The surgeon has cleared The Bird to cat again. She’s got two weeks worth of licking stuff to catch up on. I want to get her a tiny sweatshirt to keep her naked tum warm, but she’s excited to be gone, crate, and onesie free.
What I’ve determined is, Birdie does not sleep well with the cone. Lots of frequent ups and downs during the night and while I’m at school. Everybody cruises through to check on her, Miles mostly to monitor her food that he cannot access. Olivia looking into the camera says it all: “This is some fucked nonsense, y’all.”
So today on a sunny Saturday, we are saying “Fuck it!” Birdie is having monitored cone and crate free time in her stylish onesie. It is hard to curl up and chew your toes with a cone on.
Our normal vet was all about the onesie however we did the second surgery at the vet who administered her chemo and they are opposed to the onesie: it traps air not letting the wound breath and gets dirty potentially getting dirt in the wound. They basically made it sound like I would leave her in the same onesie for two weeks without ever cleaning it or checking her wound. Eyeroll. I was like: “BITCHES. SHE. HAS. A. FIERCE. WARDROBE.” Insert tongue pop here.
What I know is that right now she is out cold in the most uncomfortable spot I can imagine, the sunspot got too hot, but she is sleeping.
Not so fun Fun Fact: Cats can fight through medical sedation?
Apparently, yes they can. On chemo visit 3, Birdie, in true Birdie badass style, fought through sedation twice. They did not steal her blood and she did not receive chemo that day because she was not fucking having it. Not today, Satan!
I suspected something was up when I did not get the normal call saying that bloodwork was done and she was good for treatment that day. Instead I got a midafternoon call saying that Bird had fought through and been brought out of sedation twice, and that they could not hit a vein get a blood draw much less a vein to safely administer chemo. I’ve always considered her to be a feisty redhead which may be part of her sedation issue, but she had been extra vocal in the car that morning despite the normal pre-vet dose of gabapentin to chill her out, and the attending doctor said that sometimes cats are super motivated to fight the sedation when “they know what’s coming.” I could see that. Bird is no dummy, but her attitude can get in the way sometimes. There was a tearful moment at my desk after the call, because I was frustrated and worried for her as well as exhausted with the end of the school year and managing her treatments. No treatment that day meant we had to go through it all again the next week. (My cats are my kids, but there is still a certain shame in asking someone else to cover a class because I have to drop my cat at her appointment, talk to the doctor, and then drive 25 minutes to get to school that day. Better yet was the email asking an admin not to schedule me to proctor a standardized test because of a treatment day. The one good thing about COVID was that by spring of this school year, very little phased anyone.)
However what I got back was an insanely high little creature with four shaved and bloody legs. It made me wonder if she had pulled a tech who was not good at blood draws. It reminded me of the nurse at Blonde Doctor’s office who tried both arms then went back for a third try and wiggled the needle around for good measure, all the while yapping about her teenaged son. At try number 3, I had to lay down and say, “Just take whatever you want. I’ll be laying here.” That visit ended with me in the lab with the phlebotomist and a juice box after. So I had much more sympathy for my little girl who may have had to deal with fools that day. I rinsed Birdie’s legs and purr-ittoed her because I was not going to make her lick that much of her own blood off her little leggies.
Round 2 of treatment 3 was the next week. We changed her Gabapentin dose slightly, and the attending doctor (this is a teaching hospital so we see someone different each visit) made an extreme effort to give Birdie the royal treatment and her own space. Things went much better that day, many vet students now have pictures of my cat in “her office”, and Birdie has cemented her reputation.
That incident aside, Birdie has tolerated chemo very well -KNOCK ON WOOD-and had minimal side effects other than just needing to relax the next day. Her appetite, energy, and bathroom habits have been amazing. A re-scan did not show any evil growths. This month was Treatment 5, her last chemo session. She got a bandana signed by the staff; cats do not want to ring cancer bells or any bells really. She has one more surgical hurdle and then it’s all about monitoring from there.
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 cancerin 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.
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.
Birdie: “What the fuck is this happy bag of bullshit?”
She wants nothing to do with it. I made several attempts at getting her to pose with her likeness. Nope. Not in her contract, thank you very much.
I apologized. I really don’t know what I’m doing in terms of drawing or painting techniques. My high school experience did not include the myriad of options that my students have. They get to sign up for art classes for the hell of it. I don’t remember that even being a thing unless you were “the artsy kid.” I was “a band kid,” the end.
Birdie’s portrait was just one of those trapped at home project ideas that I got in my head. I also have a vision for Miles. Of course, I had to extensively procrastinate before starting. I knew from observing those who know what they are doing, that they seem to start with filing in the background. Sometime in mid February I pulled the trigger on getting started.
I think it’s done. I had the Bird add her paw prints; she was not thrilled. I’m lucky the bathroom is not painted in white paw prints. Certainly her disdain for my work will be reflected in her extensive critical essays soon to be published in some swanky art forum. ****I forgot to mention that the wreath is catnip. She’s an addict.