Sunday, July 13, 2008

What Happened

The biopsy results came back positive. It was no spider bite, though we had hoped so much that it would be no more than that. Lady in Red had cancer of the tongue, which was so far advanced that even if we had wanted to operate, it would have been impossible. When the vet told us about the biopsy results, he also told us our options, at least on the theoretical level: consultations with veterinary oncologists in other parts of the country, various kinds of surgery and the implantation of a feeding tube. Even before we knew for certain that Lady’s cancer was inoperable, we rejected them outright, since while they might prolong Lady’s life slightly, they would not cure her, and far from relieving her suffering, the post-operative distress would only make her suffer more. Having seen how much Lady had suffered (and endured so nobly) over the past several days, we would not agree to that under any circumstances.

In any case, the point turned out to be moot. When our wonderful vet consulted with the best veterinary oncologists in the country and his partner in his practice about Lady’s case, the answers came back unanimous and unequivocal: no matter what might be tried, Lady’s chances of recovery were nil. Her illness was too far gone. She could not be saved.

With great sorrow, we accepted what we had already realized in our hearts several days before: that it was time to say goodbye. At approximately 12:25 p.m. last Thursday afternoon, Lady in Red, my friend for more than a decade, passed away peacefully and painlessly under the sure and compassionate hands of our veterinarian and his technician, with me by her side. Her body was buried in a pet cemetery in the Ben Shemen Forest later that day.

Although I am terribly sad about this and expect to be for some time, I console myself with the sincere belief that while Lady was in our care, we did everything for her that could possibly be done... and this ending was, after all, part of the unwritten contract that we had agreed to when we took Lady from the park to her forever home. We knew at the time that she was at least ten and perhaps as much as twelve years old—an elderly cat even then. We knew that this day would come, probably sooner than later, and that when it did, we would have to love Lady enough to let her go.

There is a lot to be grateful for. Lady’s last seventeen months were good ones. Once she recovered from chronic gum inflammation and diabetes, she spent a happy final year, safe and loved, well cared for and healthy. When her final decline came, it was short and swift: only about a week and a half. In retrospect, we now realize that she had been slowing down, little by little, for some time. (Perhaps it had to do with her illness, her advanced age, the heat of summer, or all of them. We will never know.) But up until that last week and a half, she seemed well and happy in every way, and for that, we are grateful.

Although Lady has a grave, it’s not likely that I will ever know where it is. I don’t intend to go there or to get a marker for it. All I wanted was that her body be treated with respect and allowed to return to the earth. Nevertheless, Lady has a memorial. Shortly after she passed on, I went to a local engraving store and ordered a small plaque. It is now in the place where we first met and spent so much time together, a memorial to a very special cat who was my friend for so many years:

Memorial plaque

c. 1995–10.7.2008
A most special cat

Rest in peace, dear Lady.

My deepest thanks to everyone, in and out of the blogosphere, who cared about Lady with me and helped us when we needed it. May you all be blessed.

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