The Long Goodbye
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."