This is not a funny post. It is in fact a horrible post. If you now anything about Schrodinger’s Cat (Yes, I know there should be an umlaut. Whatever.), you know the cat is simultaneously, theoretically alive and dead. That’s our basic situation right now.
A quick Schrodinger’s Cat tutorial.
At the end of February, what I thought was a fatty growth on Birdie turned out to be an enlarged mammary gland which, according to the article I was sent home with, means a 90% probability of a savage and fatal cancer in cats. Dogs have a better chance, but cats, per usual, are fucked. This article is best read and annotated while sobbing on the kitchen floor as cats mill around you inquiring about treats because, c’mon, lady, you’re in the kitchen.
This diagnosis was also the day of my second COVID shot so it is tough to say if the following days of malaise were a reaction to the shot or the devastating sadness that my perky, spicy, little sass monster had a death sentence hanging over her head. I’m pretty sure the swollen armpit was a result of the shot.
Birdie’s mass removal was an entire week away. A week I spent preparing for the worst findings because that was what the article suggested, but also a week observing a cat who had no idea that she was carrying around that “vial of poison” that could be opened at any moment. Also because grief makes for super rational thoughts processes, I finished the painting that I had started and procrastinated on well before I knew too much about cat mammary glands because I didn’t want to be “the weirdo painting bad pictures of her dead cat.” That is a direct quote from my Brain.
X-rays did not show any growths in her lungs and the surgery went well. They got all of the mass and shipped it off to the high-tech lab for analysis which would be back in an additional 5-7 days. When cats and dogs have a “mastectomy,” they have to remove the entire row of glands, so it looks like they cut my cat in half from head to tail. I got back a Bird with a gnarly incision and sutures, instructions not jump for two weeks, and a cone of shame.
I have plenty of close ups that I will decline to post because they are very graphic. There was a lot of dark purple bruising as well as some oozing of various fluids, plus I was supposed to convince Bird that intermittent ice packs were a good plan for the first couple days.
However the biggest struggle was the cone and the no jumping. She was insanely pissed that she could not lick her butt, and she would not settle down to relax. Additionally, my entire house is made for jumping cats so the only spot to contain her at night and while I was at work was my tiny, windowless bathroom where she spent the first three nights crying loudly about eight feet from my bed.
I stayed home the day after her surgery to monitor her and give pain meds. Personally, if I had just had a mastectomy and been dosed with pain medication, I would take a fucking nap. Birdie is more into pacing the entire house with me wandering behind her to keep her from jumping, and to help her because the cone turned her into a sad kitty Roomba bouncing off everything. The cone was already filthy because it dipped into her food, water, and litter box so I was also ready for clean up. Around 11 a.m. that day I texted a colleague: “I assume this is what having a toddler is like. Been up since 7, but I haven’t eaten yet because she won’t nap and I’m trying to keep her from jumping off things.”
We needed solutions.
My district has spent the last year worrying and focusing on mental health and social emotional learning so in that interest, I needed an alternative to the cone and a different containment space because neither Birdie nor I were going to survive the two weeks. The vet suggested baby onesies (still not sure how that works on a cat with a body length incision) and a few brand name products. I found a DIY cat t-shirt onesie and some products on Amazon that my sister sent me because I’m the only human who does not have Prime and immediate shipping.
The t-shirt onesie did not go over well, but it did give her an evening of butt licking freedom until our Amazon finds arrived.
The vet okayed the onesie as a cone replacement after seeing the photo on the bed, and learning that “Birdie demonstrated that she could poop” while wearing it. We got three onesies for daily changes and rinses. She didn’t love it, but tolerated it and left her incision alone. Win.
In the meantime, a colleague had mentioned in a completely unrelated conversation that he an unused Great Dane sized crate. Their Great Dane no longer needed crating. I cashed in on that information, and he was kind enough to bring it over and assemble it for Birdie. I can fit in it! It takes up the entire Happy Morning Sunshine room, but it got her out of the tiny bathroom. From the crate she could see what was going on, interact with the other cats, and even get a sunbeam in the mornings. She did not cry once from that space and even hung out there voluntarily when the door was open. It has displaced an entire room and the associated furniture, but made the two weeks of no jumping bearable. Worth it.
Birdie With Onesie had a much different temperament than Naked Birdie. Birdie With Onesie was deferential to the cats and requested head bumps and kisses rather than starting Fight Club at meal times. She even allowed herself to “cuddle” with Miles. THIS. DOES. NOT. happen in real life with Naked Birdie. In part, I think she was cold, but also feeling the after effects of surgery.
Birdie With Onesie also spent as much time following me as I spent monitoring her. She was very intense. I wonder if the high grade purring was part of her pain management.
What now indeed? Eight days after the surgery, we got the analysis: the worst type of aggressive cancer. Her tumor was 3cm which is right on the cut off/edge/border of whatever mystical survival rate chart people in labs use to evaluate these things. Estimated survival is 300 days without treatment, and 700 days with 4-6 chemo treatments. Somehow it’s worse that it is measured in days.
I will, of course, consult with an oncologist because I can’t not. (And I got all the way to writing this sentence without crying)
So you see… I have this cat who doesn’t have to reside in a “box” anymore, but who is simultaneously, theoretically alive and dead all at once. From here on out she gets all the ham and prosciutto she wants because that won’t be the thing that kills her.
Suture-free and back up to full sass, Fight Club attitude.