April 19th 2015 2:48 pm
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I don’t think I’ll ever forget today one year ago. My heart was breaking as I shot my last pictures of Colette and Samsara together as I waited for the vet’s office to open so I could help Colette to the bridge.
She was born mid-September 2004 and she would never make it to her 10th birthday. When I adopted her in late October 2008 she already had the cards stacked against her. I had yet to find out that she had been dumped at Manhattan Animal Care and Control because of severe Inflammatory Bowel Disorder, an auto-immune disorder that could have cost her life even then. I also had yet to find out what else could go wrong for my poor baby. We found out quickly that she also had a heart murmur and feline rhinotracheitis herpes virus. In the 6 years we spent together Colette developed hyperthyroidism at 5 years old (a condition that usually only shows up in senior animals), and by the time she was almost 7 she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Later, she developed pancreatitis and onset kidney disease. Even so, she survived 2 ½ years past her initial diagnosis. Through aggressive treatment the cancer went into remission but when it resurfaced late 2013, it came in as urinary bladder cancer, in a completely new form. The tumors were only partially operable and there was no way I was going to allow her to go back under the knife. There was nothing more that could be done but take Colette home for palliative care.
My stars, what she taught me! And the bond between us! I was smitten with her from the moment I first saw her picture on Pet Finder. She had been in quarantine for a URI so I had to wait for over a month to meet her. When they brought her out, she started to wrap herself around my legs. They put some food in the meet and greet room for her and she had a hard time choosing between me and the food. For a healthy cat this would have been a non-issue. Colette couldn’t absorb her nutrients and her body was literally starving her. Until we got her IBD under control she was always famished.
And because of the IBD she could sometimes be quite cranky—who wouldn’t be if they had constant digestive system issues?! But she was my girl. In the early years she would run to greet me as I came in the door, so happy that she’d rub up against me then race across the living room to use her scratching post and come racing back again. Did she let me brush her at first? No. Up until Colette’s last 2 years with me that was always a battle. Meds? The first few months were a bit rocky, but after that she settled down and became a dream to medicate. She and I both learned patience and empathy, and I learned way too many things to enumerate here.
Colette was a fighter, and for sure, that’s what kept her going. I have yet to convince the vets how sweet she was. She would stress and growl terribly. Her oncologist’s vet tech was the only one who saw through it all. Stacy Ann would laugh and tell me that Colette was ‘all mouth’.
I miss my baby’s being here terribly. At night, I would oftentimes drift off to sleep pulling gently at the fur on her ruff. Oftentimes she would rest her paw or her chin on my hand. I miss the umpteen number of times she would show up to keep me company in the bathroom—sitting on top of the toilet, her grooming station, hoping for some extra brushing and bonding time. I even miss the times she would pull my hands off the computer keyboard, forgetting to retract her claws. I miss how sweet and how silly she could be.
She was a good girl and a great cat. Rest in peace, my angel.
May 18th 2014 11:20 pm
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Today marks Colette’s one month Bridge Day anniversary. I’m sure I don’t need to say how painful and raw this still is for me. I miss my baby girl terribly.
This is a very belated post. I haven’t been able to bring myself to Catster to write about this, much less to set Colette’s status to ‘no longer with us’.
Many of you know from Facebook that shortly after I wrote my last post here Colette came down with a bladder infection. At first it looked like the infection was causing bloody urine. We finished one round of antibiotics and the blood was back. I had an ultrasound done and the test results threw me into a tailspin. The ultrasound showed two tumors in her bladder that were only partially operable. It became clear very quickly that the tumors had been bleeding and that was what caused the bladder infection.
Many of you remember that Colette underwent two separate surgeries and six months of chemotherapy for breast cancer. The cancer went into remission for about two years. It came back and there wasn’t much more that could be done for her. Without biopsy results our vet could only guess that this was a new cancer: transitional cell carcinoma of the bladder.
(When I last posted here I wrote that Colette had been walking ‘funny’. This had been going on since late November, but there was nothing severe enough to get a handle on what was happening. In fact, when the vet saw it in January, she first thought that it was onset arthritis. It only became clear after the ultrasound that those tumors must have already started, and started making her uncomfortable in November.)
As of her last vet visit she became so stressed that I promised my girl that she would never see another vet until it was time to help her to the bridge. Partially operable tumors without the prospect of a good prognosis were not a good enough reason to agree to any further surgery for her. I brought her home for palliative care only.
But what an incredible emotional roller coaster Colette’s last months were. As late as a week before I had to help her to the bridge, the vet and I had gotten biopsy results from blood clot tissue Colette had passed with her urine. I had agreed to the tissue biopsy because the vet hoped for a definitive diagnosis; there are some relatively inexpensive chemo pills on the market that we might have tried had we known definitively what kind of cancer. This would have been a last hope for buying Colette some more time.
During her last two months I thought I would have to help her to the bridge three times, but each time she rallied. It became clear that she wasn’t going to rally again a month ago.
Rather than recreate the wheel, below are slightly altered Facebook posts I wrote just after Colette went to the bridge.
As of Thursday evening, it had been about 72 hours she hadn’t eaten anything (or barely eaten anything) except for small handfuls of treats. I noticed over the past few days that she was also giving me a devil of a time giving her meds—not so much the meds themselves but she was gagging on the syringed water chaser.
Late Thursday afternoon, as I was getting ready to leave the house, she had been on a tour of the apartment, leaving indiscriminate small puddles of blood or urine all over the hallways. It wasn’t even a question of her missing the wee wee pads. These were all new places. Thursday night she had the most insistent amazing need to be on my lap while I was at the computer. ‘Pay attention to me, love me up.’ I don’t think I ever felt her lean so hard on my hands before. I practically couldn’t lift my fingers to type.
Something had changed drastically. Whereas before she had a sweet/funky smell from her constantly soggy, bloody, backside, it had changed to a very pungent rancid smell. I mentioned in a post that evening that I figured out that I needed to lift Colette and the wee wee pad into my lap as one unit in order to keep the pad from shifting.
She spent over 10 hours Friday holed up on her blanket in my nook—her safe place at the time I first adopted her. Before this, she had spent her time curled up in her bed. At night, she would take her place beside my pillow expecting to get chin rubs or have me gently pull at her ruff. She loved that. She’d also give gummy kisses and pull at my hand so she could put her paw over it. That behavior stopped over the last week or so. She began to spend more and more time in her bed, or lying on the blanket in her safe place.
Friday was telling. She didn’t even come out for water. I offered treats and she smelled at them and licked her lips with the wave of nausea the smell brought on. I stroked her face during that time and the same thing happened. Even so, she spent yesterday purring for me every time I came around to love her up and be with her.
Whereas before she made endless rounds to the water fountain, the litter boxes, and the wee wee pads, it wasn’t till Friday night that she even came out for water. She made a couple of rounds to the wee wee pads and didn’t leave much behind. My neighbor came in to help with Samsara’s sub-q fluids and offered Colette treats again. She came out and started fawning all over her, anticipating the treats. She couldn’t eat them. Later, I lifted her into my lap while I worked at the computer. She stayed for what she considered a polite amount of time, jumped down and didn’t come back.
We sacked out on the sofa Friday night. I lifted her up there to be with me. When I covered myself with a light blanket I accidentally covered her too. This is something she has never permitted in the past. She stayed under the blanket that night.
I offered her treats yesterday morning. She took one piece and couldn’t continue. And, as she did Friday, she was very happy to be stroked and loved, purring constantly.
A few days’ time was all it took to rob her of any quality of life she had left. She barely cried on the way to the vet, and when I took her out of her carry bag, for the first time ever, the vet actually got a chance to pet her. She didn’t growl or hiss or put up any resistance.
I helped her to the bridge about noon yesterday. She went very peacefully while I held her.
She wasn’t going to rally again. When I reviewed with the vet what had transpired over the last few days, she told me I did the right thing.
The house is very quiet despite Samsara’s being here and acting quite needy. I spent the afternoon trying to sweep, clean litter boxes, wash out her wash cloth, towel, litter mats, and get rid of wee wee pads all over the house.
(This next referred to the late biopsy of the blood clot material I mentioned above.)
I misunderstood the vet when she left a phone message saying that the lab had found ‘no neoplastic (cancer) cells’. The lab report called it severe hemorrhagic cystitis. In one sense I was relieved—ohmigosh, it isn’t cancer. Then I thought about how much the current meds regimen cost: over $400 a month. I seriously wondered how much longer I could sustain costs like that. I swear, I didn’t know what I wanted—which was worse (or better), an end to all this, or the prospect of knowing Colette would be with me for some time to come.
I needn’t have gotten my hopes up. It was cancer. The only question still open was what kind of cancer and how much longer she would be around. (I had found a study cited online—in sample size of 20 cats, the median number of days survived after diagnosis of this cancer was 261—more than 9 months. Oh my lord! Even considering that Colette had started looking like she was walking funny towards the end of November, meaning that the tumors must have started to become uncomfortable as early as six months ago, it looked like this would feel like it was endless.)
It hasn’t been good. She was incontinent (sort of), straining in the litter boxes, wee wee pads were springing up all over the apartment with each new inappropriate place she chose to pee. And it wasn’t just urine; her tumors were bleeding. During the worst of it, her backside was constantly covered in sticky blood. When things were going better, her pee was light pink. My greatest fear was that there would be an acute hemorrhage in the middle of night. Thank heavens she and I were spared that.
The last few weeks have been an endless amount of work. Each morning I got up, and before even having my morning coffee, I would start administering meds to Colette and Samsara, begin sweeping litter scattered more than 20 ft. from each of the two litter-boxes and down the hallways. Then I would scoop the boxes. From there I would start changing wee wee pads and using kitty enzymes to wash the blood and urine off floor where Colette had missed the pads, or from the path she dripped to and from all her places. In the space of 5 minutes, walking from room to room, I would find Colette had beat me to each room and was in another litter box or on another wee wee pad. She was getting antibiotic twice a day, a Chinese herbal to stop blood, prednisolone to reduce swelling, pain killers every 8 hours, Cerenia to stop the nausea and Mirtazapine to keep her eating. I was shampooing her backside using a washcloth and warm water at least twice a day—she peed standing up and everything would make its way down the back of her legs.
There was more to these two posts, but I will save that for later. Hopefully this wasn’t too disjointed. I’ve tried to cut and paste some of it so that it makes more sense time-wise. If some of the language sounds like it was written today, that’s because I didn’t change it to reflect that I wrote this a month ago.
My poor girl had the patience of Job. She endured more in her few short years than any creature should have to put up with over a span of 50 years. Through it all she was sweet (and spicy) at turns. She was a lover and a fighter. I truly believe that is what kept her going. She was a great cat—meticulously clean when it was within her power to be clean, she didn’t destroy things, and I don’t remember a day that went by without her showing me how much she loved me and how grateful she was that I adopted her. She was smart and funny. She was the kind of cat that came running to take care of you when you hurt yourself and yelped in pain. And I have never had a cat that was so incredibly wonderful about taking meds. Maybe it was how we established that relationship (she was difficult for perhaps her first two months with me), but after that, she made it so easy. She never ran away to hide, and in her last weeks I’d find her seeking me out within minutes of my beginning to look for her to give her the meds.
She was a beautiful girl with a beautiful soul. Through all her trials she taught me so much.
I will never forget the day early on when she wandered into the apartment building hallway and panicked when the door shut behind her. Even though I was there with her she was so afraid that she would never be able to go home again. Her ashes are home now. Colette is home.
Thank you so much to everyone who stopped by and left the beautiful gifts for us. I cried again, but, at the same time, your caring has made all the difference in the world.
Fly free my Baby Colette. I love you and I miss you so!
January 16th 2014 8:11 pm
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It’s been a long hard day, and now to come home to find out that our cherished links to each other will no longer be here.
We (the girls and I) may not have been around very much in the past year but never, for a moment, did we stop caring about everybody.
I have a big lump in my throat as I write this and I’m tempted to add one last “Oh nosey!” exclamation from Marrakech and mean it with all my heart.
I think I speak for us all when I say that I made cherished friendships here. The girls and I have been around since the end of 2008—beginning what would have amounted to 6 years had this forum lasted until Colette’s adoption date in late October.
Colette and I met through Catster over its Pet-Finder link. We began to make friends…I noted as I copied and saved every last diary entry I wrote, that heavy-hitter, Marrakech counted 1655 of you as part of her clowder.
It is because of all of you that I began to formulate the idea of establishing myself as a pet photographer. I’m still working on making the business lucrative, which is why I haven’t been here much.
And, because of you, I wrote what I consider to be some of the finest creative writing I will ever produce. Thank you.
You all supported us (me) through Marrakech’s long illnesses and final trip to the Bridge. You were here for us through all of Colette’s travails….cheering on every good poop and pee report and easing the pain of finding out she had cancer. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Before I sign off, (and I’ll try to log back in over the next few days/weeks) I want to:
1. Leave my e:mail so you can contact me. firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Invite you to send me a friend request over FaceBook (Carol Zytnik)
3. Invite you to visit my website: furreverphotos.com
4. Update you on Colette and Samsara
5. Hear from you letting me know how you and your fur kids are doing—I mean that.
Samsara is still doing quite well despite tipping over from onset kidney disease to full-fledged CKD. She’s lost a bit of weight, but all in all, she’s doing well. At 15 going on 16, she’s turned into very much the cranky old lady who will not hesitate to let you know she’s the alpha, to make demands, and to keep on demanding until she gets what she wants. In fact, she never shuts up! Poor me!
At times she still plays like a kitten and she’s starting to learn all Marrakech’s tricks with regard to trying to avoid taking her meds. She’s really come into her own after Keshy went to the bridge and she’s quite a character. She exasperates me and, at the same time, she makes me laugh!
Colette celebrated her 2nd anniversary of surviving cancer. She has slowed down considerably though. I would be cheering the first, if a lot of other stuff hasn’t been going on over the last couple of weeks. I just had her at the vet for the second time this week with regard to getting blood and urine tests. The first results are in. Colette too has tipped the scales from onset renal disease to full-fledged CKD. And what first appeared to be an IBD-related food issue and my fault (sort of—trying to stimulate getting her to eat—and feeding some limited ingredient chicken) may be either nothing or part of a much larger issue. The vet just sent us home with antibiotics for what (hopefully—paws crossed) is a bladder infection that’s causing a lot of blood when she urinates. But preliminary tests show her pancreas numbers are off too. Is she now adding Pancreatitis as part of her Inflammatory Bowel Disorder? Is the blood being caused by a bladder infection or an intestinal tumor? We don’t know yet.
Her walk has also been sort of lumbering in the past couple of months. The vet suspects that she’s getting arthritis.
She’s been a bit on the subdued side for the past few weeks, but she’s still Colette—a darling, loving girl who can sometimes be quite cranky. The 7.5 lb cat I adopted is now 12.2 lbs. When I first brought her home she would not cuddle; she’s now a lap cat. Sit at the computer and ignore her at your own peril—she will put holes in your calf or the top of your hand, pulling at you until you pick her up. She hated being brushed…she shows up in the bathroom demanding to be brushed at least three times a day now.
And so, until we meet again. I don’t want this to be goodbye, just the beginning of something new.
Purrs, huggies, headbonks and love,
Carol, Samsara, Colette & Angels Marrakech, Misha, B.A. & Cappuccino