forty-five to sixty

Sir HalThe 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.

46 comments to forty-five to sixty

  • Miranda

    Long time reader, seldom comment-er. This breaks my heart for you. Our fur babies are our best friends, confidants, and often therapists. It’s always hard but I’m sure even more so when you are pregnant and already emotional. Sending love from NC. There are no words.

  • I hate that you are going through this. It is absolutely horrendous. I found out that my sweet French Bulldog had cancer during the two week wait of our last-ditch IVF (the second one after having tried for 3.5 years and many other interventions to get pregnant). I was a complete mess. We found out the IVF worked the day before we had to say goodbye to my precious Maggie. I remember it being such an awful combination of emotions. My reaction to what should have been the best news ever was complete terror (what if something went wrong?? what if I ruined everything because I was so upset??) and I couldn’t stop sobbing about losing my first “baby,” who had been with me through so, so much. My heart is breaking for you… I don’t know exactly how you feel right now, but I have some idea of how hard it is to face two incredibly emotional events at the same time. Be kind to yourself and watch as much TV as you need to, or eat ice cream, or whatever helps you get through this.

  • Robin

    I’m so sorry to hear about Hal, Heather. I don’t know what to say, but know that nothing can make up for the sad. Enjoy the time you get with him.

  • Judy

    Another longtime reader and seldom commenter. I am wiping away tears as I write this, with my own loss from similar circumstances being only 5 months old. My boy was 15. You made the right decision. As much as it sucks, as guilty as you feel, as much as it hurts- you made the right call. My vet said he’d seen more than a few cats be diagnosed with a month or two that responded well to steroids and live a year or more. I wish for you that Hal will be one of those. Hugs from California.

  • CaliGal

    I’m sorry for your struggle. And like Robin, I don’t know what to say.

    I’ll be thinking of you both. Enjoy your time with him and know that he loves you and always will. :)

  • melissa

    My dog, who actually only lived with me for 2 years and with my dad for 8 years, died from bone cancer while I was pregnant. My dad was so upset he didn’t get to meet his little brother. I feel for you.

  • cyndy

    So sorry Heather…but you are doing the right thing. Just love him.

  • Susan

    So sorry to hear that Fish. Having lost a dog and cat to cancer within the last 8 months I feel for you. There was nothing we could do for either of them by the time we got the diagnosis and it broke our hearts. Since the only thing I could do was give them love and comfort and a peaceful passing that’s what I focused on. I’ll be thinking of you guys.

  • Rebecca

    I am so, so sorry. Unfortunately, I know exactly how you feel. I lost my faithful companion, a Min Pin named Max, last year shortly after my daughter was born. He was only 10 years old too, and supposed to have a life span of much longer for a little dog. It was due to uncontrollable diabetes, so I also knew the end was coming, even though I think I was in denial. I was, and still am heartbroken. People always say that when you have kids, your pets take a back seat. Not true. In so many ways, he was my first child. I will say that having my daughter helped me through his loss tremendously, as she provided not only a distraction but a new joy. It’s so hard though. I still have yet to be able to look at his ashes, and it will be year in March. Again, I’m sorry.

  • Nilou

    Sending you and Hal lots of love. Because there are no words I can say that can make this better. I will say however that I cherish all of your posts and updates, though not at the risk of anyone’s health (including Hal’s). Please take care.

  • Misses M

    Heather, I know this is horribly inadequate, but I am so very sorry.

  • We had a similar experience when we took our cat, Awesome, in and found he had kidney failure. We didn’t have the chance to take him home so I snapped pictures with my iPhone in the vet’s office of all of my favorite parts of him: whiskers, stripes, paws. Enjoy every remaining day, week, month with Hal … he loves you and the Dork Lord and Charlie so.

  • Megan

    My first precious fur-baby had cancer in his throat. We did steroids to make him comfortable. I told him to let me know when he was ready. When he stopped eating I knew it was time.

    I’m so sorry about Hal, and I’m sorry that this coincides with Charlie’s birth. XO

  • Anna

    I am so sorry Fish. :(

  • Melanie

    I am so sorry for your inevitable loss… I know Hal is a huge part of your world, and it will feel very empty when he is gone.

    Go ahead and deny it… no one will blame you, and you will have to deal with it soon enough.

    Sometimes the universe just gives you really sucky timing, and there’s not a darn thing you can do about it. So, so sorry.

  • Nicole D.

    I’m terribly sorry to hear this. The timing, which would never be good, is really horrible. Having gone through the loss of my long-time cat a little over a year ago, I know how you must be feeling. Thoughts and hugs to you.

  • Melissa

    There are no words except to say I’m so sorry. The unbelievable grief and excruciating timing. Just had to write to show support and understanding. Sending thoughts of eventual peace your way, though I know that is likely scarcely comforting at this time.

  • Fidelma

    So sorry about this. Hal sounds like the best cat. So very sorry.

  • Karen

    My kitty was diagnosed with intestinal lymphoma (or highly probable with US, labwork, x-ray- I would not put her sweet, small frame through surgery, either). I sobbed all night and on and off for days.
    We had two more years, and I think she was sick for a time before the diagnosis but I had so much going on I didn’t notice the subtler signs.

    Two full years- actually 27 months. We did Cortisone once or twice when she was sicker. One of our vets recommended liver just to keep her iron up. I hate liver, but for my baby we did liver.

    It was years less time than I thought we would have-she was 8 1/2 at diagnosis- but 20 months longer than I was led to believe we would have.

    I am so sorry.

  • TJ

    Long time reader, never commenter, forever pet lover, I wanted to send some good vibes along to you. I am so sorry to hear of Hal’s diagnosis. I recently lost my best friend, a furry mutt of a BrownDog that I rescued 6 years previously from conditions of neglect and starvation. Little did I know that she would be the one to rescue me from a terrible marriage and times of deep depression where, though I hate to admit it, the thing that most kept me from driving my car into a tree (sadly, this thought crossed my mind more than once), was the dog in the backseat of the car (she went everywhere with me). This summer, at only 6 years of age, she underwent routine ACL surgery and just as we reached the 3 month “all-clear” hurdle, I took her to the vet for what I though was a routine summer cold. We left the vet with heavy hearts, empty wallets, and diagnonsis of “most likely cancer.” I commend you for not putting Hal through a surgery that will only make what time he has harder. One vet I saw pushed for exploratory surgery with my Jubilee, but I declined (despite his telling me I was not a good owner for declining) and instead did what I could to keep her comfortable for whatever time we had. It was quick. I lost her 10 days later – on her terms and mine. She was laid to rest in our home, in the arms of the people who loved her most, far too soon (a month shy of her 7th birthday), but loved and cared for beyond measure. I hope you beat the odds with Hal as you did with pregnancy and are somehow granted more time with him, but I believe you the kind of person who will do what’s best for him, as you have already shown.
    The hardest thing about pets is that their lives are shorter than ours, but there’s a beautiful grace in that, too. They come into our lives when we need them most. And there’s a part of me that beleives they do a job, and then step out when the time is right, even if we don’t agree with the timiing. Although she was gone too soon for my liking, Jubilee was with me through my darkest days, and many happy times. She is the one I credit with the success of dating my current BF (the only man, including my ex-husband) that she ever “approved” of and did not blatantly dislike. A part of my heart belives she stayed long enough to make sure I was secure in a loving place in life. Perhaps your Hal needed to be with you when you had no one and through finding love and now, you will have Charlie, who won’t be Hal and won’t be the same experience, but will be love indescribable. Maybe this is Hal’s way of telling you that you will be OK.
    I won’t lie to you – it’s awful. The saying goodbye. Seeing that goodbye looming closer with each day. It IS awful. And there will be tears. Oh, so many tears. But please, find comfort in knowing that you loved him and gave him the most wonderful gift of a loving, caring home for these 10 years. There’s a special place in Heaven for those who rescue animals. You’ve done good by him, Fish, and you will continue to do so.
    I am so sorry for your sadness.

  • Sarah

    I am so sorry to hear about your Hal. My precious dog, Shady, was diagnosed with lymphoma this same time last year. We also opted to keep her on steroids (and lots of love) because the other treatments were crazy expensive. She fought hard for 6 months before she stopped eating and walking and my husband and I made the hard decision to put her down. I am a firm believer, that when an animal is loved as much as I believe Hal is, their fighting spirit comes out and they will beat some odds. I am sending lots of good thoughts your way.

  • Shannon

    Thinking of you and sending positive thoughts your way. Hal hit the jackpot when you chose him. Our pets truly are our family.

  • Layne Thompson

    It is so hard to say goodbye to a beloved friend. The agonizing about if you have done the right thing for their treatment compounds it. Sometime down the road you will remember him with tears of happiness rather than sadness.

  • Sending lots of love and positive energy your way. Hal is very lucky to have you.

  • Chelsea

    Ugh, something similar happened to my kitty too. We took him to the vet for surgery and we ended up having to put him to sleep on the table

    I am so, so sorry.

  • Cristy

    Heather: long time reader here. My heart breaks for you. I am sending hugs and positive thoughts your way. You both have been lucky to have found each other. I am so sorry for your sadness. Xoxo

  • ~Kabe

    Oh, Heather. I am so, so sorry to read that Sir Hal is ailing. All I can do is send you love and the certainty that you are doing the exact right thing for him.

  • kerri

    I’m so very, very sorry.

  • Aigul

    I am so so sorry, Heather.

  • Kate

    Long time reader and lover of Hal from afar. I’m a sucker for all things fuzzy. I’m sending positive vibes your way. I went through this with both of my senior kitties (about a year apart). The vet visits, the meds, the subcutaneous fluids. Hal (and Charlie) are so lucky to have you. So sorry and best wishes…

  • Robin


    I’m so sorry. I rarely comment here, but I had to offer my sympathies. I’m dealing with my own 14-year old cat’s medical issues and I understand all too well grappling with the desire to do SOMETHING and the reality of what that something will actually accomplish. My heart goes out to you.

  • Jerilyn

    Heather, I could tell you not to agonize over your decision, but I know that wouldn’t make you stop. But, you know Hal, and your loving, generous heart won’t let you do something that might hurt more than help him.

    “When I had nobody, I had him” …that resonates so deeply. And, when he had nobody, you entered Sir Halitosis’ life. And you have given him an AMAZING one. New York, Dallas..all of the love, comfort and attention he might never have been afforded had you walked by that window. You saved one another and that connection will never, ever be broken. I wish, with all of my heart, that Hal gets to meet, snuggle and head-butt his baby “brother”.
    But, even more than that, I wish you the peace and comfort of knowing that you have given a lost little soul the most amazing life and KNOW that your love has made all the difference in his world.

  • Kristen H

    Heather, I’m glad I’m reading this on a weekend so I can picture you and Sir Hal curled up on the couch together. You and he have been through so much together and I’m sorry for this diagnosis. I absolutely believe you made the right choice regarding next steps, for exactly the reasons you gave. Being there to oversee the end of our pets’ lives is one of the hardest, most excruciating things I have ever done, but it is an honor and a privilege to be able to make compassionate choices for them.

    Thinking of you and wishing the best for Hal.

  • A harsh thing to go through, especially right now. I’m sorry that words are inadequate, and that sorry is all I can say.

  • Linda

    I’m so sorry about this diagnosis. I just had to write a comment because we had a cat with small bowel lymphoma. At the time of diagnosis, she was given 6 months to a year to live. She was put on prednisilone and lived 4 great years more! She seemed happy and healthy all that time. Eventually the cancer did spread and her health declined. But we got 4 more years of good health with her just taking prednisilone. So no one can predict time frames for sure. So sorry for this news and I hope maybe your cat will be a case of defying the timelines and projections too.

  • Karine

    There are NO words. Hal is very loved and you are doing what is best for him. I know sometimes it is so hard to be strong with such a heavy heart.

  • Michael

    It is hard, hard, hard to lose a beloved pet. But they go when they are ready, and you are letting go in just the right way. He was a special gift for a short time. Always remember how you saved him from so much worse and how much happiness he brought you.

  • Regina

    I have read your blog for years…Never commented – i adopted a cat a few years ago and she has given me much happiness. Sending you comfort and peace. What a joy to have had him in your life! Best to you Fish :-)

  • RzDrms

    I’m just so so sorry to read this and to know you’re going through it, particularly during such a happy time in your lives. I really want Charlie and Sir Hal to meet; I want Hal to know you’ll be okay and that — if he’s hurting — it’s okay for him to go. I don’t want him to go, though!!! :-( I have a spoiled monster-beast kitty who’s 15.5 years old and my love! I can’t imagine, Heather. Again, I’m so sorry. I’ll pray for no pain and him not being scared, two of the things I try to avoid at all costs with my own precious cat. Hugs and warm thoughts.

  • Bill

    So sorry to hear this, especially at this moment in your life. Sending Good Thoughts for all involved. Two legged and four legged. Life is a crazy journey and there are always unexpected and even more unwanted turns in the path. You certainly don’t need this stress right now, but perhaps this is the universe or God or random chaos orchestrating a big shift in your existence at time when it is supposed to happen. I don’t mean to sugar coat an awful prospect with Hal, but your new job will be focused on Charlie as it should be. Hal was there when you needed him and he needed you. And that was perfect for you both. If your destiny requires each of you to move on for a whole new phase of your existence, that is as it was meant to be for everyone’s good. Treasure your time together. Hold onto your memories and feelings – they count. Live in the pesent with those you love. Make sure those you love don’t suffer – you owe them that.

    Not trying to get all New Age on you. Just a few things I learned as I held my wife when she passed 9 years ago. Life lessons. Not fun but valuable in their own way. As always, I wish you the Very Best.

  • kathsprout

    I’m sorry :-( Love to you, Hal, the Dork Lord and Charlie.

  • CaliGal

    I’m just checking in.

    Been thinking of you and Hal.

    Your family are in my thoughts and prayers.

    • thisfish

      Hi there – things are… hectic. But Hal is doing really well and the vet seems pleased. Right now it’s just a matter of getting his medication right, which we seem to be challenged by. He sleeps more, but he seems content and unbothered by his situation. And that’s all I can ask for. Thank you for checking on us!

  • Carrie Lea

    Just thought I would pop in and check the blog. I’m so sorry to see this. It’s so horribly unfair. My heart hurts for you.