on dying

Last Thursday, May 2nd, I took the cat in to have her teeth cleaned since her bad breath has reached biohazard level. Any time we have a vet visit I feel like I’m subjecting her to systematic torture, like enrolling children in Russian ballet training. The vet called me in the middle of the morning while the cat was under anesthesia: three of her back teeth were loose and she had swelling in her gums. They recommended removing her loose teeth and getting X-rays to assess the extent of the issue. While removing her loose teeth the vet found dead and blackened tissue and sprawling tumors on her gums, and the jawbone and tooth sockets where her loose teeth had been have eroded away.

The biopsy came back yesterday. Squamous cell carcinoma. Invasive.

When I got the call while she was still in surgery I started to Google oral squamous cell carcinoma, then stopped because I couldn’t remove myself from it all and say objectively, yes, prognosis is 30-90 days of survival time, and yes, invasive OSCC will metastasize quickly. Yes, she will die, and very soon.

It’s a strange thing to watch someone die, even if she’s a cat.

I forced myself to work through last Thursday on auto-pilot, then took her home and cried, through her post-surgery stupor and lack of appetite, and I cried harder when she perked up and came to cuddle with me because I knew how much I will miss her love. How much I will miss her.

But I am glad that she doesn’t understand the mental duress of having cancer and perhaps only feels that her jaw hurts, and I am glad there are drugs to alleviate her physical pain. Meanwhile I am the one having episodic mental breakdowns and getting incrementally psychotic and asking all the Why’s and How’s and What If’s. But better I than she. And I am glad that I get to say goodbye.

Even though I am horrible at it.

Jean-Léon Gérôme: The Two Majesties

Jean-Léon Gérôme: The Two Majesties


11 thoughts on “on dying

  1. I shed some tears for you too. Plus that picture is killer because it makes me think of when Simba loses Mufasa in The Lion King. Top 3 heart wrenching moments in Disney history. Sending much love your way.

  2. Add my tears to the mix. I am going through a situation with a 16 year old cat. He does not have cancer. He has complications with old age. It’s a horrible feeling. I get the feeling you will make it through. So will I. But it’s a horribly painful place to be.

  3. Saying good-bye to afurkid is one of the hardest things. You’re right to not let her suffer. Thankful that you found each other. She will always have a place in your heart. We hope that you will find another homeless furkid to help heal the hole in your heart. Thinking of you and your family. If you visit my blog, read my post “When a furkid leaves us.”

  4. Thank you all for your support. She is doing fine for the moment, actually being a ham and sleeping on me. When the time comes I will still be an emotional wreck, but I am glad we found each other and had eight years together. I wish cats lived longer.

  5. Pingback: what I learned from immigration woes | Hannah Zhang

  6. Reblogged this on Travelling Trolls and commented:
    I know a lot of you out there who have had to deal with the terrible situation of a sick pet. My new, but already dear friend, Hannah is trying to help her kitty have the most comfortable last days in an already stressful time. Please take a moment to read and if you want to offer a little cushion for kitty and her owner, do not hesitate to contact me or Hannah herself. I know hearing about this sure brought tears to my eyes and reminded me all too well of what it feels like to lose a furry family member.

  7. Pingback: so we heard… | Hannah Zhang

  8. Pingback: bye-bye baby | Hannah Zhang

  9. Pingback: living with goodbye | Untranslatable

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