I felt a stab of guilt, as I realized that my sense of self-congratulations over understanding what the veterinarian was describing in technical terms was entirely inappropriate. Having repeatedly had the experience of standing in doctor’s offices while the details of a loved one’s condition and prognosis are described has given me a pretty decent working knowledge of certain diseases, and I take a certain perverse pride in being able to understand their medical jargon, and being able to ask educated questions. It’s become a pretty useful skill for a layperson to have. I only wish that I hadn’t had so much experience hearing about cancer, heart conditions and mental illness.
It doesn’t matter that much that this time, it’s a cat instead of a person. As a confirmed crazy cat person, I have had cats become ill in the past – but this is my first experience with lymphoma. Who even knew that there were cat oncologists? I suppose it makes sense, because there are specialists in every area of pet care in the United States, as crazy as we are about our pets. I just never really gave it much thought before.
In the moment of listening to the veterinarian describing the size of the mass, the fluid building up around it, the course of chemo our tiny cat will face and the possibilities of remission, and in the days since, I have been torn by so many emotions. Gratitude, that there are such kind and thoughtful people available to help us through this crisis. Guilt, that we might be tormenting our sweet kitty with invasive and punishing treatments, only to prolong her life a short while. Despair, that there is now a constant vigil kept over her day-to-day condition, because she could fill up with fluid again at any time, pressing on her lungs from the outside and making it very difficult to breathe. Bittersweet memories of my good friend who died of cancer, both of good times and of her suffering and death. More guilt, that I am spending more time with my ailing cat than with the well ones, and with all the other things that are on my burgeoning to-do list. Depression, the ever-present black dog that I dance with on occasion. Gratitude again, that we have the means to be able to pay for her treatments.
I wonder how many times she will have to have fluid tapped from her chest? How many weeks of chemo before we see if it is going to help? How much of her misery is a result of chemo and how much from the cancer? Will we see her in full remission, with the same light in her eyes that she always had again?