I’ve lost two pets in my life, but never have I been this close to the end with one of them. I hate this and I need to share it. (This is a long read.)
On January 12, my cat Kismet had surgery to remove most of a tumor from her cheek. As the day approached, we hadn’t even been sure she would be able to 1) have the surgery or 2) make it through alive. She’s sixteen years old and, as we learned at a vet appointment just two weeks before, she apparently has a heart murmur. The day before surgery, she had an echocardiogram to make sure her heart was strong enough; luckily, it was. One hurdle down.
On January 12, Kismet had to be sedated to undergo first a CT scan, to see if the mass had grown into her bone (a little, but nothing major–yet), and then be put under for the surgery itself. She survived both, which was a miracle in itself. I woke up early before work to say goodbye–for the day or forever, I wasn’t entirely sure–and ended up staying home with my dad, who had taken the day to drop her off and wait for news, to fret and worry.
I spent January 12 reaching for shadows and stoping myself from calling out to an empty house. There were so many times something flickered past my eye, the form of a cat leaping from a bed or trotting around a corner, curled up in a ball on the couch or looking out the back door. I would wonder, idly, where she was, the same way I have a million times before, when she’s nowhere to be seen and I’m 99% sure she’s curled up on my bed or my parents’, soaking in sun, napping.
The house felt different. There were two adult humans in it and yet I’ve never felt it so lonely. There was an emptiness hanging over us far greater then the sum of her unspoken name, my empty bedspread, and her waiting food dish. I waited for her to jump into my lap while I tried to work from home, or to beg for the Chinese food we ordered for lunch. It always felt like she was right around the corner. (Maybe that’s how it will feel soon enough.)
They told us it would be 2-5 days until they could biopsy the tumor from her cheek and tell us what it was. Most signs in the last few weeks have pointed to cancer, and I told myself that part didn’t matter. If she made it through the surgery, I’d be happy. She is a feisty survivor; the rest could be sorted out, if she could just keep her heart beating under anesthesia.
On January 14, Kismet was diagnosed with cancer. Or, at least, the tumor in her cheek was said to be cancerous–a carcinoma, I think my dad said the doctor said on the phone at 5:30 on Saturday evening, but everything beyond “my cat is okay” or “my cat is not okay” gets a little fuzzy. She lives in a gray zone between those places now, though, and I can’t think of how to label where she is, where we are, how I feel. She hasn’t been eating much, though because of the pain or because she doesn’t want to, we don’t know. I don’t want to think about platitudes like “her time has come” anymore, even as I beg the universe not to let her starve and suffer. She deserves the grace with which she has always lived her life, now more than ever.
Kismet had a difficult upbringing. She was abandoned as a pregnant young cat by people who I guess didn’t want that responsibility. Her litter was aborted and she was spayed; she survived all of that without a problem. We met her at a house on the beach, where an old woman named Agnes fostered kittens in cages, and when she was locked in Agnes’ bathroom with me and my parents, I knew she was mine.
When Agnes brought her to our house, Kismet hid under my bed and scratched me when, in my excitement at finally owning a pet that didn’t live in a bowl (sorry, Rainbow–I loved you, too), I tried to drag her out. I have that scar on my right hand to this day. I wear it proudly–she has always been my warrior girl.
I had a dream two ago in which my other cat, Gilgo, who died suddenly (and while I was away at school) almost five years ago now came to me as a kitten. We were playing in my living room, and he kept clutching my leg and riding around happily on it, looking up at me with his big dumb eyes and his big dumb smile. Kismet was there, too, though on the periphery. Gilgo looked tiny and so, so happy to see us.
This was just after we had scheduled the surgery. I couldn’t help but interpret it as our boy come home to tell us that he would watch our for his older adopted sister, whenever she wanted to come. I assumed that meant it would be soon, though I haven’t really admitted that to myself until just now.
I am trying not to mourn my cat now, but it’s difficult when the outcomes all seem bleak. We’ve decided not to pursue chemo or radiation, because she’d old, she hates leaving the house, and we don’t want her to suffer more than she already has. She’s seeing the oncologist in ten days, barring catastrophe.
I’m not saying goodbye until I absolutely have to; I refuse. I will fight with my warrior girl until she no longer can or cares to. And then we’ll all move forward together.
To Kismet, babe, babycakes, nugget, peanut, dumb-dumb (said with love), silly, baby, pretty kitty: I love you.