The discovery was entirely accidental. I’d taken Hal in on Monday for hairball issues and his ‘senior’ cat follow-up. He’s 10 now, and I’ve been telling myself that’s middle age, no matter what the vet says. Anyway, it was accidental. Happenstance. They happened to have a difficult time getting a urine sample, so they happened to use an ultrasound to guide the procedure and the clinic’s feline internal medicine specialist just happened to be walking through the room when they did.
“Back up,” she said. “Right there in the intestines.”
We came in with hairballs and left with lymphoma — or very likely lymphoma. I declined the through-and-through biopsy for 100% confirmation. It would have required him to be put under and have pieces of his intestines cut out, a trauma that neither of us needed. And for what? I would not be putting him through chemotherapy. He wouldn’t understand and the time it would buy would only be for me and my guilt. Although in the last several days I’ve agonized over that decision plenty.
Without the biopsy, there’s no real prognosis. No window of time. Though my research has turned up a sorry statistic that cats treated on prednisone alone (the route we’ve taken, to make him comfortable) live an average of 45-60 days, I tell myself we have longer; he doesn’t act sick.
Hal and I met when he was five months old in the front window of the SPCA on the Upper East Side. When I had nobody, I had him. Sometimes I am so heartsick, I think I might retch because the hurt just runs so deep. Forty-five to sixty days. Charlie is due in 55 days. You see why I pretend it’s not true. Inaccurate. A stat I can stubborn my way out of, like I usually do. Dying kittens? Pfft! We can beat that. We’ll stay up all night! For days! But cancer? Cancer sees me coming and is not at all impressed with my tenacity. Being awake, being at work feels like a punishment, when all I want to do is curl up with him on the couch and maybe watch some Pretty Little Liars reruns and pretend that this is just not happening.