Spunky (the Wonder Cat) and Good People
Sometimes, in this world of crazy politicians and people who cut you off in traffic, it’s all too easy to forget that nice people exist. That there are still strangers who will smile at you. Better still, when someone sees you are having a bad day, he/she will stop to chat.
Last Saturday, I took my cat (Spunky) to the vet for routine blood work.
(Spunky, almost two years ago.)
When they took blood from her neck, it came out looking like iced tea. A semi-panicked tech came out and explained the situation.
It might be cancer.
Those are not words you want to hear, either regarding pets or people. Somehow, routine blood work turned into it might be cancer. I thanked her for keeping me posting (it was an extremely busy day) and waited. As I sat there, longing for Godot to arrive, it struck me how the world changes with one small revelation, good or bad. How one tiny thing can tilt life.
Cancer is something I know all too well. When the tech told me what she did, it wasn’t just about my potentially sick cat – who is nearly 17, and who I’ve had her whole life and over half of mine – there was so much more behind those words. The denotative meaning was one thing. The connotative meaning was another. That one is tucked underneath my smile. I promise, you won’t see it.
I wanted to be angry. Anger is safer. Instead, I felt like, “Not again.” Not this. Anything but this.
The vet came out. He sat down. He explained that they’d shaved her neck, that they could see a large mass. He asked if I’d noticed it. I explained that I thought it was simply an enlarged thyroid (she suffers from hyperthyroidism AND is a diabetic). He nodded, then told me that he needed to drain some fluid. Again, the words came it might be cancer. I nodded, said the right things, and waited.
The man next to me, who I’d talked to earlier (mostly when I pet his dog and covered the sweet lab in kisses), asked me what was going on. I told him. He looked at me and said, “It’ll be okay.” Then he proceeded to distract me as his wife paid the bill. He rescues animals. He has two pet snakes. And there is goat. He’s been going to this vet for as long as my whole family has. He remembers the cow that used to live in the barn. He remembers the original owner.
Up until the minute he left, that guy took my mind off my cat, Spunky. By that time, a woman had come in with the sweetest, cutest pitbull puppy ever. It was a love bug and a rescue. It literally hugged his owner around the neck, paws on either side of her head, like a child looking for comfort.
She sat down and told me Nico’s (the dog) story. In that telling was a reminder of how some people are kind and how others are not. And I really am wondering if kindness is an extreme – something you either have or don’t. Because you can’t really fake it, and if you can, it’s never for very long.
Then, the vet came back out. He had Grim Face. The kind of face I’ve seen too often.
What’s left is just the mass, he said. We can’t get any more fluid out. It seems like it is mostly like a tumor. I want to send it out to be tested. The only other option is surgery.
Spunky is, to say the least, geriatric. Surgery isn’t an option. I told him to send the fluid out. He leaves, and I tried not to devolve into a basketcase. This cat has been with me through EVERYTHING. Moving, broken hearts, epic failures, grad school (sometimes referred to as the circle in Hell that Dante forgot), bad choices, good choices, fights, breakups, reconciliations of a questionable nature, bad news and things that made it seem like the world was ending.
She may be just a cat, but she’s a family member. She’s part of me. She’s a witness.
This is a cat who, from the get go, had a death wish. Spunky was a rescue. Right before her first Christmas, she got deathly ill and had to spend two weeks at the vet. She was also supposed to be a barn cat, not an inside cat – except she didn’t have street smarts. Her first week outside, she managed to get herself stuck behind the wall of a horse stall (we thought she ran away), and my poor father had to take the WALL down to get her out. After that, she was a strictly indoor cat, which is why she hopped down a heating vent – because the cover was knocked off. (Why? I still don’t know.) I think I was sixteen by then and totally panicked. I ran and got my mom, and as soon as my mom stepped into the room, Spunky LEAPT out of the vent. Like a freakin’ cartoon.
Beyond that, she was misdiagnosed as Non-diabetic (when she was actually diabetic). Then she got deathly ill and nearly died because of it. Two weeks at the vent again, and then IV fluids at home on a daily basis (let me tell you something, that is NOT an easy thing to do). Did I mention that she LOATHES the vet, and somehow always knows, thus endeavors to hide behind the television in protest?
She is the cat with more than 9 lives, but I know that this may be her last. Nearly a week, and two trips to the vet later, the results came back: NOT fucking cancer. YAY! But it’s a cyst, and it’s large. From Saturday to Wednesday, it filled right back up. Now, it’s a watch-and-see kind of thing. If it hinders her breathing, or if she stops eating etc, she will need to be put to sleep.
But I’m lucky. Because it could’ve been, we need to put her to sleep now. It could’ve been worse. It could’ve been cancer again. (Side-note: I am sick of cancer. Is it me, or does it seem like there’s more and more cancer these days? Pets and people, alike. It SUCKS.)
So, today, I am grateful. I’m grateful for the strangers who made an awful day more tolerable. I’m grateful for my dad, who had to listen to me on the phone, when I cracked and teared up. I’m grateful to my mother who, every day, shows me how to be strong – and how to never give up and how to never accept something because of something or someone else. I’m grateful for my best friend, who got my panicked test message of “what the frakkin’ hell? I’m a mess” and did not judge me for, in fact, BEING a mess. I’m grateful for my brother, who endured my back-and-forth updates from the vet’s office.
And Twitter. I’m grateful for all of you guys, because you continually surprise me in good ways. I say I’m having a crap-all, fuck-all, shitfest of a day – and you’re there. You ask questions. You offer support. You join me when I wax poetic about shoes and poetry. You inspire me to be a better writer, a better person. You laugh at my jokes (sometimes, even the bad ones). I’ve never loved a social network quite so much. It’s like one big party of the internet (shout-out to Amanda Palmer, for her LoFN – that Loser on a Friday Night, sometimes also LOFNOTC — Loser on a Friday Night on Their Computer). Incidentally, for more on the awesomeness of Twitter, check out Patty Blount’s fabulous blog entry. She is a great woman and a great writer. I’m honored to call her my friend.
And you guys, reading this? Thank you, too.