Bad News

Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Waxing Moon
Sunny and pleasant

The news about Elsa is very bad. I called the vet, told them what was going on, and they made room in the schedule, saying I had to bring her in immediately. I packed her back in the crate (she was all happy to go on another car trip), and we headed out. The traffic on the LIE was a nightmare as usual, especially the 18 wheelers who think crushing a VW Rabbit is a sport.

We got there –early — and had to wait for an hour (I was early). I sat there with Elsa, reading my book and making sure she was comfortable. She was the only cat there — the room was full of about a dozen rambunctious puppies in for their shots.

When we came in, the vet took one look at her, read the paperwork from the previous night (which, although it was faxed over, was nowhere to be found; however, I made a copy and brought it). She took one look at Elsa and said, “it’s a nasal tumor. It’s growing and will disfigure her and cause her a lot of pain.” She told me I had to go to a state-of-the-art facility in Yonkers where they’d do a series of biopsies and CT scans (under anesthesia) and then a course of radiation therapy. The oncologist won’t even TALK to me until the previous series of procedures are done, which I think is total bullshit. She said her cat had the same thing, and it bought years. I was worried about two things — the cost, and the fact that Elsa is fourteen years old, and that’s an awful lot to put an old cat through. She said Elsa’s age didn’t matter, and that I should sell my car or get a loan or something because “that’s how it’s done.” I felt the latter comment was especially inappropriate. She kept looking at Elsa, shaking her head and saying, “What a shame.”

I admit at that point, I wanted to slap her.

I refrained. I was too shocked and upset. She kept giving me the spiel for this center in Yonkers, ramming it down my throat. Elsa, who went into the exam the way she always does, assuming she’s making a new friend, suddenly bristled — the doc made her person cry and she didn’t like this doctor anymore.

I asked about other options and was told I had none.

I got two kinds of medication, one a 30-day supply of a steriod that should shrink the tumor in her nose and make it easier, at least in the short term, for her to eat and breathe. I was told that the antibiotic she was given at the emergency clinic was dangerous to give for more than 7 days (the vet there told me she’d need to be on it for 3-4 weeks).

I left the clinic in a daze, had a meltdown in the car, sent texts to Costume Imp and my friend G. G. called back almost immediately, and we talked for a bit, so I was able to pull it together and drive home (in horrible traffic and not get squished by trucks).

I kind of feel both stunned and railroaded. First of all, I’m not a fan of invasive procedures. I want to know what my options are, and a timeline. Second, when I was faced with being told that my “only” choice for myself were radiation and chemo, I refused, and here I am, over 20 years later. And I even had insurance at that point, so I would have had a chance at actual treatment — if I got a similar diagnosis now, I couldn’t have treatment, even if I wanted it, because our lack of a health-care system is built on only serving and saving those who are rich, or those who provide a good photo op. I feel that Elsa is 14 years old, she’s never done well under anesthesia, and to put her through nearly a half a dozen procedures under anesthesia before they even got to the radiation concerns me. According to research I did amongst friends, family members and colleagues who’ve been through this, the MOST it ever bought their cat was three extra MONTHS, not years, and the cat always looked at them during the process like, “why are you torturing me?” I don’t want Elsa to suffer, either from the disease or the “cure”.

All of that is separate from the cost, which is also a huge issue. The doctor said the least it could possibly cost was $5K, and it would probably be a lot more. $5K for procedures that will hurt her and frighten her and only buy her three months. If I wouldn’t choose that route for myself, even when I could, should I choose it for my cat? What is the BEST thing to do for HER?

I don’t have the answer to that yet.

What I want to do is do what I’d do for a human member of my family — get a second opinion. I researched holistic/integrative vets for an article a few months ago — I’ll probably pick one of those and set up an appointment in the next few days to see what that doctor says and talk about other options. I’d also like to have a vet close by, rather than hauling Elsa to a clinic that’s an hour and a half away, and where I keep getting a round robin of doctors. If she’s really this sick, she needs a steady medical presence. I’m tempted to go back to the vet who looked after Felicia during her last year of CRF, but their front desk has gotten so rude and the prices skyrocketed so much, that’s why I stopped going. I don’t even know if the vet we all liked so much is still there. And, since they’re not holistically integrated, I don’t think that’s the right choice. If that vet recommends a biopsy, then I’ll take that step and work from there. I’m also going to talk to my acupuncturist (the one who works on racehorses) and a Reiki practitioner who specializes in pets and was on my interview list for the article. A friend and I got rid of Felicia’s tumor with Reiki in 48 hours — to the point where, when I brought her back to the vet two days later and he compared Xrays and the scan, he said if he wasn’t looking right at her and knew it was the same cat, he’d think he was treating two different cats.

What I want are options and information. As I said, I feel I’m being pushed towards something that’s not only hugely expensive, but may not be in Elsa’s best interests. The steriods buy us a little time, as long as I don’t procrastinate.

She’s happy and friendly and purring. The medications seem to make her feel better, although she still sneezes and keeps pawing at her nose. But there’s no bloody discharge any more. She played a little yesterday evening, and wanted to cuddle. She’s eating better, especially if I spoon feed her. The vet said that one reason she’s been eating smaller, more frequent meals is that the tumor makes it impossible for her to breathe while she eats. I discovered that if I spoon-feed her, she can keep her head up, breathe better, and eat more.

I feel I need more information before I can make a good choice for her.

I’m devastated. Elsa jumped into my arms when she was seven weeks old — I had no intention of adopting her, but she’d been rescued by the organization working out of the place around the corner from me in the city where I bought my pet food. She saw me walk past and banged on the window. When I walked into the store, she leapt over the fence into my arms. The proprietor just said, “Obviously, she’s yours. We know you; we don’t need to go through the whole adoption rigamarole. Here’s her vaccination record.” And that was it. We soon found out she was a “special needs” cat with a neurological problem that made it impossible to land on her feet. Five vets told me to put her down, because she’d get worse and worse as she got older. She got cuter and cuter. Elsa and I have been through a lot for the last fourteen years. I want to do the right thing for her.

I’ve cancelled trips to Maine, Seneca Falls, and Canada over the next couple of months, until I know what’s what. I still kept a couple of gigs booked in Philadelphia. I was going to cancel today’s research trip to the city, but my mom’s staying with her, and she’s better today, so why not get everything I need in case I can’t go in a few weeks because Elsa is worse?

Day by day. That’s it. Day by day.

That’s all we can do.


Published in: on April 20, 2010 at 5:54 am  Comments (10)  
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  1. Do not be pushed into something that will prolong Elsa’s life, but make her miserable. I did that with China and regret it- terribly.

    “She saw me walk past and banged on the window. When I walked into the store, she leapt over the fence into my arms.” She trusts you (then and now)and knows whatever decision you make is the right decision. You have to believe this too. Afterall, you took her home.


  2. I’m really sorry to read this news. No wonder you’re devastated. Good luck with the 2nd opinions and other options. Sending love.

  3. {{{Devon]}} Definitely look for that second opinion. I really hate when doctors say you have to do this as opposed to giving you alternatives or at least offer to find a second opinion for you.

  4. Much love and prayers to you, hon. I’m so sorry she’s having such health problems. God bless her from her paws to her tail. It’s so difficult when family is ill – especially when that family is such an integral part of your daily life.

    Meditate on it. The right answer will come.

  5. It sounds to me like that vet is playing on your emotional state of mind to get you to do something you’re against and that’s wrong. I hate that kind of business.

    You are going to make an informed decision that is best for you and Elsa and that’s that. I’m so sorry that she’s so sick. Our cats are like our babies, a long-time family member. It’s hard to see them get sick.

    HUGS! And I’m sending you lots of positive thoughts for you and her.

  6. {{HUGS}} on everything, honey. I am so sorry to hear this. You will pull through. Sending well wishes to Elsa.

  7. So sorry. I went through something similar years ago with my sixteen-year-old Siamese best friend. It was a liver problem with her.

    I’m always suspicious when a doctors strongly suggest a certain medicine or clinic. It makes me think they’re getting a kickback. By all means, get the second opinion. DO NOT SELL YOUR CAR or TAKE OUT A LOAN.

    A vet with ethics would give you an honest assessment and set you up with an affordable payment plan. Ask the doctor what they would do if it were their pet.

    I know it’s tough. Even though they are animals, they’re still part of the family. Here’s a big hug for you.

  8. I am so sorry. I hope you do get a second opinion. Hugs to you and Elsa. I’ll be keeping you both in my prayers.

  9. Hi Devon .. my thoughts are with you – terrible times .. and Elsa’s of this world are so special .. look after yourself and I can only wish you all be at peace … Hilary

  10. So sorry to read about your Elsa. It sounds like you’re doing the very best for her right now, and have for the past 14 years. Best wishes in seeking the second opinion, and sending gentle pets to Elsa 🙂

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