13 April 2008

nine lives

There is much speculation as to where the notion that "a cat has nine lives" originated. Some say it was in ancient Egypt; others belive it's China. Interestingly, the Arabic proverb only gives a cat seven lives, while others mostly gives nine, presumably because of the number's mysticism (my favorite number, because who can argue with magic?).

All I know is -- I wish the proverb were true.

It started with a little bit of weight loss. Uni used to be slightly heavier than Sumi, but a few months ago, I noticed they'd switched a bit. But, Sumi always fluffs up over the winter (she's Siberian, most likely) and I didn't think much of it. Then, after being in Japan for three weeks in February/March, I swept Uni up into my arms -- and her lightness shocked me.

Blood tests followed; the vet declared "great news all around," all her organ functions were like a one-year-old's (she's nine) -- except, well, there's a chance there's something hard to detect going on there. We could do an ultrasound, or do another weigh-in in two weeks. I decided to wait.

Eight days later, we went in for the weigh-in. She seemed smaller and weaker every night, and I just knew something was wrong. This time, not only was she lighter, but the doctor thought she might have tachycardia, an unusually fast heartbeat (even for being at the vet). We immediately scheduled an ultrasound with the specialist.

The chest ultrasound was clear. But in the abdomen -- they saw that her kidneys were both atrophied, because of tiny growths spread around her mesenteric lymph nodes.

Most likely, it's cancer, and it's inoperable.

"Most likely" because to biopsy these growths would require invasive and specialized surgery, after which we may have a diagnosis but still no way to remove the little suckers.

So... anyway... there it is. She's taking Prednisone, a steroid that acts like chemo for cats, curbing the growth of the tumors, stimulating her appetite and supporting muscle growth. Funny thing is I'd just written about them for work, in a story about a woman who was taking Prednisone as part of her lupus medication... At least, for Uni, they've made a huge difference in her appetite. As in, now she can eat.

"We'll know more in the next 30 days," the doctor said. And when I mentioned that we might be moving in June -- "June is a long way off."

I used to think about how I'd console our kids when she passed away, 10 years from now. And now we're talking about June? This year?

I picked her out of the litter when the couple who rented me my very first solo apartment in Los Angeles had a cat who'd just given birth.

That also happened to be exactly when my mother was first diagnosed with stomach cancer, 9 years ago.

My... "experience" with Uni now shadows what happened with my mother, in many ways. How small and frails she's become, even while her spirit and beauty remain. How she struggles to eat, and tires in a way she never did before. How she yet provides me more comfort and pure joy.

How precious even the tiniest touch becomes.

The universe has a way of guiding us, encouraging us to grow. I can't help wonder if Uni came into my life to help me through from the time cancer hit my mother to now, a year after her death, when I must begin the *real* process of grieving, which I haven't really done yet. Now, I can do it with my girl, my best feline friend. And already, I know that when our time is up -- whenever that may be, and wherever she may go -- my mother will be there to love her too.


Anonymous said...

I am very sorry to hear this news, emi. Uni is a beautiful cat; I tell every cat person I know about how unique her coat is.

I hope she doesn't suffer much and you enjoy as many kitty moments as you can with her over the next months. It's always sad when pets get sick.

Give her a hug for me --


Emi Macuaga said...

Thanks Matt. She hugs back, and is so glad you knew her in her youth (she admits she was pretty silly), and that you share her beauty with others. She and I both hope you remember her and speak of her for years and years to come. Prrrr.

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry to hear of this.
We just found out yesterday that our dog has cancer also. This is really hard on my better half who raised her from a puppy.

Uni is beautiful by the way and it sounds like she is very special. I hope that you cherish the good memories.


Emi Macuaga said...

Thank you for your message. I'm so sorry to hear about your dog... I hope you are able to share lots and lots of time and love in the time that you have left together. Big big hugs to you all!