Saturday, May 21, 2011

Best of Times, Worst of Times

To quote one of the greats (Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities)... "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only."

The most memorable intro phrase especially reflects the theme of this blog.  The yin and yang, life, death and the attempt to recognize or attain any sort of balance in between.  It also fits the crazy pendulum that is my life at this very moment.

Our cat, Camielle, has been diagnosed with a laryngeal mass, most likely Cancer.  We have had sobering reports from the doctors, including a Veterinary Oncologist and Surgeon, that say any surgery to remove this 1.5 to 2 cm mass would be risky because of the tiny area it is in  and the sheer size of the mass. Because the procedure would likely cause bleeding, and it is so near the trachea, she would likely need a tracheostomy, again, very risky and requiring up to 10 days of follow-up treatment to help even that heal.  Also, even after weekly chemo and/or radiation or both, running for perhaps six months, she would only have a 60% chance of living for six months.  We've decided to treat her at home with Prednizone, and forego any further trauma or pain to her.  So far the Pred is working to increase her appetite (she's grossly underweight already)  and thirst, and has made her breathing better.  But it's only a matter of time before her breathing gets worse again, and she goes into decline all over again.  We're preparing ourselves for the strong likelihood of euthanizing her.

So it's easy to spot the "worst of times" in this.  Where, you might be asking, is the "best of times?"  David and I have been planning our wedding and trip home to Ohio in the next month where we'll rejoin my family and have a Scottish-style wedding, complete with kilts and bagpipers.  I was so happy because I knew that Daddy would be able to give me away, that my family will be there with me at this wonderful, happy occasion.

But I went from elation to the depths of depression when I receive the news about Cami.  And the wedding plans completely disappeared from my head.  Now, as the day approaches, I have to make a decision that affects three people I love:  My Dad, Cami and David.

My father, who just turned 81 on May 17, is in assisted living, and because of dementia and very low weight, and just plain old age, his days are also numbered.  That's a reality we've all had to face. And me being here in Wisconsin has made my visits home all the more important.  I don't know how much longer he'll be around.  I've spent many nights awake in the past two years, worrying that I will receive that phone call saying he's gone.  It happens to people of his age every day.  There is often no warning at all.

But because of Cami's illness, I've considered cutting our trip home down to a minimum stay.  If I go down while Cami is still ill and or sketchy, I know I will spend most of my trip worrying about her, filled with heartache instead of joy.  I don't want the time spent with my Dad and family or our wedding day to be ruined by that heartache.  I don't want David to cut his time short when his family is coming from CA for this either.  Or take any of the joy away from this event for him by being in tears every few minutes worrying about Cami back home. I have a sitter that will come into see her twice a day, but what about the bulk of the time she'll be alone (save for our other two cats)?  What if she gets worse and I'm not there?  I want to be with her, to help her end her life peacefully without pain.  But I want to hold onto her as long as I can, now that she's feeling better -- it's possible she could live a few more weeks.  How can I end her life now when she's finally on the upswing?  Yes, I know the downswing is inevitable.  But it's immensely difficult to take a cat that's feeling pretty good, save for a little wheeziness, to be euthanized.

I don't want to have any regrets later -- I love my Daddy more than anything!  But I also love my Cami.  Being without children, she's more my baby girl than simply a cat to me.  I love her so dearly.

What a mess this is.  What a conflict.  I'm pulled between wanting to keep Cami here with us and enjoy every day that I can with her while wanting my trip home to be the full week I had planned.

For now, David and I plan to keep her on the Pred, hope we have a few more days with her and as soon as she shows any decline, we take her into the vet for the inevitable goodbye.  Now, it's just a matter of when that time will come...

So best of times, worst of times... hope and renewal, pain and loss.  Life is cruel.  Life is beautiful.  The absolute beauty of loving is what makes the loss of it so unbearable.