falling snow

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Catching Up

Goodness, where has the time gone? We were snuggled into the midst of Winter gazing out the attic window at barren trees and snow for my last post, and now we are well into the greening of Spring, late blossoms in full bloom. I have had several ideas for blog posts jostling around inside and many, many photos on the camera awaiting their turn on the blog. Time has escaped me once again and I am playing catch up. Instead of skipping over the posts I've written in my head like I have done in the past, I thought a series called, "Catching Up" might be in order. This way, when I write of snowy days or Easter in August (hopefully it won't be that long!) it won't seem as though I have completely taken leave of my senses! 

One of the reasons I began this blog, in addition to sharing card designs, was to document the everyday, the twinklings which make us who we are. Attic Treasures, so to speak. Words. Photographs. Those pieces of memory we fold and wrap in tissue, tie with a satin bow, and tuck neatly away in the antique attic chest. Bits and pieces of everyday gratitude, experiences, keepsakes. Moments we think we'll remember, but all too soon we forget. We don't mean to let them slip away, but they do. Until one day. A rainy day. A snowy day. A nostalgic day. We wander into the attic seeking our cherished friends, our treasured memories. We move a few boxes of this and that, wipe away some dust, and notice a line of paw prints from one edge of the chest to the other. TC, Spirit, or Abbey have been exploring on their own. We open the lid and before us lie the treasures of our lives. A spotted feather. A rock from Lake Superior. A crocheted cross. The tattered and very worn childhood quilt. And the cards, oh my, the cards! Firsts. And lasts. A veritable treasure trove of cherished times, recalled memories. The little big things. Without the attic, how can we recall these memories? Abbey and I invite you to share with us in our space, Abbey's Attic, the shelter, the holding place where our day to day experiences rest and dwell to one day be cherished again.

Attic Treasures - TC's Journey (Part One of Two)

And so, let's begin. This is a terribly long post, and if you haven't time or desire to read it, I do understand. My wish is to document our black cat's journey as I have written in previous posts. And in case anyone is wondering, our girl hasn't been neglected during this lengthy journal entry; much of it has been composed while holding her nestled in one arm, rocking her, patting her, while typing with the other hand.

I have been remiss in not updating more frequently with TC's progress and I do apologize. I have shared phone calls with some and updated others via email and I thank you from the depths of my heart for caring as deeply as you do and checking on her. TC is currently well, spending her days in the sunshine or making certain she stays near me. It has been quite the journey uphill and down since her Halloween photo was shared. Has it really been seven months already?

Friday, October 25, 2013 is another of those days etched in my memory. TC stopped drinking from her water bowl in Autumn, 2012 shortly after she was diagnosed with liver failure. There were days she obsessed about the water bowl, but was unable to drink. Eventually she stopped going to it completely. She began subcutaneous fluids a few times per week upon the initial diagnosis. So I did think it odd when on Sunday that week she began going to the bowl once again. This time, however, was different; she was pushing her entire face into the bowl, soaking herself numerous times per day. Over the course of the week, the frequency became less, but I started noticing other signs she wasn't feeling well. History reminded me her condition could go from good to critical in only hours.

I made an appointment with Dr. S. for Friday afternoon. That morning found her unable to eat, barely able to walk, stumbling into the walls, and becoming stuck in familiar places. By the time we arrived at the vet's office she was no longer able to stand, her back legs turning under at the first joint. There were other neurological abnormalities as well. She was cold to the touch, her body temperature quite low at 98.5. (Normal temperature for cats is 100 - 102.) Dr. S did not like what he was seeing and neither did I. Blood was painstakingly drawn from her frail back leg and then we waited. She was wrapped in a heated blanket and I held her, rocked her, wanting to heal her, to keep her in my arms forever. Dr. S returned to the room, sat beside me, and explained the findings. TC's kidneys were not filtering out sodium and chloride, the very components of the subcutaneous fluids she was currently receiving three times per week. Her sodium level was so high the lab report could not register a number and was indicated simply by ">." The chloride level registered a dangerously high number as well. In essence, her body had become toxic from the very fluid that was sustaining her. The course of treatment was an IV to bring the levels down. She would need to be hospitalized overnight. My primary concern was that she would not survive the stress and confusion from being alone in an unfamiliar environment. Dr. S consulted with a specialist who recommended an alternative treatment that didn't involve an overnight stay. The success rate was 50%; I knew we had to try. Her front leg was shaved and the IV was inserted; I sat holding her in the operating area for two hours until the office closed. She received a special mix of subcutaneous fluids before we returned home for the evening.

That evening was spent caretaking and preparing for what I was told could be a lengthy illness. The sodium and chloride levels had to be brought down very slowly over several days. I prepared beds for us in the living room. She had recently been taking refuge in a pop up laundry basket tipped on its side. Abbey's toy became TC's bed for a few days. I layered a memory foam rug, the heating pad, and her fleece blanket on top. More blankets were added around her to keep her warm. I made a pallet for me with two more memory foam rugs and removed our faithful blue blanket from its shelf in the linen closet. This blanket has seen us through many illnesses, movies and even a picnic or two since its purchase the first Winter of our marriage. Quite an investment in those early days for a young couple beginning life together, but a worthwhile one for certain to have this source of comfort so many years later. Once again, it offered nurture, warmth, assurance through yet another illness.

We returned to the vet's office by 7:30 the next morning for an additional 4.5 hour IV during which I swaddled her, rocked her, assured her, possibly more for me than for her. She received another round of subcutaneous fluids, followed by another blood test. The chloride level had improved a small amount which also meant that even though the sodium level still didn't register a number, it was improving as well. By 12:30 pm we were home and on our own until Monday when the vet's office would reopen. There is something reassuring about knowing a doctor's office is open, isn't there?

And so our routine began. I gave her warmed food and water with a syringe as often as she would take it. She wanted the food, but was only able to "smoosh" her face in the bowl, a very technological term I learned at the vet's. As day followed day, sometimes she ate on her own; other times she needed to be fed. She needed help in and out of the litter box for several days. She was held and rocked either in the rocker or while walking to encourage her to sleep.

The wee hours of Sunday morning found us having, "the talk." You know the one. I had drifted off to sleep and awoke to find her eyes glazed, her body limp and not moving. She had wet her bed and as I cleaned her, she remained motionless. Between 4:15 and 5:20 am she went from a motionless state to walking approximately 20 feet on her own. It was a good sign, or so I thought. She was unable to settle herself, walking, wandering aimlessly the rest of the day, through the entire night and into the mid-morning hours on Monday when sleep finally gave her respite for most of the day and evening.  

Tuesday found her very weak, sleeping very soundly and difficult to awaken. We had been to the vet for fluids around noon this day, but by 5:40 pm, I found her temperature had dropped again. I spoke with Dr. H and we decided she should be seen. Their office closed at 6:00 pm, but he and a technician stayed so she could be evaluated. This veterinary group has been amazing in their display of compassion, care, and gentleness in all of the ways they have handled TC and responded to her care. They have treated her as their own beloved pet and for that I will always be grateful. Another blood test was run and more fluids were administered. We would have to wait until morning for the results.

Dr. S called at 7:30 Wednesday morning with the test results. They were good and bad. The sodium level was almost normal; the chlorine was not dangerously high. But the kidney values were higher which meant they were working less efficiently than they were on Friday. Dr. S and I spoke at length regarding all the things we think about when time is of the essence. Essentially, we also had, "the talk." He advised to wait and see how the day went since she was developing a somewhat cyclical pattern; critical mornings and improved afternoons. She had an OK morning, but then became weaker by noon. I spoke with Dr. S again at 12:30 pm and he recommended daily fluids the rest of the week. He examined her when she received fluids at 3:00 pm and she seemed to be better by then.

Halloween, the day of fright, dawned dreary cold and rainy outside and equally as dismal inside. It was our girl's day to shine, the day made just for her, and yet we awoke to another morning of TC being critical, weak and stumbling, her eyes vacant, unseeing. Another conversation with Dr. S and again a discussion about what to do. His advice was the same as yesterday. And so I waited. I called dh to let him know her status, and together we decided against any action this day if it could be avoided. I had spent a lot of time thinking about "when the time came" and having conversations with TC. But not today. It could not be this day. Be scared. Be very scared. It was a morning and early afternoon filled with the fright even the darkest dark could not invoke. She was difficult to awaken at 1:00 in the afternoon from our pallet in the living room, but by 1:25 pm she came in the kitchen as she heard her food being prepared. She ate her chicken baby food on her own and by 1:40 pm I felt confident she could handle a very short photo shoot - the annual Halloween photo. I set up the scene, placed her in a basket, a couple of quick photos and it was complete. It had to be indoors this year due to the rain, but a good photo, considering her condition only hours earlier.

By late afternoon the rain and gloom that began our girl's day gave way to the warmth of sunshine and a beautiful Indian Summer treat. TC felt better after receiving fluids; doubly blanket-wrapped, we were able to head outside to enjoy a bit of her Halloween day.

Sometime during the week, TC decided she preferred sleeping next to me at night instead of in her laundry hamper. I moved a fleece pillow cat bed next to my pallet on the floor, and every night we began with her on her bed on top of the heating pad and covered with her blanket. Within a few minutes, she would wiggle and crawl over next to me, nestled in one arm, enfolded with the other. We rested this way for 17 nights, she and I. She slept the slumber known only to children and animals; restorative, healing, peacefully sound and deep sleep. I cat napped as she lay beside me. Adjusting covers, stroking, repositioning myself ever so slightly, remembering, keeping watch. Always keeping watch. I inhaled the sweet smell of her fur, how it absorbed the scent of my hand lotion or the Downy from her freshly washed blanket. I listened to her sleeping sounds, the contented ones, the troubled ones. I felt her warmth, her breath, under my chin and against my neck. I noticed the occasional tremor of a curled leg tucked tightly against me. I felt her tuck her front leg inside the neckline of whatever I was wearing, her position of choice since kittenhood. And I longed, no, I ached, to remember these moments, cradling them safely inside as securely as she nestled beside me.

I left her only twice during those 17 days, both times for a trip to the market; more deli turkey and baby food for her, more Diet Pepsi and bakery M&M cookies for me. Yes, it was a deliciously distressful fear-induced junk food binge as though the excessive calories I consumed might somehow benefit her. When she ate, I ate; when she didn't eat, I still ate!

Our days continued on in this way. Ups and downs. Victories, disappointments. Bad days and better days. Saturday, a week since her IV, found her sleeping a lot and difficult to awaken. She had spent the morning laying in the sun streaming through the front door and after our return from the vet for fluids, I decided to take her outside to experience yet another unusually warm Indian Summer afternoon. I sat on the driveway cradling her, my back against the black car, absorbing the warmth its shelter provided. TC slept in my lap for over two hours, her black fur also absorbing the sun's warmth in much the same way. She never awakened, but surely I think the sun's nurture must have been a welcome source of healing. Any activity to bring comfort was certainly worth a try.

As the leaves began to turn and Autumnal glory arrived outside, slowly, bit by bit, our days inside began to turn as well. TC was improving, becoming stronger, more aware, more responsive, her countenance brighter. Sunday, November 4 - Day 11, I noted in her Care Journal, "Good day. Strong, awake and alert until evening with only one nap. Acted like she felt better today. Slept all evening." I began this journal in September, 2012 at the onset of her journey; it is the place I record her activity, food and water intake, and general state of wellness. Again on Wednesday, the top of the journal page reflected, "Good Day!" and was underlined twice. There were three of these days in a row, followed by some days of setbacks, but all in all, we turned a corner where her condition was no longer termed, "critical." By November 11, I finally felt comfortable enough to leave her through the night and was back to sleeping in my own bed with TC either beside me or resting on her kitty pillow. Oh, how I missed my soft bed, its welcoming cushion, the warmth of the blankets and comforter snuggled around me. The comfortable familiarity of this haven of rest. As I laid on the living room floor with TC night after night, I spent much time thinking of those who miss the delight of warmth and softness to rest at day's end. It is not a choice for others as it had been for me; I pray for them a night of restoring rest that they may greet each new day refreshed.

Mid-November remained warm, filled with perfect Autumn days. We tried to spend a bit of time outside each day for stimulation, enjoying the offerings of the season. Winter would soon descend and walks outside would be replaced with walks to and from different windows, our role as active participants redefined as casual observers of the coming Winter. November 19 was one such day with a painterly sky backdrop against the now barren trees. The girls and I ventured into our backyard to enjoy the fleeting season's temptations to our senses.

I had wrapped TC in her blanket for our outing, but the sun's warmth was more than adequate. I removed the blanket, and soon she became wiggly and squiggly, wanting out of my arms, preferring instead to explore on her own. The assertion of her independent little nature was a joyous sign to behold. I carried her to the flower bed to set her down so she could enjoy her freedom. Oh, how my heart skipped to watch her wander through the crisp leaves, sniff the many scents, and finally climb and perch upon her favorite rock wall! Tears of elation streamed down my cheeks as I sat on the ground away from her, watching her, granting her space and time to simply be a cat, capable of doing things on her own after such a lengthy illness. She would have been content to stay in the garden for the entire afternoon: she was definitely becoming stronger with each new day.

Even Papa (the big guy) and his daughter, Chloe, the neighborhood cats, came for a visit that afternoon. They too seemed to sense the fleeting of these days and enjoyed the crisp leaves beneath their feet, the gentle breeze, and a bit of companionship in the midst of their adventures.

I carried TC slowly back up the hill in our yard, lingering to capture the last bit of our afternoon adventure. The leaves on the old oak had turned their vibrant golden and I knew all too soon the wind would carry them to join the others that had already fallen.

The girls and I headed back inside after an hour or so. TC napped all afternoon and evening, only waking for dinner and treats before bedtime. I assumed this meant it was a grand afternoon for the blackest cat in all the land, to be outside, basking in the sunshine, finally feeling well and strong, enjoying the rapture of Autumn. If she were to speak for herself, I would like to think she would say, "goodness is made of moments such as this, for these truly are the days, my friend!"

TC's journey, part two, follows soon.

Blessed be your days, my friends,