The Long Goodbye
He wouldn’t sit still and was obviously in pain – he kept vacillating between wanting to follow me everywhere and slinking off to hide. It wasn’t even 7 am yet so no veterinarian’s office was open and I had no idea what was wrong. My initial thought was that he’d hurt his leg somehow or that his hip was out of place (he is 14 years old, after all).
I had JUST cleaned out the pantry three days prior and trashed the leftover pain medication from a previous surgery which had expired 3 and a half months ago, but luckily it was still in the trash can so I pulled it out and gave him a dose to hold him over until his vet appointment at 9:30.
They took x-rays and everything appeared to be normal. I was referred to a veterinary specialist clinic (one that I was familiar with as they had treated countless cases for the animal rescue I volunteered with for six years) to further evaluate him.
After four hours at various vet offices, they believed that it was a blood clot. After viewing some of his previous x-rays from when he was diagnosed with asthma three weeks prior, they were concerned that he may have a tumor his lungs. The other possibility was heart disease, and if it was then it was possible that this may happen again (he would be more at risk since it had already happened once), except next time it could be both legs, and if it was both legs, they would recommend euthanasia. So it was with that that I left him with them to keep for a few days while they tried to flush his leg and did more tests to find out what caused it.
My heart obviously sank as soon as she told me. I knew he was getting up there in age and medical issues started last summer. I thought it might be getting to be that time but I didn’t really want to think about it. I cried the whole way home.
The cardiologist called me yesterday with the diagnosis. He has a good chance of recovering full movement in his leg, however, the source of the clot was, in fact, lung cancer. He was also in the early stages of heart disease but it wasn’t advanced enough to have caused the clotting.
The options were to do further chest x-rays and try to determine if there were other masses in the lungs besides the obvious one – if there weren’t, he’d be a candidate for surgery, which might give him an extra year to year and a half. They would call me again the following day to give me an update.
I made up my mind pretty quickly. Given his age and how difficult the surgery and recovery will be on him, I didn’t really think that I want to put him through it. And even if the lung mass is removed, there’s still the heart disease…
I starting hashing out my plan, which was to ask the vet how long he could go with a decent quality of life – hopefully a few more months – and then when the time came, I would schedule an in-home euthanasia so that he could be here at home.
I muscled through the rest of the day yesterday and found some distraction while my dad and grandmother visited, but I found myself crying again before bed. I wasn’t sure how he was doing at the vet. No worse, but no better, really. I wondered if I was going to have to do it sooner rather than later.
Everybody always says, “They will tell you when they’re ready to go.”
Before I feel asleep last night, I was talking to him in my head and I asked him to do just that.
I woke up this morning around 5:30 with the sickest feeling in the pit of my stomach. I was trying to fall back to sleep when in one of those half awake/half asleep states, I had a mental flash. I saw Jordan sitting in front of me, and then he stood up and raised his but up the way cats do.
Seeing it snapped me awake for a moment, but then I went back under and I heard him say, “Mom, I’m going home.”
I said, “Ok, if that’s what you want to do. I love you and I’ll miss you.” And then I started crying again.
I adopted Jordan when he was 6 years old. He was the first pet I had after I graduated from college and moved out on my own. I bonded with him more than any other pet I’ve ever had. The love I have for this cat is on par with the love I have for my husband, who often joked that Jordan was the real love of my life – no one else would ever compare.
So I’ve been coming to terms with the fact that he’s going to be leaving me soon. The vet called me earlier this morning and said not much had changed. He hadn’t been eating while he was there and didn’t seem to be improving, but he seemed to at least be stable and she said I could bring him home.
He was pretty groggy when I picked him up, but as soon as I got him home he perked right up. I brought his food upstairs and he immediately started eating and drinking – mostly drinking. They’d given him an appetite inducer while he was there, but he still hadn’t eaten.
Little did they know that he’s so damn picky about food that he will literally only eat Purina Naturals dry kibble… and nothing else (believe me, I’ve tried).
He seems to be scooting around the bedroom pretty well and has even attempted to jump up onto the bed a couple of times (and failed). He’s still dragging his back leg, but there looks to be (at least to me) more movement than there was on Monday.
I’ve set up a bed in the floor so he can sleep with me without me worrying about him jumping out of bed in the middle of the night and hurting himself. I’ve also got a heating pad in his bed and I’ve stuck every single crystal I own – along with every piece of orgonite – underneath it. That’s where he’s snoozing, currently.
The first round of meds went down pretty easily – it also helps that he can’t run away from me. We’re going to do physical therapy three times a day – or more – to help get him back on his feet.
Bum leg aside, he’s still hanging in there pretty well for the moment, so I’m just going to spend the next couple of months loving every minute I’ve got left with him. Nothing makes you appreciate what you’ve got like the prospect of losing it.
Today is one of the days of Tihar – a Nepalese holiday where people gather to celebrate the triumph of light over darkness, of knowledge over ignorance and the worshiping of all living beings, particularly animals. Today is also my husband and my fourth wedding anniversary. The best anniversary gift is a few more hours, days, weeks – maybe months if we are lucky – with my favorite kitty bear. I’ll take all of it.
I posted on my Facebook page not long ago that I often sing “You Are My Sunshine” to my cat, and it nearly always makes me cry.
I think I’m going to have a picture of him framed with “My Sunshine” underneath it. Because he always was something that would make me happy no matter how horrible I may have been feeling (and there have been times, especially when I first got him years ago, that were definitely horrible).
In the end, I just have to keep reminding myself that he’s just going home. This place isn’t home, as much as we pretend it is. And we all go back there eventually. It’s not a goodbye. It’s just a see you later.
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