I kept thinking, geez, I really have to update, otherwise my readers (ha ha ha) are going to think Gwen died.
…and then today, she did.
To be fair, she made it through surgery. She did really well, actually. There was one day where she was very, very uncomfortable, and then she improved quickly. I have to brag on her, she never messed with her stitches! I had no idea that just one week after taking her in for suture removal, I’d be taking her back to say goodbye.
Earlier this week, I got a call from the vet. Gwen’s pathology had come back indicating that with the type of cancer she had, it may have already spread to other areas. They were specifically concerned about her lymph nodes and lungs. So I set up an appointment for next Friday to get her checked out and see what we were looking at.
The last couple of days, something changed, and it was gnawing at me, but not enough to where I thought that something was really wrong. I mean, she’d had days where she didn’t make it to the litterbox before, and she was still recovering from surgery, so I tried not to overthink it. To be kind to myself, it wouldn’t have mattered if I did drag her to the vet immediately. Whereas in the weeks leading up to surgery, she’d seemed really good, all of a sudden, she seemed kinda listless again. She was eating, but not very enthusiastic about being petted. For Gwen not to “brrrpt!” and boop your hand when you pet her meant something was off.
This morning, I got up when the alarm went off and wandered out to the kitchen to get the cat food ready for the three impatient stooges. From his office, Matt called “Hey honey…something’s wrong with Gwen.” My heart sank. Usually I’m the one telling him that I feel like something’s wrong. For him to be telling me, I knew it had to be really wrong.
Sure enough, she was just pacing in small circles. Over and over again, like she couldn’t stop. She’d stumble, kinda tip over, but then keep going, sometimes dragging her back legs along the way. It was a real punch to the gut. There’s a handful of reasons that a cat might be walking in circles, and all except for an ear infection (which I deemed unlikely) were really really bad. I knew in my heart that we’d come to one of those irreversible issues, and that we needed to let her go sooner than later.
At first, she really wasn’t interested in being held. But I tried again a little while after the first attempt, and to my surprise, she snuggled right up in my arms and went to sleep. So I carefully tiptoed out to the living room and sat down on the couch. This was around 8:45. With only a couple of exceptions, she slept in my arms up until we left for the vet a little after 3:00. It was wonderful and devastating. Gwen’s never been a cat that likes to be held. She’d sleep on my chest at night sometimes, or she’d sit on my lap on the couch. She never let me just hold her though. That earned you a stink eye for sure. So the fact that she slept in my arms for so much of it was one of those “this is very bad” reminders, but also, I haven’t gotten to snuggle with her since she went blind. After that happened, she had no real interest in sitting or sleeping with us anymore. I think the whole thing was just more than she bargained for, and while we kept her comfortable and happy, she never was quite the same. I also now wonder how long she’d had the cancer growing inside of her, and how much that affected her temperament. She was always more reclusive when she didn’t feel well – and I figured that blindness was a very good “not feeling well” excuse – but who knows. I can speculate all day long and it won’t change anything.
But it was also so comforting to have her close to me again, and feel her just melt into me, like the way she did when she was at her most content. Heartbreakingly, I think today was the happiest I’ve seen her in quite a while. I just wish she’d let me hold her sooner.
We took her to the vet, and talked things over with them. I asked for reassurance that we were doing the right thing – I was certain that we were, any time I saw her circling punched me in the gut – and was given it in spades. The vet thinks that the most likely cause of her decline was that the cancer had metastasized in her brain, which makes sense. I did some reading later, and for a kitty to get a secondary tumor (ie: she didn’t start out with brain cancer) has a very poor prognosis: a month or less. That lines up with seeing her start to feel better after antibiotics, make it through surgery, and then crash this week. It also lets me know that we did everything we possibly could and nothing would have stopped this. My poor girl. She fought so hard, and lived with so much.
I tell you the next bits because it’s therapeutic for ME to do so. I need to put them somewhere.
When we took Mikenna in to say goodbye – this was my first pet that I had to give some assistance to – almost as soon as they gave her the sedative, she was out like a light, and when they gave her the second drug, she died very quickly. The vet who helped us that day was a bit shocked and said that she must’ve been holding on just for us.
Gwen did not go down so easily. It was nothing bad, she just went out in the most absolutely Sasspants way possible. She growled, yowled and hissed at the vet while they were sedating her, and while I’d definitely heard Gwen mutter at the vet before, I’d never heard such sass from her. In nearly seven years with her, I’d never seen her hiss! But that brilliant little spitfire – her spirit wasn’t ready to go, even when her body was definitely there. It took much longer than I expected for her to actually let go, and she never did fall completely asleep under the sedation like Mikenna did. On the one hand, that was much harder on me – I would have rather felt that her little soul was as weary as that poor little body of hers – but it brings me a little speck of happiness that she was Gwen until the end, and I believe she must have liked her life enough to want to stay as long as possible.
I have an extra great relationship with one of the doctors that works at our vet. She has been with us through everything with Mikenna, and all of our kitties. I trust her completely for diagnoses and treatments, and she’s yet to steer us wrong. While Gwen was sedated, she came in to give us hugs and to say goodbye to Gwen herself. She even gave Miss Boo a kiss on the head. I can’t tell you how much that means to me.
My heart is awful sad today. I love that little Gwen, and to tell you how much she means to me would more than double this post in length. Suffice to say, I loved her from the day I met her, and knew she was mine. I didn’t care if she ever really loved me back, I just wanted to give her a place to be comfortable for the rest of her life. It was an absolute boon that she came to love and trust us as much as she did. She was the best diamond in the rough, and I don’t expect I’ll ever see another cat quite like her. It floors me just how much people who never met Gwen have been touched by her and were rooting for her as well. We never did get her above 7lbs – she was a tiny girl. But she’s had quite the impact on a lot of people, and was much bigger than she could have possibly known.
She was just a good cat. I can’t imagine how she was ever a stray (and man, I’d have paid good money to know what her life was before ending up at the humane society!), because she was so well-behaved. She had her boundaries, sure – she wasn’t afraid to tell you when you’d pet her too much, and she didn’t appreciate people she didn’t know getting too up in her face, but she was never mean about it. But she was never destructive or bratty or any of those memes you see about cats being annoying. The only time she ever really had issues was when she wasn’t feeling very well…I definitely got my head peed on in the middle of the night during a power outage once when it turned out her thyroid was out of whack. XD She was gentle and funny. She really enjoyed gently gumming hands, I think in part because she understood that she couldn’t really do any damage. For having such a deadpan expression, she could be so goofy. I think she secretly enjoyed that Mikenna didn’t know what to make of her. It will forever sadden me that she went blind, because she had really started having fun with Cuppie and Vizzi before then, and was too scared to interact with them much afterwards. I totally understand. If I was 6lbs or so, and this 12lb ball of energy came running at me and I couldn’t see him, that would be a little terrifying.
I wanted so much for her to make it to seven years with us, because that was such a nice, perfect number. We got six years, eleven months, and twenty-seven days. Every tear I shed for her, every penny we spent, it was more than worth it for all the love we got from her.
She will forever be my sasspants, my sassico, my Gwennie Boo, my GG (Gwennie Goober).
Kitty of Valor indeed. Huzzah.