On Good Friday (April 19) Mr. Man and I found out Remus has central nervous system lymphoma; he has a lesion at the base of his brain that also wraps a little around his spinal cord. It’s one of the worst diagnoses we could have gotten.
At the time he couldn’t walk but he was our determined, bratty, loving boy in every other way. He still licked my forehead; he has always been headstrong, so he would still try to get up, even though his legs weren’t working. The lesion had put so much pressure on the spine that his cerebrospinal fluid was backed up (we saw it on the MRI), and his spinal cord also had some constriction.
It was a long day, and while we were in the consult room with the neurologist, Remus would bite the shirt of whichever one of us was holding him (sometimes getting a little skin!), and tug, as if to say, ‘I’m done! Let’s go HOME!’.
Not only is Remus the most willful creature I’ve ever met, but he’s also the most human in many ways. When people come over, he would hop on the counter (which he’s not supposed to do), and stare at them until they meet his gaze and he will study them, as if he is taking the measure of their soul to see if they are worthy. Then he’d often bump or schmear them, to give approval. He will look directly into your eyes when you chat with him, and sometimes when he’s being particularly feisty, he’ll look you in the eye while he’s doing exactly what you admonished him not to do. Before he got sick he would want to sit on the counter during supper but would finally settle on a chair placed between us, because he wants to be part of things. He’d want to sniff ingredients, and would pester you for a bit of pastry, cracker or cookie (he loves all three).
So we had a choice – euthanize him, despite him acting normal in every other way; continue to treat him with prednisone or prednisole, and wait for the inevitable brain herniation or difficulty breathing as the result of the growth, or try to treat him.
So we chose the latter. There is one radiation oncologist for pets in western Washington, and she’s in Seattle. After some craziness with regard to scheduling, we got in to see her about six days later, Remus has two chemo shots within 24 hours, and one semi-sizeable dose of radiation.
Within six hours of the radiation/first shot, he was having more success trying to propel himself around with his back legs, and kept trying to sniff the other cats; he was more active in subtle ways (thank God his appetite has never left him). Within 24 hours, he started walking; he had stopped being able to about ten days prior. He still stumbles and is a bit wobbly, but he’s playing with toys, trying to harass his brother, and now joins the three other cats at the wet food bowl again at night.
The problem is overall, prognosis for CNS lymphoma sucks. It grows slowly, but because of the blood brain barrier (normally a good thing), a lot of drugs don’t cross it and can’t be used. Average time is 4-5 months after diagnosis, perhaps a year; even if you get it at the primary site, it will often travel and appear elsewhere. He’s had to have radiation 10 weekdays in a row (last week was HELL), and the last treatment is this Wednesday. This is all expensive as you can imagine, and I keep expecting my credit cards to spontaneously combust in my wallet in protest.
What can we do? Remus wants to fight. Every time he falls down he gets back up, sometimes with a little whine of frustration, and even when he couldn’t walk he would try, sometimes succeeding in pushing himself forward a touch, sometimes not and getting grumpy and meowy over it, only for his limbs to twitch as he tried again; and as I said, he’s been the same bratty, sweet, determined baby he has been since we rescued him and his brother Romulus at 4 months old. Remus, or ‘White Paws’ as he was known at the shelter, literally put his paws around Mr. Man’s neck and snuggled into him and Mr. Man said, ‘We need to get these boys!’ Sucker! =)
Every day Mr. Man cradles him like a baby when we drive to Seattle; the minute we get in the truck he is quiet, even though he meows and complains going out the door, but then he sleeps in the sun and is content. Everyone seems to know him too, and several staff mention they visit him when he’s there. It is breaking our hearts because the prognosis usually is not good but we hope for an 11lb miracle so we can continue to enjoy him and spoil him.
Remus and work have taken almost all of my time, and let me tell you work has been nuts; I’m not kidding. People stealing, (I thought this was the case months ago but didn’t know who because of poor practices and people didn’t seem interested), an employee threatening a fellow coworker… it’s a crazy soap opera, I couldn’t make it up; there’s so much dysfunction I often wonder why I am still there because it is very stressful but the huge draw is I am a contractor and can work flex hours that way.
I did manage to get a little gardening in on Sunday, which was a nice break. Tomatoes are in the ground and almost all of the plot that can be planted is, which feels good. Some of the more unusual things there – parsnips, lima beans, edamame, Pellegrini beans and over seventy (!!!) heads of garlic! Will take pictures and post when things are farther along.
Hope your spring is shaping up to be good. I’m currently re-reading book four because I’m getting into some buildup, and want to be certain I have all the details right. As soon as I’m done with this blog, that’s what I’ll be back to.
I also moved from AWS to another hosting service that includes my domain email, etc.; it is a better arrangement and this site should be more stable from now on, and it costs me less! Bonus!
All the best,