur as she RAN out of the foster room and RAN down the stairs! Clearly, she's beginning to feel better or she's as sick of getting medications as I am giving them to her.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. There's the expression I've been missing for almost a week! Is she back for good? I sure hope so!

Cara ate well today and ate quite a bit. Her eyes sparkle again and she has pep! She's still far too thin, but with time that may improve. It is FAR TOO SOON to say that Cara is out of the woods. Her strictures can come back in a heartbeat and odds are they will any day now, as the usual time between them closing again is 5 to 7 days. Usually these strictures have to be re-opened one or two more times to stay open, so there's still a long way to go.

That said, when I look into Cara's bright green eyes, I see what was missing for so long. I see joy and her mischeivious nature has replaced hunger and pain. It's an amazing sight, truly amazing.


In a statement dated February 28, 2011, Tim Callahan, the CEO of WellPet, makers of Wellness cat food (which I have heartily recommended to many people over the years) has announced a VOLUNTARY RECALL of certain lots of Wellness Canned Cat food and certain lots of the Chicken & Herring flavor.

The cause of the recall is inadequate Thiamine in their product, which can cause, a reversible deficiency that can be treated if caught promptly.

I just called Dr. Larry. He told me that I'd have had to feed this food to my cats for 6 months or so for there to be a problem. The problem is that CARA and her FAMILY have been getting this food for MONTHS-since they were old enough to be weaned! None of them are showing signs of Thiamine Deficiency, but at such a young age, could this have effected them more acutely?

I am very concerned about their health and with them being chronically sick for this something that added to their problems? Is thiamine the only deficiency or is this the tip of the iceberg?

I certainly hope that the good folks at Wellness are being honest. They're recalling ALL their canned food with the certain “best by date,” instead of trying to figure out which flavors of which best by dates are effected.

The lots involved in this voluntary recall are:

Wellness Canned Cat (all flavors and sizes) with best by dates from 14APR 13 through 30SEP13

Wellness Canned Cat Chicken & Herring (all sizes) with best by date of 10NOV13 and 17NOV13.

©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. The dreaded cans that are part of the recall.

I found that I had a few cans that were effected by the recall. I decided to go back through my bags of recycling and check those cans. The further back I went, the MORE cans I found that were part of the recall. I can only imagine how many, in reality, I fed. I've been buying Wellness by the CASE-and most of those cans are long gone. In the end, I found 18, 12 oz. cans.

I called WellPet at 1-877-227-9587 to arrange for return of the product and reimbursement. They answer the phone right away and are very accommodating. Gee, are we surprised? Okay, I'm being mean. They were very nice and will take care of this right away.

That said. I'm sitting here with a big stomach ache, wondering if these kittens have been compromised in some way and no coupon or refund is going to fix that.

Foster Cat Journal: It Was Going So Well...

I wrote this yesterday, to post today, because I won't be allowed near a computer until Tuesday (see below to find out why).

It seemed as though Cara was finally out of the woods. Her vomiting stopped on Tuesday and she'd gained 9 ounces in a few days. Her energy level was great. She was bright and shiny.

This morning I gave Cara, what I thought was her usually meal: chicken baby food and canned grain-free chicken food mixed and warmed. Within a few moments I heard the dreaded sound. The gurlging. I saw Cara's sides contracting violently. She vomited up her food. I got it away from her before she could try to eat it back up. A few minutes later, I let her return to the food. She picked at it, but didn't eat heartily. She ran off and played. Eventually she did finish her breakfast and she seemed to keep it all down.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Cara enjoying a full belly on Saturday night.

I realized I didn't know what baby food I gave Cara-was it the turkey or chicken? It was the turkey and a different brand than I'd fed before. I got another jar of baby food out-this time the same brand and flavor. I warmed it, added a sprinkle of water. Cara vomited this, too.

I also noticed her back end was dirty, not near her rectum, but lower. Her tail was a bit gooey so I cleaned her up. I can't imagine what is going on. She was doing so beautifully!

I am terribly afraid that Cara has PRAA. I'll go back to just feeding watered down baby food to see if that helps. Maybe I added too much canned, too soon? I'm really at a loss.

©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. She looks so serious!

Yesterday, I ran into Dr. Weisman, Bob's surgeon, at the grocery store. We talked about Cara. She told me why the surgery is so challenging. It's because the band could be dead tissue, which is just trimmed away, or it could be LIVING and blood filled so it has to be removed very carefully as to not harm the heart. It can also attach itself to the esophagus, which is another delicate surgery. This is why not all cats survive the surgery. I started to realize that it's a good thing Cara is growing and gaining weight. If she has to have this done, she'll be a better candidate...that is...if I can get her back to keeping food down.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Cara and the super chunk have a snuggle.

To top it off, tomorrow I have to go to Jury Duty for the U.S. District Court, State of CT. I'm very scared they will pick me for jurty duty. It would mean that Sam would have to care for the cats on his own. I know he won't be able to spend the time with them that I do and it's alot to ask of someone. I hope I won't have to be gone for more than tomorrow, but now I'm hearing horror stories of people being sequestered for months and who lose their homes over it. I don't think $40/day and parking vouchers are gonna help.

I will be completely cut off from the world tomorrow. No phones or laptops allowed. I'll have to hope that Cara does ok while I'm gone and that I get to come back home to stay!

Foster Cat Journal: Weighing In...

I just got back from the Vet. Five days ago Cara weighed 2.lbs 14 oz.-down from 3.00 pounds the week before.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Cara (with Polly behind her) and I try to juggle getting a photo with snuggling.


THIS IS A LOT OF WEIGHT TO GAIN IN SUCH A SHORT AMOUNT OF TIME, but Cara was operating on a big deficit. As you recall, her sister is almost five pounds, so Cara has a lot of catching up to do.

Super-Deb was “speechless” when she saw the weight gain as Cara sat quietly on the baby scale. None of us can put a finger on what was the cause of her being able to keep food down.

We're left with one or a combination of different reasons why Cara is keeping her food down:

1. She was de-wormed with MANY different de-wormers. The last two were Panacur and Albon. Maybe one of them did the trick?

2. She was given 13 days of a 2 week regime of hardcore antibiotics, but the day we stopped, she started to eat again. Either she was sickened by the drugs or the drugs helped. That said, she has been vomiting for much longer than 2 weeks and she's been on different antibiotics for the better part of the last two months.

3. Putting her on a simple diet of chicken baby food, slightly watered down to start, then slowly adding a simple grain-free canned to her food. The ratio of baby food to canned is changing until she is on 100% canned food. So far, so good.

4. She's been given some pro-biotics but not enough to make me think that had a lot to do with this weight gain.

5. She was separated from her family so she would not have to compete for food. This allowed her to eat at her own pace, though, initially she still gobbled her food as fast as she could.

6. No one knows this, but I gave Cara one treatment of a homeopathic remedy the day she stopped vomiting. I think it did something amazing for Cara.

So we will never really know for sure, why Cara was so sick, for so long. She is still NOT OUT OF THE WOODS. If she can't keep 100% solid food down, then we have to look into getting an endoscopy and we have to go back to our fears that Cara DOES have PRAA.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Polly and Chester don't care what Cara weighs as long as they get some good food, too.

Right now I'm simply going to just smile and take comfort in Cara's remarkable improvement and hope the trend continues.

Foster Cat Journal: The Curious Case of Cara Melle

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.

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©2011 Debbie Bachman.

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.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. The xray shows something is a bit off in Cara's stomach.

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.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Cara loves to snuggle under my chin.

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?

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Only 3 pounds, Cara is now 2 pounds lighter than her brother.

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.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Feeling blue, Cara simply sniffs at her toys.

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.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Sitting in the window at Dr. Larry's office. I'm thinking I paid for that windowsill, heck, probably the room.

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.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Cara was shaking the first day I saw her. She was so cold and scared, but she did come around after awhile.

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.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. I actually got Cara to play. A good sign!

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?

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Cara just wants to get well so she can go home.

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.

Foster Cat Journal: Sweethearts

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.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Cara, hoping for another bite of food.

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.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Cara & Chester this morning.

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!

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Little Sweetie.

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!

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Stumbling Along a Confusing Path

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.

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©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. 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.

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©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...

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©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.

Bob's Battle with Lymphoma: When is a Tumor Not a Tumor?

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.

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©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.

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©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.

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©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?

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©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!

Foster Cat Journal: Snots R Us

It seems as though Polly has been sick for most of her short life. At about 13 weeks of age, she's been sick for a good 10 weeks. Her sister, Cara Melle and brother, Chester Cheesetoes have also been sickly, too. Their Mama, Mazie, has been mostly spared, but being an adult, her immune system is strong and fully developed. Her job is to hang out and keep the babies company, until I get her adopted. My job is to learn to ride the waves of fear and anxiety, wondering if these little guys are going to succumb to their illness or overcome it.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Mazie (is not mad!), Polly and Cara (Center).

It seemed as though homeopathy was going to make the big difference in getting the cats better, but in the blink of an eye-about 48 hours, really, Polly took a serious turn for the worse. I got her to Dr. larry and he did a chest x-ray to rule out pneumonia and put her on antibiotics-again, will it really help? This is VIRAL! I had to go with it. It was the Holidays so I couldn't reach Dr. Hermans to ask what other things I could do for her from a homeopathic standpoint.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. A few days ago, Cara was doing fairly well.

Polly's left eye sealed shut AGAIN. That eye has been a problem for her since the beginning. I took her into the bathroom and ran the shower. She was VERY snotty and was very tired. In a day or so she perked back up, so I didn't have to do another Vet run.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Poor Polly. Snotty and feeling like crud. Getting a steamy shower treatment in the bathroom.

None of the kittens were resolving their URI. I took them to Dr. Hermans and we discussed treatments for them. She reminding me that their case is a complex one and that I couldn't have come up with a treatment for them on my own just yet. She made some suggestions and a plan for me while the kittens ran around her office, exploring every nook and cranny. She felt they were NOT in bad shape at all and that in time we should be able to get them to recover.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Chester is doing well and SO CUTE!

A few days later, I took Polly and her siblings to see Dr. Larry for a re-check. He thought they were doing OK, but clearly now Cara was doing worse! She was cold and her eyelids were swollen. Dr. Larry put them on stronger antibiotics and asked me to come back again in another 10 days.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Cara was so cold she didn't mind being bundled up at the Vet.

The next night Polly took another turn for the worse. This time it REALLY scared me. She was open-mouth breathing, with her left eye sealed shut and her head was VERY SNOTTY. I had just taken her to the Vet the day before and that was 3 vet trips in 3 days. I was wiped out and did NOT want another Vet bill on my hands! I got Polly back into the bathroom for a steam treatment. I ended up having to force feed her to make sure she wouldn't crash over the night. I got up at 4Am to check on her and her eyes were not sealed shut and she seemed comfortable. The space heater was running full blast and so was the humidifier.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Instead of sitting ON the space heater, I found Cara in front of it, so I put a little cat bed out for her.

The next morning I expected to have to take her to the Vet, but my fear was that taking her to the Vet-being exposed to the winter cold and a car ride, pushed her over the edge in the first place. There was a big snow storm coming, too and I had to decide if I was going to run her to the Vet or not. She was eating a little so I decided to wait.

Cara was so chilled that she kept sitting ON the space heater (since she couldn't sit on the cable box any more after she puked on it and shorted it out!). I realized I needed to get her warm, fast. I drove to Target just as the snow started to fall, to get an electric blanket for her and I got some more stinky cat food at the local pet shop. I made it back home just before it was too late to drive much longer. Instead of getting three to five inches of snow, we got thirteen! I-84 was just about shut down and I heard reports of it taking people FIVE HOURS to get home, instead of minutes...

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Cara loves the heated blanket, but she's still not feeling well.

I couldn't get home fast enough, both to avoid the weather and to get Cara and the others warming up. It took about five minutes for the kitties to realize the blanket was warm and later that afternoon, I found them all stretched out sleeping.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Polly returns to kicking butt, even though she's still snotty.

Polly seemed to be doing better. The high calorie food perked her up. Her sinuses were draining. I was watching the humidifier more carefully and I think it made a difference that it was always full of water.

Then it was Cara's turn to get really sick-again!

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Oh dear! Back to the Vet, or keep her warm and stress-free? What's best?

Cara is a tiny little thing. She's over a pound lighter than her brother, Chester and she's about the size of a six week old kitten. Her paws are no thicker than my pinky. Last night her eyes were sealed closed. She wasn't as snotty as Polly had been and even being blind, she found her food and ate quite a good bit of it. Her belly is really BIG and I just de-wormed the cats two days before. I do not want to say things like FIP, so for now I won't. Cara has been vomiting, still, very small amounts and only every few days. Since the de-worming she hasn't vomited, but that could change.

I believe some of their illness had something to do with being de-wormed. That killing the parasites opened them up to being a bit more sick or perhaps it made them have a mucus build up reaction? I don't know if there is ANY correlation, but maybe some of you guys know about one?

So last night was spent in the bathroom, yet again. I took Cara and Polly (to keep her sister company). I washed Cara's face and got her eyes to open. She was very quiet, but gave me a little purr, then waddled around the bathroom after her sister, Polly. Polly was like a new kitten-running all over the bathroom, bouncing up and down, attacking Cara and having a great time-even though she's still fairly snotty, herself. I was texting Jennifer and Polly got too curious about the bathtub. As I put my iPhone down, I heard a splash! Polly fell into the tub! Fortunately she was only up to her belly in water. She didn't seem to mind at all! I got her dried off, but she went right back, almost falling into the tub a second time. Yes, time to DRAIN the water out of the tub, good idea.

©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. Even though she's sick, Cara still played with her sister. A good sign.

It's been a few very late nights and very early mornings. With kittens, I can't be too careful. I monitor them like a hawk and when I see they're not doing well, I try not to freak out. I'm finding that I can be more gentle and relaxed now that I've been through this quite a few times. I don't know everything there is to know about kitten care, but I know that if I'm calmer, they can be calmer, too. No stress is very important for them and I've got to get them over this hump of getting better, then getting worse. I'm learning what may be setting them off and giving them every chance I can have what they need to get strong. Between a good diet, a warm, humid room and lots of lysine (and meds!) and love, it should do the trick.

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©2011 Robin A.F. Olson. At least some of the cats are doing all right! Mazie is a handful. She's like a giant kitten, she's so playful and Chester is turning into a big love-bug.

Fortunately, Chester, though sick, too, is not in as bad shape as his far...though from what I've seen it can change at any moment, so I'm not taking anything for granted!

Bob's Battle with Lymphoma: The Next Big Hurdle

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.

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©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.

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©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.

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©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?


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