The cat, Fifi, aka Fiona Phosphor, died on Friday. She left behind Joel, me, her sister Boadicea, and the dog, Drake. The dog is probably the least perturbed by her death (though they were comfortable enough with each other to lie in the sun together).
Joel suspects that she had been sick for some time, but it all seemed to come to a head suddenly. He brought her in to the vet Thursday, for losing weight and sitting by the water bowl. The vet found that her blood sugar was quite high, but at that point we looked forward to years more life with her, with the help of insulin (cats, I gather, don’t usually get treated with oral diabetes medications). By that evening, though, she wasn’t eating, and so she spent a night at the emergency vet, and the next day continuing on IV insulin and fluid at the regular vet. Almost a full day and thousands of dollars after she’d first gone on kitty life support, her survival odds were said to be 50/50, her liver numbers sounded grim, and Joel made the decision to put her down.
We went back to the vet, and were led to a small room. On the wall was a cartoon of Hobbes sharing with Calvin some wisdom about death, and a poem in the voice of a pet assuring us that she was not really gone. Fifi was brought in, still on an IV, and crying. We pet her while the vet put the needle in, and Joel broke down crying. She was his favorite, the clever cat, who mastered the bell to go out before the dog did, and figured out on her own how to get Joel to throw a toy ball for her, and the sweet cat, probably the mildest tempered creature in the house (for Boadicea can be bossy, and Drake eager to show the big dogs he is tough, and both Joel and I argue more than Fiona). And Joel blamed himself for her death. If he had caught her illness sooner, if he had made different decisions …
Myself, I wondered whether she would have died had I not had cancer. Maybe so. Cats will not tell you their illnesses as people can, or even as much as dogs do. Perhaps half a dozen different people saw her, during those final days, moving around and eating like a normal nine-year-old cat, and suspected no illness. But, too, so much of the household attention has gone, these past few weeks (even before I was diagnosed, since I was still ill then) to my own problems.
Still, she is gone, and I am still here, so I prepare for the next step: chemotherapy. The surgery recovery goes surprisingly well; at two weeks after the surgery I don’t actually feel ready to drive (as I’d planned when I hoped to get the laparoscopic kind of hysterectomy), but I’m in little pain, and out walking every day. Menopause is, so far, barely noticeable, possibly because some of its expected symptoms (fatigue, anxiety, mood swings) aren’t, after all, all that distinguishable from what I’d be going through anyway from the cancer.
Last week at my post-op appointment I got to see the chemotherapy center, a set of lounging chairs in which women (all women at this one, since the practice is entirely concerned with gynecological cancers) sit for hours while getting the meds through IV. I also got a booklet describing what to do about the various side effects. You are advised to read only the sections for what you’re currently experiencing. Having disregarded this advice and read it all, I suspect that the reason for the advice is not just to focus your attention on just what you need, but also to get you not to scare yourself. The entire list is, after all, daunting, and I’m unlikely to get them all.
The treatment is called “sandwich therapy,” and it involves getting first chemotherapy, then radiation, then chemotherapy again, and then, if I’m lucky, a clean bill of health saying the cancer is gone and the opportunity to get more chemotherapy. The doctor calls this last part consolidation chemotherapy, and my mother calls it maintenance chemotherapy. I have a link to an article describing the treatment, as a way of getting successful treatment with fewer side effects. I will, I have been told, tolerate chemotherapy well. This probably doesn’t mean that I’ll actually find it altogether easy, but it does mean that I’m expected to be able to go through it without too serious adverse effects (not, at any rate, ones that would lead to stopping treatment), and that I’ll probably be able to work.
I also got, at my request (my mother wanted to see it), my pathology report, which describes the analysis of various specimens, the stage and FIGO grade of my cancer, the degree of myometrial invasion, and its type (endometrial adenocarcinoma, mixed endometriod and mucinous types). Reading the report, I half feel that I must have been careless to have developed such a cancer. But on the bright side, at least I don’t need to worry that the doctor was too knife happy, and took my reproductive organs in vain. The darn things were clearly trying to kill me, so good riddance to them. (I did, to be sure, lose a “Cervix with no significant abnormality,” but the uterus and ovaries could not have been kept.)
Tomorrow morning, early, I get a port installed; then I go to the chemotherapy center to get my first treatment. Today I have been filling out forms, and filling out more forms, and paying bills, and making phone calls. And searching the net for accounts of just what it is like to go through chemotherapy, which may be even more unwise than reading the whole booklet on side effects, since most Internet accounts of chemotherapy appear to be horror stories. Here, though, is one of the less daunting accounts of what it’s like to receive chemotherapy.