Facing the Inevitable

>> Sunday, May 13, 2007

I don’t want to know if my cat has cancer. Does this mean I’m a bad person?

Last Saturday we took our 14 year-old cat Exene to the vet. Her left cheek looked like she had a giant gum ball stuck under her fur. For a week prior, her eye had been watering. Fortunately, when I noticed, a fellow friend and mother was visiting. She suggested I take Exene to the vet that very moment.

(See, this is why mothers are super heroes. She had no qualms about staying at my house unexpectedly with four children under the age of four. She played with them, changed them, fed them, and kept them from swallowing small marbles. She rocks. But I digress...)

It turns out my cat had a tumor in her cheek that they excised this afternoon. She looks like Franken Kitty. A tube runs out of her cheek then around and into her mouth. Poor sweety. Total cost: $693. Now they want to know if we want the tumor biopsied to determine whether it is malignant or benign.

My instant and truthful reaction is “no”.

Except for her huge facial deformity, Exene has been her normal, reclusive self. She comes to us on her terms, sits on my lap at night, and mews to go outside. She jumps onto chairs and countertops. She doesn’t appear to be in any pain.

But even if she was in a little pain, which would she prefer: to be in a little pain but to left alone? Or, to have pills tossed down her throat each day and frequent trips to the vet for treatment and therapy? My hunch is that she wants to spend her remaining time here at home, living peacefully with her family.

Of course, if the pain was noticeable I would treat her and medicate her. I don't want her to suffer. But how much pain is too much? Where is the line between helping her enjoy her life and desperately preventing her inevitable death?

Honestly, I just want to live in ignorant bliss. I want to wake up some morning (several years from now) to find that she’s passed quietly during the night. I’d hate for her last years to be spent engaged in medical drama.

Ugh. Being a grown up is hard. I’m open to your thoughts. The doctor is currently “saving” the tumor in case we’d like it biopsied in the future. What do you think?

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