Sunday, January 9, 2011

It truely IS a Happy New Year

A belated happy new year to everyone!

How does this happen every year? One minute it is December 1st and I'm busy getting the house decorated for Christmas and starting my Christmas cookie baking and the next minute I find myself 1 week into January.

I'm happy to report we've all survived both literally and figuratively.

I've managed to come through the holidays unaffected by the usual colds, bronchitis, and stomach flu that swept through many family members and friends. I'll knock wood and hope it continues. It must be all the fresh air and exercise I'm getting during my twice daily walks at the dog park with Gator, because is sure wasn't due to getting plenty of sleep and healthy eating during the holidays.

The other figurative "survival" is Gator. I'm so proud of him, he never showed any interest in bothering the Christmas decorations, tree, or presents. However, I can no longer say the same for food, having "survived" both his almond spritz "taste test" and Weight Watcher Lemon snack cake adventure. Both occurred when we were busy with Marta and he was home alone.

The first occurred when we made a sudden trip into an emergency veterinary clinic with Marta while 62 almond spritz cookies sat cooling on the counter. Up until this point Gator had not shown much interest in things left on the counter, so other than moving the cookies away from the edge, I didn't give it a thought. Arriving home a couple hours later, I found 2 cookies and a few crumbs on the floor, and a very happy dog. This marks the first and only time Gator has failed to eat everything offered. The positive here: it wasn't any of the several kinds of chocolate cookies I bake.

The second occurred 4 days later while at the Veterinary School. Returning home, we walked into a living room littered with pieces of cardboard from a Weight Watchers lemon snack cake box, a couple of plastic wrappers, and again, a very happy dog. Gator had eaten all 12 of the lemon snack cakes and a good many of the plastic wrappers. The positive here: everything "came out" OK.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. I now know that Gator IS quite interested and willing to check out the counter for food. Fortunately, he showed no ill effects from his adventures, and unlike small children, he won't pull the kitchen chair up to the counter to get into the pantry cupboards where food is now kept.

The literal survival is Marta. In an earlier post I called her my Miracle Girl. She continues to live up to the name.

Shortly before Christmas, Marta had a sudden episode of coughing and was breathing in a way that made me concerned that there was a lower airway problem. Going back to my "Happy Birthday Marta" first thought of course was is this "it"? Is this the sign that her Feline Leukemia was active and her lungs were riddled with cancer or beginning to accumulate fluid? The products of the evening's baking (the almond spritz cookies) were still warm as I pulled Bill away from Monday Night football and bundled Marta into her carrier for the trip into Madison.

We returned home later that night, encouraged by the preliminary x-ray findings but still nervous about the results of additional work up that would be done overnight. We also returned home to our very happy Gator, with his stomach full of almond spritz cookies. I told him that if he had a stomach ache, he deserved it and I would NOT be making another trip to the emergency clinic that night! (I would have, of course, I just wasn't going to let him know)

With Marta improved on antibiotics and bronchodilators and no obvious cause pinpointed, we chalked it up to "one of the weird things cats do" and brought her home the next evening. Throughout the week she did well, and life continued as usual with all the holiday activity.

4 days later, I awoke at 4:00AM to the sounds of Marta having breathing problems. It continued to worsen and by 5:00AM I was calling the Veterinary School to tell them I was on the way in with an emergency. After a brief history she was whisked away to an oxygen cage until she was well enough for more tests. This time the x-rays revealed a mass in her trachea, at around the level of where the airway enters the chest. The red blood cell level was lower but in relation the the finding of the mass, it was not alarming.

I've practiced long enough to know that with Marta's history of Feline Leukemia, a mass is considered Lymphoma cancer until proven otherwise. It was likely that the thing I had been dreading for 7 1/2 years was occurring, this was probably "it". We went over other possibilities...a foreign object, other types of growths, but they were long shots.

Having decided against options like surgery or MRI, I was given an estimate for continued evaluation...$3,000-$5,000 for more time in the ICU on oxygen, scoping her trachea to remove a foreign object or to collect a biopsy sample if a mass was confirmed, more x-rays, more blood tests. The scoping itself was a risk...she may not get enough oxygen, the mass may swell and further block the airway, she may have uncontrolled bleeding...she may not survive these complications. We hadn't even begun to discuss possible treatment options.

In addition, she was not responding to the oxygen or the steroids that had been given after the preliminary tests. Mid-morning, I called Bill with an update and to talk about our options. Tearfully, I filled out the paperwork for euthanasia and autopsy, and waited for Bill to come.

Bill arrived close to lunchtime, with Marta's favorite purple fluffy in hand, a familiar object that she could snuggle in as we euthanized her. Call it a Christmas miracle, call it using up one more of her cats' nine lives, call it what you will, as we were led down the hallway to ICU , Marta had started to breathe better and was comfortable enough to start grooming and asking for attention! How could we euthanize her now? We couldn't.

Change of plans. More time in ICU, more time to stabilize her, move the procedure to Monday and hope for the best. We left the Vet School on Saturday, encouraged by our miracle girl. Gator must have telepathically received the good news, and with all cookies out of reach, "celebrated" by eating the dozen snack cakes.

The procedure went well and we were able to bring Marta home Monday night. Lymphoma was suspected but biopsy results would take several days. We decided that we would not do a full course of chemotherapy, as we'd likely have done it for our sake, not hers (she wouldn't understand or like the weekly car rides, vet visits or chemotherapy treatments). We opted for a single chemo injection while she was there and steroids at home, an option that would be less stressful for her.

In bringing Marta home, I got my best gift this year...another Christmas with my miracle girl. As she lays on my pillow (and head) every night I can hear her breathing comfortably. I don't know how much time she has, but for now she's following her usual routine, she's gained weight, she's happy. And so am I.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Laura & Bill, Wow you did have an interesting Holiday.....Your dad told me that you had an interesting month....So tonight when I could not sleep I thought I'd check it out.....Very good information.....I hope for the best for all of you.....I will start driving so I will check to get dads hair cut and go to see your mom....So take good care....Micki....