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My Cat Has Cancer: A Personal Journey

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I have rescued and fostered many pets over the years. Keeping my pets healthy and happy is my number one priority.

Losing a cat to cancer is hard.

Losing a cat to cancer is hard.

When you adopt a cat, you are occupied with all the details of taking care of your new family member. You name it, you get it a special bowl for its food, you set up litter boxes, and you buy scratching posts.

And then you begin to get to know your cat. Anyone who has ever owned one will tell you that each one has its own unique personality, quirks, and habits.

As you go through the years, the cat becomes a part of your life. He sleeps with you, wakes you up wanting food, and greets you at the door when you come home. As time continues to pass, that nagging voice in the back of your mind starts to worry. He's getting old. How much time does he have left? How will I ever fill the void when I lose my precious baby?

This is the story of my personal journey of love and loss of one special cat.

He Finds Us

He came to us one month after my husband and I got married. In setting up house, it just didn't feel right until we had a cat.

We visited a local rescue and as we were looking at the cages and talking to the foster families, this gorgeous, blue-eyed creature stuck his paws out through the cage and meowed at my husband.

The volunteer got him out of the cage and handed him to my husband and the cat immediately started purring and put his paws around my husband's neck.

Needless to say, we were smitten.

Born to Love People

He was the kitten of a feral, Siamese mother. A TNR (trap-neuter-return) group had brought the mother and two kittens in to be given vaccinations, get spayed and neutered and then be returned to their cat colony. The TNR group notches their ears to indicate that they have been fixed.

But the story we were told was that as our cat woke up, he started talking to the volunteers and purring and rubbing on the cage. Someone said, "I don't think this one is feral."

So our little notched kitten got a second chance and at six months old became a part of our household.

He Lived Up to His Reputation

A red point, Siamese mix, he lived up to all the personality traits of this kind of cat. He was loud and demanding and followed us around like a dog when we were home. It quickly became evident that he was lonely when he started chewing on the blinds of our apartment during the day.

So we got him a companion a few months later and he was much happier.

In a few more years we moved to a house and soon our first child was born. One of my earliest pictures of my new son shows a curious Siamese cat sniffing the newborn infant as he's sleeping in his carseat.

A few years later our second son came into the picture but Merlin, our Siamese, took it all in stride.

A Part of My Everyday Life

You never really realize just how much they are a part of your life and your everyday routine until the fact of their impending loss is staring you in the face.

He greets me at the door when I walk in. He talks to me and fusses when he needs something. If I sit down he jumps up on my lap and head bumps me.

When I got to sleep at night I only have to reach out my hand to feel his warm body and the vibrations of his purring.

His presence is large. Though I have other pets, Merlin is different. He is special.

Pets are a part of the family.  When they pass away, there is a feeling of loss.

Pets are a part of the family. When they pass away, there is a feeling of loss.

The Diagnosis

At sixteen-years-old, it's always in the back of your mind that you are on borrowed time with your pet. It's the nature of having old pets and part of the process. But that doesn't make the shock of it happening any easier to bear.

I had noticed that his belly looked swollen but I at first attributed to him overeating. It very suddenly hit me, as I was looking at him, that the roundness I was seeing was not fat but fluid, like another cat that I had who passed away from metastasized liver cancer.

I called our vet and got him in right away.

The vet confirmed my worst suspicions; fluid in the belly most likely equals cancer in a cat of his age.

The Moment When It All Seems Too Real

He listed options for diagnosis and said that an ultrasound would probably be the best option for seeing what was going on in the abdomen.

He invited me back to the ultrasound room with his assistant to watch the procedures. As I was rubbing Merlin's head they scanned his belly and pulled his internal organs up on the screen. The vet could immediately see "foreign bodies" that were not recognizable as organs.

Tumors. Cancer.

At that moment I felt like I wasn't in my body but suspended. Watching.

The radio was playing somewhere in the background and I heard Phil Collins' "True Colors" start playing and it got to be too much. Tears started streaming down my face.

I didn't openly weep or sob. That would come later. But I felt the grief well up in me from somewhere deep and hidden.

The Waiting Game

For now, he's still eating. He's still talking. He's still doing regular things.

I reached out last night and his body was there and he purred. And I cried.

We can opt for comfort measures for him. They can drain the accessible fluid from his abdomen.

We'll know when it's time. Or will we?

I've been down this road before with other pets. But this one feels different. This one is more personal and more painful.

I don't really know how long he has. It could be days. It could be weeks. It is not long.

My Grief

I know that there are terrible things going on in the world. People get cancer. Children get cancer. People are starving. People are living on the street. People are dying of preventable diseases.

But grief and grieving are personal experiences. And each experience of grief is both selfish and necessary.

This is my personal sadness. This is my grief.

I will miss this cat.

Update

March 17, 2014

My sweet Merlin passed away in my arms this afternoon. It was a bittersweet moment, but I'm so glad I got to be there during his last moments.

Questions & Answers

Question: My cat got a very similar ultrasound result earlier this morning. How was it with your cat once he stopped eating? Mine is at this stage already, and I'm feeling really frightened. What should I expect, what should I make sure happens? This cat is my best friend and I want to help him but I'm feeling so lost. Could you please advice?

Answer: I'm so sorry to hear about your cat. Usually, once they stop eating, it is a matter of days. My cat passed on his own but I was close to taking him into the vet's to be put to sleep. I know how much it hurts. Just remember that you gave your cat a good life and your cat knew that it was loved and safe with you. When you're ready, honor him in some way: a donation to a rescue, volunteering, and even adopting another animal in need.

© 2014 L C David

Comments

Cyndi on February 10, 2019:

My sweet Scampers has cancer. She was diagnosed in May with "high-grade" cancer. With chemo they gave her 9 months to a year; without it they gave her 3-5 months. After 2 weeks of going back and forth, I decided that chemo would have been more for me than her, so I decided against it. I wanted her to live her life her way. This month is month 8 post diagnosis, and this coming week she will be 20 years old. She sleeps a lot, doesn't eat as much. She still likes to play, but for not as long. I have pain medicine I am to give her every 8 hours as needed. How can I be sure when she needs it? There are a couple of things I can see and know, but other than that, how do I determine if it is an as needed thing or an every 8 hour thing? Everyone tells me I will know when it's time (it tears me apart to even think about it). How will I know? I certainly do not want to let her go too soon, but even more than thst, I don't want to keep her here longer than she wants to be here - to think of her suffering is almost unbearable.

L C David (author) from Florida on July 19, 2017:

I am so sorry for the loss of your sweet Gracie. I'm so glad that I brought you some comfort. May the memories of her overtake the grief. Sending virtual comfort to you.

Karen Rollins on July 13, 2017:

I am a big animal lover,but I grew up with cats. I'm now 58,and I had to put my beloved cat Gracie to sleep.2 days ago. It made me feel so much better to read these comments. I'm hurting bad,but your comments helped me so much,and I thank you all so much!

L C David (author) from Florida on November 18, 2015:

So sorry! It hurts so much to lose them.

Carl on November 15, 2015:

We just had our cat Scooby put to sleep as he had stomach cancer and huge round belly. It has broken my heart and I will miss him so much x

L C David (author) from Florida on March 17, 2014:

My sweet Merlin passed away this afternoon in my arms. We will miss him but I feel it was time for him to let go and not be sick any more.

L C David (author) from Florida on January 31, 2014:

Thanks so much for the comments. I am glad in a way that I know my time is short. I'm spending lots of time cuddling and petting and giving him lots of treats while he is still eating. I want to be able to remember what he feels like and sounds like because I know that after the pain and grief pass, I will smile with the great memories of this wonderful animal.

Catherine Tally from Los Angeles on January 31, 2014:

A a fellow cat lover with a beloved 14 yr. old feline companion, I can understand the grief you are feeling over the inevitable. From the moment we get attached, we know that one day there will be that heart-wrenching day when we must say goodbye. Regardless of the other sad situations throughout the world, you are facing the eventual loss of a loved one. That is no less important. I hope that there are still happy days for you and Merlin to share and savor. My heart goes out to you.

Cat:)

ologsinquito from USA on January 29, 2014:

I'm so sorry to hear about your beloved cat. We lost a cat years ago. It is so sad to lose a beloved pet.

Teri Silver from The Buckeye State on January 29, 2014:

I am very sorry about your beloved family member; I do know how it is.... I have published a similar but diferent article... (one of the few personal ones I've done)

https://hubpages.com/animals/HelpSomeoneCopeWithLo...

It's nice to put our thoughts down like this. I also write down all the silly and snuggly things my kitties have done in their lifetimes, and their nicknames, and their favorite things, so I will always remember them.. Every kitty has his/her own special notebook. My 14 year old-plus Merlin had lymphocytic leukemia but he did well on meds, until ... one day. I will never really let him go. (absolutely the boss of everything). My consolenses for your loss. ts