Owning a cat is usually a no-fuss operation. All they want is food, the occasional warm lap, and a litterbox that's cleaned relatively often (relative being a relative word when it comes to me and motoboy). But when your cat isn't feeling well, or sounding well, all your feelings about the thing just come to the surface.
I had been trying to figure out what was wrong with Maud's nose for about a year and a half now. She would have a nasal congestion that would come and go, depending on the time of year, or stressors like the dog coming to visit for a weekend, etc. I tried all sorts of antibiotics, steroids, supplements. I went to the vet whenever it seemed to get alarmingly bad, but I really was at a loss. I even tried another vet thinking to get a second opinion, and after he tried the last drug we hadn't thought of yet, he told me he could do no more. The next step, should I choose to take it, was to take her to a specialist so that they could get a look at her nasal passages and see what was going on there. The previous vet had told me this too, but I was really hoping it wouldn't come to that. Because once you determine that there is "something up there" it usually means a decision has to be made about that something coming out. And the last thing I'm going to do to a 16 yer old cat is open her head open. Just like I knew I couldn't put her on a plane by herself (sorry Meg for catnapping your pet) I can't imagine sending her in for invasive surgery.
But the curiosity was killing me, and I really debating setting up this appointment for at least the rhinoscopy. Its a procedure where they go through the back of the mouth and look up into the entrance to the nasal passages to see if there is any blockage. So I called the facility on Monday, and they had an opening on Wednesday, and now I was booked. I knew the doctor might recommend against it, or magically come up with another solution, so I wasn't too worried. Well, I was a little worried. Both about what I was about to put Maud through and also about my delicate and ever changing bank balance. Freelancing really makes for a tenuous state of financial security. But hey, I'm working, and I keep getting extended, so I'll just give one of those weeks to Maud. She's been my partner in crime for many years now, so I thought its the least I can do.
I was feeling pretty brave taking her into the hospital, they even had valet parking, and an elevator to the doctor's room. I met the specialist, and he had a nice, friendly face. But then he started talking. He was basically a cat surgeon, not your typical family vet on the corner. This guy loves statistics, and describing various invasive procedures, and giving a range of possibilities while never really letting you know which one he thinks would be best for this particular animal. I realized that a lot of what happens next is totally up to me to decide. And I got scared, and overwhelmed, and when he started describing what would happen if you wanted to remove a tumor from a cat's tiny nasal passages I just lost it. 9.30 am and I am crying to a stranger. Lovely. I apologized and he said, "that's ok" but didn't really stop his rant. I felt like it was part of the procedure, that he felt due diligence to explain to me all of these possibilities but I was just waiting to get to the part where he told me what he thought. We agreed however, to check her blood levels and x-ray her chest to make sure she would be fit for the procedure, and that he would call me in a couple of hours to let me know and then we would talk about next steps.
Well he did call and let me know that all of her blood levels were fine, her heart looked good even though she had a slight murmur, and she was a good candidate for the procedure. And then I think he gave me a clue. He said he usually starts with the CT scan (cat scan, gettit?) before doing the rhinoscopy and saline flushing, but in this case if I wanted, he could do the rhinoscopy first and the CT scan after if there appeared to be something to look at closer. We had kind of agreed that if it was a tumor, I probably wouldn't treat it with radiation (too hard on her) or an operation (too hard on both of us). So I took his offer and opted for the rhinoscopy only, with some biopsies possible of whatever was found. This would greatly reduce the worst case scenario estimate that his assistant had presented to me, which had put me into a second round of tears. "Oh Maudy!" I had cried, both for the seriousness of what we were now doing and also for the cost to my financial health.
They hadn't called me back by 5pm, and I wanted to just go get her and take her home and nurse her and forget that this day had ever happened. So I picked up motoboy and we just showed up there. I was pretty sure they hadn't called me because she had actually died under anesthesia and now I would have no more Maud, snarfy or not. Thankfully when we finally got through to the doctor's offices upstairs they were saying she was ok, just a bit worse in her congestion because of the biopsies. I turned to motoboy and said, quite seriously, "I thought she was dead." We took a look at a picture of a bump in her left nostril opening, which seemed to be the cause of the noise and trouble. The right nostril was actually pretty free, as he did flush some water through it with no resistance. This comforted me somewhat to know that her breathing has never been really badly obstructed. It just sounds worse than it really is.
So we went home with a very dazed and confused, and loud breathing, kitty. We got some soft food and tried to give her cuddles but she really just wanted to sit in a corner and figure out why she felt so weird. It made me think about people with sick kids, how in god's name do they cope with a child with cancer, or even a broken leg? We get these little things to take care of, but they are really just set up to break our hearts someday. I know someday I will have to make a very different kind of trip to the vet, so for now I just want to make her quality of life the best I can, to the best of my abilities. We go a long way back this one and I. I'd hope she'd do the same for me. That is, if she weren't a cat who has no job, and no real care in the world. Otherwise, I know she'd totally have my back.
Fingers crossed on the biopsy results. Let's just hope its something we can live with for a little while longer?