≡ Menu

The Long Goodbye

Photo by Tammy Strobel

Hi friends,

On Friday—January 26, 2018—my cat Elaina had a follow-up appointment with our veterinarian because she had surgery on her bum last week and a mass removed from her tongue. Unfortunately, the biopsy results contained bad news. Elaina has an aggressive form of cancer in her mouth called squamous cell carcinoma.

We opted not to do chemotherapy or radiation because the treatment isn’t effective against this cancer type and would significantly hinder the quality of Elaina’s life. At this point, we want to keep Elaina as comfortable as possible (which includes giving her pain medication daily). Right now, we’re taking things day by day, and we hope that Elaina will eat and drink more.

The news about Elaina walloped me. I didn’t expect it because Christie has been the sick one. In August 2017, she was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease. Thankfully, Christie is content, maintaining her weight, feisty, and playful.

To cope with the bad news, I started rereading portions of Thomas McNamee’s book—The Inner Life of Cats. It’s a beautiful book, and McNamee’s chapters on Illness, Aging & Death as well as Love comforted me.

I don’t know how long Elaina will be around. I didn’t ask the vet for a time frame on Friday because I was upset. We’ve started talking about pain management, nutrition, hydration, hygiene, and physical comfort, and on Monday, I’ll check in with the vet about a detailed hospice care plan for Elaina. We want our girl to be happy and comfortable during her last days; whether that’s a week or 6 months.

I’ll leave you with a few quotes by McNamee:

“… as long as we love them, they bless us with their love. It’s like people, really. You can make a lot of mistakes, as long as you try to tune in to how your cat understands that you love her. It does require paying attention.”

“… We love our cats with a purity and grace not possible in our love of our spouses, our parents, or even our children. People are too complicated for love as simple as what we bear to our cats. It is not agape, phileo, caritas, amor, or eros (roughly: selfless love, brotherly love, love of humankind, romantic love, and erotic love, respectively). I believe it has never been named. The kinship between our cats and ourselves reaches deep beneath consciousness, to a place before history, perhaps even before the development of self-expressible human intellect … It is devotional, like prayer, and like prayer it is met with silence. Our devotion is what gives cats their power.”

With gratitude,

40 comments… add one
  • jen January 27, 2018, 11:40 am

    oh tammy i feel for you. it was for different health reasons but i had a long goodbye with a furbaby last year. i am so sorry. it is a very difficult and painful time for you i am sure. elaina is a lucky girl to have you watching over her, making sure she has the happiest quality of life.

    thank you for mentioning that book, which i have put on my reading list.

    • Tammy Strobel January 27, 2018, 11:47 am

      I’m so sorry for your loss, Jen. Thank you for the kind words. McNamee’s book is beautiful! I hope you enjoy it. 🙂

    • Cynthia January 27, 2018, 4:39 pm

      Thank you for letting us know—I’m sorry you’re beautiful kitty is leaving you. I have a feeling I’m behind you on this path so although saddened, I’m appreciative of your inspiring post. Thanks for the lead on the book. Sending love

  • Cathy McCabe January 27, 2018, 11:42 am

    So sorry to hear this Tammy. I feel your pain, and support your decisions to do what’s best for your girl. We’re thinking loving thoughts here in Big Bear, CA for your little furry family.

  • Ams Wolf January 27, 2018, 11:48 am

    This fall, I had to put one of my 2 cats down. They were sisters. The one I had to put down had been diagnosed with hyperthyroidism. We tried the treatments, medications and such, but she was miserable on the pills, wouldn’t purr and just laid around. So I took her off the meds. She returned to her happy spunky self and I focused on quality over quantity of her life. She lasted a couple years before she had wasted to literally less then half the cat she use to be. She was just skin and bones when I took her in for her last vet appointment, but she still purred quickly and easily. Having her put down was harder on me then on her I do believe. On the vet’s recommendation, I then took her home and let her sister see her. Her sister took one sniff and looked at me like, “she’s not here, why are you showing her to me?” I then took her out into the back 40 and buried her under a favorite tree. Her sister has not seemed to miss her. Enjoy your time with her. And good luck with her transition when it comes.

    • Tammy Strobel January 27, 2018, 11:57 am

      I’m sorry for your loss, and thank you for sharing your story. We’ll enjoy our time with Elaina. She’s a sweet girl. xoxo.

  • Sharle Kinnear January 27, 2018, 11:50 am

    I am so sorry to read this….. How hard it is to accept the mortality of our beloved cats! My heart goes out to you and Logan, and I’m sending lots of cyber-love to all of you. Sweet kitty……may you know comfort and love.

  • Teresa Dickey January 27, 2018, 12:02 pm

    You are incredibly strong and a great pet owner. I am sorry of what you are going through however I know you will have much more wisdom concerning this kind of experience. You all are in my prayers!

    • Tammy Strobel January 27, 2018, 12:13 pm

      Thank you for the sweet comment & prayers Teresa. xoxo.

  • Melanie January 27, 2018, 12:31 pm

    I’m so sorry to read this. I know Elaina has been mightily loved and hope she still has some good days ahead. I will be praying for all of you.

  • Anne January 27, 2018, 12:44 pm

    Thank you for this post. So timely. A month ago my kitty was given six months to two years to live, Hyperthyroidism and chronic kidney disease. Unfortunately, the thyroid meds make the kidneys worse and off thyroid meds, she will waste away. As an adult, I have lost three pets, but it never gets easier. I will look for the book you recommend and enjoy all my moments with her.

    • Tammy Strobel January 27, 2018, 12:48 pm

      Ohhh Anne. I’m so sorry! I’m sending you & your kitty hugs. I hope the book helps. xoxo.

  • Mary Hine January 27, 2018, 12:49 pm

    So sorry that your kitty is so sick. I have 5 cats, the oldest is 18, the 2 youngest are 11. One of the youngest is my special companion as I am disabled and bedridden due to a spinal injury. She sleeps on my pillow at night and rarely leaves my side. She was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy when she went suddenly into heart failure 16 months ago. She survived and is on 4 meds twice a day. Most of the time she acts fine but if she is too stressed she goes back into failure with shortness of breath. Her time is limited, so I try to enjoy her and love her, but it is so hard to face her impending death. Your quotes were very helpful, I will have to read the book. Take care.

  • Laura Kent January 27, 2018, 1:44 pm

    I’m so sorry to hear this Tammy. I have loved following your girls through your Facebook page. There is nothing like the Love of a furbaby. Cherish the time you have left. Know that their love stays with you even after they are gone. Make a print of her paw. Keep some of her hair. Love to you and Logan and both your beautiful girls.

  • Lisa January 27, 2018, 2:09 pm

    I’m tearing up thinking of the pain you must be going through with this news. I lost a beloved cat too soon five years ago and still miss him. The quotes you shared are lovely. Enjoy every moment with her. Lots of love.

  • Suzannah Kolbeck January 27, 2018, 2:13 pm

    I am so sorry to hear this. What a life she has had, though – loved so well and thoroughly by you.

  • Annie January 27, 2018, 2:26 pm

    I’m sending hugs to you and Logan and cuddles to Elaina. I’ve been through similar situations with many beloved pets and I know how difficult it is to witness. Please know that I am keeping all of you in my thoughts and prayers. She’s a lucky kitty in having such a loving family and you have been blessed with a chance to love such an adorable creature.

  • Connie - Tails from the Foster Kittens January 27, 2018, 4:24 pm

    I’ve had a couple of cats pass after receiving life ending diagnoses and I chose not to treat. It is hard to let go of that “do anything” mentality when you realize that it would do more harm than good.

    Purrs that you have oodles of quality time together and that you have that clear signal at the end that it is time.

  • Rebecca | Seven2Seven8 January 27, 2018, 5:01 pm

    I’m so sorry to read this.

    I adopted two 2.5 year-old cats when I moved to my current town in 2001. In September 2009, Margo-kitty developed a mast-cell tumor on her neck. We also elected not to pursue chemo and treated with steroids as long as she could eat, drink, and be comfortable. We said goodbye in February 2010. I still miss her, but feel we did right and well by her, enjoying the time with our girl without holding on too long, and at her expense, if that makes sense.

    End-of-life decisions represent a great burden and gift of pet companionship. We can do so right by them when it comes to their lives (hopefully long) and last days (hopefully comfortable).

    She’s lucky to have you as her people.

  • Pippy January 27, 2018, 5:42 pm

    Oh Tammy, I am so sorry to hear this news. I have an almost 16 year old Jack Russell Terrier who has been my soul mate since she was a pup. I just found out she has cancer. I knew she had health issues, but now it’s official. She has really good days, but the last few days have not been so great. I am going through what you are going through right now. The waiting, the careful watching and now the planning. I am not sure if she has a week or six months either, but I know I have been counting every day together as a gift. Do you know of any dog books? Lots of love to you and your family during this time. Love, Pippy

  • Paul January 27, 2018, 5:58 pm

    Sorry to hear about the cancer. We did treat one of our cats for cancer and decided never again. The treatment is painful and the cat doesn’t understand why you are subjecting it to more pain.

  • Laura January 27, 2018, 6:40 pm

    Oh Tammy!
    I am so sad to read this. I remember when she became apart of your family.. She will be joining her sister Abby. Please give her scratches and kisses for me. Love to you and your little babes!

    • Tammy Strobel January 28, 2018, 10:07 am

      Laura, it’s so good to hear from you! I’m sorry to hear about sweet Abby. Sending you and Ryan love!!!!

  • Krissi January 27, 2018, 9:12 pm

    I’m so sorry to hear this. But, all we can do is love them and cherish them. Know that we make their lives whole, just as they do for us. I’ve been in this situation a few times, and have always felt my pets told me when it was time. I made their final days amazing, as I’m sure you are doing for her. Stay strong, and when you can’t, that’s okay. They are part of us always.

  • Amanda January 28, 2018, 3:43 am

    I am so sorry and heartbroken for you. I’m sure during this difficult time Elaina will be shown even more that she is loved and cared for by you. I will keep you all in my thoughts and prayers and send love and light to you.

  • Linda Walker January 28, 2018, 5:28 am

    Continuing to send many warm thoughts and purrayers your way.

  • Jennifer January 28, 2018, 5:43 am

    I’m sorry, Tammy. Time can be measured and yet there never seems enough. They teach us what can’t be measured…love is in every moment and so it’s timeless. I said good-bye to my 17-year old cat, Simon, last summer. He taught me many lessons but the most surprising is that I’m sad only when I focus on the physical loss. He left my heart fuller than he found it. When I feel that, I know I didn’t lose him after all. Hugs to you and Elaina.

  • Lynn Cavagnaro January 28, 2018, 5:50 am

    So hard to say goodbye to a constant companion. They are family. Thinking of you.

  • Joan Smith Freeman January 28, 2018, 11:04 am

    Oh, Tammy… we are so very sorry to hear the sad news about Elaina. Sending lots of love and hugs to you & Logan.

  • Sarah January 29, 2018, 6:24 am

    I am so sorry <3

  • Anousha January 29, 2018, 11:44 am

    I’m truly sorry Tammy. I love my cat so so so much, I can only feel your pain. She is almost 15 now and recently I’ve been thinking a lot about how terrible it will be to lose her. The best thing to do is just to continue loving them as much as we possibly can, which I am sure you will be great at.

    • Tammy Strobel January 29, 2018, 3:27 pm

      Thank you Anousha! Your comment is so true. xoxo.

  • Vanessa January 30, 2018, 2:26 pm

    Dear Tammy,
    Thank you for sharing Elaina’s journey with us. My husband and I adopted a dog, one year into our relationship. 3 years later, we adopted two kittens, Mystique & Willow but Willow died soon after. We adopted two sister tiger-tabbies (Gabrielle & Pandora) after that and then another kitten Onyx and another, Methos and finally, we adopted our goofball, Merlin. They were our ‘babies’. This was almost 20 years ago and I just didn’t think that through. They were all kittens. AT. THE. SAME. TIME!!!

    We are now full-time RVers and the babies have been on the road with us for almost 7 years! Our dog, Sophie, passed when she was almost 11 years old. She was cremated in NE AZ. Then, we buried Gabrielle while we were camp-hosting in S. Oregon. She was almost 13. 6 months later, her sister, Pandora was buried in MD (our hometown and where Willow is buried). This past December, on the 29th….our goofball, Merlin passed away. Almost made it to 16. He is now buried next to a friend’s kitty on their property, out in the desert of AZ. And now, there are only 3 left. They all 3 turn 16 this year…..

    It’s rough. I know I’m on the clock with all 3 of them and that our time together is to be cherished. What in the world was I thinking? Adopting 6 baby kitties….all the same age? This is my ONLY regret with ANY of them. 🙁 They have given me such joy and love, each one of them. I miss them. I suppose I always will though.

    I feel for ya, love. I really do. You seem like such a sweet soul and so does your Logan….the way you speak of him. Elaina is a lucky little girl. Please take care of yourselves and be gentle with each other. Lots of hugs to you all!

    • Tammy Strobel January 31, 2018, 11:47 am

      Thank you Vanessa! Sending you love, and I’m sorry for your losses. xoxo.

  • Alicia January 30, 2018, 3:51 pm

    I’m sorry to hear the news about Elaina, Tammy. The greatest gift you can give her is love. Sending both of you love and Reiki.

  • Boundforglory February 1, 2018, 4:39 pm

    Dear Tammy,
    I’ve been a long time follower of yours. One of my favorite parts of staying connected with you has been seeing your kitties.
    When I read your post about Elaina’s cancer, my heart sank and I shed some tears.
    I can relate to your worry and heartache as I went through cancer with my 11 year old cat two years ago.
    Something that gave quality of life to my girls last two months was that the vet put her on a steroid which increased her desire to eat. I know the steroid helped her and perhaps it’s something to chat with your vet about for Elaina.
    I believe our pets let us know when it’s time for us to step in and help them transition; this is one of the hardest things we must do as our pets guardian.
    This may sound odd to some people, but when one of my pets passes what has helped my heart heal and brought back glimmers of joy to my life is to keep my heart and home open to adopting another furry family member fairly soon after a passing. Adopting again never ever replaces or makes me forget my beloved (cat), it simply helps me grieve, heal, and give love to a pet in need once again.
    These are just my experiences to share with you and others.
    I’m sending love and support to you, Elaina and your family.

    • Tammy Strobel February 2, 2018, 9:01 am

      Thank you for sharing your story and for the advice. I appreciate it! I’ll talk with our vet about steroids. Right now she’s on pain med’s and that’s helped her appetite significantly. xoxo. 🙂

Leave a Comment