What's Not to Laugh?

Almost everything about aging–except grave illness and death–can be funny as well as disturbing. I try to find the funny and help us all get through it!

Archive for the month “June, 2014”

On loving our pets and sticker shock

It’s time for an update on the health of our beloved cat, Maude. You non-cat people out there can just click the “X” in the right-hand corner and wait for a more interesting post. For those who are still with me, here’s what’s going on:

When Maude had her ear canal removed because of a tumor, the biopsy showed that it was a squamous cell carcinoma. The vet surgeon said that there were residual cells that couldn’t be removed because of their location. She added the dreadful “These cells can progress rapidly,” and recommended that we consult with the vet oncologist to explore our options and their possible outcomes.

When I called the Vet Specialty Center to make the appointment, I was told not to feed Maude on the appointment day because the oncologists like to perform an ultrasound to see if the cancer has spread. Being the practical person that I am, I asked for the price of the ultrasound. “It’s $400,” was the unwelcome reply. I said that I’m not sure we’d want to do that yet…we just wanted information.

Just before Monday’s appointment date, Maude was hiding in the closet, eating and drinking very little, and because of that, not leaving anything in the litter box. So when the oncologist suggested some tests to see what was going on, how could we say no? We wanted to find out and, we hoped, correct whatever it was. The ultrasound was out because Maude had eaten a few bits of food in the morning, so the tests that were run were those that didn’t involve anesthetics: blood work, chest X-ray to see if there were tumors there, and others that I can’t pronounce nor spell. All came back negative, so that was a relief. They also hydrated her through an injection, so I could stop worrying about the deadly effects of dehydration. And they injected anti-nausea medication that might help her appetite.

This center is very well run and efficient. And they always show you the cost estimate before they do anything to your pet. If during the testing they find that they need to probe a little deeper (and charge more), they’ll come to you again for your approval. So the sticker shock came early in the process, not as a surprise at the end. It turned out to be much, much more than the ultrasound would have cost. But we wanted to proceed and to find out what was making her lethargic and withdrawn. So I muttered, “Who needs a retirement fund?” and gave the okay.

Maude, in friskier times

There was no evidence of cancer, at least in the places they looked, that would be causing her symptoms. But that leaves the ultrasound, which they were quick to tell us could be rescheduled for later this week. That would look at the original area of the tumor and see if new growths were causing pain and keeping her from eating comfortably.

When all the probing and prodding were done for the day, they brought Maude out to us in the waiting room. “She was not happy with us,” the tech said. (What animal would be?) I didn’t realize how unhappy she was until we were in the car on the way home and I unzipped the carrier top so that I could stroke her head. I must have surprised her. I have never heard a hiss like that come out of that sweet little mouth. She was on guard and not at all trusting. She did this twice more before finding a hiding place at home. Then, the next morning, as I was dressing for work, she got in my way and the pant leg I was trying to put on swung at her. She hissed again and sped off. My husband said she probably thought the cloth was someone coming after her with a towel to capture her. We need to tread lightly around her for a few days.

The good news is that she’s back to sleeping with us—and therefore trusting us—although she hides much of the day. Yesterday we found her under our bed (gathering the dust balls I’m sure).

We haven’t scheduled the ultrasound yet, but since she’s still picking at her food (and has lost weight she couldn’t afford to lose), we’ll probably do it soon. And I can guarantee that we’ll end up paying more than an additional $400. If you’re wondering about pet insurance, I’ve heard that it doesn’t cover everything and is not valid for pre-existing conditions. Might I suggest ObamaPetCare?

My daughter, who was Maude’s owner until April 2013 when Maude moved in with us, keeps apologizing. No apologies necessary I tell her. Things happen. But I realize that she knew when she handed Maude over to our care that we would be as devoted to her as she and her husband were.

I’ll report again when I find out more. And if Maude feels up to it, she’ll give her perspective on these events. I’m sure it won’t be pretty.

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