Monday, June 17, 2013

Mabel's last summer

One Monday in early February Mabel, our little black Bombay cat, collapsed. I thought she had an abscess, and asked Tom (who's a massage therapist) to feel for a lump. He didn't find anything serious, but we made a vet appointment for the next day.

The vet wasn't very concerned. They did a quick blood panel, which came back normal. Tom asked the vet to check out what he thought was a small lump in her lower abdomen. The vet did a needle biopsy, but told us not to worry.

We got a call the next day. They were very sorry, but Mabel had fatal large-cell lymphoma and would likely live only another two or three weeks. I asked about oncology, and they said I'd have to get her an appointment in the next two days. By this time, it was Wednesday. And the oncology clinic didn't have Friday hours.

I managed to get us in at the oncologists the following Monday, where we were told we had three options for chemotherapy: A series of weekly treatments with one drug; a series of weekly treatments that alternated between two drugs, and a series of weekly treatments that cycled through four drugs. All three regimens are palliative, not curative, chemo. We picked the four-drug regimen, they started it on the spot, and within two days of starting it Mabel was seemingly back to normal. It was like magic.

This was in mid-February.

Mabel responds exceptionally well to chemo. She doesn't mind the treatments — even the series of subcutaneous injections (cats don't do well with IV drips) that we have to give her at home every few weeks. We rub prednisone cream on her ear every night, but that's the only other medication involved.

After eight weeks of treatment, the vet tried putting Mabel onto every-other-week chemo. Ten days into it, she took a dramatic turn for the worst. One eye was shut, and she began twitching. We rushed her to the clinic, thinking it might be time to put her down. But they administered her next dose of chemo, and a hour or so later we had Mabel back to normal. We're back to weekly chemo, which we refer to as "renting the cat."

Mabel has always been a hugely demonstrative and affectionate cat, and the cancer and chemo have made her even more interested in sitting on people. And it's much harder now to tell her to go away and let you work because you realize that your time with her is limited. It is very difficult to imagine life without Mabel.

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