Thursday, January 20, 2022

update on monkey ~ and a little distraction

Thank you all so much for your loving, kind, supportive comments on my previous post about Monkey. He's still hanging in there. I've had some super busy and stressful days with medication problems and making his final arrangements, entailing numerous phone calls and emails. That part seems to be behind me now, so...we wait.

One of the hardest parts is going through all the ups and downs of the day. Prednisolone is keeping him comfortable and I have Gabapentin on standby if he needs it for pain. With this nasal tumor partially obstructing his nose and throat, he breathes through his mouth, as you can see below. He's also started sneezing a lot and making choking sounds, which is horrible to hear. Sometimes he eats all his food, other times he eats only a little bit. I have to sit on the floor over the course of half hour+, coaxing him to eat off a spoon. Sometimes I add chicken or turkey baby food to his wet food to entice him. There's been a couple of scary times where he wouldn't touch his food. That was when he was on a compounded transdermal Prednisolone gel that I was rubbing in his ears. Little did I know it wasn't working very well, so he wasn't feeling good...

Back story: the internal medicine vet who did all the tests on Monkey and diagnosed him with the nasal tumor, sent him home with liquid Prednisolone. It was impossible to give it to him. It was like trying to wrestle a wild tiger. Most of the medication would be on the bathroom walls and floor and my arms were scratched. I called my regular vet who said the compounding pharmacy could make it into a transdermal gel. Problem was - as I later found out from the internal medicine vet - the transdermal gel isn't as strong or effective as the liquid or tablet. Poor Monkey! But I wondered how in the world I'd be able to give him a tablet. The internal medicine vet suggested trying pill pockets. Can you believe I'd never heard of those? My regular vet had never, in all these years of having cats, told me about these. 😠

I found Greenie pet pill pockets for cats at PetCo. They're soft and moldable. All you do is pop the tablet (or capsule) into the middle of the treat and mold it around the pill. The cat will hopefully eat the entire treat in one swallow. Monkey did not. I think it's too big for him to eat with the having the tumor. So now I'm crushing up the tablet and mixing it into his wet food.

Poor Clementine is afraid of Monkey right now. I'm sure she doesn't like the way he sounds and acts. Yesterday when Monkey wasn't feeling well and hiding under the guest room bed, Clem was nearby on the heating vent, just staring over at him. Cats are so intuitive...I wonder if she knows he's dying? 

There's times we see the "old" Monkey and it makes our hearts when he comes into the kitchen when he knows it's feeding time. Or when he crawls up into Brian's lap when he's relaxing on the couch in the evening. Tonight he even jumped up onto the kitchen table when we were eating dinner and tried to get into my food! Normally, I would make him get off the table, but tonight I let him stay up there. 😻

On a totally different note, Brian and I had the chance to escape for a few hours last weekend to a nearby town for some shopping and walking around.

I've mentioned the town of Woodstock (IL) on my blog before. It's listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the town square offers an array of unique shops. But you might recognize it most for the famous gazebo - coming up!

It was bitter cold, so we walked quickly. And then stopped for hot tea at Ethereal Confections. Their chocolate is the best I've ever had. It's bean to bar, sourced from Central and South America and processed and molded in-house. I treat myself to a few truffles each time I'm there (which isn't often) and make them last by savoring just one every few days day.

The historic opera house, where I've seen a few concerts and a play.

OK, here's the famous gazebo. Recognize it? 
It's the gazebo from the movie, Groundhog Day with Bill Murray.

The main reason we went to Woodstock was because Brian had bought me a shirt for Christmas from one of my favorite shops. It didn't fit, so I wanted to exchange it for a different size. Turned out, they didn't have the shirts in stock anymore.

I got a store credit and one of the things I chose was this beautiful handmade Tremundo art journal.

Almost too pretty to use!

Thank you, again for your supportive and gracious comments. I appreciate them all.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

when life plain ol' stinks

This new year has not started out well. Monkey has had breathing issues for two-three months. We noticed back in October or November that he sounded stuffed up and would sometimes mouth breathe. We took him to our regular veterinary practice and they thought perhaps Monkey had a nasal polyp. They did a basic X-ray of his head down to his chest and didn't see anything. He was put on antibiotics which didn't do any good. In fact, he seemed worse. I took him back to the vet. Again, they couldn't find anything...his lungs were clear, his heart sounded good. The vet suggested because Monkey was born with viral herpes which sometimes affected his eyes, that the inflammation perhaps caused a polyp in his sinuses. They gave Monkey a shot of Depo Medrol for inflammation, which did help a bit. We were then referred to an internal medicine vet.

Unfortunately, the internal medicine vets at the specialty animal hospital were all booked until this past Monday. That's when Monkey saw Dr M. Monkey went through many procedures and tests, including a CT scan in which he had to be put under general anesthesia. We weren't worried at first. We just figured they'd find the polyp, possibly remove it, and that Monkey would recover well at home.

 We were shocked when the vet called us (we were not allowed in the building the entire time due to Covid...we had to sit in the car and wait) and said the scan showed that Monkey had a large mass in his nasal cavity. They did a biopsy and shipped it to Cornell University. As a side note, the wonderful vet tech that took care of Monkey said he was one of the sweetest and gentlest cats that she's ever taken care of and that if all her kitty patients were like him, it'd make her job a lot easier. That's my sweetums! 

The minute Dr M said they found this large mass, I knew it was cancer. I came home and looked up information about nasal masses in cats, and found they are usually lymphoma or carcinoma. They only make up 1% of tumors in cats.

I got the news from Dr M today confirming my fears. Monkey's mass is lymphoma. 

My days since bringing Monkey home from the hospital on Monday night have been a blur of heartbreak, worry, sadness and pouring out extra love and attention to Monks. He's been very needy, wanting to rest and sleep on me a lot. I am putting everything else on the back burner for right now and obliging him. We never expected our 11-year old cat who had been in perfect health up until now, to cross the Rainbow Bridge before Clementine, his mother, who has had Chronic Kidney Disease and a chronic skin condition for over four years.

Cats can have radiation for nasal lymphoma, but we have declined that treatment. The treatments would be every day for three weeks. And the cat has to undergo general anesthesia for the treatment every time to prevent movement. Can you imagine?! There is no way I'm putting him through that. I also read on a veterinary site (Iowa State University, Lloyd Veterinary Medical Center) that the side effects can be significant due to the long course and site of the radiation. Changes to the skin, eyes, and inside of the nose and mouth are typical side effects. And if the eyes are in the field of radiation, cataracts or corneal ulceration are possible. After all this, the average lifespan of the cat is only six - twelve months. Some oncologists also recommend chemotherapy on top of the radiation. Not happening. Dr M said he totally understood.

Monkey is now on Prednisolone which relieves the inflammation of the mass and keeps him comfortable. All we can do is take one day at a time until we know it's time to let him go. It will be sooner rather than later though. Cats don't live long with this type of cancer. It could be a week, a month, we just don't know. He's still eating all his meals and using the litter box and walking around the house. If he shows any signs of worsening breathing or stops eating or can't use the litter box, we will not let him suffer any longer. We will be using an in-home euthanasia veterinary service, just like we did with Zippo a few years ago.

{Monkey in his favorite spot ~ his nest ~ this morning}

I know that self-care is important, especially when going through an extra hard time. And since today was 39 degrees which felt like a heat wave compared to the single digit temps we'd had lately, I knew I had to get outside to get fresh air and exercise. I've felt so sluggish and tired these past few days. It was sunny when I first started walking but then the clouds moved in. The view at the lake is truly bleak this time of year. Matched my mood.

But you know what? The fresh air and exercise felt great. It was just what I needed ~ physically and emotionally.

I know there are those with far worse problems right now. I am not comparing my heartbreak to what anyone else is going through. I've been through far worse...with the worst thing of all being the death of my oldest son in 2009. Nothing ~ absolutely NOTHING ~ could or can compare to that pain and loss. 

I am only speaking of what I'm going through in the here and now. If you're an animal lover like me ~ and I know a lot of my blogger friends are ~ I know you'll understand this post. 

Dang, it really hurts.

Monday, January 3, 2022

snowy new year's day, reading pile, and a couple of recipes to keep you warm

I mentioned in my last post that we were wanted to get in our traditional New Year's Day hike in the State Park before the snow hit. We did it! It was only in the 20's, but we bundled up and went about two miles. It was actually invigorating. The snow started right as we were leaving, so perfect timing.

The great thing about walking in the State Park on New Year's day is that we have the whole park to ourselves ~ except for the animals, of course. No humans in sight the entire time as the park is closed on New Year's day. The main gates to drive into the park are closed, but you're allowed to walk in through the side walk-in only entrances. 

I don't always love where I live, but when I walk in the State Park, I feel very grateful to live here.

"I took a walk in the woods and came out taller than the trees." (Henry David Thoreau)

So now that it's officially January and we're experiencing true winter weather; i.e., cold, and the omicron variant has a lot of people sick with Covid, I'm doing more staying indoors. I did go to the library today (only three other people in there besides the few employees) to return some books and pick up a few others. This is my January reading pile. I've been reading Simple Abundance every year for many years. January is my favorite month of her writings. I've always been curious about A Course in Miracles but it's quite lengthy and involved, so I thought I'd try what I call the Cliff Notes version ("Made Easy").

No Time to Spare by Ursula K. LeGuin is a collection of her blog posts which she began writing in her 80's. (She passed away in 2018.) From what I've read, she's a wonderful writer and this book is a gem of her deepest thoughts.


This past weekend, I made a couple of dishes that were yummy, healthy, warming, and easy to make, so I thought I'd share them with you. The first is from Half Baked Harvest ~ my newest favorite for dinner ideas and recipes. Every recipe I've tried has turned out wonderful. If you like Indian food with a little heat, you have to try this Crockpot Butter Chicken. I didn't have any red curry paste on-hand and this dish still turned out great. Serve over brown rice with garlic naan bread and a side of steamed broccoli. Although, in my post-menopausal foggy brained state (that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it), I forgot to make the broccoli. 🙄

I apologize for this non-appealing photo (bad lighting, steam coming from the bowl, melting cheese swirling throughout), but believe me, this One Pot Red Lentil Chili was delicious. I used a poblano chili instead of a jalapeno and I only used one can of beans (black) instead of two, as I don't digest beans too well. I had leftovers for lunch today and it was even better after sitting in the refrigerator overnight.

Have a good week ~ stay warm and healthy!