Friday, June 28, 2002

Biz continues to do well. The piroxicam does not seem to bother her stomach (her stool is normal color and consistency), but I know I need to keep monitoring it because one of the side affects of piroxicam is gastrointestinal bleeding.

She does not seem to want to eat her dry food (Science Diet Hairball Light), so I'm wondering if her mouth is bothering her due to the cancer spreading and making it uncomfortable to chew. However, her cancer is obvious on the left side of her face and the Vet said her teeth on the right side of her mouth were in good shape, so she should be able to eat on that side OK, so maybe there's something else bothering Biz that she won't eat much of her dry food.

Many of my friends and collegues are praying for me and I am handling this situation better. Of course, Biz is doing pretty well right now, so when she gets worse, I probably will, too.

Monday, June 24, 2002

I started Biz on the piroxicam (note I spelled it incorrectly as "poroxicam" in my earlier blog entries) on Saturday afternoon. The prescription says "0.8mg ATB." (I think...I'm at work and the prescription is at home, so I'm going on memory). I don't know what ATB is, so I need to find out.

I was told by my Vet to keep an eye out for intestinal bleeding (either a dark, tarry stool or bright red stool), because that is one of the side effects.

So far, so good!

Biz is doing well, and continues to act "normally," except for the things I've already mentioned (raising her lip like she needs to sneeze, but not sneezing, and blowing out her nose like she's trying to clear it from time to time, plus still tearing up in the eye on the side of the cancer, but it's not too bad).

I'm feeding her the piroxicam in salmon-flavored treats that The Medicine Shoppe in Maryville, TN, mixed up for me. The piroxicam does not smell anything like the antibiotic (amoxycillin) I previously gave Biz in the salmon-flavored treats (which is good!), but I still mix the treats in with canned chicken, turkey or tuna, so I don't know if she would eat a treat outright. I need to check on that.

I also feed Biz her regular dry food: Hill's Science Diet Hairball Light, and she seems to be able to chew it OK on her right side (opposite the cancer). So, Biz gets canned chicken/turkey/tuna twice a day (with the piroxicam treats mixed in) and then after she eats all that, I put a portion of dry food on her plate for grazing throughout the day. Seems to work pretty well.

Friday, June 21, 2002


Biz, my beloved.

As you probably already know, "My Beloved" is a term used in one of the greatest love sonnets ever written: the Song of Solomon.

The Song of Solomon is about the erotic and deep love between man and woman, but my love for Biz is deep, too, and she truly is "my beloved."

She is the kind of cat that is standoffish, not wanting to be touched, scared of strangers. She is skittish, fearful and the kind of cat that only a "beloved" could love. I am her beloved and she is mine.

Biz is still doing well. She continues to lift the lip on the opposite side of her cancer, like she needs to sneeze, but she doesn't sneeze. She does blow out of her nose, kinda like humans do to see if there is a booger in there, and she shakes her head more often, I think to help sling off the tears that still flow from her left eye.

The Visiting Vet said today that she had not talked to the oncologist from the Univ. of TN yet (on vacation and it may be a week...), but in general, from what she'd read, the prognosis is 5-12 months after diagnosis. That is longer than the 3-4 months that seems to be typical of cats diagnosed with oral SCC that I've found on the 'Net.

We discussed the fact that chemo combined with radiation seems to help prolong life by a few months (or more), but the stress on Biz to take her to the Vet for those treatments would probably cancel out any prolonging of life gained by the treatments. Biz is so fearful of the Vet that I really don't want to put her through that. So, I mentioned to her that I probably won't do any treatment at all and would want to manage pain and make her as comfortable as possible.

The Vet strongly urged me to set three thresholds in stone, that if Biz fails all three, then I need to have her put down. She and her Mom did the same for her 19-year-old cat who contracted Feline Leukemia from a cat bite: eating, drinking and going outside. Her Mom, in Louisiana, had been syringe-feeding the cat for a while, but one day last week, the cat did not want to go outside; she just hung around at her Mom's feet. She knew it was time. Her Mom took the cat to be put to sleep. I think with Biz, it will be eating, drinking and _____. Purring? She doesn't go outside. She doesn't play much. Hmmm. What is the third thing? Responding to me? Pooping? Lethargy? Help me, Lord Jesus, know what to do.

Biz, my beloved.


I've been on a business trip for two days, separated by 2500 miles from my beloved Biz.

While it was good in one sense to be away, to get some separation, to get a breath of relief from the constant turmoil of seeing Biz every morning and evening, I awoke both mornings I was away at 0dark30 thinking of her. Thinking, "is she in pain right now?" "Is she comfortable?" "Is she sleeping, hopefully?" "How will she have changed while I'm away?" "Will I be able to see that the cancer has grown on her cheek?"

And then my stomach would start rolling and churning as I thought about the upcoming weeks, months...would it be months? Would Biz last that long? Would I be able to watch her decline in front of my very eyes? How can anyone go through this? And this is just a cat! My beloved Biz the cat, but still a cat. What if this were my Mom? Is the Lord preparing me in a way for the day I'll have to do this with Mom, since I am an only child, and so is my Mom (and therefore, I will be solely responsible for her care and decisions about her care per her Living Will instructions)...?

Before I left, Biz had been scratching her ears a lot, and was starting to get small bald spots on her ears. The Vet said to do the hydrogen peroxide/neosporin thing to reduce itching. I'm not sure whether that's due to the cancer, or due to the antibiotic, and I forgot to ask the Vet.

The Vet also has recommended that we start Biz on an anti-inflammatory called Poroxicam. She's tried it on a dog with bladder cancer with good results in helping the dog feel better, and to help shrink/delay growth of the tumor. It's not a cure, but Poroxicam helps shrink blood vessels which should starve the tumor. I wish we'd started her on this last week! Side affects after long term use include gastritis/diarhhea, but the Vet said other effects should be minimal. We're going to do it in capsule form, so I can mix the powder with tuna. I don't know the dosage yet.

I am on the plane getting ready to fly back to Knoxville. It will have been approximately 55 hours since I left Biz. I'm anxious to see her, but dreading it a bit, because I know she's dying.

A part of me wants it to be over, for her to be out of pain and in "Kitty Heaven," (whatever that is...) but another part of me wants to enjoy her for as long as I can. It's hard to enjoy, though, because of the cancer cloud hanging over me/her.


I'm back home now. Biz is doing well. She ate well, acted "normally," and is eating her dry food again (Hill's Science Diet Hairball Lite), so her mouth must have healed pretty well from Tuesday week's molar removal and tumor biospy. The Vet said last Tuesday during Biz's exam that the right side teeth were in great shape and did not have any tartar! (Feeding them dry food really does the job of keeping tartar down). So, Biz is able to eat dry food on the right side OK. I'm still going to continue feeding her low-sodium tuna packed in water, though.

I'm glad she's doing well. I'll bet I sleep really well tonight, being back in my own bed and knowing Biz has not deteriorated hardly at all in the two days I was gone.

Tuesday, June 18, 2002

Today, I feel guilt for "abandoning" Biz, as I'm leaving on a business trip this afternoon and won't be back until Thursday night. I plan on leaving work to go home to pack and spend a little more time with Biz. I feel like every moment is precious, but I don't want to smother her with my attention, because I don't want to stress her out. She's got to be picking up on my sadness/worry signals.

She was hungry this morning, as usual, and is acting "normally." Before I left for work, she was curled up on the guest room bed. I went to her and told her I love her and that she's "my kitty." She contentedly purred as I continued to stroke her head and shoulders. In the dim light of the morning, I couldn't tell anything was wrong with her.

I hope to hear from the Visiting Vet this morning to see if she's talked to the oncologist at the Univ. of TN Vet school about treatment options/prognosis.

Monday, June 17, 2002

This is a blog to document my journey with my 14-year-old DSH tabby cat, Biz, who has cancer. It is my hope that sharing this on the 'Net will help others dealing with this, and will also, somehow, help me cope with the inevitable loss of my beloved Biz.

The results of a biopsy taken last Tuesday (6/11) came back today. She was diagnosed with Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC). I do not know the prognosis yet. The Vet says it usually metastasizes (spreads) to the lymph nodes and then to the lungs.

What I've found so far on the 'Net is that SCC usually occurs on the skin of animals, especially on the ears and/or nose of lighter animals exposed to the sun. But Biz has her SCC in her face, under her left eye. We thought at first it might be just a abscess, but it turned out to be cancer.

Background: about four weeks ago, I noticed Biz's left eye was weeping. After about a week, it was weeping quite a bit and I began to be concerned, but I kept monitoring it. You see, Biz is the kind of cat that absolutely freaks out when I take her to the Vet (not because of the car ride, but because of the Vet visit itself). She will not let anyone touch her or even look at her without hissing, biting and going completely bonkers out of fear. Bless her heart. So, I wanted to monitor her condition before succombing to the horrendous experience (for both of us) to the Vet.

Finally, after her eye had been weeping for almost three weeks, I noticed the fluid was not clear anymore, but had a hint of color - blood color.

I decided I had to call the Vet.

The Emory Animal Hospital in Powell, TN is the Vet I use for my other cat, Zach, who does go in quasi-yearly for shots. Both cats are completely indoor cats and have always been fed "premium" food, such as IAMS, or Hill's Science Diet (dry). For the last year or so, they have been drinking distilled water that I buy by the gallon at Walmart (Zach has had urinary tract infections and I thought our tap water was too "hard," or full of minerals that could help block Zach's tract).

So I called Emory and told them I needed someone to see Biz, but that she freaks out and I was concerned about bringing her in. I really had the thought in my head that since she hadn't been to the Vet in 8 years, that the stress of taking her in might literally kill her. We talked briefly about some sedative to give her before I brought her in, but they were very, very hesitant to give anything to a 14-year-old cat without seeing her first. Catch-22 city.

The Emory Animal Hospital office manager then mentioned the "Visiting Vet," who would come to my house for a reasonable (I thought) $75 + medications, if needed.

I called and made an appointment with the Visiting Vet for Friday, May 31. By this time, I noticed a swelling under Biz's left eye.

She came and, of course, Biz freaked out. I was hoping so much that the Vet would be able to examine Biz at home with minimal stress, but it was not to be. We chased her all over the house and finally had to scruff her and wrap her up in a large beach towel as a "Kitty Burrito," so some examination could be performed.

The swelling on her face was not mushy, it was "hard." The Vet first thought it could be osteosarcoma, cancer of the bone. This made my heart sink. The Vet also said that sometimes, abscesses start out kinda hard before going "mushy," so it could be that, too. She said really the only way to tell was to take Biz to the Vet for x-rays. My heart was heavy with worry and sadness. I'm the kind of person that usually swings to the worst end of news and wallows in the hurt and heartache and what-ifs for some time, and this time was no exception.

My other cat, Zach, picked up on my sadness/hurt, and started throwing up everything he ate. Biz, too, was throwing up most everything as we were starting her on some antibiotics in case it was a bone infection or even an abscess, and Biz's stomach has always been very sensitive. I couldn't feed her the whole antibiotic capsule outright (she wouldn't take them in the past without a huge struggle), and so I had to open the capsule and pour out the antibiotic powder into something she would eat that she could keep down. I tried some Whiskas soft food, some yoghurt, and some of her dry food moistened with water, but she either didn't keep it down, or did not want to eat it at all. This antibiotic is very, very strong smelling (and I assume tasting). Finally, finally, I tried some low sodium albacore tuna in water, and she liked it and ate the antibiotic. Zach finally starting keeping his food down three days after throwing up everything (I thought he might have a hairball, but none ever came up), and then for 4 days, he did not have a bowel movement! I had made an appointment for the Vet last Thursday for Zach so they could check his intestinal system, but when I came home from work Wednesday, Zach had pooped. A small victory!

The Visiting Vet was very supportive and called around Knoxville to find a pharmacist who might mix something up for Biz that would be pallatable and something with which Biz could keep the antibiotic down. Don Walker of the Medicine Shoppe pharmacy in Maryville, TN, specializes in mixing up prescriptions that taste good and do their job for both people and animals. He made some antibiotic treats for Biz and promptly sent them by mail (I live at least 45 minutes away from Maryville), and said if Biz doesn't like them, it's no charge. Well, Biz ate one treat, and then the next morning ate another, but threw it back up. She wouldn't eat any more of them - they still smelled very strongly of antibiotic. I called Don and he agreed to mix up some different tasting treats at half strength. Biz eventually was able to eat those (albeit mixed in with tuna) and keep them down.

We also discussed giving Biz antibiotic by a liquid that I would squirt on the inside of her ear (not in her ear, but on the earflap itself). Don the pharmacist said that steriods and other types of medicines had successfully been given to cats that way, but that not much research had been done for antibotics. Just the fact that he was so willing to work with me and send me all this stuff for free made me feel a little better! Don also has a cat that is difficult to treat with antibiotics, so he was familiar with my struggle with Biz.

This brings me basically up to today, Monday, 6/17. Biz is eating and drinking good and her body functions are normal. If she didn't have the swelling on her face and some weeping from her eye, I'd almost think there was nothing wrong.

I'm really struggling with all this and it makes it very hard for me to concentrate at work. Confounding all of this is my Christian faith and trying to be a good witness to my friends that Christ is in control and knows my pain and therefore I should be comforted and OK with all this, but I'm not OK with all this and it hurts me deeply. I want my faith to shine through my hurt, but at this point it does not, and I feel like I'm letting Christ down. My husband is as empathetic as he can be, but he does not have the bond with Biz that I do, so he does not understand the depth of my pain. My Mom has been through something similar with our previous cat, Tigger, but I'm afraid of leaning on her too much for fear it will hurt her thinking about what she had to go through with Tigger. This all makes me feel very alone, indeed.

I will have to make the decision soon on what treatment to give Biz, if any (chemo/radiation/laser). I do not want her to suffer. I love her and accept the responsibility of her care as she is a loving creation of Almighty God (as am I). I do not want to hang on to her longer than needed and I pray for the wisdom to know when "it is time." I know the Visiting Vet will help me and work with me, and I know my friends at work will pray for me and support me as they can, but the burden falls squarely on me to decide what to do about my beloved Biz.

I pray the struggles, horror, pain, hurt, fear and turmoil that I face in the following days as recorded here helps someone going through the same thing.

Christ Jesus, help me, even as Biz sits near me, innocently looking at me with her big green eyes.