My cat, Tubs, wasn’t acting like himself last week. He was laying under the bed, trying to get in the bathroom door that’s always closed, not eating as much, not moving around as much. I got him to the vet as soon as I realized it wasn’t just a weird phase (because sometimes he does start laying somewhere new or boycott food he suddenly decided he doesn’t like).
His liver was enlarged, so was his pancreas, and they couldn’t be sure what it was. I felt so guilty. I should have gotten him in sooner. I started crying because it was clear his situation at the moment was rather grim. The vet, Dr. Scherman at Roscoe Village Animal Hospital, asked me what I was feeling. I told her about the guilt and she was so reassuring about how cats hide it when they aren’t feeling well and how long it can take to notice minor changes. He needed an ultrasound to figure it out and he couldn’t wait long. She was clear that this wouldn’t be an easy fix and laid out some possibilities. We left with uncertainty and a referral for an ultrasound.
I took him home (thanks for the ride Sam and Alex) for the night to save those overnight fees and brought him to the emergency vet first thing in the morning (thanks for the ride Thom). He was there most of the day. The doctor called. It could be an infection, fatty liver disease, or lymphoma and there’s no real well to tell until we start eliminating things through treatment. She spoke with my regular vet. Instead of staying for observation with a feeding tube I brought him home for the night (cost effective). The next morning I took him back. Dr. Scherman put in a feeding tube and they observed him for a few hours after the procedure. One of the vet techs told me that he sat in on their staff meeting, recovering in a towel in a cat bed and charming everyone. I know everyone thinks their pet is the favorite at the vet’s office, but mine really was 😂.
I watched a few videos on feeding tube training. It’s really nice to have something to refer to. The vet tech and Dr. Scherman both made sure I knew what I was doing, how much to give and how challenging it would be. It has been. Every 3-4 hours I put a large syringe cocktail of wet food, water, medicine into a bowl of warm water to get it the right temperature. I pull Tubs from his hiding spot as gently as I can. I flush with water, follow our feeding chart, and flush again. I observe his reactions to see if I can give him a bit more or if I should ease off. Sometimes the tube clogs. I have to use some water to sort of ‘plunger effect’ the tube. Not fun, but luckily I’m getting the consistency down so it should be smoother as we go. I have to log everything. I decided if I bedazzled the log with sparkles and stickers it would be less sterile, scary, and more enthusiastic, recovery emphasized.
It’s 8AM Sunday morning as I’m writing this. We just had our first feeding of the morning and it went really well. He was a bit more alert today which is encouraging. The hardest part about this gig is going to be cleaning the insertion point. It’s stitched up well and I know what to do, but I can’t get the vet’s wrap back on the same way.
It’s going to be a long road to recovery, but there’s plenty of hope. Thankfully, there’s Care Credit to help me cover the costs. I cannot even begin to convey how wonderful the vets and staff are at Roscoe Village Animal Hospital. They were patient, caring, honest and optimistic. We made small talk (and sang along) to Mamma Mia and talked about their office cats, one of which was comically splayed against the window. Regardless of how tired and worried I was, I couldn’t help but smile and laugh when I saw her face smushed against the glass as I walked in.
As much as I’ve been overwhelmed this week, I have been equally overwhelmed with gratitude. I’ve received so much love and support from those closest to me. Family, friends, even coworkers checking in on him and me. Offering to help where they can. Talking to me over the phone to distract me while I waited for more results. Driving me to and from the vet whenever they were free, taking me with on errands, pulling through a drive through on our way home so I wouldn’t have to worry about dinner. Even a quick text asking how he’s doing or wishing him well made a difference.
Tubs has been my best friend for more than a decade. I can’t say goodbye without giving him a fair shot at recovery.
It’s been interesting to see my personal progress throughout this. I used to struggle with asking for help. I used to struggle with being in doctor’s offices. I used to get angry. I used to break down. I used to dwell in ‘I can’t do it.’ This time, that was never an option. I put one foot in front of the other and relied on my support system. I used a variety of skills I’ve been learning in therapy. Anytime I was tempted to fortune tell or catastrophize I turned my mind. Instead of saying ‘what if’ I said ‘let’s see.’ In the waiting room, I practiced ‘half-smiling and willing hands’ (to do this you open your palms up and half-smile, it feels a bit ridiculous, but it works). I balanced emotion with reason whenever I could. I avoided any all or nothing thinking. I saught distractions like a book, a video game, a TV show.
Yesterday, I finally left the house after a feeding to go to sushi with friends. It was exactly what I needed (not just the food, the laughter, the company). It was fun, but occasionally my thoughts drifted to the ‘what ifs’ that could be happening while I was gone. My friends understood and luckily, he seemed stable when I got back.
Tubs is hiding under the bed right now resting. It’s his chosen place of comfort during this time and I’m trying to respect it, though, sometimes if he’s alert I’ll gently place him on the bed so I can pet him and talk to him for a while. He starts kneading the towel and leaning against me and my heart melts.
In a few hours, I’ll give him his next feeding and then again a few hours after that and a few hours after that and so on. I’m drafting an email for work to see how we can proceed because I can’t exactly be in the office right now. The feeding process only takes 5-10 minutes and since I’m a writer I’m hopeful they’ll let me work from home while he recovers. My coworkers and bosses have been so understanding thus far, so I’m sure there won’t be an issue.
I’m writing this because it helps me process. I’m also writing it so everyone knows what’s going on, but as more of a story and less of a ‘my cat is sick please send positive vibes’ (although those are more than welcome). Thank you for reading ❤.