I left the office Friday evening to head straight to a magic show being hosted at my husband’s theater. We had viewings of two houses scheduled for the weekend that I was secretly hopeful would go well. I thought I would be writing about either of those events. Instead, I am writing about a cat I thought had a sore tum tum.
On a typical day, my alarm goes off and Bella takes that as her cue to initiate Operation Feed Me. She climbs up on my belly, settles her paws on my chest, and stares at me until I blink my eyes open. Once the eyes have opened, phase one is complete and phase two commences. Phase two usually consists of pawing, nosing, head-butting, licking, chewing, and resorting to any other downright bizarre behavior designed to get me out of bed. When I’m ready to go down stairs, Bella leads me, checking behind her often to make sure I am still on my way. And then I give her a little scoop of dry food which she immediately attacks before settling into one of her favorite morning spots to clean herself in a slice of sunlight. In the evenings, she is required to sit in her chair nicely and wait for us to mix a little bit of kibble into her wet food. Getting her settled takes anywhere from 30 seconds to 30 minutes, depending on her state of annoyance with us. Before she is allowed to eat, she is required to give us a little kiss before she leaps out of her chair and bounds to her food which she devours at lightning speed. On a typical day.
It started with a little harmless rationing. Shelby was running summer theatre camp and I was working late trying to get some overtime in before the baby comes. I assumed that she was just ensuring she had supplies to last her through until her next feeding.
And then, in the evenings, she would get increasingly messy. Rather than a crystal clear bowl, she would leave food and come back to it later. We noticed her nosing around the kibble and pushing it onto the floor. I had recently added a little bag of a different mix since she is spending a lot more time outside and her usual food is indoor cat only. Again I made an assumption that she was disinterested in the new kibble joining her usual food and was trying to avoid it. On a particularly low intake day, we tossed her mixed food and gave her just a can of wet. She attacked it with her usual fervor. Problem solved, I’ll lessen the mixture, go back to her regular kibble, or just continue with the wet until her tummy settles.
And then she wouldn’t finish her wet food. But she would eat treats.
And then she wouldn’t start her wet food.
And then she stopped eating treats.
And then she would only drink a little water poured off from a tuna can.
And then she wouldn’t touch that.
And we couldn’t get her to move. She just laid there. If we put our nose close to hers, she would try to rub our face, but would then just meow loudly, which she never does. Bella is a squeaker.
And I got worried enough to take her to the vet. I thought she may just have an upset tummy. They recently sprayed for bugs which usually leads to an uptick of unwanted pests in the house. I have seen Bella eat at least one roach and one cricket. Maybe she got a dosed one and just needs some liquids or antibiotics? Or maybe she got into some contaminated water outside and got worms or something. I didn’t think it was depression or stress since she was still so loving with us, but she wasn’t throwing up either.
So I took her in expecting to get a slap on the hand for being out of date with her vaccines and an antibiotic that we would have to administer for a few days. I never dreamed I would be told that she may not make it home.
On initial investigation, her kidneys are fine, her liver is fine, she doesn’t have feline immunodeficiency virus, nor does she have a UTI, fleas, ticks, or other visible issues. She passed several of her tests with flying colors. The doctor led with this news. I whooped and called out “that’s my girl!”
And then, my comfortable parachute of affirmation in my diagnosis was quickly destroyed, leaving me to crash to earth at crippling speed.
What Bella does have is an abnormally large spleen. A feline spleen should not be visible on X-ray, and hers takes up half of her belly. She also has severe anemia. Her platelet count should be 200,000 and she is at 10,000. Her cell count should be no less than 25%, at last check she was at 12%. They hear a heart murmur that is most likely related to the anemia, but they haven’t been able to rule out underlying heart disease. If they can’t get the anemia under control, or if her heart doesn’t settle with the treatments, she may not leave the hospital breathing.
Cats don’t get anemic without a cause. Severe anemia is a symptom that something else is wrong. In this case, the anemia coupled with the enlarged spleen leads them to believe Bella has Lymphoma. There are other possibilities, an infectious disease or some other autoimmune issue causing her to attack her own blood cells. But given the current information, they feel these are less likely. They are running more tests to confirm her diagnosis. If it is cancer, the range of time we have with our little girl is anywhere from 2 weeks to a year depending on a variety of factors. 2 weeks. From perfectly fine to 2 weeks to live. How do you process that?
They gave her a blood transfusion yesterday. We got a call at 3 in the morning that it didn’t help as much as they were hoping and wanted our authorization to perform another one. Why not? We’re this far in, we might as well keep going. They have her under sedation to ultrasound her belly and really figure out what’s happening with her spleen. While she’s under, they intend to x-ray her chest cavity to look for signs that cancer has spread and/or indications that the anemia is not responsible for her heart murmur. They felt she was too unstable to collect the aspirations from the spleen as they had originally intended, her anemia is still the most critical condition at play.
The doctor that took over her case today is presenting Bella’s condition a little more hopefully than the weekend vet. We are hearing more confidence in her voice that they will stabilize her enough to bring her home. That they will figure out what is going on with her and then we can decide if and how we can fix her. And give us a more definite timeline.
We just want a couple more months. Just enough time to meet the baby. They are already such good friends, playing together through my belly. Just enough time for us to process what is happening so that we can say good-bye. On our terms. And not in this whirlwind with our parachutes covering our eyes. We’re hoping for a miracle, but we’ll settle for a few more months.